Many people who own Nikon 1 camera gear have an interest in close up photography. Unfortunately at the time of writing of this article there was no 1 Nikon macro lens available.
Photographers can use their DX or FX Nikkor macro lenses on their Nikon 1 bodies by using an FT-1 adapter. I’ve done this is the past with my Nikkor 105 mm Micro f/2.8 and found that the resulting set-up felt unbalanced as the lens dwarfed my V2 body. The auto-focus on my macro lens tended to hunt quite a bit when used with the FT-1 for close up work. As a result I typically used it on a tripod and manually focused the lens.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
I’ve always preferred to shoot hand-held and I was looking for a different close-up photography solution. I decided to give the Vello Econo Auto Focus Extension Tube Set for Nikon 1 Mount a try.
The Vello Nikon 1 extension tube set includes two extension tubes, one 10 mm and one 16 mm. They can be used independently or joined together for maximum effect. Extension tubes place distance between your camera body and lens. This reduces the minimum focus distance of the lens and allows subjects to fill more of your frame. Extension tubes are hollow and do not contain any glass elements so they do not degrade the optical performance of any lenses that you use with them.
These Vello extension tubes are made of plastic and are very lightweight. I don’t think their construction is an issue since most 1 Nikon lenses are also small and lightweight. These tubes do not come with any kind of protective caps.
I would recommend storing the extension tubes stacked together and packed in bubble wrap or in some kind of other protection to reduce the likelihood of damage to the electrical connections. Or, simply buy 1 Nikon camera body caps and an extra end cap. The body cap does fit a bit loose so I’d still recommend having some additional protection on these extension tubes.
NOTE TO READERS: Since I originally wrote this review I have been experiencing quality issues with these Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1. The plastic flanges have been cracking and breaking. I recently received a replacement pair of Vello tubes and I have been having the same quality problem. I cannot in good faith recommend that readers buy these Vello extension tubes until they have been re-designed with metal mounts.
The Vello Nikon 1 set of extension tubes are fully automatic and allow your Nikon 1 body to continue to auto-focus and auto expose. Using extension tubes does reduce the amount of light coming through to a camera’s sensor and it can affect auto-focus performance. I found no discernible difference in auto focus performance with my Nikon 1 V2. It was still very fast and accurate and I really enjoyed using these extension tubes.
They are as easy to install as any lens. You simply line up the guide mark with the one on your camera mount and twist. There is a bit more play between the connections so you will need to make sure that they are all aligned properly.
To make this review as practical as possible I decided to focus on some real-life examples for this review to give readers a good idea of what kinds of images can be captured when using these Vello extension tubes on their Nikon 1 cameras.
For all of the images in this article I used both tubes stacked together and mounted with the 1 Nikon 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom lens and Nikon 1 V2. I thought this was a pragmatic set-up for this review since the 30-110 mm is a very affordable lens that many owners of Nikon 1 cameras have in their bags. This set-up also allowed me to capture images from a distance of approximately 12-15 inches (30.5 to 38 cm) from the front of my lens to the subject, which in the case of live bees is a prudent distance.
All images were shot hand-held. Realistically I don’t think anyone buying a Nikon 1 camera does so with the intent of using a tripod to any great extent.
I used matrix metering, AF-S, and single-point AF-area mode. I tried a few shots using Auto-area AF mode and found that this did not give me sufficient control of what was in focus in the frame so I would not recommend using this setting. On occasion I did choose to move the single-point auto focus point with my V2. This is easily done by pressing the “OK” button on the back of the camera, then depressing the control wheel on the back of the camera to move the focus point in the desired direction.
I like to push my V2 to see what it can do and carried on this approach with my test subjects for this review. I shot hand-held under very dull, overcast conditions with some light misty rain falling at times. If you look at the details under each image you’ll notice that I used a minimum of ISO-800. Most of the images in the article and accompanying YouTube video were taken ISO-1600 and as high as ISO-3200. I shot primarily at f/5.6 but did the occasional image at f/8 to see the impact on depth-of-field.
All images were processed using DxO OpticsPro 9 with the PRIME noise reduction function used for all images in this article. Additional adjustments were made in CS6 and Nik Suite.
To give readers a good idea on the size that subjects can be captured on their Nikon 1 cameras none of the images in this article, or in my accompanying YouTube video, have been cropped. Each is a 100% view of the frame as it was captured.
Overall, I had a blast shooting with these Vello extension tubes! They are so lightweight, easy to use, and affordable that they really are a ‘no-brainer’ purchase for any owner of a Nikon 1 camera that is interested in close up photography, especially if you already own the 1 Nikon 30-110 f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens. I plan on having these Vello extension tubes with me whenever I’m shooting with my Nikon 1 V2.
UPDATE FOR READERS: While I can certainly recommend the use of extension tubes with Nikon 1 gear, I can no longer recommend the purchase of these standard Vello Extension Tubes as I have been experiencing ongoing quality problems in terms of the plastic flanges cracking and breaking. These standard Vello tubes need to be re-designed with metal mounts. The GradusGroup has indicated that this update will be done. I will keep you apprised of any changes.
FURTHER READER UPDATE
The Vello tubes have been updated with Vello Deluxe Extension Tubes for Nikon 1. These tubes are a big improvement over the standard Vello tubes. You can read my review in the link provided.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the Nikon 1 system, you may want to have a look at our eBook, The Little Camera That Could. It illustrates the capability of the Nikon 1 system through hundreds of original photographs. There is also commentary and tips about the Nikon 1 system.
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Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
A version of this article was published with permission on October 18, 2014 by Photography Life.