Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nikon 1 V3 / FT1 Adapter - 03 May 2014

Rain shortened my trip to Pt. Mouillee this morning.  I managed to get to the Pumphouse from the Mouillee Creek entrance but the pouring rain, winds and general soakedness prompted me to turn around and head back to the car.  It was cold/miserable enough outside that I knew would provide no photo opps today.

So, I drove over to Port Sunlight Rd. to check on the Osprey nest.  It was empty, but I did see a Cattle Egret across the road, in the pen holding a small herd of Bison.

From there I drove down Haggerman Rd. to look for sparrows.  As it continued to rain I put down the window and started to scan the stubble for Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a streaked-cheeked sparrow that initially had me thinking Clay-colored Sparrow, but when it turned I realized that I was looking at a Lapland Longspur! A second, then third bird suddenly popped into view, including a couple stunning male birds in full breeding plumage! Too far to photograph I settled for nice binocular looks from inside the car.  Once the rain stopped long enough I grabbed the scope, but almost immediately the flock of ~100 birds took off to the SE and out of view.  I would later find three male Bobolink singing along the fence line.

I headed home to dry out and take a quick nap before lunch.  I was soon awakened to the sweet sounds of a singing White-crowned Sparrow and saw it out the back window among three White-throated Sparrows.  This prompted me to try some photos using the new Nikon 1 V3 w/ the FT1 Adapter and the Nikon 300/2.8 VRII lens.

With the camera and adapter attached to the 300/2.8 VRII the system is decidedly front heavy, but not too unwieldy.  I was able to get sharp-focused images of the White-crowned Sparrow from the back deck, but needed to stabilize the lens against the railing.  With the 2.7X crop sensor the effective focal length (EFL) of the system is 810 mm!

Focusing w/ the camera/lens combo is extremely fast and accurate! I had no problems locking onto my subject, and firing the camera at 20fps using Auto ISO 160-800 produced about 85% keepers.  But there is a caveat!

The camera does not have the ability to focus over the entire range of the lens, i.e., it won't focus if the view is completely out of focus.  I had to manually focus the lens in order to get focus close enough where the camera would kick in.  So, for now it appears that the V3 offers Manual-assisted Autofocus Capabilities.

I'm impressed with the image quality.  Images were tack-sharp with the 300/2.8 VRII.  I was shooting Aperture-Priority with the camera at f/3.5.  It was cloudy enough that the camera chose ISO 400 for all exposures, which were taken from a distance of approximately 15 - 20'.

RAW image at 100%, 1/1000s, -0.3EV, f/3.5
My little Asia was sitting on the deck, so I tried some hand-held photos from about 15' away.  It is possible to hand-hold this system, but it takes a bit of practice.  When blown up to 100% I was very impressed with the resolution and noise properties of the camera.  I applied a 50% Luminance noise reduction using Noiseware to clear up some of the luminance noise that is inherent w/ the small, 1" sensor.

RAW image at 100%, ISO 800, 1/250s, f/3.5
Noiseware adjusted (50% Luminance, 50% Chroma)

I can see this being a great combo for me while driving side roads looking for birds, like those Lapland Longspurs I saw this morning, or wintertime hawks that are spooked by me getting out of the car to grab the scope.  The big question is, how will it perform for me this week when I plan to try it out on warblers at the Biggest Week in American Birding festival in NW Ohio?  I expect it to be a bit of a challenge since I'll have to do quite a bit of manual-adjustments to get birds within Auto-focusing range. But it should be fun!

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