Nikon 1 video tips

Over the past few months I’ve had a number of readers contact me outside of this blog to ask some questions about shooting video with Nikon 1 gear. So, I thought a short article with some answers to the most common questions people ask me may be of interest to some folks. I certainly do not profess to be an expert in the use of Nikon 1 cameras for video work and I’m always trying to learn how to use my gear better. Below are some of the common reader questions I’ve been asked along with some explanation of a few things that I’ve been doing with my Nikon 1 gear that have worked for me in the past. If any readers have additional insights and tips feel free to share them!

Why does my Nikon 1 stop recording video and ‘lock up’?
Basically I’ve found this means that your Nikon 1 camera has overheated and needs to cool down before you can continue shooting video with it. Shooting video is very demanding from a power consumption standpoint and this creates a lot of heat inside the body of the camera. The compact size of a Nikon 1 body makes it difficult for the camera to dissipate that internal heat so the camera shuts down to protect itself. Unlike dedicated video cameras, a Nikon 1 body is not designed to capture long, continuous video clips and will overheat after about 20 minutes of continuous use.

To help reduce overheating I always turn off my Nikon 1 cameras between video clips. Since the bulk of my client work is video, I always take all three of my Nikon 1 V2’s with me so I can change cameras during a video shoot if needed. I also plan my projects to utilize a series of shorter length clips (i.e. 5-10 seconds each) whenever possible. Using a number of shorter clips taken from different vantage points helps to create a more interesting and involving project which is another good reason to use this approach.

Why does the exposure in my video clip noticeably change during recording?
You have likely used an automatic exposure setting of some sort. Whenever you use an automatic or semi-automatic setting, for example P, S or A exposure modes, or an auto-ISO setting, you have not locked in the exposure on your Nikon 1 camera. As a result subtle changes in lighting can cause your Nikon 1 camera to adjust exposure while filming. This can cause a noticeable shift in exposure in your video clip.

If you want to use any of the semi-automatic exposure settings like P, A or S  be sure to use the AE-L button on the back of the camera body to lock-in your exposure before taking you video clip. Your other option is to use the Manual exposure setting as well as a single dedicated ISO setting, e.g. ISO-400, and avoid any of the auto-ISO settings.

NOTE: you can set the AF-L/AE-L control to lock both exposure and focus if desired, exposure only, or focus only.

Why does my camera sometimes change its focus during video recording?
You have used one of the automatic focusing options rather than using manual focusing or locking in your focus. If the main subject in your video clip (most often a person) moves closer or farther away, your Nikon 1 camera will try to automatically adjust focus on the subject, especially if you have face recognition turned on. This can cause some ‘hunting’ by your lens which can be very distracting. You can use the AF-L control on the rear panel to lock in your focus before you record your video clip, or use Manual focusing.

It is quite cumbersome to use manual focusing with most Nikon 1 lenses. Is there an easier way to do it?
At this point in time only the 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2 and the CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 lens have external focusing rings. All of the other native Nikon 1 lenses require manual focusing to be done using controls in the camera body. This can be somewhat awkward and time consuming to do so I don’t bother using it.

When I shoot video I always start each clip by using single point AF with single AF (AF-S) focusing mode. I place the single AF point exactly where I want it in the frame and half-press the shutter to auto-focus on that point. Then, I have a couple of options to lock in that focusing. I can go into the menu and switch the camera to Manual focusing mode, or I can use the AF-L command on the back of the camera body. Either approach will lock in the focusing. I then record the video clip, after which I reset my camera to AF-S from Manual focus (or unlock the AF-L command) to get the camera ready to acquire focus for the next scene.

Sometimes when I try to use auto-focus when shooting video my lens will refuse to focus. What causes that to happen?
Typically I’ve found that is caused by one of two reasons. The first is that you are trying to focus closer than the minimum focusing distance of the lens. The second is that your battery may be getting low and needs to be replaced or recharged.

When I use full-time AF (AF-F) with subject tracking the camera sometimes doesn’t hold focusing very well and my subject tends to go in and out of focus. What’s the problem?
There actually isn’t any problem at all. Full time auto-focusing with subject tracking with most DSLRs and other interchangeable stills cameras that have video capability simply isn’t as good as with a dedicated video camera . This can become very noticeable when used to track faster moving subjects as the AF-F will lag somewhat. The AF-F with subject tracking should work OK if the subject is moving very slowly.

If continuous auto-focusing on fast moving subjects is an important video feature for you, buying a dedicated video camera would likely be a better choice.

