Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Camera Review: A lesson in expectation management


How does the Nikon 1 V1 perform?

Count me among those who were less than overwhelmed by Nikon’s “big” announcement of its small interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon 1 system. For years, many Nikon enthusiasts, myself included, have wanted a small camera that delivered great image quality and high performance. The consensus was that if Nikon built a compact, mirrorless camera based on one of its APS-C sensors, they’d have a real competitor for the Leica and Micro Four-Thirds system cameras out there. Instead, it seems that Nikon chose to go the other direction by giving us a new format, CX, with a sensor size of 13.2mm x 8.8mm and 10.1 megapixels. CX is smaller than APS-C and M4/3. In fact, it has a “crop factor” of 2.7x. Nikon touted this camera as a fast performing alternative to a traditional point and shoot camera with a good set of lenses and accessories to support it.

It’s at this point in the story where you have to remember how Nikon engineering works. They decide who the product is targeted to, and design it to that perceived market. So to all of us who are in the pro/advanced DSLR camp, the Nikon 1 system seemed like a disappointment. After all, we’re the ones using our DSLRs in near darkness. And while we may be disappointed that the Nikon 1 system wasn’t going to be the APS-C based walkabout camera we wanted it to be, we need to consider the actual intended target market for this camera: people who want a small, compact camera that is responsive and produces good images in most conditions. In other words, families.

It is in this light that I’m going to review the Nikon 1 V1. I have a Coolpix P7000, and while I like it in general, it still frustrates me at times. It does not focus fast enough for any kind of action shots, and the tiny sensor makes noise reduction a must at just about any ISO. Moreover, the Coolpix P7000 only produces an 8-bit NRW format RAW file, which isn’t as good as the 12-bit NEFs my DSLRs generate.

I bought my Nikon 1 V1 after a lengthy conversation with a colleague, who had recently tested one in Africa. He, too, has a Coolpix P7000 and a Canon G12, and he said that after using the V1, he’ll never touch either of those cameras again. I had a family trip to Disneyland coming up, and I wanted to get good shots but also travel light. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to test the V1, so I went ahead and bought one from B&H, along with three lenses, the 10mm f/2.8 “pancake,” the 10-30mm VR zoom, and the 30-110mm VR zoom. I also picked up the accessory Speedlight, SB-N5.

First impressions

The first thing I noticed about the V1 was its diminutive size. With the 10mm pancake lens attached, it really isn’t any larger than my P7000. The two zoom lenses are very small, but certainly larger than any traditional zoom point and shoot. However, I’m guessing that an APS-C based design would be significantly larger than the V1, which can fit into a large coat pocket without much trouble. When you remove a lens from the V1, you’ll see the image sensor exposed. This is due to the mirrorless design of the camera.

The Nikon 1 V1 isn't much larger than the Coolpix P7000 (right).
My Nikon 1 V1 shown with a Lego mini figure for scale

Controls and Settings

After I charged up the EN-EL 15 battery (the same Li-ion battery used by the Nikon D7000 DSLR), I familiarized myself with the camera’s controls. Because the V1 is designed with the “casual” user in mind, The rear control dials only offer access to a few settings. The other settings are in the software menus. The top of the camera has two buttons: a dedicated still image shutter release and a dedicated video mode shutter release (with a red dot on it). At first, this arrangement takes getting used to, but the idea is that you can capture a still or a video regardless of whether the camera is set to still mode or video mode, just by using the alternate release button. If you toggle shooting this way, you won’t get the same image or video quality options as you will when in a dedicated shooting mode. In Video Capture mode, you can capture 1080/60i video (using the video button) or grab JPEG stills with a 16:9 aspect ratio with the standard shutter button. In Still Image mode, you’ll be limited to shooting video at 1072×720 resolution.

Next to the electronic viewfinder window, there is a small button, marked “F.” This is the function button. Depending on the camera shooting mode, you’ll have the ability to quickly change settings for that shooting mode. For example, the F button lets you choose between the mechanical and electronic shutter, or between standard HD or high-speed slow-motion video. You can also use the “F” button to modify the aperture setting of the camera while in Program Auto Exposure mode. Next to the “F” button, you’ll find a toggle switch that is used to control various aspects of shutter speed or aperture in still image mode, or to zoom in/out of images during playback and review.

