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Nikon 1 V1 Review: Plays Well With Legacy Lenses
by Jim Keenan -  3/27/2012

The Nikon 1 V1 presents the unique combination of a built-in viewfinder, compatibility with F-mount Nikkor lenses (thanks to an adapter) and a big 2.7x crop factor. We put the V1 to the test, focusing especially on its applications with Nikkor F-mount lenses. Take a look.

Overview

When Nikon entered the mirrorless interchangeable lens digital camera sweepstakes in October 2011, they chose the road less traveled, at least in terms of sensor size. Third generation cameras from Olympus and Panasonic were already on the market sporting Micro Four Thirds system sensors that were the same physical size as those found in Olympus DSLRs with their 2x crop factors. Samsung and Sony entries in the class featured APS-C sized sensors, producing the same 1.5x crop factor as a Sony DSLR.

In June, Pentax announced the "Q" model which carried a compact point-and-shoot camera-sized 1/2.3-inch sensor, but it wasn't due to reach U.S. markets until "early fall". With everyone in the market up to that point packing sensor sizes straight out of a DSLR, Nikon chose to go in the other direction, albeit not to the same degree as Pentax. More than a few eyebrows were raised as the new Nikon 1 system's two cameras carried a sensor with the Nikon designation "CX" along with a 2.7x crop factor. To be sure, Nikon held the resolution down to 10 megapixels which gave hope that the overall small sensor size might still deliver some decent high ISO noise performance, but skeptics noted that both Pentax and Nikon seem to be bypassing larger sized sensors that, generally, would provide the better noise performance that was one of the major selling points for this new class of camera.

Almost overlooked in all the hoopla surrounding the introduction of the Nikon 1 system was this single sentence, buried deep in the press release: "Additionally, the FT-1 F-mount adapter for legacy Nikkor lenses will be available in the future, so that photographers can utilize their collection of quality Nikkor lenses." The FT-1 F-mount adapter is now available and the acquisition of this piece along with my closet full of Nikkor F-mount glass and an upcoming annular eclipse of the sun in May 2012 were all it took to trigger my purchase of the V1 that is the subject of this review.

Nikon FT-1 Adapter Nikon FT-1 Adapter

I did this site's review of the V1's entry-level brother, the J1, back in October 2011. Since the two cameras essentially share the same guts, we've included several references in the following text back to that article. Find the full Nikon 1 J1 review here.

While the V1 offers a slightly different feature set targeting more advanced users, the primary image capture hardware is the same as is ISO performance and image quality - the J1 review is a handy reference point since I won't be duplicating the studio shots or color palette options with the V1. Instead, we're going to target the differences between the J1 and V1, and in particular explore the performance opportunities provided users with F-mount lenses who add the FT-1 adapter to the Nikon 1 kit.

Here's a quick rundown on the similarities and differences between the J1 and V1: identical sensor sizes and resolution, identical continuous shooting rates at full resolution, ISO sensitivity ranges, still and movie capture options and EXPEED 3 processing engine with dual core processor. Both cameras feature fixed 3.0-inch diagonal LCD monitors, but the J1 has a 460,000 dot composition while the V1 doubles that to 921,000 dots. The J1 has a built-in flash and lacks a viewfinder; the V1 has a viewfinder, no built-in flash but offers an i-TTL (intelligent through the lens) hot shoe/multi-accessory port that accepts flash, GPS or external microphone accessories.

The V1 is fractionally larger in every dimension and weighs about 2 ounces more; it uses an EN-EL 15 battery while the J1 uses a less powerful EN-EL 20. Unfortunately, the batteries are not interchangeable. Both cameras can utilize SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and are available in one or two lens kits. Nikon includes a camera strap, rechargeable battery and charger, USB and A/V cables, quick start guide, printed user's manual and CD-ROM software with each camera. Camera bodies can be had in white or black variants. Here's a close look at the black version.

Nikon 1 V1 White and Black

They're very much alike in so many ways but just different enough to make one the clear choice for folks planning to mount legacy Nikkor lenses on a Nikon 1.

