While the J2 is supposed to be an update to the J1, Nikon changed very little in the camera as can be seen from the comparison below. The sensor size, AF system, camera design (for the most part) and size stayed the same. Nikon made some minor upgrades to the LCD, changed the front plate from aluminum to magnesium alloy for extra durability, added more funky colors and reduced the price of the kit to $549, which is $100 below what the J1 launched at. Looks like the J2 is what the J1 should have been when Nikon introduced it to the market. Let’s take a look at it a bit closer…
1) Nikon 1 J2 Specifications
- 10.1 Megapixel CX-format (2.7x crop factor) CMOS Image Sensor
- 13.2mm x 8.8mm sensor size
- Nikon 1 Lens Mount
- Compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards
- 3:2 aspect ratio for still images
- 12-bit compressed RAW image support
- Full 1080p HD Cinematic Video at 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p video resolutions (16:9 aspect ratio)
- Slow-motion Video at 400fps / 640×240 resolution and 1200fps / 320×120 resolution
- Hybrid phase detection / contrast-detect Autofocus with up to 135 focus points and an AF-assist illuminator
- Subject and face tracking
- ISO sensitivity 100-3200, expandable to ISO 6400 equivalent
- 3-in. LCD monitor with with 921,000 dots
- Built-in HDMI and USB ports
- 5 Automatic Exposure Scene Modes – Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Close-up and Auto
- 5 Shooting Modes – Still Image, Smart Photo Selector, Movie, Movie Slow Motion and Motion Snapshot
- 6 Exposure Modes – Programed Auto (P), Shutter Priority (S), Aperture Priority Auto (A), Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M) and Scene Auto Selector
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, User-Customizable Picture Controls
- Compact and Lightweight Design
- Features Nikon’s new EXPEED 3 image processing engine
- Active D-Lighting for shadow highlight recovery
- Dust-reduction system
- Electronic lens aperture control
- Electronic shutter with up to 1/16,000 sec shutter speed
- Flash Sync Speed 1/60
- Built-in intervalometer
- Up to 5 fps in standard mode, up to 10, 30 or 60 fps in electronic [Hi] mode
- Spot, Center-weighted and Matrix metering modes
- Focus Modes – Auto (AF), Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A), Single-servo AF (AF-S), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Full-time Servo (AF-F), Manual Focus (MF)
- An FT1 adapter (must be purchased separately) allows using certain legacy F Mount Nikkor DSLR lenses on the camera
- Battery Life up to 230 shots per charge
- Dimensions 4.2″ x 2.4″ x 1.2″ / 106mm x 61mm x 29.8mm
- Weight: 8.4oz (238g)
Detailed technical specifications for the Nikon 1 J2 are available on Nikonusa.com.
2) Nikon 1 J1 vs J2
Since very few things changed on the Nikon 1 J2, I will only list the differences.
|Camera Feature||Nikon 1 J1||Nikon 1 J2|
|Creative Mode (Dial)||No||Yes|
|Camera Construction||Aluminum (Front Plate)||Magnesium Alloy (Front Plate)|
|LCD Resolution||460,000 dots||921,000 dots|
|Weight||8.3oz / 234g||8.4oz / 238g|
|Available in Colors||White, Black, Red, Silver||White, Black, Red, Silver, Pink, Orange|
The above differences are self-explanatory, except perhaps for item #1 – Creative Mode (Dial). Nikon added another option to the main dial on the back of the camera called “Creative Mode”, which allows choosing between a number of different shooting modes like Panorama, Selective Color, Miniature, Soft, Night Landscape, Backlighting and Night Portraits. Nikon also released an underwater case that is specifically designed to accommodate both the Nikon 1 J1 and J2 cameras with the 10-30mm lens.
3) The Mirrorless Market and the CX Sensor
I analysed the mirrorless market, why Nikon released the 1 series cameras and what the CX sensor is all about in my Nikon 1 V1 review. I won’t be repeating the same thing in this review, so I highly recommend that you check it out.