Rear controls of the Nikon 1 V1

The “main” command dial is the camera shooting mode selector. Here you can choose between one of four shooting modes:

  • Still Images
  • Video
  • Still Image with Smart Photo Selector
  • Motion Snapshot

Still Image Mode

In Still Image Mode, you can shoot 12-bit NEFs at 5 frames per-second. You can also shoot JPEG and JPEG+NEF. If you go into the menus, you’ll be able to change exposure modes, metering modes, and AF modes. By default, the camera is set to use the Auto Scene Selector as the exposure mode. You can also choose from one of six Nikon Picture Controls (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, and Landscape) as a way of modifying the color, contrast, and sharpness of your images. If you shoot RAW, this is no big deal, but Picture Controls are quite useful for those who shoot exclusively JPEG to dial in settings that give them the look they desire.

Movie Mode

In Movie Mode, you can capture HD video in three different resolutions:

  • 1920 x 1080/60i (59.94 fields/sec)
  • 1920 x 1080/ 30p (30 fps)
  • 1280 x 720/ 60p (60 fps)

Click here for a sample video at 720p resolution

Alternatively, you can capture lower-resolution clips of slow motion video at either 400 fps or 1200 fps. In slow-motion movie mode, you’re limited to 5-second clips. To me, this is really cool… in 2001 our lab spent nearly $15,000 on a high-speed (500fps) black & white video camera. Today, I could do the same thing for under $1000 and in color!

With the dual shutter release buttons on the V1, it is possible to take still images (jpg) as you are simultaneously shooting video… that’s pretty cool!

Click here for a sample slow motion (400fps) video from the Nikon 1 V1

The other two modes on the dial are somewhat gimmicky, but they can be useful for casual shooters who don’t want to do much thinking around the camera or are looking for other creative outlets.

Still Image Mode with Best Shot Selector

In this mode, the camera starts buffering pictures before you fully depress the shutter release button, and will also capture images after the shutter release button is pressed. After capture, the camera finds five images and chooses the “best” one. The concept here is that if you’re shooting kids, the camera will choose the image where everyone is actually smiling. Once you’ve captured these images, you can browse the other four images in the “best shot” sequence, and manually pick out a different shot as the “best.” You can then choose to keep all the images (default), or delete all but the best shot. Frankly, I don’t see myself using this mode much, but as the father of a four-year old, I can certainly understand why casual shooters might appreciate this function.

Motion Snapshot Mode

A “motion snapshot” is actually a movie file. Images captured in this mode are saved as .mov movies. You can also choose between four different background sounds to add to the movie clip. In this mode, you produce a slow-motion video that ends in a still image. Again, this isn’t something that I find myself doing a lot, but it does add a little creative flavor to those tender moments, if you want to have a little fun. Strangely enough, the audio tracks aren’t saved with your motion snapshot upon importing the movie file to your computer (Update 12/29: you can access the audio if you use View NX2 to preview your Motion Snapshots. You can then convert them to standard .mov video files.) 

The last external control is the Multi-selector dial and button. Here is where you can set the following functions:

  • AF-L/AE-L
  • Self-Timer
  • AF servo mode (auto, single, continuous, or manual)
  • Exposure Compensation

The camera also has four other buttons on the rear panel:

  • Disp (sets LCD display mode)
  • Playback
  • Menu
  • Delete (trash)

The remaining settings in the Nikon 1 V1 must be set from within the software menus. Things like spot metering, ISO settings, and flash exposure compensation are not accessible externally. This, of course, is exactly how Nikon designs the majority of their compact point and shoot cameras, so it isn’t entirely a surprise. However, I’d much prefer more external controls, especially a “PASM” dial to quickly change between exposure modes on the fly.

Field Performance

I’m guessing that most of you have skipped right to this section, so I’ll discuss the performance of the Nikon 1 V1 across several criteria:

  • Autofocus Performance and Frame Rate
  • Mechanical vs. Electronic Shutter
  • Image Quality (including ISO and Auto WB)
  • Ergonomics and handling

Autofocus Performance and Shooting Speed

For me, one of the biggest gripes I have with any point and shoot camera is that they are slow. Nikon’s Coolpix line are notoriously slow. They don’t focus quickly, especially in low light, and they capture images after a dreaded “shutter lag” unless you’ve got focus perfectly locked. In other words, using a traditional point and shoot camera is a perfect recipe for missing shots.