If you have multiple Nikon 1 cameras another approach you  can use is to line them up with differing perspectives and record video simultaneously so you can capture a faster moving subject with multiple cameras. You can stage the scene so your subject enters the field of view with each camera in succession. You can then splice various clips together in post to create the illusion of doing a fast pan.

Why do some of my video pans look somewhat choppy?
The video produced by your camera is actually a series of individual still images. If you move your camera too quickly or at an irregular speed when doing a pan or other type of camera movement it may produce choppy looking video because of significant differences in the positions of your subject in consecutive video frames. Using a faster frame rate (or using an interlaced ‘i’ setting) can help minimize this effect somewhat. Depending on the Nikon 1 camera used (especially older bodies) shooting in a faster frame rate like 60p may mean you can only shoot in 720 not in 1080.

The next time you watch a motion picture pay a lot of attention to how the various scenes have been shot. You’ll find that fast action scenes are most often produced by linking a series of clips taken with stationary cameras with quick cut-ins between cameras. This creates the illusion of motion.

For best results, any pans or other camera movements should be done very slowly and smoothly.

Why does the sound on my Nikon 1 video clips sound ‘tinny’?
You are probably using the internal microphone with the camera. For S-series and J-series bodies that is the only option you have and it simply is what it is. The V-series bodies have a mic jack so you can hook up a Rode VideoPro shotgun microphone or other types of microphones to record better sound quality. Since the Nikon 1 V-series bodies have a non-standard shoe you will need to buy a Nikon AS-N1000 cold shoe adapter in order to mount the microphone. The other option is to use an external recording device along with a clapperboard so you can sync the sound in post production.

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12 thoughts on “Nikon 1 video tips”

  1. I have the Nikon 1J 4 camera going on two years and I really really hate this freaking camera it overheat a lot it’s hard to get proper lighting it sucks at night time you only can record 10 minutes at a time before for the damn thing shut down on you and close up the battery life don’t last that long I bought like five batteries for it but time you get to the second battery the damn thing overheat and don’t want to come back on Then once it does come back on it says overheating wait to camera cool down this camera is only good for snapping photos don’t use it for recording video you would be just wasting your time

    1. Hi manmann,

      You’re absolutely correct in saying that Nikon 1 cameras are prone to overheating when shooting video. They are not really designed to record long, uninterrupted clips. For that type of application a dedicated video camera will do a much better job. I shoot all of my client video work using three Nikon 1 V2s. Part of the reason I use three camera bodies is that I often need to capture the same scene from different perspectives concurrently. The other reason is to ensure that I have additional bodies should I run into any overheating issues.


      1. Thomas, thanks for the tip. It’s sent me along an interesting and immersive journey with a whole set of new (to me, I’m a still photographer) jargon like “colour grading”.

        I’m currently trying both powerdirector and edius. We’ll see which one wins.

        1. Hi Aaron,
          Glad to be of assistance! Video is an interesting path, which depending on the clients, subject matter and related quality requirements, can become very complex…and quite expensive in terms of gear. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to only accept projects that are a good fit for the capabilities of the gear I own, and the expertise I can bring to a client. This has led to me turning away some projects on occasion, which in retrospect was absolutely the right thing to do.

  2. Hi Thomas,

    thanks for the tips! I am using the same trick for prefocusing the shot, but with one little variation – I setup AF-S in Photo mode, and MF in Video mode. Before I start the shot, I switch to Photo mode, half press the shutter to focus and then I switch back to Video mode, to prevent the focus from further change.

  3. Advantages of 1″ sensor is unfortunately not used to it`s potential by Nikon company. Global shutter would be one big pro ( look Bolex16 project ). Another thing is lack of manual lenses ala Super16 ones of old days, scarce and in some cases expensive. Articulated LCD would be a great help too , would help overheating a bit too.. Choppy videos are often result of using faster frame rate then standard 24/25 or in some cases 50/60, yes they can be sharper but it`s not the point in movies, fluidity is. As to exposure what about an electronic ND filter? And so on.

    1. Hi stanislaw,
      I totally agree that a global shutter would be preferred. The V4 will likely have a tilt rear panel, but likely not articulated, but even that will help. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

      1. Another thing I would love to see is Olympus style 5 axis in body stabilisation, That would greatly improve hand held filming and of course allowing for lower ISO in stills thus quality compensating for small sensor.

        1. Hi stanislaw,

          Since Nikon does VR in its lenses and has for a long time now I don’t see them coming out with in body stabilization any time soon. I have heard that the Olympus system is quite good.


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