Yesterday marked the official unveiling of the Nikon 1 V1 and J1 compact system cameras. Today we spent some quality time with these new mirrorless offerings. We've got first impressions and sample images to share.
The J1 is sleeker, more streamlined. Without the accessory port and viewfinder, the top panel is smooth and flat. Markings on both of the cameras are modernist and minimal - a mode dial on the back panel of each has just four icons. Nobody will feel overwhelmed picking up a camera with four modes.
The V1 has a weightier feel with an ever-so-slight grip built into the front of the camera. There's also a slightly larger thumb grip on the back panel of the V1 than is found on the J1. Either camera can be turned on via conventional methods or by unlocking the kit zoom lens (if one is attached) by pressing a button and twisting the lens barrel. The J1 and V1 accept SD card media.
I spoke with Senior Product Manager Lindsay Silverman about the concept. He pointed out that nowhere has Nikon advertised the 1 system as being equal to DSLRs, noting that Nikon already has a line of top-shelf DSLRs. Instead, he sees the 1 user as someone who wants to take a lot of great pictures spontaneously without the fuss of a big DSLR body and set of lenses.
The J1 and V1, instead, are easy enough for a beginner to use with enough advanced functionality to entice more advanced users. He also spoke about how important it was to create a balanced camera - balanced in terms of feel, performance, and features.
Beginners will have no problem with camera operation, but I was concerned that more advanced controls would be difficult for seasoned shooters to access. I am happy to report that if you choose to shoot in full manual mode, changing shutter and aperture speed is easily done. Shutter is assigned to the zoom toggle near the shooter's right thumb and aperture is controlled by the sub-dial on the back panel.
Shooting stills during movie capture is also a breeze. Movie start/stop is (obviously) controlled through the one-touch movie button on the top deck. Pushing the shutter button during movie capture will record a full-resolution still image - an on-screen camera icon will confirm that an image was recorded.
Regarding the new Motion Snapshot mode - I wasn't completely sold on this feature yet. This is a shooting mode that will automatically record a portion of video for every still image that is captured. The resulting video plays back in slow motion with music overlayed. It seems like a neat value-add (many apologies for using a jargon phrase like ‘value-add'), but I'm unsure how often real world shooters will use it. It takes a moment of processing after the image is captured before the camera is available for shooting again. It's not much, but it's enough that you'll notice it (and potentially get tired of it) after a while. In any case, the results are fun to play with and Nikon provides a few different music options for in-camera playback.
The Nikon 1 V1 on display this afternoon was not up to sample image analysis yet. Initial image quality from our full-production J1 review unit (that's right, stay tuned for the full analysis) looks promising. Sharpness at the center of the frame and out toward the edges using the 10mm (27mm equivalent) pancake looked very nice.
Will shooters warm up to the new 2.7x crop sensor? Will the Nikon 1's key demographic even care? To them, it may just be a sleek, lightweight camera that affords much more creative flexibility than the point-and-shoots that they're used to. We'll be putting our little review unit through the rigors of a full review, to be sure, but consumers will ultimately call the shots.
Take a look at some more full-resolution Nikon 1 J1 sample images below and then click over to our image gallery (link at the bottom of the article) for even more photos of the J1 and V1 in all of their mirrorless glory.
Additional Sample Images