Autofocus and shooting performance on the V1 are absolutely stellar. Make no bones about it; I use a Nikon D3s and when it comes to getting sharp shots of moving subjects, the V1 absolutely holds its own. Focus is fast, even in dim light, and the built-in illuminator helps when needed. There is essentially no shutter lag with this camera, either! Moreover, I can set the camera to continuous frame advance and fire off a continuous burst of NEFs for as long as I want to hold down the shutter release! The V1 has a generous buffer, which when coupled with a fast (30 MB/s Class 10) SD memory card, is hard to fill.

Here’s a six-shot continuous sequence at 5fps with the Nikon 1 V1 and 30-110mm zoom lens (click to enlarge):

AF test sequence #1
AF test sequence #2
AF test sequence #3
AF test sequence #4
AF test sequence #5
AF test sequence #6

Face-Priority and Subject Tracking AF

The V1, like some of Nikon’s Coolpix cameras, offers two forms of “intelligent” AF selection. The first mode is face-priority AF. In my tests, I found that the V1 recognizes faces in a scene nearly instantly, even if the person is in profile. For 99% of family shooting, I’d recommend using this feature. As a test, I let my four-year old son take my photo with the V1. The face-priority focus nailed it.

Family test: hand the camera to your spouse and get a sharp shot.
Family test #2: Hand the camera to your 4-year old kid and get a sharp shot!

I also tested the “Subject Tracking” mode of the AF system in the V1, and I found that it works pretty well. It uses color and contrast cues to follow a subject of your choosing around the frame. This mode can help in situations where you want to keep the same relative camera framing while allowing your subject to move about the scene. You can also use this mode to recompose with portraits, but I think face-priority AF is a better choice in those situations.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the speed and performance of the Nikon 1 V1. In fact, I’d wager that if a compact camera could keep up with sports, this would be it.

Mechanical vs. Electronic Shutter

The Nikon V1 differs from the lower-end J1 in that it has a mechanical shutter. You have the option of using either the mechanical shutter or the electronic shutter as follows:

  • Mechanical
  • Electronic (standard)
  • Electronic (high-speed)

What’s the difference between these modes? With the mechanical and standard electronic shutter, you’ll be limited to a maximum shooting rate of 5 fps. In high-speed electronic shutter mode, you can shoot 10, 30 or even 60 fps. The mechanical shutter produces an audible sound when the camera captures an image, while the electronic shutter does not (you can set the camera to make a faux shutter sound if you prefer). The biggest advantage of the mechanical shutter is that it will sync with the SB-N5 speedlight at 1/250s, while the electronic shutter can only sync at 1/60s. The advantages of the standard electronic shutter is that it is silent, and that it allows for a fastest shutter speed of 1/16,000s (compared to 1/4000s with the mechanical shutter). That could be very useful at golf tournaments! The high-speed electronic shutter is interesting, but it does come with some limitations. Face-detection AF is disabled when you use the high-speed electronic shutter. In addition, if you set the frame rate to 30fps or higher, focus and exposure are locked based on the initial frame in your image series. For me, I tend to like the reassuring “click” produced by the mechanical shutter, but its nice to have the option of the silent shutter, too.

Click Here to hear an audio recording of the Nikon 1 V1 mechanical shutter at 5fps

Click here to hear the Nikon 1 V1 using the electronic shutter at 10fps

Image Quality

The big question surrounding the Nikon 1 series cameras ever since they were announced centered on image quality. Because the CX sensor is small, one would expect noise to play a factor in image quality. Indeed, by default, NR kicks in even at fairly low ISO settings on the V1; you can disable NR either in the camera or in RAW images. The V1 has an ISO range of 100-3200, and an optional Hi-1 (6400 equivalent) setting. In my subjective testing, I found that noise, although present, is extremely well controlled through ISO 800, and image quality is still perfectly good enough for most uses above that. At 1600 ISO and above, you can see a reduction in color saturation in your images. Subjectively, I find that the Nikon 1 V1 performs at least as well at ISO 800 as my APS-C D2Xs did. And unlike the D2Xs, I can shoot above ISO 800 and still get very useable images. I made an 11×14” print of a cropped image shot at ISO 800 with NR off, and it looked great.

