The Nikon 1 V1 is one of the two cameras launched at the release of the new 1 system, promising headline performance in a compact mirrorless body. How does the Nikon V1 fair in relation to its CSC peers?
Nikon 1 review – Features
The V1 differs from its cheaper J1 sibling in several areas, the most important of which is that the V1 includes a built-in 1.4m-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). It also features a magnesium alloy rather than an aluminium body, a higher resolution 3in LCD screen (921k-dots instead of 460k-dots), and the addition of a mechanical shutter to complement the electronic one used in both cameras.
This also gives the V1 a faster flash sync speed of 1/250th sec instead of the J1’s 1/60th sec. The V1 takes a larger, higher capacity battery – a small but crucial difference – and while the J1 has a built-in pop-up flash the V1 does not, and provides instead an accessory shoe which accepts a tiny optional accessory flash, or a GPS unit (both at extra cost), with more accessories promised. These differences give the V1 a price premium of around £300 over the J1.
Otherwise things are much the same. The V1 shares the same 10.1MP sensor, and the same Expeed 3 processor that enables the V1 to perform the same bag of ground-breaking features. The most impressive of these is the ability to shoot a full resolution continuous burst at up to 60 frames per second, though only for about 12 frames (Raw or JPEG). That’s faster than any other camera in the world, even including pro DSLRs. In this mode, and also at the 30fps setting, the camera’s AF is locked from the first frame but there’s also a 10fps mode which has continuous subject tracking AF.
On the subject of AF Nikon claims that the V1 and its J1 sibling boast the world’s fastest focusing thanks to the unique and innovative hybrid AF system that employs both phase and contrast detect AF methods on the sensor itself, and switches between them automatically. The V1 has no less than 135 focus points when in contrast detect mode and 73 in phase detect mode, which is better for moving subjects.
The V1 features what Nikon calls pre-post capture technology which can record images from before the shutter is fully pressed. This is best implemented in the Smart Shot Selector mode, which shoots a burst of up to 20 frames almost instantaneously, then presents what it considers the best shot of the sequence, along with four possible alternatives. Impressively, the one picked by the camera generally seems to be the best one. The other mode that uses this technology is Motion Snapshot, which captures a full resolution still image but wraps it in a second of slow-motion video captured at the same time. Nikon calls it a ‘Living Picture’ and the effect is not unlike the moving photos in the Harry Potter movies.
The V1 can shoot full HD movies, of course, at 60i or 30p, and at 60p at the smaller 1280×720 size, all with full phase detect AF during recording. It also offers the ability to shoot slow motion video at 400fps and super slo-mo at 1200fps, both in a lower resolution and narrow letterbox format. The twin-engined processor and silent electronic shutter also means that you can take a high resolution still photo (in the 16:9 ratio at 8MP resolution) while simultaneously shooting video, which is really useful for recording those important milestones in life. Unlike the J1 the V1 also has a port for the addition of an external mic.
If you’re looking for more advanced user settings such as full manual controls (PASM), ISO and White Balance controls you’ll find them but not on the outside of the camera - they’re all buried in the menu.
Nikon 1 review – Design
Because of its larger battery the V1 is bigger than the J1 and is indeed a little bigger than some Micro Four Thirds cameras, which have much larger sensors, though it is the world’s smallest camera with a built in EVF.
It follows the same minimalist design as the J1, which you’ll either like or not, but from a practical point of view does mean there’s no handgrip to provide a firm purchase. The lenses for the 1 System are quite compact. Three of the four initial lenses have a diameter of less than 50mm, and two of the lenses – the 10-30mm standard zoom (equivalent to 27-80mm) and 30-110mm (80-300mm equiv) – have a retractable design that makes them especially compact for transportation and can be released for use at the push of a button and the twist of the zoom. This motion can also turn the camera on, as an alternative to the power switch on the top of the body.