Nikon 1 J1 and V1 - Features, Design and Verdict

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One recurring theme that we heard a lot from Nikon, and which formed a large part of their presentation, was speed. Using the all-new dual-core Expeed 3 image processor, Nikon even claim their new Nikon 1 models are the “world’s fastest cameras”. The new system also offers an AF system that, interestingly, uses a combination of 135-point contrast-detection and 73-point phase-detection to deliver super-fast autofocus. In addition, Nikon claims that the data-crunching power of the new Expeed 3 is able to deliver up to 60fps continuous shooting at full resolution. If that does indeed turn out to be the case, we’ll be very impressed indeed.

Nikon 1

The other big theme of the launch that Nikon was keen to hammer home was how Nikon 1 started from a clean slate and has been built from the ground up to work as a perfectly-honed system. To this end Nikon had brought along quite a large collection of accessories that can be used with the two cameras. There’s no standard hotshoe on either camera, although the V1 does sport a proprietary accessory port that can be used to attach a number of dedicated accessories such as a new Speedlight flash or the Nikon ME-1 microphone. There’s even a ringflash and a large video monitor available. Nikon has clearly brought the Nikon 1 system to the table ready to roll, which is to be commended.

Turning our attention, briefly, to the shooting modes, as expected both of the Nikon 1 models get the full range of semi- and full-automatic shooting modes (PASM) even though they are a little buried in the menu system rather than immediately selectable from the shooting dial. These are complimented by an Automatic Scene Selector mode and two all-new modes – Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector. The first of these combines a single still image with one second’s worth of slow-motion movie footage to offer what Nikon describe as a ‘living image’. It certainly sounds like a interesting idea, although we’ll have to wait and see how large the resultant files are. Smart Photo Selector, meanwhile, takes 20 shots with a single shutter press before selecting and presenting the user with the best five images. In this respect it could be a useful tool for point-and-shoot enthusiasts looking for blink-free, smile-heavy portraits with minimum fuss.

Movie-wise, both of the new models offer the ability to record movies at a maximum setting of 1080p Full HD at 30fps. Like most of the compact system camera fraternity, we do like how the new supercharged processor makes it possible to record still images at full resolution while simultaneously recording movies – that’s definitely a bonus and will undoubtedly lead to fewer of those agonised on-the-spot ‘video or stills?’ decisions and more spontaneous shooting of both mediums. The V1 also sports an external microphone port, whereas the J1 doesn’t.

Nikon 1 9

So, who exactly is likely to be buying either of these two new models? Well, Nikon’s decision to offer the J1 in a choice of five colours – Black, Silver, Red, White and Pink – probably reveals more about who the J1 is targeted at than any of the headline specifications do. Basically, and as Nikon themselves were only too happy to admit during the presentation, the J1 is very much aimed at the mass market. During the Q&A session at the end of the presentation Nikon even talked of taking a “market-leading position” with the new camera. While the V1 is the camera that will appeal to enthusiasts, the J1 appears to be the camera Nikon hopes will be the big seller.

Of course a large determining factor here, is the price. On this we can’t help but feel that Nikon may have come in a bit high. Of course, launch prices can often fall quite quickly, depending on demand (or a lack of) and discounting competition between retailers. In this respect we wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see the quoted launch prices of £549 for the J1 and £829 for the V1 fall closer to £450 and £750 before Christmas. The problem the V1 in particular will face, is that it’s £829 price tag put’s it in direct competition with the best compact system cameras like the Olympus EP-3, and some heavyweight SLRs as well. The highly rated Panasonic Lumix G3, by comparison, now seems pretty cheap. It’ll be interesting to see how Nikon fares against its established compact system rivals.

Verdict
We’re quite excited by the new Nikon 1 system. The J1 and V1 camera bodies are nicely designed, handle well and look fantastic, while the accompanying lenses push the concept of miniaturisation to a new level. Yes, the smaller dimensions of the CX sensor does throw up some questions, but these will be answered one way or another in due course. For now though, there’s a brand new interchangeable-lens CSC system on the block from a major manufacturer, and in the long-run that can only be good for the advancement of digital camera technology.

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