The Nikon 1 S1 is the first model in Nikon's S series of CSCs. It arrives firmly at the entry level of the 1 range and inherits a lot of the other '1' range features. Find out how it fares in our full Nikon 1 S1 review
The Nikon 1 S1 is the first addition to Nikon’s new ‘S-series’ of compact system cameras – a new introduction sits below the existing J series as the most junior in the range.
In many respects it’s much of what we’ve seen before. There is, for example, a 10.1MP sensor whose size is roughly midway between the 1/2.3in sensor found in the majority of compact cameras – such as the Nikon COOLPIX L810 – and the larger ones used by the Micro Four Thirds system – such as the Pansonic Lumix GF6.
The Nikon 1 S1’s sensor applies a 2.7x conversion factor to all mounted lenses, giving the 11-27.5mm kit lens an effective range of 30-74mm. The lens lacks a VR system, meaning the Nikon S1 is only stabilised by a processing-based electronic VR alternative.
In addition to the standard Auto option, Nikon has equipped the Nikon 1 S1 with a raft of scene and effects modes, such as Miniature, Backlighting and Selective Color. Yet, despite the camera being very much aimed at a novice audience, Nikon hasn’t overlooked those who many wish to take more control into their own hands, with PASM exposure options on hand in addition to Raw shooting in the same NEF format as the Nikon D7100 and other Nikon DSLRs.
The Nikon 1 S1 features other niceties, including a 60fps burst mode (15fps with continuous AF) and a Best Moment capture mode – found on other Nikon CSCs including the Nikon 1 V2 – which takes a number of images at once and lets you choose your favourite. An extension to this is the Smart Photo Selector, which cleverly takes several images before and after the shutter release is fully depressed and chooses what it thinks is the best capture (or captures if you’d prefer it to present you with the best five images).
Nikon 1 S1 review – Design
The Nikon 1 S1’s streamlined body and glossy finish (in all but black options) may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s plenty of room around the front to get a good hold. It’s also welcome to see a small rubber thumb rest on the rear, and while it’s true there’s no grip of any sort, this does at least help to keep both the weight and size of the camera down to a minimum.
Unlike Nikon 1 J1 and other J series models, the Nikon 1 S1 lacks a physical mode dial, although a virtual one may be brought up through the menu system to alternate between exposure options. The menu system is clear and accessible, and certainly one of the better ones found on such Compact System Cameras.
Button positioning is also logical, in that the playback button is on the rear where it can easily be reached by the thumb, and the movie mode on the top plate conveniently next to the shutter release button.
The Nikon 1 S1’s virtual mode dial
The kit lens supplied with the Nikon 1 S1 also scores points. It measures only around an inch in length when in its locked position, and it’s encircled by a dimpled rubber zoom ring for better purchase. Some may find its collapsible design to be somewhat irritating as the lens needs to be released from this position whenever the camera is turned on, although the camera automatically turns on once the lens is released, which makes the process smoother.
Nikon 1 S1 review – Performance
The Nikon 1 S1 turns on in good time, although the lens needs to be released from its locked position before any shooting can take place. Once this happens, however, the S1 is a joy to use for a number of reasons.
The autofocus system on the Nikon 1 S1 does an excellent job to bring subjects into focus in no time at all, with focus confirmed almost as soon as the shutter release button has been half depressed. True, it takes a little longer in poor light, but then this is true of many similar cameras.
Shot-to-shot times are also very good, when compared with other CSCs around the same price point, such as the Sony NEX-3N. The camera seems unwilling to slow down between captures, even when set to record Raw files which typically slow down or temporarily prohibit any further camera operation.
The menu system on the Nikon 1 S1, despite lacking some of the more advanced customisation options of other CSCs, has been designed with simplicity and clarity in mind and makes the user manual all but redundant.
The Nikon 1 S1’s LCD screen is very stable – even at longer focal lengths – and displays images with excellent detail. There is, of course, a slight drop in visibility when the camera is used in brighter conditions, but this is the case across all cameras with such displays. Still, there are a few issues – the position of the indicator lamp on the rear is illogical, in that the thumb naturally covers this when holding the camera conventionally. Positioning it further upwards towards the LCD would make more sense.
Nikon 1 S1 review – Image Quality
There’s plenty to like about the Nikon 1 S1’s images. The metering system is generally consistent, and in comparison with similar cameras it often chooses the most appropriate exposure, although there is a slight tendency towards overexposure (which the target market is more likely to prefer to underexposure).
The Nikon 1 S1’s Auto White Balance system also has a tendency to get colour balance right with no unusual colour casts witnessed during testing, although some may prefer colours to be given a little boost to make images more print-ready. With the 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens the level of detail in images is also very good, right up the corners and edges of the frame when stopped down. JPEGs also show very good contrast over Raw files, while video quality is also better than expected, with richly detailed footage and reasonable sound.
Noise is more problematic than other CSCs equipped with larger, less saturated sensors, and blooming is also noticed more frequently than usual (although this is also partly down to the exposure system tending to choose over rather than underexposure). At higher sensitivities the camera still manages to retain a reasonable amount of detail, although noise reduction does lead to some details being lost.
Nikon 1 S1 review – Verdict
The Nikon 1 S1 is a fine CSC, with a long list of admirable features. It may not be the best choice for low-light (with the lack of a proper VR system standing out as a particular disappointment), neither is it the ideal option around which to build a system of lenses and accessories, but if you just want a small, light and capable carry-around camera it’s definitely one for the shortlist.
With its speedy AF system, prompt shot-to-shot times and respectable overall image quality the Nikon 1 S1 is a welcome addition to the CSC sector, even if it doesn’t really stand out from its J-series siblings for any particular reason. Having only recently been launched it’s a little on the pricey side, but its price is slowly dropping – once it falls below the £400 it’ll be a steal.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of our Nikon 1 S1 sample images. For a full range, visit our Nikon 1 S1 sample image gallery.
1 NIKKOR 11-27.5mm f/3.5 – 5.6
1 NIKKOR 11-27.5mm f/3.5 – 5.6
1 NIKKOR 11-27.5mm f/3.5 – 5.6
The Nikon 1 S1 is the first model in the new S-series, with the intention for models to be fast, stylish and straightforward, an aimed at appealing to users of compact cameras looking for better performance and image quality, while it sits below the J-series in the Nikon 1 hierarchy.
As such, the Nikon 1 S1 features an uncluttered interface with simplified controls and digital menus, along with a host of simplified, creative controls. These include Live Image Control that allows you to adjust settings to freeze action, tweak lighting or blur backgrounds, while you can preview these changes before you take a shot.
Motion Snapshots takes a ‘living image’ by capturing a short, slow-motion movie that ends with a still image, all in a single click and output as a single .mov file. There’s also Creative Mode, allowing you to apply a host of filter effects to the image, while there is direct access to manual control as well.
Unlike the Nikon 1 J3 and Nikon 1 V2, the Nikon 1 S1 maintains the 10.1MP 1in CMOS sensor with an ISO range from 100-6400, while just like the Nikon 1 J3, Full HD video clips can be captured at 60 and 30fps and 60i, 60p and 30p frame rates, while full-resolution images can be shot while filming.