4) Camera construction and handling
The Nikon 1 cameras are built to be incredibly small and lightweight. The Nikon 1 J2 is only 106x61x29.8mm in size – even the smallest Nikon D3100 DSLR is much bulkier and thicker than this camera, measuring 124x97x74mm. Weight-wise, the J2 is only 4 grams heavier than the J1 and about 60 grams lighter than the V1, while the same D3100 DSLR weighs 455 grams. Here is a side by side comparison image between the two:
This is how the smallest Nikon DSLR fares against the J2. Any other Nikon DSLR, especially something like D800 looks and feels just massive in comparison. When compared to the mirrorless competition, the J2 is pretty comparable in size and weight (aside from the Sony NEX series camera bodies that are more compact and offer richer specs + less weight). The battery used by the J2 is compact and lightweight and offers a decent battery life of 230 shots. Nikon kept the same battery type on the J2 as on the J1 and will also probably use it in future versions of the camera.
When it comes to camera build and construction, the Nikon J2 is built quite well. The camera body is mostly made from metal (front cover, mount and mode dial) and plastic (camera rear, battery door and pop-up flash), with a nice paint finish. Speaking of paint, as noted above, the J2 is now available in two more colors – Pink and Orange. The camera is not weather sealed and has no dust protection like some of the advanced DSLR cameras. As for handling, Nikon engineers did a poor job with the design – the camera lacks a grip and could easily slip out of your hand if you do not hold it tightly. Nikon should have added at least the same vertical “bump” from the V1 on the front of the J1/J2. The deeply recessed grip on the NEX-5n and other NEX-series cameras feels much better in comparison.
Just like the J1, the J2 also lacks an electronic viewfinder. Coming from the DSLR world, I really dislike composing images by looking at the back of the camera. Unfortunately, there is no option for adding a viewfinder to the J2, which puts it at a disadvantage when compared to the competition from Sony and Olympus. This alone makes the J2 look more like a point and shoot rather than a serious interchangeable camera for me (especially after handling the V1). So if you are considering buying one of these to complement your DSLR, keep this in mind.
As for the button placement and camera layout, Nikon has done a good job overall (for a basic camera), although I do have a couple of complaints. Let’s start from the back of the camera. Most of the back buttons are where they should be and access to the important camera functions is provided with a very minimum number of extra and unnecessary buttons, which is good. Once I got used to the controls, operating the camera was easy. The function (F) button on the top of the camera does not get used as much, so it does not bother me. The up/down switch right next to it is very clever – it is used for zooming in/out during playback, changing aperture/shutter speed in various modes and for manual focus. My main complaint is on the rotary camera mode dial that I keep accidentally switching while using the camera. I wish there was some sort of a lock on this selector or some other way to switch between different camera modes without the need for this switch. On multiple occasions I found myself in a wrong mode, which was annoying. The popup flash can be opened by moving the slider that is located on the top left side of the camera back. It feels cheap and plasticky. It is OK for close distance shots and can be occasionally useful as fill-flash, but I would not count on it for anything serious. I personally did not bother using it at all, although some people might find it useful for some situations. I really wish Nikon added a standard hot shoe socket on its Nikon 1 cameras, rather than not having it at all (J1/J2) or having a proprietary mount (V1/V2) that requires Nikon speedlights. The new Sony NEX-6, Canon EOS-M and all Olympus mirrorless cameras have a standard hot shoe, which works great for using speedlights, PocketWizard units and other standard accessories.
Just like the Nikon 1 V1 (and unlike the new V2), this camera lacks a PASM exposure selector, so you will have to dig in the menu to change the camera mode, WB, ISO, etc. Newbies and those coming from the point and shoot world will rarely use it anyway, so it might not be a big deal for most people out there. What about the LCD? Nikon fixed its prior mistake on the J2, which now comes with a beautiful 3″ LCD screen with 921,000 dots.
