I received my Nikon FT1 adapter today. Many of the online shops don’t even list this accessory in their inventory yet, but I was lucky enough to find one at Service Photo.
The FT1 adapter allows you to mount F-mount Nikkor lenses on Nikon 1 series cameras, like the J1 and V1. With the Nikon CX format, you get a resulting angle of view equal to using a lens 2.7x longer.
Given that the whole point of the Nikon 1 system is to go small and light, the reasons for using the FT1 seem to be three-fold:
- Subject isolation with fast glass
- Macro (close-up) photography
- “Digiscoping” with ridiculously long effective focal lengths
Subject Isolation with Fast Primes
The fastest 1-series Nikkor lens currently offered is the 10mm f/2.8 prime. The two telephoto offerings are much slower. The 10-30mm is f/3.5-5.6, and the 30-110mm is f/3.8-5.6. Coupled with the fact that smaller formats increase the effective depth of field, you’re not going to get great subject isolation. Moreover, you’ll be forced to either use a high ISO or a slower shutter speed with one of the slower zooms. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to me to couple a variable-aperture F-mount zoom to the V1; the 1-series Nikkors are more than up to the task.
I tried out the FT1 with my 50mm f/1.4 AFS G Nikkor lens. With the crop factor, this would be like using a 135mm lens on a 35mm camera. I once again turned to my faithful companion, Otter, for some quick test shots.
Aside from the slight differences in framing, you can see the limitations of a slow lens in the bottom shot. The background elements are more distracting, although the overall sharpness seems better, undoubtedly due to the greater DOF. With the 50mm f/1.4 lens, I was able to shoot 1/200s @ f/1.4 and ISO 1100 (it’s fairly dark in the house). With the 1-series zoom lens, I could only get f/4 at 50mm, so I shot 1/60s @ f/4 and ISO 2800. VR definitely helps in this situation!
I love my 105mm f/2.8 AFS VR G Micro Nikkor. And when I put it on the V1 with the FT1, I get the equivalent of a 283mm f/2.8 lens. But that’s not all. The 105mm Micro Nikkor focuses to a ratio of 1:1 (life size) on 35mm format. With the added crop factor of the CX format (2.7x), you effectively get 2.7:1 magnification with this excellent lens. Moreover, the added effective depth of field of the CX format means that more of your subject will appear to be in focus… and for macro, that’s usually a good thing. Because the 105mm Micro Nikkor is relatively compact, it would be easy enough to pack it along with the rest of the V1 kit and still be relatively light.
Going LONG… Super Telephotos with extra reach
The other reason one might want the FT1 is to make their telephoto lenses behave as though they’re even longer. Heck, with a 2.7x crop factor, even a 200mm lens suddenly becomes a 540mm exotic telephoto! Keep in mind that when going to extremes, even small lens aberrations are likely to be noticed, so using good glass helps. Also, if your lens does not have VR (vibration reduction), you’ll need to support it as though it was a super-tele. Keep the shutter speed high and use a tripod if you can.
Just for fun, I put my FT1 onto my 600mm f/4 AFS G VRII Nikkor lens. The result: an effective focal length of 1620mm! Holy cow. Here’s what it looks like:
There’s a street sign on the corner about 100′ (30m) away. Here’s what it looks like with a full-frame camera (D3s) and the 600mm lens:
Now, here’s the same subject shot with the V1 and 600mm lens:
The image is quite sharp at 1/500s and f/5.6 with VR on. So should you trade in your DSLR for a V1 if your’re a sports or wildlife photographer? Not so fast…
Limitations of the FT1
As with all things, there are some significant limitations to using the FT1 with Nikkor lenses.
- No autofocus support for D-type Nikkors. The V1 has no internal focus motor, so if you mount a D-type Nikkor on the FT1, you’re limited to manual focusing.
- No continuous-servo AF. That’s going to be a huge problem for action or wildlife shooters. AF-S mode works well for static subjects, but you won’t be able to use continuous focus mode like you can with your DSLR (or 1-series lenses on a V1).
- Center Point AF only. Sadly, you cannot change the AF point when using the FT1. That means you’ll need to focus and then recompose to get your final composition. Subject-tracking and Face-Priority AF are also disabled with the FT1.
- VR is on full-time. Unless you turn VR off on your lens, it runs full-time. That’s going to drain your battery. So familiarize yourself with the VR on/off switch on your lens(es) and switch it on only when you’re getting ready to shoot.
- Exposures limited to 1/1.3 seconds, regardless of exposure mode. I don’t know why. That means no bulb exposures with the FT1. For me, no big deal.
The Nikon FT1 F-mount adapter is a nice addition to the 1-series cameras. It’s built well, and has a tripod mounting foot built-in. For photographers wanting to use their Nikkor lenses on a 1-series camera, this is the must-have accessory. In my opinion, the best use for the FT1 is with fast primes, like the 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor or the 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor. These will make excellent portrait lenses and deliver great subject isolation with the V1. You can also use the FT1 with your longer telephotos, but the focusing limitations mean that you’ll need to be shooting relatively static subjects. Hopefully, Nikon will release a firmware update to offer continuous-servo AF with the V1. If they did that, then a lens like a 70-300mm or 70-200mm could be a great wildlife or sports option.