1st Impressions: The Nikon 1 V1 Camera – A Street Camera Contender

IPA Craft & Tools, Reviews 17 Comments

Pricing Update – 19th October 2011

The Nikon 1 cameras hit the shelves tomorrow (Thursday 20th October) in Singapore. The recommended retail prices in Singapore Dollars are as follows, the prices varies according to the different lens packages.

Nikon 1 V1 w/:

  • 10-30mm + 30-110mm : $1,549
  • 10-30mm + 10mm: $1,499
  • 10mm: $1,369
  • 10-30mm: $1,299

Nikon 1 J1 w/:

  • 10-30mm + 30-110mm : $1,249
  • 10-30mm + 10mm : $1,199
  • 10mm: $1,069
  • 10-30mm: $999

Nikon have finally entered the mirror-less camera market, although their reps may prefer ‘created a new camera category’, with their new Nikon 1 interchangeable lens camera system. Nikon 1 launches with the J1 and V1 cameras, and sports a new mount with a ‘CX’ 2.7 crop format. The J1 and V1 cameras have  10.1MP CMOS sensors.

Black Nikon 1 V1 camera with Nikkor 10mm F/2.8 pancake lens

White Nikon 1 V1 camera with zoom lens

Nikon 1 J1 camera

While the masses may be more interested in the J1 ‘LCD’ camera, we were more interested in the higher spec V1 with a built-in electronic viewfinder. During the Nikon press conference in Singapore earlier today, we had the opportunity to fiddle with a demo Nikon 1 V1 unit and here are our brief first impressions:

1) The Nikon 1 V1 has a brilliant electronic viewfinder. At 1.44M dot resolution with 100% frame coverage, the v1’s evf seems even better than the Panasonic GH2’s which we felt was one of the best out there. Once again, excellent EVF!

2) Autofocus on the Nikon V1 is very, very fast, and possibly one of it’s key selling points! Not surprising, since superior autofocus technology is Nikon’s calling card in their  DSLR system. Nikon claims the Nikon 1 system has ‘the world’s fastest AF’ with its hybrid (phase detection/contrast detect AF) autofocus. At this point, we wouldn’t argue.

Nikon 1 V1 camera + Nikkor 10mm F/2.8 pancake VS Ricoh GXR + A12 28mm lens

Nikon 1's new CX Format Mount

Nikon 1 V1 with zoom lens

3) The Nikon V1 feels good in the hands. Good weight and size, although some might feel the need for better grip. The finish on the black model was very nice, we didn’t care much for the white ipod one. The camera interface and menus felt very responsive too. A solid experience overall.

4) The few images we captured showed decent quality. Images at ISO 3200 were clean, but the small sensor from which they were captured was evident upon closer inspection.

5) The V1 sports a minimal, curvy body design (reminds us of the Samsung NX series, but sleeker and better designed). While this looks great, the lack of more control dials and buttons on the body exterior might prove a little frustrating for some. Most settings have to be changed by digging into the menus. In manual mode, changing the aperture is done via the top toggle switch, while changing the shutter is done via the selector dial located much lower on the camera body – this is not intuitive at all when you’re shooting with your eye on the electronic viewfinder. The V1 could have benefited from an extra front dial for better handling. We’re on the fence about the toggle switch. Custom dial/button function is missing too it seems.

FT1 (F mount) adaptor

6) There is a FT1 (F Mount Adaptor) available that will allow the mounting and autofocus of Nikon’s DSLR AFS lenses on the Nikon 1 cameras. This may turn existing Nikon DSLR shooters on, or bird- watchers with the 2.7 crop, but using these DSLR lenses on such a small sensor seems a little of an overkill.

7) While we didn’t get to test the video/motion pictures capabilities, they are without doubt one of the key selling points Nikon is pushing. The J1 and V1 boast some impressive burst modes with ‘smart’ features e.g. shoot 20 frames in a burst, the camera picks the best frame based on composition and exposure (Yes, the cameras come with a built-in Photo Editor). The other notable feature is super slow motion video capture (400f/s) at a decent 640×480 resolution.

The Nikon 1 system appears to be the 1st product in Nikon’s so-called ‘hybrid’ imaging cameras ie. still/motion (video)… which likely explains their choice in focusing more on AF speed/burst mode/video performance over sensor size.

