Infrared Photography with the Nikon 1 System: Wide-angle lens testing

"Standing Tall" Nikon 1 V1 converted to infrared, 10-30mm 1-Nikkor zoom at 13.1mm.
“Standing Tall”
Nikon 1 V1 converted to infrared, 10-30mm 1-Nikkor zoom at 13.1mm. Image processed in Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

I recently converted my Nikon 1 V1 mirrorless camera to “super-color” infrared. I’ve been having fun with the camera, but I did notice that wider shots seemed very soft in the corners. According to the team at Life Pixel, wide-angle lenses are notoriously problematic with infrared cameras. Lens distortions tend to be exaggerated and softness is common. The primary culprit, it seems, is the fancy optical coatings on your lenses, which help reduce distortion and aberrations. The coatings are optimized for visible light, not IR wavelengths.

As much as I hate taking pictures of brick walls, I also want to understand the limitations of my gear. I decided to test three of my 1-Nikkor lenses to see how well they performed with infrared.

Lenses Tested

I tested all lenses at 10mm, which is roughly equivalent to using a 27mm lens on a 35mm camera body.

Findings and Recommendations

At 10mm, all three of these lenses exhibit corner softness. The 10mm prime was the best, followed by the 6.7-13mm zoom. The 10-30mm lens was extremely mushy in the corners, even at f/11. The softness wide-open was such that it created a blurred vignette effect (which can be used creatively in the right circumstances). At f/16, corner softness wasn’t any better but center sharpness suffered from diffraction. The 10mm 1-Nikkor was the best of the bunch, by far. The 6.7-13mm zoom was definitely better than the 10-30mm, but still soft enough in the corners to warrant caution when shooting wide scenes with maximum depth of field.

Here are sample shots taken with each lens at 10mm and f/8. I put a circle around the area of maximum sharpness.

6.7-13mm 1-Nikkor
6.7-13mm 1-Nikkor
10-30mm 1-Nikkor
10-30mm 1-Nikkor
10mm 1-Nikkor
10mm 1-Nikkor

My recommendations: Wide-angle and infrared don’t always play nicely together. If you want to shoot wide with an infrared converted Nikon 1 camera, choose either the 6.7-13mm zoom or the 10mm prime. The 10-30mm just isn’t good enough at the wide end unless you want a creative blur effect in the corners. However, the 10-30mm 1-Nikkor lens is perfectly good for IR photography at other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is not a major problem above 18mm or so. So far, none of the 1-Nikkor lenses I’ve tried have had any issues with hot-spots that would make them unsuitable for IR photography.

6 thoughts on “Infrared Photography with the Nikon 1 System: Wide-angle lens testing”

  1. Beautiful image! What lens, aperture, shutter speed? Are you pleased with Life Pixel’s conversion? What focus calibration did they recommend?

    Thanks in advance.
    Howard Wood

  2. Thanks, Howard!
    I used the 10-30mm lens for that image at 13mm (roughly equivalent to 35mm). 1/80s @f/5.6, hand-held at ISO 200 (auto ISO).
    I’m happy with the conversion, and I’m still getting the hang of what works best with the camera. It’s clear that super-wide shots are going to have some corner softness, which may or may not matter, depending on your subject. The Nikon 1 cameras do not require a focus calibration as the focusing is done by live-view full-time.

    -Jason

  3. Great material Jason, I’m an infrared photography addict since 2006, I hade 5 different gear modified and before used D50,D70,D70s with r72, I”m interested in getting one SH V1 for converting, did you converted by yourself, or lifepixel did? Tryied already video shooting with it, if yes, dou you have some samples? I’m very interested in shooting IR video with this little guy, many thanks in advance…

    Nycko

  4. Hi Jason,
    great article on infrared with the V1. I checked Life pixel’s website but don’t see the Nikon 1, was it a special order, and what was the cost?

    thank you,
    Diego

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