Till a few years ago, the market was swamped with interchangeable lens cameras of the DSLR type, coming mainly from brands such as Nikon and Canon, who dominated the DSLR segment and continue to do so, not giving much room to other brands to really flourish. So around that time, a new breed of cameras emerged called mirrorless compact cameras. These type of cameras were started by the likes of Olympus and Panasonic. Over the course of the last three years, other brands began making their presence felt in this segment, and these were brands such as Sony and Samsung. The two brands that have dominated the DSLR segment are the only ones that are missing from this segment of cameras. Things continued to be that way till a year ago, and it was then that Nikon announced their range of mirrorless compact cameras from their 1 series. The brand has so far launched the Nikon 1 J1 and a higher end V1. Let us take a look at the latter and see if Nikon can make place for themselves in this segment, too.
With wide zoom lens
Design and Build Quality
Compact system cameras are generally a lot smaller than DSLR cameras, and are hence turning out to be a good option to carry around. Keeping this in mind, these compact system cameras, like the V1 use a mirrorless lens, as opposed to the reflex lens, which helps in reducing the bulk that comes along with DSLR cameras. Nikon has realized that the trend of compact system cameras are beginning to gather steam and have launched the 1 series of interchangeable lens compact cameras.
Nikon has a way of adding a touch of class to their cameras and they haven't gone on to create an exception with this model. The Nikon 1 V1 is available in two colour options – black and white. The option we received in our test centre was of the matte black variety. The brand has not deviated from the styling concept of these cameras and has given this model a retro style design as well. The finish of it is rich and it feels classy and expensive. The body of the camera is made of magnesium alloy, which is similar to that of the J1. There are a very few differences between these two cameras and the most noticeable one is that the higher end model features an Electronic view finder. Hence the hump at the top of the V1, which is not present on the J1.The only other feature found on the face of this camera is an AF assist. The front of the camera has minimalistic design, which is really appealing.
The controls located at the back
The rear of this compact system camera features a 3-inch display with a resolution of approximately 921,000 dots. This is a high resolution display and only a handful of cameras in the market feature it. The back is loaded with different controls and dials and at first sight it may scare off a consumer who is upgrading from a regular point and shoot camera to an option that is more advanced. These buttons, though they may be plenty, are designed in such a way that users can get accustomed to it fairly quickly and they help in the easy handling of the camera. The controls located at the back include a dial, which features four modes, a multi-function scroll wheel, a display, playback, menu, trash and a trigger at the back, which can be used to adjust the various settings as well as zoom in and out of photographs while reviewing.
Buttons that adorn the top of the camera, include a shutter release button, a dedicated video recording button, power switch and an electronic viewfinder. This camera does not feature a flash, but comes with a hotshoe for attaching an external flash, instead. Connectivity options located at the side are covered by a flap that flushes along the body of the camera. These options include a proprietary USB port, a mini HDMI port and a jack for attaching a mic. The battery bay is located at the bottom and this area houses the memory card as well. The sides of the camera feature eyelets, which allow one to attach a strap, so it can be easily carried around. Though it may not appear so from the images, the body of this camera, alone weighs approximately 294g. So after attaching the lens, the weight goes up. One is forced to use both hands to handle the camera as using a single hand becomes difficult, but by no means impossible.
Paired with a Nikkor 1 10-30mm lens
The brand has bundled up two lens in the package – one a 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm lens with a focal range of f/3.5-5.6 and a 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm lens with a focal range of f/3.8-5.6. The lenses are sturdy and the zoom rings on both appear to be of great quality and can withstand the wear and tear of daily usage. These lens are collapsible and overall feel very sturdy.
The Nikon 1 V1 does not deviate from most compact system cameras and the main feature of it is none other than its compact form factor. Having a compact form factor is not the only highlighted feature of this camera from Nikon, though, the brand has introduced a new sensor size, which is the CX format measuring at 13.2 x 8.8mm. This size is in between those found on the Pentax Q series of mirrorless cameras and the Micro Four Thirds system, which are found on interchangeable lens cameras from the likes of Olympus and Panasonic.
Minimalistic design on the front of the camera
Nikon have featured their proprietary CMOS sensor with a pixel count of 10 megapixels. As mentioned before, this is a smaller sensor as compared to Micro Four Thirds system cameras, hence, as with the case of sensor technology, the brand had to fit a lot more pixels in a smaller size. This comparison can be made in reference to smartphone cameras where the brands add a smaller sized sensor with a larger megapixel number and cram a lot of pixels in this. The cramming of a large number of pixels in a smaller sensor usually results in a lot of image noise especially in low light shots. This sensor features phase-detection AF along with fast auto focusing without compromising any loss in image quality. Using this sensor, one can capture still images at a maximum resolution of 3,872 x 2,592. The Nikon 1 series of cameras uses a hybrid autofocus system, which combines phase detection and contrast measurement. This helps in speeding up the auto focus function.
