Nikon 1 V2: ISO Performance

The Nikon 1 V2 has a new 14-megapixel CX-format sensor. Last year, I was impressed at the overall image quality of the Nikon 1 V1, which has a 10-megapixel sensor. Here’s a quick look at the ISO performance of the Nikon 1 V2. The V2 has a base ISO of 160, which is expandable to ISO 6400. Intermediate ISOs are possible when using Auto-ISO selection. A big question I had was whether the Nikon engineers were able to control noise in the Nikon 1 V2 despite its higher pixel count.

Methodology

I used the new 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor lens on the Nikon 1 V1. I set the camera on a tripod and focused on the target, a LEGO box. I chose f/4 as the aperture for maximum sharpness. I used the infrared remote release to trigger the camera and prevent any motion shake. I manually selected each ISO setting, from 160 (base) to 6400.

I then examined the images in Lightroom 4.3. I did this to examine the effects of using Noise Reduction on the images.

Base Results (No Noise Reduction)

Here is the test image at ISO 160 (full frame shot):

Test image at ISO 160

Here are the 100% crops of the center of the image at increasing ISO values:

ISO 160

ISO 160

 

ISO 200

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

From this “worst case” scenario (NR turned off entirely), you can see that color noise is very well-controlled in the Nikon 1 V2. The color splotches that you see in the low-ISO shots is actually pattern moire from taking a photo of a printed cardboard box. Colors remain fairly good through ISO 800, and then saturation begins to diminish above ISO 1600. At ISO 6400, Luminance noise is fairly pronounced, but the image retains reasonable detail.

For a comparison, I applied a basic NR setting in Lightroom (as described here) to the ISO 1600 shot. Here is the result:

The image cleans up reasonably well even with a mild Luminosity NR setting of 15 in Lightroom 4.3. If you process the files with Capture NX2, keep in mind that NR will be applied to your images in the Develop module if it is enabled in your camera settings.

Conclusions

The Nikon 1 V2 has a 14-megapixel CX-format sensor. Despite the small sensor size, noise is actually well-controlled. For most applications of this camera, like casual shooting, I wouldn’t hesitate to use ISO 3200. ISO 1600 is actually very good, and I’m still scratching my head as to why Nikon have not offered an Auto 160-1600 range option in this camera. If you do process your images from RAW, you’ll need to apply mild noise reduction to your images for best results anytime you go above ISO 400. Color (chroma) noise is not a big problem with this camera.

Keep in mind that for most casual uses, like web-posting, you’ll get excellent results with the Nikon 1 V2. Here’s the full-frame view at ISO 1600, sized for the web:

For most viewing purposes, high-ISO images from the Nikon 1 V2 look great. This image was at ISO 1600 (click to enlarge)

One thought on “Nikon 1 V2: ISO Performance”

  1. Thanks for the nice test. The V2 actually did quite well. I am one who is happy the Series 1 cameras have a smaller sensor. It makes for smaller, easily carried lenses, unlike the competitors that must use huge lenses that ruin the idea of a compact camera. The beauty of this system is that one can also use the big lenses, and have AF, with the FT-1 adapter. With the new grip the V2 should be easier to hold with adapter and lens attached. The V2 looks like an interesting upgrade for me.

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