While it was a long time coming, Nikon’s 1 series of compact system cameras has proved incredibly popular since its launch. The Nikon 1 V2 is the second generation in the V strand of the 1 series, and features a complete redesign on its predecessor with a selection of key improvements. How does it fair under closer scrutiny?
The Nikon 1 V2 picks up where the Nikon 1 V1 left off, with many similar features and a completely redesigned body. The question is, does it improve on the impressive, yet ultimately flawed Nikon 1 V1?
Nikon 1 V2 review – Features
One of the areas of criticism of Nikon’s 1 series is the choice of sensor size. The version found in models to date measures in at 13.2 x 8.8mm and offers a 2.7x crop factor compared to a full-frame sensor. This sensor is by physically smaller by some distance than that found in the vast majority of other CSCs, somewhere in between that found in a conventional compact camera and a Four Thirds system sensor.
The Nikon 1 V2 inherits this sensor, and as a result the same concerns remain. The only difference to the sensor is that the resolution is now 14.2MP as opposed to the 10.1MP found in the Nikon 1 V1. This leap in resolution raises its own concerns, with a higher resolution on a smaller sensor normally presents issues with noise at higher ISO settings.
The Nikon 1 V2’s sensor is capable of capturing Raw and JPEG files as well as HD video at a range of resolutions, the maximum being 1920 x 1080 and a rate of 60i. A criticism of the Nikon 1 V1 was that the video capture was only available in auto mode – thankfully the Nikon 1 V2 now features full PASM control when shooting video. The advanced video modes found in the Nikon 1 V1 remain, with the option to shoot video at 400fps and 1200fps, although these play back at a reduced resolution of 640 x 240 and 320 x 120 pixels respectively.
One of the new features finding a home on the Nikon 1 V2 is the EXPEED 3A image processor. This ‘next-generation’ dual processing engine processes images at 850 megapixels a second and is the key to some impressive headline performance figures. For example, the continuous shooting speed heads up to a lightning 60fps at full resolution, although this rate is only available for 40 frames and with a fixed focus point. If you want to utilise the camera’s AF system, you’ll be able to shoot at a still-impressive 15fps for around 45 frames.
Although the Nikon 1 V2 can hardly be described as a camera bursting at the seams with new features, there are certainly enough to pique the interest. Another criticism of the Nikon 1 V1 was the lack of a built-in flash, and the fact that the optional flashgun cost in excess of £100. The good news is that the Nikon 1 V2 features a built-in flash with a full range of flash modes, while those looking for more flash power, or to utilise the flash guns purchased for the Nikon 1 V1, will be able to do so thanks to the inclusion of an accessory port above the viewfinder prism and on-board flash.
As mentioned, there are other elements of the specification that remain the same as on the Nikon 1 V1, two of which are the LCD screen and viewfinder. The rear of the camera houses a 3in, 921k-dot TFT LCD which, while not the highest resolution in its class, is certainly in keeping with the majority of CSCs on the market today. Above the LCD screen sits an impressive 0.47in, 1440k-dot TFT LCD viewfinder complete with brightness adjustment and dioptre control to suit any of your optical needs.
The Nikon 1 V2 features a full range of shooting controls aimed at making the image capture process as simple as possible. These include not only an advanced auto mode but also a ‘Best Moment Capture’ settings which includes the ‘Smart Photo Selector’ feature which takes up to 20 high-resolution images and recommends five of the best for you to keep. Alongside these simplified modes sits full PASM shooting capture to allow for advanced photographers to get the images they’re looking for.
Design and Performance
Nikon 1 V2 review – Design
While the alterations to the specification on the V2 in comparison to the V1 are best described as minimal, the same cannot be said of the design of the camera itself. Putting the two side by side, its difficult to even ascertain the lineage of the V2 such are the alterations to the design.
Where the V1 was something of a nondescript rectangular slab of a compact system camera, the V2 has a lot more of a DSLR about it – albeit somewhat of a miniaturised version. One of the significant features of this design change is the addition of a pronounced handgrip to the right of the camera. This handgrip is of a substantial size and offers a pleasingly firm grip on the camera, helped in no small part by the rubberised coating both on the front and rear of the grip.
The raw measurements of the V2 suggest that the camera isn’t actually that much smaller than the V1. In fact, the camera is only slightly narrower, while it measures in both wider and deeper than its predecessor. These measurements are skewed by the height of the V2’s viewfinder and the protrusion of the hand grip – the actually body of the V2 is much slimmer than the V1, and certainly feels more comfortable in the hand.
