I had a small break in my hectic schedule today and I used it to spend a bit of time at Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls capturing some high ISO test images with my Nikon 1 J5. While I wouldn’t normally use ISO-6400 for all of my images purposely, I did so today at Bird Kingdom. As you look at the sample images some of the EXIF data will look quite strange in terms of using a high ISO setting along with a fairly fast shutter speed. These rather bizarre settings are simply products of the test conditions and my goal to purposely shoot at ISO-6400.
Whenever I buy any new gear I like to go out and push it well beyond where I would normally use it just to find out what it can do. I certainly wasn’t expecting great results shooting at ISO-6400 with a camera like the Nikon 1 J5 with its small 1″ CX sensor.
According to DxO sensor test data the 20.8MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 J5 is rated at 12EV at ISO-160 in terms of dynamic range, and 22.1-bits of colour depth at this same base ISO. While these scores are quite a bit better than the Aptina sensors used in previous Nikon 1 cameras like my V2’s, sensor performance drops off as higher ISO’s are used. This happens with all digital cameras of course.
For example, dynamic range of the J5 at ISO-6400 drops to 7.85EV and colour depth reduces down to 13.7-bits. As a result I expected to see some colour blocking and a lack of definition in shadow areas, as well as a loss of detail in the highlight areas of images. And, this is certainly the case with the sample images in this article.
Colour transitions are also not particularly smooth, but again this can be expected when shooting at a high ISO with a small sensor camera.
I was expecting the Nikon 1 J5 to perform better than my Nikon 1 V2 when used at higher ISO’s and it did not disappoint. I was actually somewhat surprised with how well the sensor did given its much higher pixel density compared to my Nikon 1 V2’s.
All of the images in this article were captured hand-held and produced from RAW files using my standard workflow: DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite with PRIME noise reduction, CS6 and Nik Suite. I simply applied the typical settings that I use for images taken at Bird Kingdom as I wanted to gauge the J5’s performance against other images I had taken in the past at the facility. The PRIME noise reduction function in OpticsPro 10 Elite did quite a reasonable job with the J5’s high ISO files. I never spend time fussing with custom settings with PRIME, preferring to use a ‘one click’ approach with its standard settings.
It is unlikely that I would ever push the Nikon 1 J5 to ISO-12800 in this kind of shooting environment, but depending on end use quite a few of the images taken at ISO-6400 would be acceptable for the web or other small size applications. Trying to do larger sized prints with these kinds of files would obviously be a challenge. It should be noted that there is a difference between manufacturer stated ISO and measured ISO when examining DxO testing for the Nikon 1 J5. At a manufacturer stated ISO of 6400 for the J5 the measured ISO is 3777. This is quite common for there to be a difference between manufacturer stated ISO and measured ISO for cameras as noted in DxO testing.
The auto-focus performance of the Nikon 1 J5 is a tad slower than that of my V2, especially in lower light situations. Since I won’t be using the J5 for moving subjects in low light this won’t be an issue for me.
I haven’t spent too much time with my Nikon 1 J5 so far but I am really enjoying it! So much so that I ordered a second one a few days ago and I’ll be picking it up early next week. Pairing up a Nikon 1 J5 with a Nikon 1 V-series camera extends the overall flexibility of the Nikon 1 system quite a bit as these cameras compliment each other well.
All images and article are Copyright 2016 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation or reproduction of any kind is allowed without express, written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.