Build & Design
Like its brother the J1, the Nikon V1 body is predominantly a rectangle with rounded edges, excluding the hump on the camera top that houses the viewfinder. The body is magnesium alloy and in another slight deviation from the J1 recipe, offers a slight ridge in the lower right front that provides a tiny bit of a grip point. Overall, the body and Nikon 1 lenses appear well-built. The V1 body with the Nikon 1 10-30mm zoom lens measures about 4.4 x 3.0 x 3.2 inches and weighs about 17.6 ounces with battery and memory card onboard. The supplied camera strap adds about an ounce and Nikon also offers an accessory grip that adds about 2 ounces to the weight of the camera but is worth its weight in gold for the additional grip security it provides. Here's a look at the grip by itself and in place on the V1.

Nikon 1 V1 Grip Nikon 1 V1 Grip

While it adds a bit of height, depth and weight to a camera that, by its very nature is trying to be small, compact and light, the grip it was a no-brainer add-on for both of our V1s. One drawback to the grip is that it must be removed from the camera in order access the battery or memory card slot, but removal and installation is quick via a knurled knob that screws onto the camera bottom. Nikon makes grips for both the J1 and V1, and while they may look identical at a quick glance the dimensions are slightly different to account for the size differential between the two cameras - the J1 model is designated GR-N2000 while the V1 grip is a GR-N1000. Cost is about $65 at reputable Internet vendors.

Ergonomics and Controls
Sharing a virtually identical shape and control layout with the J1, you would expect the V1 to handle in similar fashion and you would be right - up to a point. The addition of the viewfinder to the V1 changes the game, and even more so when combined with the optional grip. The V1 can be used with the monitor in typical compact digital fashion for image composition and capture, and there will undoubtedly be some users that do so. For those of you who are so inclined I found the V1 handled as if it were J1, which is to say the camera fit nicely into my hand, with the tip of my shooting finger falling naturally to the shutter button while the tip of my middle finger just rested atop that slight ridge on the camera front. In two-handed shooting, one must take care with the placement of the left index finger on the camera front so as not to obscure the focus assist lamp.

Slip on the optional grip and use the viewfinder for image composition and capture instead of the monitor and things improve dramatically. Up until six or seven years ago the words "reading glasses" were not part of my vocabulary but now digital cameras that provide only a monitor for image composition and capture require I wander around with a set of drugstore "1.5x readers" riding low on my nose. My DSLRs with their diopter adjustable viewfinders require no such accommodation and neither does the V1. Another benefit of the viewfinder/grip combination is that when capturing images with the viewfinder and grip my left hand moves naturally underneath the camera for support, DSLR-style, eliminating the potential conflict of fingers with the focus assist lamp. I'm also able to lock my elbows into my sides for additional support, providing a more stable hold than is possible with a J1 with the monitor held away from the face - the edge of the viewfinder sits near my eyebrow, providing another contact point for stability.

Equipping your V1 with the FT-1 adapter doesn't change much in the way of weight and balance initially; the Nikon 1 10-30mm zoom weighs in at about 4.6 ounces and extends a minimum about 2.5 inches forward from the camera body. The FT-1 adapter weighs in at 6 ounces and extends about 1.5 inches in front of the camera; the foot of the FT-1 is metal and threaded with the industry-standard 3/8 inch fitting to accept a tripod or ball head stud. The FT-1 will lighten your wallet to the tune of about $270 at reputable Internet vendors - when you consider that a single lens V1 kit goes for about $850 and the grip for about another $65 you're pushing right up near the $1200 level to optimize your V1's grip and expand its lens envelope.

Nikon 1 V1 With 70-200mm LensOf course, the FT-1 by itself will not allow you to make image captures, so it's only after you've mounted some F mount glass that things start to get interesting. Currently, Nikon makes four Nikon 1 system lenses that cover the 27 to 297mm focal range in 35mm equivalents. Nikon also lists 65 current lenses that function with the FT-1, and without exception these lenses do not share the compact size and light weight of the system lenses. Nevertheless, some of the current generation Nikon lenses are surprisingly comfortable when hand held on the V1. Comfort level seems directly related to the barrel length of lens being used - shorter lenses handle better while longer lenses, particularly the big telephotos like my 400 and 600 really require tripod or monopod support (no different than with the DSLR). The 70-200 VRII zoom lens is about 8 inches long and weighs some 54 ounces yet is a very pleasant combination for hand holding and has the added benefit of having a lens foot that can attach to tripod or monopod. Here's a handheld shot of an egret down the street at 200mm (540mm in 35mm equivalents).