The model’s top plate not only features a command dial for altering shooting functions, but also features a conventional mode dial – this is particularly welcome as the V1 before only featured a half-baked mode dial on the camera’s rear that didn’t offer access to PASM shooting modes, items which had to be reached through the camera’s menu system itself. The other control buttons, including playback, menu, display and trash, are now located down the left-hand side of the LCD screen, much like the arrangement found on the rear of Nikon’s DSLRs.
The V2 is available in two different versions – either black or white – with the former far preferred ahead of the latter. It’s worth pointing out that while the design overhaul is entirely welcome, and does enhance the both the look and feel of the V2, the new body isn’t to everyone’s taste and is certainly worth inspecting before purchase.
Nikon 1 V2 review – Performance
The Nikon 1 V2 benefits from the same focus system found in the other models in Nikon’s 1 series of cameras. The set-up is an advanced hybrid AF system which instantly switches between a 73-point phase-detection and 135-point contrast-detection AF system to suit the scene that you’re capturing. The real-time result of this combination is truly lightning-fast AF performance, some which is up there with any digital camera on the market. Not only is the AF performance blisteringly fast, but it’s also assuringly accurate, and the model’s tracking focus ensures that even moving targets can remain sharp.
As mentioned previously, the Nikon V2 features a range of shooting modes that could be described as both innovative and quirky in equal measure. Features such as ‘Motion Snapshot’, which creates a ‘living image’ from before you press the shutter button, are certainly more to the quirky end of the scale, while the ‘Smart Photo Selector’ mode offers genuinely useful functionality.
The presence of Nikon’s EXPEED 3A processor is the key to facilitating the lightning fast shooting speeds quoted in the specification. Although these do all have caps to the maximum amount of images they can capture, the mere fact that they are there really helps distinguish the V2 from its compact system camera competitors.
While a whole host of other elements of the camera have received makeovers, one area that remains pretty much as was is the menu system. It’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t turned its restyling to the menu as it’s muddled and difficult to navigate – rather than having well organised subsections, all of the relevant settings you may want to alter are housed in one long list. The result? Lots of unwanted scrolling to reach the setting you’re looking for.
Owing to the design changes of the Nikon V2, the camera now features a smaller battery and as a result a slightly shortened battery life. Although this is the case, the battery life is still good enough to ensure a full days shooting out of a single charge.
Image Quality and Verdict
Nikon 1 V2 review – Image Quality
Colour and White balance
The white balance system on the Nikon V2 is generally reliable, managing to produce accurate images in a variety of lighting conditions. Colours do appear a touch muted on the default settings, although the ‘Picture Control’ settings are on hand to add a boost to colour if desired.
While the V2 exposes accurately on the whole, there are issues with the cameras dynamic range. There’s a noticeable tendency for highlights to blow in contrasty scenes, with detail also being lost in areas of shadow.
Although the 14MP sensor is capable of resolving a good level of detail, the small physical size in comparison to equivalent CSCs means that it falls slightly behind the competition.
Noise is another area of concern when you consider the physical size of the V2’s sensor compared to the competition, although on the whole it handles it well. At the higher settings, such as ISO 1600, aggressive noise reduction causes a softening of images.
The 10-30mm kit lens offers a reasonable level of performance with edge sharpness respectable and very few signs of chromatic aberrations.
Raw and JPEG
While JPEGs suffer from aggressive noise reduction, Raw files display the full noisy glory of images. Although this isn’t ideal, the option of applying your own more refined noise reduction is certainly preferable.
Nikon 1 V2 review – Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Nikon V2; a camera which sees a real marked improvement on its predecessor. Although the design might not be to everyone’s taste on an aesthetic level, there’s no arguing with the fact that the addition of a fully functioning mode dial on the cameras top plate, as well as an ample hand grip, both make the V2 a more enjoyable camera to shoot with. Throw in the headline features, such as the 60fps burst mode and lightning fast AF system, and the V2 seems like a winner.
Certain issues remain, however, and these cause the V2 to still pale in comparison to its CSC competition. The physically small sensor causes a range of image quality issues and places restriction on depth of field, while the price is certainly not for the faint of wallet. A greatly improved camera that is a pleasure to use, although is ultimately still hamstrung by price and image quality.