Nikon has just announced the Nikon 1 Camera System with two brand new mirrorless cameras: Nikon V1 and Nikon J1. While talks about a new mirrorless system from Nikon have been all over the Internet for quite some time now, the mirrorless camera system is now a reality. The camera system specs and image samples from the J1 are impressive, but is it revolutionary as Nikon claims it to be? I don’t think so. In fact, if the product line is not managed well, I believe it can actually hurt the company in the long run.
Why do I believe that? Because it is another product line that Nikon will be spending R&D time + money on creating lenses and accessories for, which might eat away resources from R&D for DSLR cameras and lenses. If this happens, it might hurt photo pros and enthusiasts that heavily invested in Nikon’s DSLR line of products.
Given the growth of smaller advanced cameras in markets like Japan, Nikon sees a huge potential for growth in the mirrorless segment. With new mirrorless product lines from Sony, Fuji, Pentax and others, the biggest question is around sensor and mount sizes – how big should the sensor be and how bulky is the camera going to get when a lens is mounted? Sony took a unique approach when it announced its NEX mirrorless product line – it is using an APS-C size sensor (which is 23.5×15.6mm, about the same size as DSLRs like Nikon D7000) with a mount that allows using regular DSLR lenses through a converter. This is very appealing to current DSLR owners that want to have a more compact camera. So Sony has essentially produced a very compact camera with DSLR features. Nikon, on the other hand, took a very different approach – they are using a much smaller 13.2×8.8mm CMOS sensor manufactured by Nikon specifically for the Nikon 1 Camera System. The sensor difference between Nikon 1 Camera System and Sony NEX is huge and as you may already know, smaller size equals larger depth of field and potentially worse image quality (if pixel density is higher and pixels are smaller). The difference in sensor size allows Sony to cram 24 megapixels into their larger sensor on the NEX-7, while Nikon is currently stuck at 10 megapixels. Sure, pixel size is not important for most people. But it is for those of us that want to print large. It does not hurt to have more pixels.
All this puts the new Nikon 1 Camera System above its current point and shoot market and below the DSLR market. Why couldn’t Nikon just add a new point and shoot line instead of making a whole new line of cameras? Because it wanted a new compact camera with interchangeable lenses. And it did not want to allow reusing the bulky Nikkor line of lenses because it would defeat the purpose of having a compact camera.
What do you think about the new Nikon 1 Camera System? Do you see a good future for this camera? Are you going to get one?