8) The V1 shutter feels good and responsive. You can also switch between a mechanical or electronic shutter – mechanical for better still photos, electronic for high speed bursts and video.

However, if you can live with the small sensor and 10.1MP image quality, the Nikon 1 V1 certainly feels like a strong contender for a compelling Street Photography Camera. Why? The Nikkor 10mm F/2.8 lens is the first pancake lense available for the v1. Coupled together, they could make for a very compact, solid and tactile 28mm, deep focus street camera with a very impressive built-in electronic viewfinder to boot.

Some sample images (Nikon 1 V1 with the Nikkor 10mm F/2.8 pancake lens)

ISO: 100 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 400 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 320 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 400 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 220 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 220 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 3200 Aperture: F/10 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 400 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 200 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

ISO: 400 Aperture: F/2.8 (Nikon 1 V1 + 10mm F/2.8)

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Comments 17

  1. thanks for the article IPA…
    it may be something out of the usual box from nikon…
    but as a nikon user, I’m more interested to see a sensor+memorycard concept that I can attached to my nikon fm2 instead… :-)

  2. I have been a Nikon user for 30 years who has always been disappointed with their effort in the prosumer and consumer P&S creation.

    It looks like my 30-years disappointment continues with the Nikon 1 series. I could only conclude that their effort is less than half-hearted with a message for its diehard Nikon users to stick with its most profitable DX dSLR range or other maker’s APS-C P&S cameras which could use their vast base of Nikkor “F” mount lenses at a reasonable 1.5x to 2x crop factor.

    My disappointment is caused by my unrealistic expectation that Nikon should have at least use the APS-C 1.5x crop factor sensor to compete in this mirrorless segment, alas, it is not to be.

    With the launch of the small 2.7x crop sensor Nikon 1 series, It seems that Nikon is really targeting :
    (1) Nikon’s own diehard customer segment whom are waiting for Nikon to enter the mirrorless segment not yet went for other manufacturers’ P&S camera ; and
    (2) Other people’s customers, whom wishes to have brand “Nikon” on their camera.

    In short, there is nothing in the Nikon 1 for existing Nikon users.

  3. Thanks for the review and a great site.

    I’m thinking Nikon just laid a whole clutch of eggs here. After waiting too long to enter a market segment pioneered by Olympus, Panasonic and Sony, Nikon debuts cameras with laughably small sensors 1/2 the size of current M 4/3s cameras and 1/3 the size of APS-C camera sensors. Small size usually means poor high-ISO performance–something familiar to any digital p&s shooter.

    Sony’s new NEX models sport APS-C sensors–the same size used in most DSLRs–and Olympus continues to improve their popular M 4/3 PEN line.

    Ironically, the Nikon faithful will have to buy a separate adapter to use any of their older F mount lenses. Many of them will overwhelm these teensy cameras. There’s also the new camera’s wonky crop factor to contend with that makes shooting older lenses even more problematic than on Nikon’s APS-C DSLR bodies. New, pricey lenses won’t help sales much, either. All very reminiscent of Nikon’s ill-fated late 90s APS SLR film cameras and lenses.

    I know Nikon is defensive of its DSLR line but something like the jaw-dropping Sony NEX 7 would have been a game-changer.

    1. Post
      1. Hoping you’re right. The Nikon plant at Natori in Sendai was damaged and employees displaced by the March disasters. Know they’ll get rolling again whenever possible.

  4. The grip issue will open the doors for third party companies to sell a leather / carbon fiber / PVC grip that can be fastened onto the camera through the horseshoe :)

    Of course being the first model out, you can’t expect everything. So good one from Nikon and I’m hoping to see one of these in my bags in the foreseeable future :)

  5. Looks like i am the first one out here. Well to me its a great news – as a Nikon DSLR user looking for a street photography small camera, sticking to one system helps if lens can be used here. I am disappointed to see a camera body with very poor grip and controls. Most serious photographs hate to dig into menus for controls and am wondering why Nikon didnt include that. They probably targetting the much larger consumer market – segment that wishes to upgrade from P&S rather than DSLR owners who want a small but high quality street camera or backup.

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