Nikon 1 V1 at ISO 800 with SB-N5 Speedlight.

For outdoor shooting without a flash, I won’t hesitate to set the V1 on its full auto-ISO range (100-3200). Why? Because the kinds of shooting I’m most likely do do with the V1 aren’t going to be made into 24×36” prints. For images viewed on a computer monitor 800 pixels wide, even ISO 3200 images look great! And frankly, how many of us blow up our vacation snapshots to anything larger than 8×10”? In fact, how many prints do we even make these days, given the fact that we’re probably going to share our images on Flickr, Facebook, Google+, or via email anyway? Face it, noise is only a problem if you notice it, and in most of the images from the V1 at typical viewing sizes, you’re not going to notice it as a big issue. See my separate analysis on V1 noise here.

In the Enchanted Tiki Room: Nikon 1 V1 at ISO 3200, NR disabled. WB set to incandescent in Capture NX 2.3.
Nikon 1 V1 @ISO 3200 with NR OFF, 100% view

For flash shots, I recommend using a fixed ISO setting, as otherwise the camera tries to expose for the dark scene and use the flash unit as fill. You’ll have a lot of ISO 3200 shots with flash if you don’t change to a fixed ISO or reduce the ISO range.

The other aspect of image quality and sensor size has to do with the lenses. Unfortunately, because the CX sensor is small, and the current lineup of 1-series lenses isn’t very fast (the 10mm pancake is the fastest at f/2.8), you aren’t going to get the kind of subject isolation that’s possible with larger format cameras. Since Nikon refers to the 1-series cameras as part of a “system,” it remains to be seen what new 1-series lenses are offered in the future. One option that I look forward to trying is using F-mount Nikkor lenses on the V1 with the Nikon FT-1 adapter. My 50mm f/1.4 AFS G lens effectively becomes a 135mm portrait lens!

Auto WB

I found myself using auto WB most of the time with the V1. Like most Nikons, it works very well in outdoor scenes, and less well under artificial lighting. There is a preset WB option where you can photograph a gray or white subject and the camera will create a manual preset. Unfortunately, you’re limited to using one manual preset at a time; there’s no way to store different presets. Of course, if you shoot NEF (RAW), you can change the WB after the fact in your image conversion software.

Ergonomics and handling

Nikon is well-known for producing cameras with solid ergonomic design. The V1 is solid, and feels good in the hand. Unfortunately, the Mode Dial falls directly underneath your thumb, and it is easily bumped from its setting. I’m developing the habit of always checking the Mode Dial when I turn on the camera, because chances are it’s moved from where I thought I left it. Another minor nit is that the hot-shoe accessory cover is easily dislodged. Put it in a safe place if you remove it.

The electronic viewfinder has a “proximity” sensor that detects when you place your face to the camera. When activated, the rear LCD turns off and the internal viewfinder switches on. Most of the time, this works fine, but I did find myself in a situation where the sun was directly behind me and the electronic viewfinder would kick in when my shadow fell across the V1 proximity sensor. The electronic viewfinder has a separate brightness setting from the rear LCD panel, and it displays the same shooting information as the rear panel. Using the electronic viewfinder is beneficial in situations where you want better camera support (like tracking action with the 30-110mm lens). One minor nit: there is no way to disable image playback review in the electronic viewfinder. A workaround is to quickly half-press the shutter button after shooting an image sequence.

While I do wish the V1 had a built-in flash of some kind, the SB-N5 speedlight is an excellent accessory. It has bounce/swivel functions and a dedicated AF-assist lamp that can also be used for lighting short video clips. What’s really nice about the SB-N5 is that it draws its power from the built-in EN-EL 15 battery, which is not only convenient but also keeps weight to a minimum.

Speaking of the battery, I captured over 400 RAW images plus several video clips on my V1 and the battery meter read 25%. For most people, you’ll be able to shoot for an entire day (or more) on a single charge. The included battery charger is small and has a short “stub plug” adapter that has a 90° hinge for using directly in power sockets without extra cables.

