1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm PD-Zoom Lens Preview

September 23, 2011

As much as I love reading and writing about cameras, I was very excited to read about 1 Nikkor lens lineup for the Nikon 1 Mirrorless ILC system. One of the most interesting lenses would probably be the 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom lens. As for now, Nikon has introduced four 1 Nikkor lenses, two of them look quite the same (30-110mm & 10-100mm) but they have their differences.  No doubt that jut by observing the design of the 10-100mm PD-Zoom, we can see that it was engineered to for unique purposes. In this article I want to get a closer look at this new 1 Nikkor telephoto-zoom lens and see what’s so special about it and who are the customers that Nikon aims this lens for?

10-100mm PD Zoom Overview

The 1 Nikor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM is a telephoto zoom lens, equivalent to  27-270 mm in 35mm terms. It features a 10x power drive zoom mechanism, and that’s what the PD-Zoom name means (Power Drive Zoom). A power drive zoom means that the lens was optimized for video recording. When shooting videos, it’s very important that the zoom will be done electronically, instead of mechanically. In an electronic zooming mechanism, there is a motor that responsible to move the lens elements forward and backward, and it does that smoothly and quietly.

1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM

1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM - Optimized for Video Recording with Nikon 1 V1 and J1 cameras

If you’ve shot movies with a “regular” interchangeable lens, you know that even the slight movement can cause some camera movements that can cause jumpiness when your playback the video. The idea behind the PD-Zoom is to make zooming very smooth and quite and that’s why we can look at the 10-100mm as an video-optimized lens, or as some other referred to it as HD-lens.  The reason why the lens zoom so quietly is due to the Voice Coil motors (VCM in short). I can tell you how important it is when shooting videos.

I’ve personally shot some videos with my Nikon D3100 and my 70-300mm VR lens, and when the camera focuses, you can here the AF motor when you playback the videos, it’s very annoying and all you have to do is to cover it up with some background music.

The 1 Nikkor VR 10-100 mm f4.5-5.6 utilizes Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization mechanism. This motor works int a way that it stabilizes the lens elements and compensate camera shake movements. It’s very useful for getting sharp images when shooting hand-held, especially in low-light and in slow shutter-speeds.

The 10-100mm PD-Zoom includes a High Refractive Index (HRI) lens element to improve the optical performance of the lens, while keeping it small and lightweight. It also comes with two aspherical lens elements and three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements to reduce flare and ghosting.

More than that, the 10-100mm utilizes 7 rounded diaphragm blades for circular and smooth background blur (Bokeh). It’s the largest lens (77 x 95 mm) of the four available lenses and it weights 530 grams (1lb / 2.7 oz.). The lens has 21 elements arranged in 14 groups, has a zooming ring and accept 72 mm filters.

Also worth mentioning that the lens has a retractable mechanism that retracts when you power off the camera in order to reduce the length of the lens when not in use. However, the lens also has a ‘lock’ switch. You can use this lock switch to lock the lens when it is already extended. So when you turn off the camera and power it on again, you can start shooting at the same zoom range that you were shooting previously, prior to shutting the camera off.
Now let’s look at the specifications table:

SpecsInfo
TypeNikkor 1 mount lens
Maximum aperturef/4.5-5.6
Minimum aperturef/16
Lens construction21 elements in 14 groups (including 2 aspherical lens elements, 3 ED lens elements, and one HRI lens element)
Angle of view77°-9° 10'
Vibration reductionLens shift using voice coil motors (VCMs)
Minimum focus distance10 mm focal length: 0.3 m (1 ft)
100 mm focal length: 0.85 m (2.8 ft)
Maximum reproduction ratio0.127x
Diaphragm blades7 (rounded)
DiaphragmFully automatic
Aperture range10 mm focal length: f/4.5 to f/16

100 mm focal length: f/5.6 to f/16
Filter-attachment size72 mm
Dimensions77 mm diameter x 95 mm
Weight530 g (1 lb 2.7 oz)

Power Drive Zoom

As I’ve written in the previous section, the PD-Zoom (see image below) was designed and optimized for smooth and quiet zooming during video shooting. On the left side of the lens you’ll find a switch that can gently move upwards (T) and downwards (W). The ‘T’ letters signifies ‘Tele’ and the ‘W’ letter signifies ‘Wide’. As you more the switch upwards, the Power Drive moves enhanced the lens magnification and push the zoom towards the tele-end. As you move the switch downwards (W), the power drive pushes the zoom down towards the 27mm wide angle (less magnification).

Some of you are well familiar with this type of electronic-zoom mechanism because most of the digital point-and-shoot cameras have it on the camera body. The more you push the switch upwards or downwards, the speed of the zoom increases or decreases, so you have a good control over the optical zoom speed.

Power Drive Zoom (PD-zoom)

Power Drive Zoom button on the 1 Nikkor 10-100mm lens

 

Vibration Reduction (VRII)

The 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom comes with a Nikon’s well-regarded Vibration Reduction mechanism to compensate camera shake both during stills and video recording. For those of you who are interested to know whether it’s a VR I or VR II, this is Nikon’s latest VR II used in this 1 Nikkor lens.

This means that you can enjoy shooting with up to 4-stop advantage over non-stabilized lenses. I personally own a 70-300mm VR Nikkor glass and I can tell you that the VRII just rocks! – In under a second, the motor just freezes the frame (NOT literally speaking though).

The image stabilization becomes very important and even crucial when shooting in long focal lengths. That also true for the 10-100mm lens which in 35mm terms, it is equivalent to 27-270 mm.

Having said that, even if you aren’t shooting at the telephoto end, it can help you take shots at slow shutter speeds, up to 4 stops below the one recommended by the shutter speed rule of thumb – and still get with a sharp usable image.

 

Conclusion

When you look at the design of the lens, you can see that there is a large smooth surface that also enhance ergonomics, especially for people with large hands. No doubt that the 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom is a unique lens in the Nikkor lens lineup and the 1 Nikkor in particular.

The utilization of a Voice coil AF motor (VCM), the Retracting mechanism, VR II, Power Drive zoom, 7 rounded bladed, special lens elements and coating and the 10x optical zoom – all of those make this lens one of the most exotic and interesting lenses in the 1 Nikkor lineup, especially for video recording. It’s relatively compact and lightweight considering all the goods it packed in side.

If you are shooting on a tripod, you can check out the tripod adapter TA-N100 that was designed to fit the 10-100 PD-zoom lens. Another optional accessory is the CL-N102 lens soft case, a protective pouch that protects the lens against dust and scratches.

I have no doubt that this lens will be one of the most successful ones because it really answers many of the demands of enthusiast photographers and videographers in particular. It covers a very side range of focal length, starting from 27mm wide angle to 270mm telephoto. It comes with all the goods that Nikon can offer. It relatively large, but you’ll get a bucket full of goodies in side.

Considering its price ($749 via amazon), it’s really a good price for an all-around video optimized lens that really has all the bells and whistles in one great telephoto zoom lens. If you love shooting videos with your J1 and V1 camera, this is the lens to get – Highly recommended!

Link to sample images taken with the 10-100mm lens will be posted here as they become available. I will also extended this preview at the same time.

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