Nikon 1 V1 Review Review
- Great High ISO performance
- Blazing fast and accurate focus system
- Solid build quality.
- Dual Shutters (mechanical and electronic)
- Cluttered menu system
- Lack of PASM on mode dial
- No auto-focus or exposure correction in high speed shooting mode
Nikon has finally arrived to the mirrorless camera party with its Nikon V1 and J1. Though a tad bit late, one could say Nikon was taking the time to not only develop their own proprietary sensor, but also come up with a hybrid contrast-phase-detect focusing system. However, it seems like they may have overlooked a few key aspects of what a mirrorless camera should be like. Pricing is definitely steep on this one, especially given the lack of some basic features like the lack of access to manual mode through the mode dial on the back. We just can't seem to gather the heart to shell out Rs. 45,450 for a camera that should be in the "DSLR-replacement" camp, but seems to fit better in the "point-and-shoot" segment.
With Olympus, Sony and Panasonic gunning to dominate the nascent mirrorless camera segment, many wondered whether the big wigs (A.K.A Canon and Nikon) would ever venture into the new territory. While Canon has remained mum on the topic, Nikon has come forth and announced the availability of two mirrorless cameras, the Nikon V1 and J1 as part of the Nikon 1 system. According to Nikon, their mirrorless cameras are infused with some never-before-seen tech like the hybrid focus system that utilizes both contrast and phase detection to acquire and lock focus, doing so at blazing fast speeds. Nikon has also blessed their mirrorless cameras with the ability to shoot stills at 60 frames per second, a feature that NO CAMERA, point and shoot or DSLR, currently has. There is a lot of excitement around the Nikon 1 system, especially the V1, which Nikon claims as the superior of the two. We get our eager hands on the big boy and put Nikon’s claims to the test.
Build and Design
The Nikon V1 employs magnesium-alloy as the choice of contraction material, lending it a very solid feel. The camera feels sturdy to hold, yet doesn't feel overtly heavy. The base of the camera is made of high-grade plastic that does not feel flimsy in the slightest.
Nikon has made a couple of calls on the design front that, in our opinion, are rather questionable. For one, the PASM modes are eliminated from the rear dial and moved into the rather cluttered menu. The inability to switch between these modes quickly could be seen as a lost moment that needed to be captured. The other design quirk is the "proprietary" port that replaces what should have been an on-board flash. To add to our woes, the proprietary port is not compatible with any of the existing hot-shoe flashes that are made by Nikon, meaning you're going to have to shell out extra money for the ability to shoot in questionable lighting conditions.
The lack of a manual focusing ring on the Nikon 1 lenses (all four) is a pretty huge design flaw, in our opinion, as it takes away from the DSLR-like feel and puts the Nikon V1 in the point-and-shoot league. The standard hot-shoe gets swapped out for a proprietary port on the side of the viewfinder that can accommodate either a flash (designed specifically for the V1) or an external mic for audio.
The Nikon V1 is decently packed with rather pleasing features. One of the first things you'd notice about the V1 is the gorgeous and generously sized screen at the back, sporting a 921K dot LCD. The V1 also has an electronic viewfinder with a 1440K dot LCD screen that displays all relevant information while shooting. A sensor placed on the left of the eye-cup switches from LCD to viewfinder and back as the camera is raised to eye level or put down. The viewfinder is a great addition as it lends itself to the "traditional shooting experience" quite heavily.
The second impressive addition to the specs of the V1 is the hybrid focusing system that employs both phase and contrast detection methods to acquire and lock focus. The 135 focusing points (in single-point mode) are the most as of yet in any mirrorless camera so far. The focus points are spread decently across the screen so that subjects that may happen to be on the edge of the frame can also be captured with amazing clarity.
A first of its kind, the dual shutter allows the camera to attain the ridiculous shooting speed of 60 frames per second. This can be done by switching to the electronic shutter (Hi) using a dedicated button on the rear of the camera. However, switching to this shutter locks the camera into 'automatic' mode and does not even permit the changing of the ISO. Also, when you shoot that fast, the camera locks the focus and the exposure settings according to the first frame. The icing on the cake (or rather the lack of) is the fact that when the fps is set to 60, the camera could only shoot 30 frames, due to a buffer limitation. Then there is of course the painful wait for the images to be written to the card. The thought behind the fast frame rate is appreciated, but the implementation of it seems, crippled, at best.
Another first-of-its-kind addition to the V1 is the "Motion Snapshot" mode which shoots a small video followed by a still. The two are put together in-camera and the playback of the file has the video play in slow-motion followed by the still image. The idea behind the mode is to 'create a strong emotional response,' but it's more of a gimmick than anything else.
The V1 allows recording of video at full HD resolution (1080p) at 60 and 30 frames per second and at 720p at 60 frames per second. Some might miss the ability to shoot at 24 frames per second or at lower resolutions.
Next page: Nikon 1 V1's performance (ISO comparison and focus test) and verdict...
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