Conclusions

It is clear that Nikon built the 1-system cameras for a user base who wants a very compact camera but is frustrated with the sluggish performance of traditional digital point and shoot models. Depending on where you’re coming from, the 1-system is either a huge step up in point and shoot quality (much larger sensor and near instantaneous responsiveness) or a step down in quality from DSLRs with their astronomical ISO performance and options for shallow depth of field. I made the conscious decision to treat the V1 as a compact point and shoot camera, and as such I’m incredibly pleased. In the past, I’ve had to trade responsiveness with size and user-friendliness. Whenever I’d go on a family trip, I had to ask myself, “do I want to lug the DSLR and lenses, or do I want to bring the slow but small Coolpix.” Now, it’s a much easier decision for me. While I’m not going to get DSLR-quality images from the V1, I’m using it in situations where a DSLR would be overkill or my Coolpix would miss shots. I can get far better images with the V1 than any point and shoot I’ve tried, and the bulk of these images are not the kinds of things I’d be printing at large sizes, anyway. I walked around Disneyland for three days with my entire V1 kit in a small waist pouch… and I didn’t miss any shots as a result of the camera failing to focus or fire. As with all things, expectation management is a must. If you’re looking for a camera to use on a family vacation, to take photos of your kids’ soccer games, and to be able to hand it to a friend or relative to get a photo of yourself, then the V1 is absolutely wonderful.

Nikon 1 V1: Summary

Street price: $896.95 with 10-30mm VR zoom lens

Likes

  • Very fast autofocus performance and tracking
  • Huge buffer even shooting RAW
  • Excellent image quality through ISO 800, very good image quality above 800 for most situations
  • Excellent battery life
  • 1080p video and quick toggling between video/still modes
  • Slow-motion video option is really fun
  • Small and unobtrusive; the entire kit with flash fits in my Think Tank Skin Chimp Cage
  • Firmware version 1.1 adds a hot-pixel mapping function

Dislikes

  • Program auto mode often allows shutter speeds that are too slow (1/15s)
  • No individual scene modes (Auto scene select only)
  • No auto exposure bracketing mode for HDR, etc.
  • Mode dial is too easy to jostle
  • No PASM control dial on camera body
  • Accessory shoe cover could be easily lost
  • Proximity sensor for EVF can be fooled in bright light
  • Lack of built-in flash

Get free shipping through Dec. 31st, 2011 on the Nikon 1 V1 camera at B&H Photo

37 thoughts on “Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Camera Review: A lesson in expectation management”

  1. Yes. Tremendously larger.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sensor_sizes_overlaid_inside_-_updated.svg

  2. Thank you for writing such an excellent article. It’s invaluable to get the opinions and views from a fellow Nikon dslr shooter.

  3. Thanks for the great review, Jason. I’m very interested in this N1V1 and can’t wait to see if the F-mount adapter is stable and capable of delivering the goods. And as Greg (above) said, I also love the shot of you with the Mickey ears!

    Danielle

  4. Excellent overview Jason. I was pretty skeptical at the initial news of this camera, but subsequently sold my EP2 since it looks like Nikon has a pretty nice “little” platform. The only things holding me back are the price and lack of advanced controls. Even a PSAM dial would be all I’d need to commit my hard earned hobbyist dollars into a purchase at the current price.

  5. Thanks for the review. I tried the J1, I was thinking about the V1. It will be hard to choose the best one…

  6. Very good review Jason. Thanks. I have a V1 and am pleased so far. Do you think some of the non-mechanical “dislikes” could be fixed with firmware? If so, which ones? One thing that has bothered me is the viewfinder review of photos. To my knowledge there is no way to alter this behavior. Also, I’d like to see some additional primes with wide apertures. Thanks again.

  7. John-
    I’d have to think that auto image review could be fixed in firmware. I would also hope that auto bracketing could be added. As for lenses, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

  8. The title of this review should be on the marque of Graumans Chinese Theater. Some of the people who purchased are thinking of purchasing or are wannabe reviewers of the Nikon 1 should read your review. The 1V1/J1 is what it is, it’s not a D3s. The V1 performs just as good or better with the other manufactures offerings in this class. I have the V1 and a Olympus E-PL2 and the E-PL2 drives me nuts with its bloated menu. Simple is sometimes better. Thanks for an honest and refreshing review.

