Finally, Nikon also released two mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses: the Nikon V1 and Nikon J1. Theses cameras in the Nikon 1 series are designed for photographers who want more functionality than a compact camera offers, but who find an SLR too large or too complex. The Nikon 1 system consists at introduction of two cameras , three zoom lenses (Nikon 10-30, Nikon 30-110 and a 10-100 Nikon power zoom) and a lens with a fixed focal length (Nikon 10 2.8).
Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Samsung already have mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC) for a few years. People have eagerly been waiting for the moment that Canon or Nikon would go along on this growth market. Nikon has chosen for a long development time in the development of this mirrorless Nikon camera. Does that result in a mature product?
The CX sensor in the Nikon 1 is 13.2mm x 8.8mm and with that more than 4 times larger than the sensors in compact cameras, but smaller than a sensor in a micro-43 camera or an SLR with an APS-C sensor. A larger sensor generally gives a better image quality.
Video is outside the scope of this test, but the video specifications of this camera are equal to or better than most SLRs. The design of the camera body of the Nikon V1 is Spartan: simple, square and solid. Apart from SLR and compact cameras, the Nikon V1 has but one Nikon competitor, the cheaper Nikon J1. Both cameras include a completely silent electronic shutter, allowing a photographer to be present much less prominent or disruptive. The main competitors of the Nikon V1 are micro-43 cameras of Olympus and Panasonic, the Samsung NX and Sony NEX cameras with an APS-C sensor and possibly Pentax Q.
Nikon V1 vs Nikon J1
- The Nikon J1 is cheaper than the Nikon V1
- The Nikon V1 has an integrated electronic viewfinder, but is slightly less compact than the Nikon J1.
- The Nikon J1 only has an electronic shutter, the V1 both a mechanic as an electronic shutter. With the mechanic shutter, a faster flash synchronization is possible (1/250 sec vs. 1/60 sec).
- The Nikon J1 has an integrated flash, the V1 does not
- The Nikon V1 has a screen with a higher resolution than the Nikon J1
Nikon V1 versus Panasonic G3 / GF3, Olympus EP-3, Sony NEX-5N
- Nikon V1 has an integrated electronic viewfinder just like the Panasonic G3, the Olympus EP-3, Sony NEX-5 and the Panasonic GF3 do not have that
- Nikon V1 has a fast (hybrid) AF; Olympus, Panasonic and Sony only use contrast autofocus
- Nikon V1 is quieter thanks to an electronic shutter, which also goes up to 1/16.000 second
- Nikon V1 offers to 60 images per seconds in full resolution (10 megapixels)
- The lens supply for the Nikon 1 series is still small compared to the lens supply of the other brands, especially the micro-43 platform
Viewfinder, screen and menu
The screen on the back of the camera cannot be rotated or tilted. The viewfinder accuracy of the bright electronic viewfinder (1.440.00 dots = 0.48 megapixels) is 100% according to Nikon. It is pleasant, especially in sunny weather, to use this viewfinder. The viewfinder turns itself on when you bring the camera to your eye, or hangs in front of your belly. One disadvantage is the slowness of the sensor that switches the viewfinder on. When you bring the camera quickly to your eye, you will watch a black screen for a short period.
The camera menu is kept very clear and you get easily used to the camera control. The number of buttons on the camera is limited, which benefits the user convenience.
Spectacular is the “Smart Photo Selector Mode.” You put your finger on the shutter and press on what you think is the right moment; the Nikon V1 has then made a set of 20 recordings in the Smart Photo Selector mode, spread over the period from just before until just after you have printed. The Nikon V1 selects the best 5 of 20 shots from that series. It becomes very easy to get a picture at exactly the right time this way. Very unlike Cartier Bresson
Yet we do have two comments, related to user convenience: the weakest point is the mode dial wheel at the back of the camera. It runs so lightly that the camera can easily be set in a different position without notice. This may sound like a silly little thing that is easy to correct, but it really is a drawback. Wait till you want to take a quick picture, and the camera is switched to video.
The other consideration concerns the lack of the so-called “PSAM button”. Anyone who regularly switches between aperture priority, shutter priority, program, or manual operation will always have to do so in the main menu. The same applies to the ISO setting. For those used to an SLR, that is annoying. But for the targeted customers, mostly compact camera users, that will be less of a problem.
We tested the Nikon V1 with the Nikon 10-30 mm and the Nikon 30-110 mm lenses. Besides the practical test of the Nikon V1, we have also subjected it to a series of measurements. The measurements were performed using Imatest.
Resolution and sharpness
The Nikon V1 delivers, both with the Nikon 10-30 mm zoom lens as the Nikon 30-110 mm zoom lens, a high resolution for a 10 megapixel camera. A Jpg file has an average resolution of 1500 linewidths per picture height (LW/PH) at the image center. It runs from1800 LW/PH at 100 ISO to 1300 LW/PH at 6400 ISO.
With a standard editing of the RAW files in Lightroom, a greater sharpness impression is obtained, which translates into an average resolution of nearly 2000 LW/PH. If you use the Nikon V1 at low ISO settings, in particular to avoid noise in dark areas, you will not see whether an A4 print is made with an SLR or the Nikon V1.
Below is an image area of approximately one quarter of an 400 ISO image created from remnants of the New Year fireworks. Why would you still carry a complex SLR with big and heavy lenses, if you rarely make a larger print?
