Camera

Nikon 1: V1 Mirrorless Camera

The Nikon 1 is Nikon’s late foray into mirrorless system, and chose to size the sensor as 1-inch (13.2 x 8.8mm), which is larger than most compact cameras but smaller than the Micro Four-thirds. With this size, the obvious concern is the image noise. Well, my review is not going to address that, but I am going to share with you the experience of using this camera.

Design and Handling
The Nikon V1 has rather few buttons, but they seem sufficient for what this camera requires. My white-colour gloss coated review copy comes with 10mm (equiv. 27mm) f/2.8 lens. Small as it is, the camera body is thick and heavy to house the same battery as the latest D800 – imagine the power.

The V1 comes with built-in EVF, which adds a bulge on top of the camera. I’m not a fan of EVF, but I must say the quality has improved over the years and it comes in handy when it’s too bright to see on the large LCD monitor. An accessory port – not standard hot shoe – allows you to fit an external flash, external microphone, GPS unit.

The camera interface menu is also simple: just 3 main menus: playback, camera, and settings. You can scroll the menu items without lag using the wheel dial. The menu animation is also fast and the fonts clear and it really helps in finding the required settings.

Nikon V1 lets you access the AE-L, EV compensation, Focus mode, and self-timer easily. Depending on the mode, the “F” button lets you make one additional quick setting change.

I wasn’t quite sure why Nikon provided options to switch between mechanical and electronic shutter, when the former is limited to 1/4000s and the latter can go up to 1/16000s. However, the flash sync when using mechanical shutter is 1/250s while the electronic shutter only supports 1/60s.

What I Like
Oooh, I LOVE the ability to fire 10, 30 and even 60 frames per second. If you need to capture action shots, this is the camera to own. Plus, the continuous AF is in my view the fastest, which gives me renewed confidence in using this mode instead of re-focusing as I always do. The AF speed is also one of the faster ones in the market. The LCD screen is sharp and bright. Battery life is great.

When it comes to image quality, Nikon V1 has the lowest pixel-count among the latest mirrorless camera systems. The lower resolution probably help to keep the noise level low and despite the race for higher pixel count, 10 megapixel is sufficient for casual photography. Smaller file sizes help the V1 to handle the enormous frame-per-second count.

What I Dislike

  • The V1 is too bulky for the sensor size, maybe Nikon needs to fit the DSLR-grade battery to power it up. 
  • The ON/OFF button is too flat and I find it hard to locate it by feeling it. 
  • After filling the camera buffer, the playback images are slow to load and it freezes the interface. And you cannot shoot video until the buffer if flushed. 
  • The video record button doesn’t work for Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector.
  • The video resolution for the Still Image mode is fixed at 720p. You have to switch to the Movie mode to shoot in your desired resolution. Likewise, the still image resolution for Movie mode is fixed with no focus point options.
  • There are only 4 modes on the mode dial. If you want to switch the PASM modes, you have to access the menu. This is a move perhaps to make the Nikon V1 less technical for the basic users.
  • The mode dial is easily turned accidentally during handling of the camera, because it’s next to where the thumb is as you grab the camera. This results in wrong shooting modes at times when I was handling the V1 in a hurry, and incorrect shooting parameters.
  • The zoom lever design doesn’t allow me to change the parameters as swiftly as a wheel dial.
  • The burst images are not grouped together when playback. So if you just took 60 identical images using 60fps, you have to scroll through all 60 images. 
  • White body is prone to paint chipping.
The Nikon V1 is still small whem compared to a DSLR like D300.

Rounding Up
Nikon has created a unique selling point for the Nikon 1. Very fast continuous focusing, very high frame-per-second, makes the Nikon V1 a great camera for action shots. When a customer switches on the camera, the first thing that will impress them is the LCD quality, and Nikon has it. It is clear to me that Nikon 1 is not positioned to be a compact version of a DSLR, but one that offers fast image capture, delivers adequate shooting controls, and simple controls for the general user. Now, if only they reduce the size of the camera and redesign the mode dial. But like every other mirrorless brands, it’s a matter of time that Nikon expands the range to cater to a wider market, if it grows large enough.

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