    PS Love the word “Nits”

  9. Thanks for your review! I’m curious about the IQ: pancake 10mm vs zoom 10-30mm. Did you test it? Are the sampleshots all processed in NX 2.3, or only the ‘Tiki room’? I think the Tiki room shot has a very good IQ! The benefit of NX 2.3 comes in to play for this camera, isn’t it? (i.e. to manage the noise)?

  10. Thank You for that informative review. I usually shoot with a D300s but don’t want
    to lug that kind of gear into my upcoming trip to Germany. So I am looking for a
    smaller lighter system that provides me with some flexibility and reasonable image
    quality. I really like the V1 but having the mode dial right under my thumb is a
    serious turn off for me. What are they smoking at Nikon? It’s now down to the V1
    or the Sony NEX 5n. Thank’s again. Hans

  11. My brother loves to take picture and he actually has a talent in photography. I want him to start getting involve in this. What do you think if I give him this nikon 1 as a present as a beginner before he can start his own bussiness after this? It is small, easy to carry, perfect picture.

  12. Hi Jason,
    Question re: video on the V1 – I’ll be using iMovie, do the V1 files need any transcoding prior to import? I’ve seen several sites offering an HD movie converter for Mac claiming that V1 files benefit from conversion prior to editing.

  13. I don’t know enough about the video settings yet to know for sure, other than the .mov files went right into iMovie on my machine without any problems. The only issue I’ve seen is “comb artifacts” when shooting 1080p/60i.

  14. Thanks for the review. One of the best I have read. Question – is the V1 more or less compelling than say the better 4/3 systems? Form factor seems to be the same but the 4/3 systems have a quite a larger sensor. Same question for the Sony NEX-7 (out this month). A litttle “larger” (but still very compact) but gives full control and an APS-C size sensor.

  15. Gary-
    I think that decision comes down to a couple of factors, as certainly the M4/3 cameras I’ve seen are quite nice. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice, as the V1 image quality is quite good, despite the smaller sensor.

    From a purely technical standpoint, you can consider:

    1) Overall system capabilities, including lenses, flash, and other accessories. The FT1 means that I can put my existing F-mount lenses on my V1 for certain applications.

    2) Overall system size. While the V1 is not much smaller than the M4/3 cameras, the size and weight of the V1 is much less than a similar Sony NEX-7 kit (about 40% lighter). The V1 is really designed as a compact camera replacement, not a DSLR replacement.

    3) Field Performance for your preferred subject(s). If there’s one thing about the V1 that I can honestly say, it’s that I have no qualms using it to shoot fast action. The AF and shutter responsiveness are impressive.

    4) Workflow. With the V1, I use the same workflow as I do with my Nikon DSLRs. Same file type (NEF), same converter (CNX2), etc. While it’s certainly no big deal if you use a different RAW converter, I know that I don’t need to change anything. Obviously, if you already use a product like ACR/Lightroom, then changing workflow isn’t huge, but would require tweaks (and the occasional wait for the new camera to be supported).

    From a more practical standpoint, you should ask yourself:

    1) What is my intended use for this camera? If your answer is low-light portraits with shallow DOF, then CX probably isn’t for you (with the existing lenses). If your answer is “a vacation camera that won’t miss shots,” then the V1 (or J1) becomes compelling.

    2) Do you plan on handing the camera to a friend or relative for a quick snapshot? If so, the V1 is super-easy. Just enable face-priority AF and you’ll have great success. I can’t do that with any of my DSLRs.

    At the end of the day, I think you need to weigh the target markets for the two cameras differently. Sony is clearly going after the “high-end” of the market. I hope they succeed because I want Nikon to follow suit. The Nikon 1 system is currently aimed at the casual shooter (but there are enough good features to pique the interest of current Nikon DSLR users). I, personally, find myself in enough situations where I want the quality and responsiveness of a “real” camera without the complexity or size of a DSLR body. That’s why I’m using the V1. Not to replace my D700, but to replace my Coolpix P7000. And in that context, the V1 is superb.