Nikon 1 V1 Sample Image

And here's a shot of the 600mm with both a D300S and the V1 on board - in the case of the D300S there's also a Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x tele converter, but you can clearly see that lens size rather than camera size is the driving force as to camera support once lens focal ranges start hitting 300mm or so, at least with the fast, long telephotos.

Nikon 600mm Lens Nikon 600mm Lens

There are a number of Nikon zooms such as the 80-400, 55-300 and 70-300 that reach out to 300mm or more, but these are smaller lenses with variable apertures that lack the bulk and weight of the fast telephotos and thus are potential candidates for hand holding should the situation require. Once you factor in the V1 or J1 2.7x crop factor, suddenly that 80-400mm is providing you with a focal range of 216 to 1080mm in 35mm equivalents - well outside the 27 to almost 300mm focal range available with the system lenses. We'll discuss additional considerations when shooting with these long effective focal lengths in the performance section of the review.

While Nikon lists 65 current lenses that are compatible with the FT-1, the Nikon F-mount has been in use since 1959 with some variations on the basic specification, and there are way more than 65 Nikon lenses that can be used on a J1 or V1. For example, I have 24, 50, 85, and 105mm Nikkor AI and AI-S lenses dating back to the mid-1970s that I used on my film bodies. These lenses are not autofocus but they mount on the FT-1 and can be used in manual or aperture priority mode. While they are solidly built and heavier than the system lenses, they are also compact and quite comfortable use on the V1. They also have the advantage of being fast: the 50 is an f/1.4, the 85 is an f/2, the 105 is an f/2.5 and the 24 is an f/2.8.

On a J1/V1 the 2.7x crop factor provides focal lengths from about 65 to a bit over 280 mm while retaining those fast maximum apertures. If you were to point out that the existing Nikon 1 system lenses cover that same focal range you'd be entirely correct; the difference is the system lenses are all slower, with maximum apertures varying from f/2.8 for the 10mm prime to f/3.5 and f/3.8 for the zooms at wide-angle. Take the system zoom lenses out to their full telephoto setting and maximum aperture drops to f/5.6. Contrast this with that 50mm legacy lens shooting at 135mm focal length with an f/1.4 maximum aperture that is four stops faster, and it's clear that the old glass still has something to offer photographers who don't mind focusing the old-fashioned way. The old lenses are not stabilized like the system zoom lenses or many of the 65 lenses Nikon lists as compatible with the J1/V1, and the ability to stabilize takes back some of the speed advantage enjoyed by the faster older glass. But if you're shooting in low light and have the camera mounted on a tripod the legacy lenses will still do a good job. Here's a look at the V1 with the 85/2 on board, along with the 24, 50 and 105mm manual focus Nikkors.

Nikon 1 V1

Controls on the V1 are identical with the exception of the flash found on the J1, which pops up on the left top portion of the camera body and is accompanied by a manual deployment switch on the left top rear of the body. With no built-in flash, the V1 locates a hot shoe/multi-accessory port on the left top of the camera body, concealed beneath a plastic cover which will detach itself without asking permission at the earliest possible moment. A spot of gaffer's tape to keep this cover in place when not using the hot shoe is a prudent installation.

In addition to the covered hot shoe, the top of the V1 body holds the on/off, shutter and movie capture buttons. The back of the camera is dominated by the viewfinder and LCD monitor, with the balance of external controls arrayed vertically along the right rear: feature button, playback zoom/thumbnail control, mode dial, display, menu, playback and delete buttons along with a multi selector incorporating autofocus, self-timer, exposure compensation, and autofocus/auto exposure lock features.

