Nikon 1 for Macro Photography

The Nikon 1 system, when coupled with a macro lens, offers excellent opportunities for close-up photography.

One really fun application of the Nikon 1 system is for macro photography. The 2.7x crop CX format sensor offers some significant advantages to the close-up photographer, including:

  • Greater apparent depth of field
  • Longer working distances
  • Extra magnification when using true macro lenses

All of these points are important with close-up photography. Macro photographers can use all the depth of field they can get, and having a longer working distance means you don’t have to shove your lens right up against your subject. I got an email from a colleague the other day asking if I had any recommendations for a Nikon 1 macro kit, so I thought I’d test out the one macro lens I have: the 105mm f/2.8 AFS G VR micro-Nikkor.

Example Images

For this example, I mounted my 105mm f/2.8 AFS VR G micro-Nikkor to my Nikon 1 V1 via the FT1 adapter and made comparison shots with the same lens on my Nikon D700 (FX) body. I set the lens to 1:3, 1:2, and 1:1 magnification and focused by adjusting subject distance. All shots were taken with manual exposure at f/16.

1:3 Magnification

1:3 Magnification, D700
Nikon 1 V1, 1:3 magnification setting

With the Nikon 1 V1’s cropped sensor, we’re effectively above 1:1 magnification, but the working distance is about 18 inches to the front of the lens.

1:2 Magnification

Nikon D700, 1:2 magnification setting
Nikon 1 V1 at 1:2 magnification setting (1.35:1 effective)

1:1 Magnification

Nikon D700 at 1:1 magnification
Nikon 1 V1 at 1:1 magnification setting (2.7:1 effective)

At the 1:1 setting on the lens, we’re now effectively at 2.7:1 magnification. Very close, indeed!

Conclusions

Close-up photographers can really benefit from the CX-format Nikon 1 sensors. The added magnification and greater working distance can be a great help for this style of photography. Of course, be prepared to use a tripod and focus the lens manually, as even slight changes in subject distance will throw your subject out of focus. There are lots of great Nikon macro lenses out there that you can use with the FT1 adapter, including:

Because of the added crop factor of the Nikon 1, you can use any of these lenses with much greater working distance and still get true 1:1 magnification. Even if you aren’t focusing up-close, these lenses are all tack-sharp and deliver smooth bokeh. Because you have a 2.7x crop factor, even the 40mm Nikkor lens will have a telephoto angle of view equivalent to a 108mm lens on 35mm format. That makes the 40mm micro-Nikkor a great budget option at under $300 USD.

Drawbacks

At this time, the only major drawbacks of the techniques I described are the limitations of using the Nikon 1 cameras with the FT1 itself, including limited autofocus and exposure options. Most of the time, this won’t be a problem, but the Nikon DSLRs do have a slightly better live view focusing method because you can move the AF point anywhere on the screen. With the FT1, you’re limited to center point AF only. However, the ability to magnify the view during manual focus helps a lot, and for most macro work, manual focus is often preferred.

Learn more about the Nikon 1 System  cameras with The Photographer’s Guide to the Nikon 1 V1/J1, the comprehensive guide for photography enthusiasts.

7 thoughts on “Nikon 1 for Macro Photography”

  1. Thanks I took a chance and picked up the 40mm lens prior to seeing your article. I have found it to produce very good results with my V1/FT1, though I am also new to Macro photography. Manual focus is a must, and I slowly figured out how to do this rapidly. Ironically, for HDR, I also go to manual on the V1 too due to the need to keep the same focus as I manually set the exposure adjustment for HDR shots.

  2. Thanks for the great info and examples!

    Just one small technical nit to pick: the lenses don’t change their reproduction ratios as the sensor size changes. For example, 1:1 macro means the lens projects a 35mm frame-sized object so that it fills an entire 35mm film frame or digital sensor (at closest focus range). The same 1:1 lens projects a CX-sized object so that it fills an entire CX sensor (at closest focus range). CX does provide a 2.7x crop factor (which can be very useful!).. but it doesn’t change the lens.

  3. Is the Nikon 1 / J1 capable of taking decent quality pics of 33mm slides in front of a light box? If so what lens would I need to accomplish this task?

    I just purchased the ‘red’ version for $200 with the 1 Nikkor 10-30 default lens. Hoping to get your opinion if is it possible and worth it to get macro capabilities or if I should return it and go with a DSLR. Obviously I’m attempting to keep the cost down.

    Thanks in advance for the help. David

  4. David-
    I imagine it would be up to the task with the right lens. I’m not sure the 10-30mm lens would be ideal for the task, but since you have the camera, you can test it to see if it is sufficient.

    For small jobs of slides, it’s usually more cost-effective to outsource the work to a dedicated scanning facility.

  5. My only problem with using this setup for Macro is its lack of lighting options!

    Any news regarding the New 1 series release? Nikon V3?

    I would love to purchase a 1 series Nikon.. The only design flaw that is holding me back is the lighting/flash limitations.

    I need one with a real hotshoe that I can use with my ringflash. The
    V series own speedlights can’t even be used as commanders for Nikon’s
    own CLS system.

    Once Nikon solves these issues I’m buying one.

    Fingers crossed for a V3 with a hotshoe and CLS integration!!!

  6. Has anyone else on here been able to use any 3rd party hotshoe adaptors for the 1 series or has anyone else been able to get any form of a ring flash to work with a 1 series camera?

    I did see this option on the Olympus range: http://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=11411&page=2

    Its not ideal as I’d prefer a proper ring flash, but at least they have some type of option unlike the 1 series.

    Any help in the ring flash/lighting department would be greatly appreciated.

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