NIKKOR 10-30mm f/3.5 – 5.6 VR @ 10 mm, 400 ISO, f/3.5, 1/640 s
There are a few reasons why you prefer an SLR Nikon over the Nikon V1 and the usable dynamic range is one of them. The with Imatest measured total dynamic range of Nikon V1 sensor is almost 10 stops, both for a RAW file as a jpg file. That is what you could expect for a 12-bit sensor. The test results are in the Nikon V1 testreport.
But more important than the total dynamic range is the usable dynamic range. The signal/noise ratio helps determine what remains of the dynamic range for a displayable image. At this point, the CX knows limitations. At 100 ISO, the usable dynamic range of a jpg file is only 6 stops, but at 800 ISO, only 2 stops are left.
Another disadvantage of a small sensor is the risk on “blooming” or “purple fringing”: If there is too much light on a pixel, a part of the signal leaks to neighboring pixels, resulting in purple spots. The Nikon V1 is much less affected by blooming than a compact camera. So if you switch from a compact camera to a Nikon V1, this phenomenon will be encountered even less frequently than already is the case.
The Nikon V1 is less prone to noise than compact cameras, which benefits the sharpness impression. The signal to noise ratio of the Nikon V1 corresponds approximately to the signal-noise ratio of micro-43 cameras. In terms of noise, you will not easily tell whether an image is taken with a Nikon 1 or a micro-43 camera in practice. The test results are in the Nikon V1 testreport. Here is a sample of a 100% cropped portion of a 100 ISO jpg shot.
On a screen you can see the noise at highest ISO settings, but in print this probably does not even show.
Here is a 400 ISO jpg shot, taken with the Nikon V1. At 400 ISO, the noise is still well controlled, both RAW images without noise reduction as jpg shots with in-camera noise reduction.
The measurement results, shown in the Nikon V1 test report, confirm the quality of the practice shots. The Nikon V1 provides shots with a very good color rendition in daylight. The color difference (Delta E 94) is very small for both an in Lightroom converted RAW file as a jpg file (Neutral) directly from the camera.
The automatic white balance of the Nikon V1 does its job well. In artificial light shooting is the deviation of both RAW and JPG files on average 10 (Delta E94). This is why the Nikon V1 currently is one of the better cameras in terms of color reproduction.
No built in flash
A flash can be connected to the Nikon V1 through the multi-accessory port. But the Nikon V1 does not have a built-in flash. If you consider that important, you can choose the cheaper Nikon J1, which does have a built-in flash.
The hybrid AF has two faces. With sufficient light, the Nikon V1 chooses for phase autofocus, which is very fast. When recording with a standard lens, the autofocus is instantaneously. Even with the Nikon 30-110 mm telephoto zoom lens at 110 mm (300 mm @ full frame), with aperture 5.6 you only notice for a second that the camera needs time to focus. Nice touch is that the Nikon V1, thanks to the electronic shutter, can make up to 60 frames per second. Although the buffer is already full within one second, if you do that with RAW images.
In low light, you get to see the other face of the Nikon V1; then the Nikon V1 switches over to the slower contrast AF, which, if there is also limited contrast, begins to hunt. Because the Nikon 1 lenses do not have a manual focus ring, you can not easily intervene manually, as you can with the cameras from the competition. The contrast AF of the V1 may be slower than the phase AF, but compared to a compact camera, the contrast AF on the Nikon V1 is definitely not slower.
The accuracy of the hybrid auto focus is good. This can partly be explained because the autofocus sensors are on the sensor of the camera itself.
The Nikon V1 succeeds to take many, but not all, sharp shots of a fast moving subject when there is sufficient light. Whit a car coming directly to the camera, we have made a series of 38 recordings at a focal length of 57 mm (150 mm @ full frame), of which you can see a random selection below. With a slower moving subject, such as a cyclist, the Nikon V1 performs even better, as you can see on DPreview. With a compact camera or a micro-43 camera one does not succeed to take sharp shots in such a situation. Even many of today’s SLRs are overcome by the Nikon V1 at this point. But in low light, the Nikon V1 switches to contrast autofocus and then autofocus tracking of a fast moving subject is no longer possible.
- good electronic viewfinder
- fast (hybrid) autofocus
- silent thanks to electronic viewfinder
- to 60 images per second on full resolution (but not in RAW)
- good image quality
- video equal to SLR
- mode dial rotates too lightly, letting the camera switch unintentionally to for example video
- no integrated flash
- limited dynamic range
The cameras in the Nikon 1 series are ideal for photographers who want more than a compact camera, but who find an SLR is too large or too complex. The Nikon 1 series exudes quality and reliability. There is a well-thought-out system, which offers many possibilities. Color reproduction is very good and the resolution too, for a camera of 10 megapixels. The electronic viewfinder is nice to work with, the camera fits comfortably in the hand and the control is generally very pleasant. With this camera, you can certainly take better pictures than with a compact camera.
Also, for users of an SLR who find their current equipment to be too large and heavy, the Nikon V1 may be an attractive offer. The fast autofocus, the completely silent shutter with 1/16.000 sec as fastest shutter speed and the Smart Photo Selector can also make many users of an SLR jealous. But do keep in mind the smaller sensor that “only” has 10 megapixels and a lower signal to noise ratio and a lower usable dynamic range. And that an SLR offers more buttons and menu options, which translates into a larger user convenience for some.