  16. Jason,
    Thank you. You make some excellent points. This is a DSLR backup for me – an all around carrier where I won’t cringe at the thought of lugging the big one around, and for travel snaps. But it also needs to be able to shoot “keepers” destined for a frame up to 13×19 (I print a lot versus just post to web).

    Of all your points, the main issue for me is Work Flow. I am strictly an NX2 user and the thought of losing full NEF usability inside NX concerns me. While I do often shoot jPegs I also shoot a lot of RAW (NEF in my case). I do not own Lightroom and, although I have read that their Nikon NEF processing has come a long long way in terms of terms of rendering “close to” what the Nikon spits out from home base, I am also very wed to Nik’s Control Points and the fact that are embedded into the NX2 software with processing right to the NEF (whereas buying the Nik plugin for Lightroom won’t accomplish this). Converting every file to TIFF in order to make Control Points work inside Lightroom is a monster for me (no tiempo!). My other options are i) to process RAW with say Sony’s native software also involved conversion to TIFF before importing to NX2 and then I lose much of the Camera Profile functionality (WB, Picture Controls, etc.) or ii) import Jpeg’s into NX2, avoid the TIFF conversion step, but now I lose some quality and still lose the Control Point functionality inside NX2.

    Would love your thoughts on the above and if I missed a better way to accomplish my goal of not being wed to Nikon 100% of the time. Maybe this was all a dastardly Nikon plan after all!

  17. Thanks for one of the most sensible and practical reviews of a camera I’ve ever read. I had my first look in a local shop today at the V1. I’ve looked at the Olympus offerings, the EP3, and mini, and the Panasonic, and the Fuji X10. All have their good points, but until today I hadn’t considered the Nikon. It looks rather dull in the shop window, but when you pick it up it’s rather more impressive. The fact that it has an excellent incorporated viewfinder is, to me, its major advantage. The Sony Nex 7 has too, but whilst the Sony is technically impressive, there’s no getting away from some jolly large lenses, which diminishes its appeal. The zoom lenses of the Nikon are very dinky, even more that the four thirds. For me, I am not a photographer, but I wanted something as a step up from my Panasonic travel zoom, which I like, but it is slow and the photos are somewhat “artificial” at times. It’s low light performance is not noteworthy. It’s a pity that Nikon hasn’t put the usual programs such as P, A, S etc for quick access – it took the experienced camera retailer about two minutes to find out how to set aperture priority! Also I’d like to see a wider lens than 28 mm, I’ve really got used to reaching out to 24 mm on the Panasonic, I think it’s a wonderfully useful focal length. So for the future, Nikon, I’d like to see a fast 24 mm prime and a fast 70 – 80 mm portrait lens, as Olympus has. I think then you’d be able to take some excellent low-light shots, and also a bit of bokeh. I like my bokeh to be subtle, often with family and travel you actually wish to see the background and place yourself in the wider perspective, so a marked bokeh isn’t really needed. The Panasonic travel zoom basically has none at all, so the V1 could still stand up well here. I am tempted, but we’ll see what Olympus comes up with in February.

  18. Pingback: Another Sunrise with the Nikon 1 V1 | Luminescence of Nature™
  19. Hi Jason, I hope I am not to late posting to get some advice. I bought the Sony HX9V and absolutely hate it! It’s the paradox of choice – a thousand different settings in my opinion just makes the camera unusable.

    I am by no means a professional and by “no means” what I am really saying is I have ZERO knowledge, but would like to have more. What I’m really looking for is a camera that can capture motion and movement well, i.e. high speed, but also have some decent low light capability. Would the V1 be a good choice? Or should I be looking at the Nex? I’m not sure I can face lugging a pro DSLR around….HELP!

  20. To me, the strengths of the V1 are:

    1) Autofocus speed and responsiveness
    2) Small size, including lenses
    3) Simple operation

    You’ll get better low-light performance in theory with a larger sensor, but then you also need larger lenses. I don’t know how well Sony’s AF system stacks up, as I have no personal experience with their NEX series. My guess is that the NEX system is targeted more towards advanced users while Nikon has clearly targeted the 1-series cameras to those stepping up from a traditional point and shoot camera. It’s probably easier for an advanced user to use the NEX because it has more dedicated external controls. On the Nikon, these settings are available, but only when you go into the software menus. Depending on your perspective, that’s either good or bad.

