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Nikon V1 Review

Micro, mirrorless cameras are upon us, with sales for the pioneers — Olympus and Panasonic — soaring as people welcome the small, clever, interchangeable lens models with open arms.

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Nikon and Canon have dragged their feet on this evolution with the former only now recognising the market demand with a pair of models that bear all the hallmarks of the sector: small, easy to use, with an eye-level LCD finder, a rear screen and a range of interchangeable lenses.

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The Nikon 1 range of CX format cameras includes the upper level V1 and a lesser model — the Nikon J1.

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I missed the Sydney launch, thanks to a messed up press invite and a nonchalant publicity arm. However, a few weeks later, I managed to snatch the upper model, the Nikon V1, for this review.

The review camera was all white, with two lenses supplied — mostly white again: f3.5/10-30mm and f3.8/30-110mm. Both were VR (Vibration Reduction lenses); there are two other lenses available. It’s worth noting that each lens has an external button to ‘pop out’ the lens for shooting: this makes the camera much smaller when carried.

Besides the white body, there’s also pink, red, silver and black. Takes all kinds! … and indicates how wide Nikon’s market aim appears to be. There are also many features that, frankly, have ‘happy family consumer’ appeal that may turn off some pros looking for a backup camera. Read on and you’ll see what I mean!

The 10.1 megapixel CMOS can capture a maximum still image size is 3872×2592 pixels, leading to a final print size of 33x22cm.

MPEG4 Movie shooting up to 1920×1080 pixels is available. AF and exposure are constantly adjusted as the camera moves and zooms. If you shoot a still while in movie recording, the latter stops.

Nikon V1 Features

The camera sure looks smart, sits well in the hand. Some will miss the traditional speed grip at the right edge but there is a raised security bar at the front and a rear non-slip patch that may help you feel safer.

Top deck: power on/off, shutter button and red movie record button.

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Rear: my old bugbear — controls that are hard to read in dim light. Design-wise, I like the white styling of the front but figure it could have been carried around to the rear so that the controls could be set in black type on white buttons. Maybe it’s just me.

A tiny mode dial — and I mean tiny! At 12mm diameter! — carries four options:

  • Motion Snapshot. Each time you fire the shutter a still image and about a second of movie is shot. On replay the movie is slowed to around 2.5 seconds, followed by the still. This forms a movie/still vignette; to this, one of four phrases of background music can be added automatically. How cute!
  • Smart Photo Selector. Each time you hit the shutter the camera automatically shoots a burst of shots. The camera indicates the best shot as well as four other ‘likelies’.
  • Still image mode. Possibly better described as Program AE, where the camera sets aperture and shutter speed.
  • Movie mode. Three options: 1902×1080/60i and 1920×1080/30p and 1280×720/60p.

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Note: you must dig into the viewfinder menu to select aperture or shutter priority … no external control. Thankfully, the viewfinder menu is simple, easy to navigate and operate.

Aside from the mode wheel there is a Feature button that gives access to three different shutter types: Mechanical, Electronic and Electronic (Hi). One benefit of either electronic shutter is quieter operation plus a top speed of 1/16,000 second.

Added to this, you can shoot at 5 fps with the mechanical shutter plus 30 or 60fps with the Electronic (Hi) option.
The Electronic (Hi) also delivers movie frame rates of 400 to 1200 fps at reduced sizes (640×480 and 320×120) in five second bursts.

The Feature button also offers choices of music background for Motion Snapshot shooting.

A novelty is an enlargement control that, in replay, zooms in to 10x for close inspection of replayed images.

Then there’s a rocker dial that offers the menu button, exposure compensation, AF options and self timer. The control layout is quite radical and you’ll take some time to get used to it. I did!

There’s no inbuilt flash unit but an optional unit can be attached to the accessory outlet on the left upper surface. This port also accepts a GPS unit.

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Startup

About a second after power up I caught the first shot, then each follow-up came in as fast as I could hit the button.

Nikon V1 ISO Tests

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Terrific, noise free quality up to ISO 1600; at ISO 3200 a bit more noise ands slight definition loss but not to an extreme.

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Nikon V1 Verdict

Quality: above average.

Why you’d buy the V1: it’s a Nikon!; you want a very small system camera; adaptor for Nikon F lenses.

Why you wouldn’t: you may find the ‘clever’ options a bit off-putting.

Frankly, I found the layout of the camera a bit challenging. Call me a ‘stick-in-the-mud’ but I was quite happy the way things were. But then, I would enjoy a camera able to shoot at 1/16,000 second.

A downer is the small CMOS: it’s equivalent to a 16mm diagonal sensor and little larger than some fixed lens compact sensors; the sensor’s 2.7x 35 SLR lens factor means any F1 lenses clipped onto it will suffer a major magnification: a 50mm then becomes a 135mm!

Nikon V1 Specifications

Image Sensor: 10.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Matrix, centre-weighted and spot.
Lens Mount: Nikon 1 mount.
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Effective Sensor Size: 13.2×8.8mm CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2.7x.
Shutter Speed (stills): 30 to 1/4000 sec (mechanical) or 1/16,000 sec (electronic) plus Bulb and Time (with optional remote).
Flash sync: 1/250 sec (mechanical shutter) or 1/250 sec (electronic).
Continuous Shooting: 5 fps as well as 10, 30 or 60 fps using the Electronic (Hi) shutter
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 3872×2592 to 1936×1296.
Movies: 1920×1080/60i and 30p; 1280×720, 640×240, 320×120
Viewfinder: 12mm (1,440,00 million pixels); 7.6cm LCD screen (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, NEF (RAW), JPEG+NEF, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400xxxx.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, accessories.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 113x76x43.5 WHDmm.
Weight: 383 g (battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon V1 in different configurations including:

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon V1
Author Rating
3

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Barrie Smith

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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