Nikon 1 V1

The Nikon 1 V1 is a lovely interchangeable lens camera, provided you have the time to spend learning its many shooting modes and the price doesn't scare you away.


8.2
CNET Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


The Nikon 1 V1 is one of two interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) released by Nikon in 2011.

The V1 is the big, bold and brash brother of the J1. While they share most of the same internals, it's the external design that differentiates them, as well as the price and body construction.

Make no mistake, the Nikon 1 is totally different to the company's SLR range, using a different mount and image sensor. With an optional F-mount adapter, you can mount other, non-Nikon 1 lenses on the camera if you so desire.

Design and features

Controls are kept relatively simple on the top panel. Rather than a traditional mode dial, you find a simple arrangement of power button, shutter button and video-record button. There's also a hump on the top of the V1, which conceals the electronic viewfinder (1.4-million dot resolution). It's bright and very easy to see in sunlight and situations where there's a lot of glare. To the side, the hotshoe can take an optional GPS unit, external microphone or flash unit (sold separately).

The back panel looks quite different to other ILC models than you might be used to. The small lever at the top looks like it could be a zoom rocker — and it is for reviewing photos — but it primarily acts as a selection tool when you have particular functions that need to be changed. This includes setting aperture/shutter when in manual modes, as well as choosing between options on the screen.

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Click through to see our hands on gallery with the V1 and J1. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CBSi)

There are a few new shooting modes that are unique to the Nikon 1 cameras, accessed by the dial to the side. Motion snapshot takes one second of footage, along with a still photo, accompanied by music that sets the scene. It's a bit like a Cinemagraph, if you want a point of comparison, and it works nicely. Press the shutter button and the camera captures the motion snapshot. The finished work can be viewed in-camera, via the included software or alternatively in the My Picturetown app for iOS.

Smart photo selector, the next option down, captures a burst of images and chooses the best from this range. When the shutter is half pressed, the camera begins to buffer and captures a selection of photos when it's fully pressed. The camera chooses the best five shots based on things such as focus and smiles, lets you review them and save the selected one.

Down once more on the mode dial is still-image mode, which has settings like automatic and full PASM control. This is also the mode where you can play around with image appearance, although there are no art filters, as such — just standard colour modes, like vivid, monochrome and landscape. Finally, movie mode lets you capture full HD video at 1080i or slow-motion video (400fps at 640x240px or 1200fps at 320x120px). Obviously, this isn't HD or even VGA resolution, but it's a lot of fun for web clips, as you can see below.

If your concern lies with the physical size of the sensor used in the Nikon 1, well, this camera probably isn't for you. The Nikon 1 uses a CX sensor, which is smaller than the DX-sized sensor used on its basic and midrange digital SLRs, but larger than the sensors used on its compact Coolpix range. From Nikon's perspective, this makes perfect sense — why eat into its own market share of an already-strong SLR range with a smaller camera that has the same sensor?

Given the size of the sensor, the Nikon 1's crop factor is 2.7x. This means that a Nikon 1 10mm lens gives the equivalent field of view as a 27mm lens. Like other Nikon SLR cameras, the Nikon 1 has vibration reduction (image stabilisation) built into lenses, rather than into the camera body.

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Click through to see how the Nikon 1 V1 and J1 are made. (Credit: CBSi)

Although the V1 uses the same battery as the Nikon D7000, it's rated for just 350 shots.

Compared to

E-P3

Olympus E-P3 Panasonic Lumix G3 Nikon 1 V1 Sony NEX-5N
12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor (CX size) 16.1-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS sensor (APS-C size)
3-inch, 610,000-dot touchscreen OLED 3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 921,600-dot touchscreen LCD
Full HD video (1080i, 24fps) Full HD video (1080i, 30fps) Full HD video (1080i, 60fps) Full HD video (1080p, 25ps)
35-point AF 23-point AF 73-point AF 25-point AF
3.2fps 4fps 60fps (electronic shutter) 10fps

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Nikon 1 V11.71.42.20.2
  • Sony NEX-5N1.40.710.5
  • Panasonic G30.80.70.70.2
  • Olympus E-P30.80.70.70.2
  • Samsung NX111.11.21.10.3

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Nikon 1 V15.5
  • Sony NEX-5N10
  • Panasonic G33.5
  • Olympus E-P33.2
  • Samsung NX113

Note that the Nikon 1 V1 has a range of continuous shooting modes. The mode we measured above (using the mechanical shutter) is regular continuous mode, which captures images at full resolution. It can capture 57 successive images at this rate before stopping to process them. There is also an electronic shutter mode: regular electronic shutter delivers just under 6fps, and the high electronic shutter lets the camera take either 10fps, 30fps or 60fps. Typically, the V1 can only sustain a very short burst at these high rates (just over a second of continuous shooting). Once this burst of images has been taken, the camera stops to process them for several seconds.

Nikon claims that the V1 has the world's fastest autofocus. While it's definitely quick in ample lighting conditions, plenty of other manufacturers are making the same claim — most notably Olympus with its E-P3. The combination of phase and contrast detection AF works well, but, without being able to compare it side-by-side with the E-P3, we can't verify that it is faster.

Image quality

There's a lot to like about the image quality of the V1. Straight out of the camera, JPEG images are pleasingly saturated, have good levels of detail when observing images at full magnification and low-light shots look great.

Noise levels at higher ISO levels, notably 800 and above, are very well controlled, particularly on low-light photos. The image processor combination does well to mitigate any indication of the relative size of the sensor to other ILC models. Exposures are accurate, with only very contrasty and bright situations causing the camera to slightly overexpose, but, again, we only found this when we really pushed the camera into challenging light.

V1 RAW JPEG

A comparison between RAW and JPEG images from the Nikon 1 V1. JPEG processing adds a slight colour cast, as you can see from the images, but it controls noise well in the 100 per cent crop inset.
(Credit: CBSi)

There seemed to be no discernible difference in sharpness or colour rendition between the 10mm pancake lens that we tested and the 10-30mm kit lens at the wide end. The 10mm pancake earns its keep, as it's faster (f/2.8) and a lot more compact. Images from the V1 most certainly hold their own compared to those produced by other interchangeable lens cameras in the market, notably the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus.

One of the most appealing parts of the Nikon 1 package is the excellent video quality. At 1080i we've seen other cameras struggle with obvious interlacing and jerkiness, but, from our tests, footage looks incredibly good. Still images pulled out at the time of video recording are also excellent. The only issue with video recording is the slight hiss produced in quiet situations, and wind noise picked up by the stereo microphone, even with the wind filter turned on. There is full manual control while filming video.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/800, f/2.8, ISO 1100

Exposure: 1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 2800

Exposure: 1/500, f/10, ISO 360

Exposure: 1/15, f/4.5, ISO 1100

(Credit: CBSi)

See more sample images from the Nikon 1 V1 below:

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Click through for a complete photo gallery. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CBSi)

Conclusion

The Nikon 1 V1 is a lovely interchangeable lens camera, provided you have the time to spend learning its many shooting modes — and the price doesn't scare you away. That said, there's no one particular "must-have" feature, making it hard to stand out on its own in the throng of interchangeable lens cameras already on the market.

This camera is most definitely targeted at those users who are stepping up from a compact camera, but who aren't ready for the bulk of an SLR, and still want features like a viewfinder and fast continuous shooting speed.

The Nikon 1 V1 is available as a twin-lens kit configuration (10-30mm and 30-110mm lens) for AU$1399 in black or white.

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