Nikon 1 V1 Review: Performance

March 28, 2012 by Jim Keenan Reads (7,417)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


With pretty much identical components throughout the image capture stream you would expect similar performance parameters out of both the J1 and V1 – and you would be pretty much correct. Right off the bat the V1 threw me a bit of a curve – where the J1 power up and first shot times ran about 1.5 seconds and 2 to 2.25 seconds respectively, the V1 was consistently about 0.25 seconds quicker to display the focus point on start-up, with a first shot coming right at 2 seconds. Not an earthshaking difference, but noticeable, particularly with a stopwatch. But after start up, the V1 produced no surprises over what I’d already experienced with the J1.

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony NEX-7 0.13
Panasonic Lumix GX1 0.15
Nikon 1 J1/V1 0.21
Olympus E-P3 0.22

Continuous Shooting 

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony NEX-7 20 10.0 fps
Nikon 1 J1/V1 28 5.1 fps
Panasonic Lumix GX1 32 4.1 fps
Olympus E-P3 13 3.3 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

As we saw with the J1, single shot-to-shot times remained constant (and essentially as quickly as you could refocus and shoot again) with both 95 MB/second and 45MB/second memory cards; 30 MB/second cards produced about a 1 second shot-to-shot time. Shooting at the five frame per second continuous high speed rate produced 28 JPEG fine images in both the J1 and V1 before the buffer slowed. Shutter lag and autofocus acquisition times were the same – 0.01 and 0.21 seconds respectively, although like the J1 the V1 seems to acquire autofocus quicker than that 0.21 second figure would suggest. The V1 also maintained a fairly quick AF acquisition time in dimmer lighting conditions. For a more detailed analysis of shooting performance, please refer to the J1 review.

There’s no built-in flash on the V1 but Nikon offers the SB-N5 speedlight (flash) that mounts on the camera’s hot shoe, uses the camera battery for power and offers a flash range from 2 to 66 feet depending on camera settings. MSRP for the speedlight is $150. Battery life on the V1 is listed as 350 shots, a welcome increase from the 230 shot rating for the J1. Still, a spare battery is pretty much required for all day shooting sessions.

Lens Performance
We had the 10mm prime, 10-30 and 30-110mm zoom lenses for the J1 review and in general they produced fairly good image quality – while each lens had minor optical defects not uncommon for lenses at their price point, all turned in credible optical performances. For more detailed information on the performance of the three Nikon 1 lenses please refer to the J1 review.

For the V1 review we had the 10-30 and 30-110mm zoom lenses and these produced no surprises in the image quality department. Here’s a couple shots made with the 30-110.

Nikon 1 V1

Nikon 1 V1

And here’s a shot with the 10-30 at 10mm (27mm in 35mm equivalent) along with a shot with from my D3S with its 24-70mm lens at 24mm (24mm in 35mm equivalent).

Nikon Sample Image
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image, 24-70mm lens

Nikon Sample Image
Nikon D3S Sample Image, 24-70mm lens

Below are two more shots with the 10-30 at the Pumpkin Patch, a remote rock formation in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in eastern San Diego County.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

While the lens performance of the Nikon 1 glass with the V1 was pretty much a given after the J1 review, the addition of the FT-1 adapter for the V1 review produced an entirely new dynamic. The ability to mount over 65 existing Nikon lenses along with even older legacy glass offers opportunities not available to us when the J1 review was conducted. But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and in the case of the FT-1 its use costs you the continuous and automatic autofocus capabilities of the V1 (or J1). Nikon AF-S or AF-I lenses retain single autofocus capability along with manual focus, with autofocus limited to the center point of the J1/V1 screen. The camera retains its continuous shooting capability, but auto focus is established with the first shot of any sequence and remains the same for the duration of that sequence.

AF-S and AF-I lenses may capture still images in P, A, S, or M modes as well as video and motion snapshot; scene auto selector is unavailable. Older legacy lenses are limited to aperture priority or manual exposure modes only for still images along with video capture. Stabilized lenses retain their stabilization capability on the FT-1 and most other camera features such as movie settings, metering, white balance, ISO sensitivity, picture control and high ISO noise reduction are available with AF-S, AF-I and older lenses.

But just when you start to think that all F-mounts are created equal the FT-1 apparently has one last trick up its sleeve – my Reflex C Nikkor 500mm f/8 mirror lens that mounts so nicely on my D3S and D300S bodies refuses to climb on board the FT-1, and all Nikon Technical Services can tell me is the lens is “incompatible.” So it is possible that the heirloom Nikkor F-mount you have plans of resurrecting on your J1/V1 might have to go back to being the paperweight you’ve been using it as all these years.

Video Quality
Video quality of the V1 is quite good and even with its CMOS sensor the V1 produced little, if any, rolling shutter effect during panning. Like most cameras it can be susceptible to recording focus and zoom noises as well as wind noise, although there is a wind cut feature available. For a more detailed analysis of V1 video capability please refer to the J1 review.

Image Quality
The J1 review demonstrated that default images out of the camera were generally pleasing as to color fidelity and Nikon 1 V1 Sample Imagesharpness, but possibly in need of a bit more sharpening in some instances depending on the individual user. I noticed no difference in the V1 with the kit lenses. Color palette options and image adjustment controls in the picture control menu are the same as on the J1.