Menus and Modes
While the V1 may be targeting a more advanced user, the ammunition being provided is relegated primarily to the viewfinder, higher resolution monitor and greater battery capacity - menus are identical to the J1, and while largely intuitive also require the user to resort to them change virtually every camera shooting setting, with the exception of exposure compensation, focus mode and the self-timer, which may be accessed externally via the multi selector.
Shooting modes are identical so I'll just transcribe this section from the J1 review:

Display/Viewfinder
While the J1 and V1 share identical 3.0 inch diagonal LCD monitors, the V1 resolution of 921,000 dots is twice that of the J1. Our J1 review unit produced a peak brightness of 447 nits and a contrast ratio of 843:1, a bit below the 500 nit threshold for brightness but well above the 500:1 contrast ratio values that are considered the starting points of better performing outdoor monitors. Our personal V1 units being used for this review did not undergo the same studio evaluation, but in the past it has been my experience that evaluating cameras with similar sized monitors but different resolutions tends to favor the larger resolution monitors in outdoor conditions. In practice, the V1 seemed at least as good as the J1, and perhaps a bit better, but the right set of outdoor conditions can make using any monitor a chore. Area of coverage of the V1 monitor is 100%, same as the J1.

Where the V1 leaves the J1 in the dust is the viewfinder - and not simply because it has a viewfinder while the J1 has none. The V1 viewfinder is large, bright and offers virtually 100% coverage - what you see through the viewfinder is what you capture on the sensor, and seeing well through the viewfinder is simply a matter of adjusting its performance to suit your eye via the diopter. Viewfinder composition is 1,440,000 dots.

The default setting for the V1 has the monitor activated, but when the viewfinder is raised to your eye the monitor is disabled and the viewfinder is activated, with the process being reversed when the camera moves away from your eye. However, if you carry the camera around your neck via the supplied strap, the viewfinder is apt to view the proximity to your body as being your eye and keep the viewfinder powered up. I tended to disable the monitor and carry the V1 in a vertical position when shooting in order to conserve battery life.

Performance

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).

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PHOTOGRAPH THE SUN WITHOUT ASTRONOMY GRADE FILTRATION ON YOUR LENS TO BLOCK VIRTUALLY ALL LIGHT AND HEAT FROM ENTERING THE CAMERA. THE SUN WAS PHOTOGRAPHED USING A THOUSAND OAKS OPTICAL SOLAR FILTER THAT BLOCKED 99.999% OF THE SUN'S LIGHT - THIS TYPE OF FILTER IS DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY TO PERMIT VISUAL OBSERVATION OF THE SUN THROUGH A TELESCOPE.

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

Conclusion

The J1 and V1 share much of the same hardware for still image and video production, along with menus, shooting modes and almost every other quantifiable feature. Both produce good still and video image quality, with decent high ISO noise performance considering the diminutive sensor size. Shutter lag and autofocus acquisition times are good and the cameras can shoot in JPEG or NEF (RAW) format. Combined with Nikon 1 lenses the cameras are relatively compact and light. For users intending to mount only the Nikon 1 lenses either camera will serve admirably and, in terms of output, equally well. Menus on either camera make changing camera shooting settings somewhat tedious for folks who like to shift settings on-the-fly.

Both the J1 and V1 can accept the FT-1 F-mount adapter that permits the cameras to utilize a wide variety of Nikon F-mount lenses including 65 current models along with older legacy glass. While both cameras can accept the FT-1 the V1 makes the best possible use of these additional lens options by virtue of its viewfinder. Hand holding shorter lenses steadily is more viable with the V1 and the viewfinder offers prospects for easier composition and capture when bright outdoor days make monitors hard to use. If you're considering a Nikon 1 as a force multiplier for your existing cache of lenses over and above that afforded by your DSLR, the V1 is the way to go.

When I reviewed the J1 back in October it proved to be a nice little camera with a crop factor that was interesting based on the existence of two long telephotos in my lens arsenal. With the approach of the annular eclipse that crop factor proved to be decisive and two of the V1s have come to live with us in anticipation of the May event (not to mention a return to Alaska where a V1 would've made those Dall rams on that hillside 1000 yards away a lot closer than the D300 did).


But while we're practicing with the big lenses, the smaller glass is proving the V1 to be a pretty good little everyday walking around camera, and what we once envisioned as a fairly singular purpose instrument is already getting a broader range of work than we originally intended. Hang around a Nikon 1 too much and it may start to grow on you too.

Pros:

Cons: