Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Nikon 1 AW1 underwater preparation

The Nikon 1 AW1 is a very unique camera. It is the only interchangeable lens digital camera which is waterproof. In this sense, it is a continuation of the Nikonos series of interchangeable lens underwater film cameras.

And when I say "waterproof", I don't mean "weatherprotected", like many premium system cameras claim to be. "Weatherprotected" usually just means that there is are simple gaskets wherever there are joins in the body material. This keeps out some drops of water, but it is nowhere enough to protect against submerging. The Nikon 1 AW1, on the other hand, is truly waterproof in the sense that it can be taken 15 meters below water.

However, what is somewhat undercommunicated, is the amount of care you must spend time on for the camera to actually be waterproof. People who do diving will be familiar with this procedure, but the layperson may think that you can just grab the camera and go snorkelling. No, you can't.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Infrared conversion of Nikon 1 S1

Digital cameras have gotten very good at representing the reality the way the human eye sees it. Several key indicators have gotten better, for example, colour accuracy, resolution, dynamic range, noise performance, lens rectilinearity, etc. All this to make your pictures look more natural.

But there are times when you want to take unnatural pictures. I have written about such examples previously. One way to take unnatural images, is to photograph outside of the visible light spectrum, usually infrared.

Back in the film days, you could buy specialist film which was sensitive to infrared light. Normally, you would combine this with a visible light blocking filters, somewhat confusingly referred to as "infrared filters", to put in front of the lens. These filters block the visible light you see with your own eyes, only letting through infrared light. That way, you can photograph outside of the colours that you can see yourself, for interesting effects. These filters usually have a cut-off wavelength of around 650nm or higher, see the illustration below.

With digital cameras, this is somewhat simpler. The sensor itself is able to see infrared light, so you can use the normal live view process to compose your image, and even use autofocus. However, virtually all digital cameras have a strong infrared blocking filter built in. This is to avoid stray infrared light hitting the sensor, which would reduce the contrast.

Some specialist digital cameras come without the infrared blocking filter, for example the newly announced infrared version of the Fujifilm XT1. This camera is "full spectrum", meaning that you must yourself add a visible light blocking filter to the front of the lens to achieve the infrared effect. However, at a price of US$1700, this camera is not for everyone.

A cheaper option is to take a digital camera you already have, and convert it. This can be done by third party companies, or, if you are adventurous and dexterous, you can do it yourself. In this article, I show you how to do this with the Nikon 1 S1, an old, basic Nikon 1 camera. Contrary to what you may expect, this camera is serviceable, and you can disassemble it to access the filter stack above the sensor.