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  22. Very nice, sensible, rational review–a true rarity in the photo world. I’m reading it a year after you wrote it, and about a week after getting a V1 with 10-30mm zoom for $399. The price has since dropped to $349. An incredible deal for a camera that feels great in the hand, is fast, takes great shots, and can be navigated easily after a brief learning curve. I think that at a time when so may cameras are filling up with buttons and dials in order to satisfy the constant demands for instantly accessible controls, Nikon’s decision to keep the design minimalist (industrial chic!) is wise. This will become a classic (OK, maybe a minor classic), and if you can grab one at these close-out prices you should do so ASAP. You won’t regret it.

  23. Great review and site, Jason. Like you I’m coming from an SLR background, but I bought a V1 in spring 2012 for family use and to explore it’s capabilities. I hope you will do a V2 review, as it addresses some of the shortcomings of the V1, particularly by adding the exposure mode dial. I agree that the V1 is a very capable camera, but would like it to be able to control Nikon speedlights in CLS mode. I shoot quite a bit of macro, and wondered if anyone had thought of doing in-camera focus stacking, a camera like this could do that with just some extra firmware I imagine?

  24. Thanks, Bernard.
    At this point, I’d be really happy with the addition of exposure bracketing…

  25. Thanks for your very helpful review.
    I bought the V1 when B&H dropped the price to $299 as i was about to purchase the Pany LX5. I’ve been considering a small camera for travel and this is the first time i seriously looked. I read lost of commnets and reviews and even after my V1 arrived in the mail, it took another week before i even opened the package and tried the camera.
    Lo and behold, i am impressed witht the picture quality. I’m still testing it out but i’m now convinced thsi will be a very good travel camera.

  26. I just bought my V1 and to me the accessory shoe cover seems plenty rigid. I have to apply a lot of pressure to remove it. Also the mode dial is quite rigid. Maybe Nikon has done a ‘silent change’ to make them stick better? I have not tried an early production V1 so I have no means of comparing.
    I bought it to use as a family camera and those times I do not want to carry my D700 with 24-120 f4 and 70-300 VR +++. I am still astounded by the compact size of the 10-30 and 30-110 compared to the full format gear.
    Jason, I enjoy visiting your site – keep up the good work!

  27. Perhaps. I only have mine to go on, which I got in December 2011. I nearly lost the accessory port cover about 5 times. :)

  28. First visit here, and I enjoyed it! I had my V1 for about a year, and the more I use it the more I like it. Some manages to take astounding macros with it, and a lot of us takes nice bird shots, at least as good as I used to manage with my Sigma 150-500 and the K-5. And that’s quite worrying, especially as until recently you could get the whole shebang, including the FT1 adapter, for very much less than I paid.

    The only bad thing with it is really the arrangement of its buttons, thumb-wheel, and the so-so quality of the 10-100, and 10-30. The V2 promised to do everything better, having the buttons in their right places, a proper grip, a built-in flash, faster AF, higher resolution (slightly, as the increase from 10 to 14MP is really marginal, as we’re talking areas, or about 18% bigger). But ham-fisted noise reduction didn’t much good, so it is only better in resolution at very low ISOs!

    But there is rumors about a V3, that hopefully corrects the previous errors :-)!

  29. Hi Jason

    Best review of the Nikon V1 I have ever read, I agree with every point you make that this Nikon 1 is a marvelous system & it has it limitations, though for a daily ‘system unit’ its very well thought out by nikon & they should be applauded for it.
    I shoot with D700 / D800 / D7000 & many other bodies over the years. When the 1 system was annouced I too dismissed it as a ‘toy’ but now I have 2 units with 10-30 & 30-110 lenses & the results are quite simply fantastic!
    My Flickr page has a few videos & stills from these units & prints have been printed upto A3….Thanks for a great review thats honest & clean..well done.
    Jim

  30. A great article that makes it absolutely clear that photography isn’t about technical issues only. There are cameras designed for a specific target group and everyone has to decide for himself if the product is the right one or not. The technical characteristics are only one side of the medal.

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