The V1 was not subjected to the usual ISO sensitivity shots in our studio, but I did do a sequence with a color check card just out of curiosity. The results really mirror the performance of the J1 in the studio – 100 and 200 ISO are virtually indistinguishable with 400 ISO just a bit grainier but still very close to the first two. ISO 800 and 1600 are each progressively a bit grainier, there is a bit bigger jump in grain between 1600 and 3200, and about the same differential between 3200 and 6400 as existed between 1600 and 3200.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 100
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 200
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 400
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 800
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
ISO 6400

However, the principal motivation to acquire Nikon V1 units for my wife and myself was to take advantage of the 2.7x crop factor. It would provide our long telephoto lenses a significant magnification advantage over the 1.5x crop factor of the D300S bodies we use for most of our long telephoto shoots. On a D300S my 600mm f/4 shoots at a 35mm equivalent 900mm focal length; the 400mm f/2.8 shoots at 600mm. The same lenses on a V1 shoot at 1620 and 1080mm, respectively. There are ways to get closer to those V1 focal lengths with a D300S, principally by using teleconverters. We have the excellent Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x converters which apply an additional 1.4x magnification, resulting in 1260 and 840mm focal lengths when used with the big lenses on a D300S – but the downside is the converters exact a one stop speed penalty from the lenses. Maximum aperture of the 400mm becomes f/4 while the 600mm goes to f/5.6. Nikon also makes 1.7x and 2x converters, but the 1.7 costs 1.5 stops while the 2 is a full 2 stops slower.

On May 20 there will be an annular eclipse of the sun that will be visible over portions of the Western United States in the late afternoon. The centerline for the path of the eclipse passes almost directly over Page, Arizona – the site from which we plan to photograph the eclipse. I’ll be shooting the 600mm with the V1 (1620mm) and my wife will have the 400mm with the 1.4x teleconverter (1512mm). With these focal lengths the disk of the sun fills a good portion of the frame and sunspots may be visible on the sun’s surface. Here’s an example with the 600mm on the V1 (1620mm) and the D300S with the 1.4x teleconverter (1260mm).


Nikon Sample Image
Nikon 1 V1 with 600mm lens
Nikon Sample Image
Nikon D300S

Here’s a look at the V1 and the 600mm lens with the solar filter in place. The filter exterior has a highly polished mirror-like surface that accounts for the extremely low passage of visible light.

Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 V1

By coincidence, the moon has a visible disk approximately the same size as that of the sun – here’s a shot of a three-quarter moon with the V1 and 600mm lens.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

Dealing with subjects a little closer to home, the V1 turned in fine results with shorter manual and autofocus lenses on the FT-1 adapter. Here are examples from the 85mm manual focus and 70-200 AF-S zoom.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

What became apparent with a 600mm on the V1 is that shot discipline and a steady camera/lens combination become paramount in achieving sharp images – and the same would be true of a J1. When the Wild Animal Park rhinos chose to sun themselves near a water trough only about 200 feet from an overlook, the V1/600mm combination could only frame a “head and shoulders” type shot of those big critters. With the lens and camera combination mounted on a sturdy tripod I fired away and produced rather mediocre results, which I attribute to camera shake – even on the tripod, my holding the camera and firing the shutter manually appeared to induce just enough shake to fuzz the pictures. What I should have done was frame the subject, lock the tripod down and fire the shutter via the self-timer. The short delay before the self-timer trips the shutter is generally long enough to allow any vibrations to dampen out of the camera and lens after you let go of the camera. Here are the fuzzy rhino pictures I’m not too pleased with.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

And here is option “B” for firing a J1/V1 shutter without imparting vibration to the lens or camera: the Nikon ML-L3 wireless remote (next to the V1 with 85mm). About $15 at reputable online vendors, the ML-L3 has about a 15 foot range andNikon ML-L3 Remote can fire the shutter immediately or with a 2 second delay. One drawback is the infrared sensors that pick up the signal from the remote are located on the front of the camera so you have to have the remote facing the camera from a frontal aspect. I picked up one of the remotes after the initial rhino shots, but then a three-day bout of the flu along with a couple days of spring rain sabotaged attempts to return to the rhinos before this review was finished. However, rhino shots taken with the 70-200 on the V1 with the same tripod came out much better.

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

All camera settings were the same for the rhino shots, but the extra thousand millimeters or so of focal length produced by the 600mm lens requires stricter shot discipline than I applied at the time. Because of the J1/V1 2.7x crop factors, folks shooting Nikon zooms that reach out to 300 or 400mm on the telephoto end are looking at 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 810 to almost 1100mm, and hand holding at those lengths is going to be a challenge. The J1 offers only a monitor for image composition and the prospect of holding that camera steady at arm’s length with anything but the Nikon 1 lenses is suspect. As such, I think any J1 using an FT-1 adapter and lens needs to be on a monopod at a minimum, with the tripod as the preferred means of support. The V1 with its viewfinder is a much easier proposition to handhold with shorter telephotos and I think zooms up to about the 70-200 range have good prospects for hand holding. Beyond 200mm even V1 shooters need to start thinking about monopod and tripod support along with self-timer or remote firing of the shutter to minimize camera shake with the super long telephotos.

Additional Sample Images

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image
Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image



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