Nikon 1 J1 Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (3,845)
Editor's Rating
7.40

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 6
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
The 1080 HD video produced by the J1 was quite good at both the 60 and 30 fps capture rates. The camera will record the sound of the manual zoom lenses being zoomed during video capture, and is also sensitive to wind noise – there is a wind cut feature available. Nikon reports that the 10-100mm power zoom is silent when being zoomed during capture. The 400 and 1200 fps slow motion capture modes in the 8:3 aspect ratio can have some interesting applications but the pictures pale in comparison with the true HD video quality.

Download Sample Video

Because the J1 is equipped with CMOS sensor, the possibility of rolling shutter effect on vertical straight lines could come into play during video capture when the camera is being panned, particularly at a rapid pace. The J1 turned in a very good performance in this regard, demonstrating little if any skewing.

Image Quality
I took the J1 on two major outings to test image quality – in the first instance I set the camera on automatic (scene auto selector) and spent the morning at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. The goal here was to produce default images that would be representative of what a user who was content to let the camera function fully automatically could achieve. Here are four examples:

Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image
Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image

Reviewing the metadata for each capture provided some insights into how the J1 goes about business automatically. For example, in the Auto 1 shot the camera set ISO at 250 and used face priority area autofocus and an automatic shooting mode. In Auto 2 ISO was 140 with automatic area autofocus and a landscape shooting mode. Despite the day being overcast and rainy, the J1 held ISO sensitivities in a range between 125 and 250, and seemed more content to accept lower shutter speeds rather than ramp-up ISO to higher noise producing levels.

Overall, default images were pleasing as to color fidelity and sharpness, but I also found in instances where the camera use the landscape shooting mode that those captures seemed just a tiny bit sharper, possibly the result of increased contrast and/ or sharpening.

The Wild Animal Park results set the stage for outing number two at Disneyland, taking the camera out of automatic mode and changing some settings from default values. For this shoot I set the camera to Program Auto, ISO to 100, increased sharpening and switched to center weighted exposure metering. As day turned to night I moved ISO up to 200 to cut down the length of the time exposures needed for the dark scenes and went to manual exposure. Here are four of the program auto shots and a manual exposure of the Castle in one of many light patterns it went through during the evening.

Nikon 1 J1 Nikon 1 J1
Nikon 1 J1 Nikon 1 J1
Nikon J1 Sample Image

The J1 offers a typical Nikon color palette – here are the standard, neutral, vivid, landscape, portrait and monochrome variations.

Nikon J1 Sample Image
Standard
Nikon J1 Sample Image
Neutral
Nikon J1 Sample Image
Vivid
Nikon J1 Sample Image
Landscape
Nikon J1 Sample Image
Portrait
Nikon J1 Sample Image
Monochrome

The camera also offers Nikon’s D-Lighting feature to expand the apparent dynamic range of images – it can be applied during image capture or in post-processing.

Auto white balance was used for all the images captured for this review and it did a good job across a wide variety of lighting conditions, including incandescent. In addition to auto there are incandescent, fluorescent, direct sun, flash, cloudy, shade, and custom preset manual modes available.

Nikon J1 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Matrix metering was used for the Wild Animal Park shooting and did a good job overall in the overcast lighting conditions, but it could still clip highlights on occasion in scenes with large amounts of contrast. Center weighted metering was used for the daylight Disneyland shots and did a good job as well with late afternoon direct sunlight and more pronounced shadow areas – however, it too could clip highlights in high contrast scenes. There is a spot metering option available as well.

Back in the shooting performance section I mentioned that while the J1 flash has a relatively limited range at the nominal 100 ISO setting, ramping up ISO to gain additional flash range was a viable option. High ISO noise performance in the J1 turned out to be a pleasant surprise – even with Nikon holding the resolution at 10 megapixels, the small physical sensor size raised concerns in my mind that it might extract a fairly harsh noise penalty at the higher sensitivity ranges.

ISO 100 and 200 sensitivities are impossible to tell apart, and 400 is in a virtual tie with them – looking closely at some fine details, specifically the text in the pen box and the yellow drawstring on the bear’s pouch, there’s just a hint of a loss of detail, but it’s safe to say for print purposes 100, 200 and 400 will be indistinguishable. ISO 800 is hard to tell from 400 at a quick glance, but again in the fine details there is a bit of loss, and this is beginning to show on the AutoZone coin as well.

Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 100

ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 200
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 400
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 800
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

ISO 1600 is more of the same – very similar to 800 at a quick glance, with color remaining vibrant and another minor loss of detail. ISO 3200 shows the greatest deviation in image quality between any two consecutive ISO settings, as there now begins to appear a faint overall element of graininess across the entire image along with another drop in fine detail quality.

Colors are still fairly vibrant but it’s becoming clear that the sensor and processor are getting about all they can out of the hardware at this point. The overall impression is that the J1 images start out clean and then begin a slow, steady and slight progression of diminished image quality due to noise once ISO levels rise above 400. When I compared the image quality at 100 ISO with 3200 ISO in the studio shots the overall quality surprised me enough that I conducted my own comparison test. Here are the results at 100 and 3200.

Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 100
Nikon J1 Sample Image
ISO 3200

The 3200 ISO shot is clearly grainier than the 100 due to noise, but the key word here is grainier – the 3200 shot does not remind me so much of image sensor noise as it does of a grainy, high-speed film image. And for me personally, if I have to accept a dose of image noise having it look like film grain is the way to go.

Additional Sample Images

Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image
Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image
Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image
Nikon J1 Sample Image Nikon J1 Sample Image


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