Going small to see far

One of my favourite photographers, Laurie Campbell, visited my camera club last season to showcase some of his fabulous work and share a few of his experiences out in the field.  If you haven’t heard of him and are interested in nature photography it’s well worth checking out his website.  He showed us a photograph he’d taken with a Nikon 1 camera using a DSLR lens via a converter, and explained that with this set-up it was possible to get 2.72x magnification.

I was impressed, and after a little research I bought myself the latest model of the cheaper of the two ranges, the Nikon 1 J5 and the converter to allow the use of the DSLR lenses.  It’s considerably lighter and smaller than a DSLR so a useful camera to keep on hand. I purchased one lens designed for the Nikon 1 range, a 30-110mm.  There are others available including some prime lenses however they are very expensive.  The kit lens doesn’t get the best reviews, so I’d recommend buying body only and then choosing which lens would suit you best.

The magnification and quality of the photographs is excellent.  I’ve been using it with my nikkor 300mm F4 prime, and when I add my 1.4x teleconverter into the mix too, I can photograph something a long way away, or get decent shots of small birds.   It does have to be used on a tripod however as it is basically a lens with a camera attached!


I’ve used this set-up to photograph goldfinch sitting in my next door neighbour’s cherry tree.  This one I took with the camera resting on my lap:

Goldfinch captured with Nikon 1 J5


This next image isn’t going to win any awards!  But it was taken, using a tripod with the 300mm and 1.4 tc (=1142mm on the J5) of a white-tailed sea eagle nest which was a considerable distance away. The bird is recognisable.


White-Tailed sea eagle

There are a few drawbacks however.

Firstly it doesn’t have a viewfinder, and as someone used to using a DSLR I find this really annoying.  The screen is movable though which helps a little.

Secondly battery life isn’t great especially with a big lens attached.  It is also necessary to manually focus approximately before the auto-focus will function correctly probably because it just doesn’t have the power to do this itself. But once it does focus it’s pin-sharp.

Thirdly, with the DSLR lenses you can only use P mode and the focus options are limited to center-focus.  You cannot choose your focus point.

All those small niggles aside though I am delighted with the camera and would recommend it both to wildlife photographers looking to get that extra distance without spending a hefty sum on a long DSLR lens, or for those looking to step up from a compact.

I’ll leave you with a few more of my J5 garden bird photographs & if you like my wildlife images be sure to check out my RedBubble site where you can purchase prints, cards, mugs and more:

birds j5
Magpie, Dunnock, Male Bullfinch, Blue Tit


Highland based nature photographer and guide specialising primarily in Scottish wildlife but available to cover live music and events.

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