The interface of the camera is easy to use, but there is a slight learning curve attached to it. A person who is stepping up from a standard compact camera would need to play around with it a bit, before they get properly acquainted with the user interface. Unlike the J1, the V1 features an electronic viewfinder with a 1.44 million dot high-resolution. This EVF features a 100 percent frame coverage, as opposed to most EVFs found on camera, which provide a slightly less coverage. Since there are no options for selecting the various modes, such as Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual, all settings need to be accessed through the menu options. This is a bit of a time consuming process. For amateur photographers looking to use the camera as a means of casual photography without the need to tweak images, the Auto mode can come in handy. After playing around with the camera for some time, they can then easily get familiar with the other modes found on this compact system camera.
The lens family of the Nikon 1 V1
When it comes to video capture, the V1 records videos at a full high definition resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 60i, 1,920 x 1,080 at 30 fps or HD at 1,280 x 720 at 60fps. The camera can also record content in slow motion. However, videos are recorded at a resolution of 640 x 240 at 400fps. A really neat feature added to the camera is motion snapshot; in this mode, one can click a picture and while reviewing the picture shot in this mode a tone starts playing and it ends with the best still image of the subject captured.
If one wants to use additional lenses with the camera, then they can purchase the FT1 mount adapter and use NIKKOR F mount lenses. This broadens the amount of lens options available for the Nikon 1 V1.
The performance of the Nikon 1 V1 was tested on a number of factors. To start off, the handling of the camera is easy because it is generally light in weight, as compared to DSLR cameras. However, in respect to compact point and shoot options, it is a lot heavier. One would need to attach the carrying strap as an extra means of convenience while shooting. Using a single hand to capture images is possible, but shooting with both hands becomes a lot easier as one can preview the image on the LCD display before capturing as well as adjust settings while previewing.
Outdoor sample shot
During outdoor photography, we observed that all the colours appeared natural. There was hardly any colour fringing visible, even when photos were clicked, while facing the afternoon sun. There was a lot of detail visible in each and every capture and overall picture quality was good. Macro photography outdoors provided sufficient depth of field and the subject that was in focus was crisp. In indoor photographs, we observed that the sensor does well to take in light and hence renders the images really well. There was not much grain visible in indoor shots and the quality, though not as great as DSLR cameras, is really good.
ISO sensitivity test
ISO Sensitivity Test
We tested the Nikon 1 V1 using the stock lens, which is the Nikkor 1 10-30mm. The camera handles noise really well at a low ISO of 100 and not much noise is present up to ISO 800. ISO 1600 had a significant amount of noise in comparison. The sensor does well in reducing the noise levels from ISO 100 to ISO 400.
Aperture priority test
In the aperture priority test, we observed that at F/ 3.8, there was a lot of depth of field. With the exposure decreased, we noticed extremely sharp images.
Zoom test using 10-30mm lens
We used the stock 10-30mm lens, which roughly translates to a 28-80mm with respect to a 35mm equivalent lens. The photographs, which were shot at the zoom set to maximum appeared crisp and detailed. The overall image quality in both shots were good.
The camera is really quick in focussing and it is one of the fastest compact mirrorless cameras we have tested in recent times. The camera captures video in high definition 1080i, along with 1080p at 30fps. While recording videos, we noticed that the video quality was really good and this can be a good option for those who want to try their hand at casual videography. The slow motion video capture is a nice feature and one can use it to take artistic videos. 400 shots are expected from the 1900 mAh battery bundled by Nikon.
The retro designed Nikon 1 V1
The Nikon 1 V1 with a 10-30mm lens is available in the market at a price of Rs.42,600. This camera was launched last year, across the world and it has only made its way to India, just recently. Many brands are recognizing India as a strong market for the compact system camera segment. With the case of this camera, it is built really well and looks good, too. It has various features that put it in a category by itself. With a sensor size smaller than Micro Four Thirds, the camera offers image quality that can be put on par with those that feature the slightly bigger sensors. The overall performance of this camera is really good and those looking to purchase it will not be disappointed. However, it is on the pricier side of mirrorless cameras, if one does not mind losing the electronic viewfinder and sacrificing on a handful of other features, then the other camera from the Nikon 1 series, which is the J1 is always an option.
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