5) 1 NIKKOR Lenses
For all CX lens line-up, Nikon is using a “1 NIKKOR” name, so the 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens is officially called “1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8″. I have already reviewed the majority of the 1 Nikkor lenses (see the links below), but more lenses have been released since I did it last year. I am planning to review the rest of the lenses after I am done reviewing the Nikon 1 V2, which will be in the second part of the “Battle of the Mirrorless” series. Here is the current 1 Nikkor lens line-up (as of 12/15/2012):
- 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8
- 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
- 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6
- 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM
- 1 NIKKOR 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6
- 1 NIKKOR 18.5mm f/1.8
In general, the above 1 NIKKOR lenses have very good performance characteristics with great sharpness and colors, something I expected from Nikkor optics. The CX mount has been completely redesigned with more lens contacts, allowing lenses to exchange more data with the camera. For example, both the 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm and the 1 NIKKOR 30-110mm collapsible lenses automatically turn on the camera when the zoom ring is rotated to the zoom range position. The manual focus ring has been eliminated from all CX lenses. Nikon’s implementation of manual focus is rather poor, as discussed further down in the review.
With the sensor crop factor of 2.7x, you have to multiply the focal length of each lens by 2.7 to get an equivalent field of view of a full-frame camera. For example, the 10-30mm lens is equivalent to a 27-81mm lens, while the 10mm pancake is equivalent to a 27mm lens.
Unlike Sony and some other manufacturers, Nikon stays away from image stabilized camera bodies and prefers to integrate it into lenses instead, which has its advantages (as discussed in my camera vs lens stabilization article). The Nikon 1 system is no exception here, so image stabilization (which Nikon calls “VR” or “Vibration Reduction”) is again done on lenses. VR can be switched from Normal to Active to Off from the camera menu, unlike the rest of the DSLR VR-enabled Nikon lenses that have a VR on/off switch on the lens. Nikon initially had a problem with VR on 1 NIKKOR lenses, which would result in occasional blurry images with VR turned on. This issue was corrected through firmware updates last year and all new lenses are now shipping with the corrected firmware. The 1 NIKKOR lenses, by the way, are the first Nikon lenses with upgradeable firmware.
If you already own Nikon F mount DSLR lenses, you can use them on the J2 with a special FT1 mount adapter (must be purchased separately). The adapter is attached to the Nikon 1 J2 and the F Mount Nikkor lens is then attached to the adapter. The FT1 will add an angle of view of 2.7 times that of the F Mount Nikkor lens’ focal length. For example, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G will have an effective field of view of a 135mm lens.
As you can see from the above list, Nikon has been releasing a bunch of zoom lenses for the CX mount, with the exception of the 10mm f/2.8 and 18.5mm f/1.8 lenses. The former is a pretty good pancake lens (although I wish it was an f/2 or faster lens), while the latter is a portrait lens that was released recently together with the Nikon 1 V2. Nikon has been doing everything to please the beginners with zoom lenses, but it clearly needs more fast primes for the enthusiast crowd. The 18mm f/1.8 is a step in the right direction, so I hope we will see more f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses soon. That’s where the Olympus/Panasonic alliance clearly stands out, with excellent lens choices for every need. It will take years for Nikon and other new mirrorless players to get a mature lens lineup.
6) The EXPEED 3 Image Processor
The Nikon 1 J2 features a dual-core EXPEED 3 image processor, the same processor used on the J1 and V1 cameras. The processor can handle a lot more throughput than the previous EXPEED 2 processor, which translates to faster frames per second, faster in-camera image processing, faster video and allows for extra features such as Slow Motion video, Smart Photo Selector and Motion Snapshot (discussed in more detail below). Nikon 1 J2 is amazingly fast at capturing images and video. When used in Electornic Shutter (HI) mode, it is capable of capturing 10 fps while tracking a subject and up to 60 fps in full resolution without subject tracking, which is pretty impressive.
7) Camera Menu, Features and Responsiveness
As always, I never touch manuals when testing cameras, so the J2 manual sat in the box from the day I took the camera out, to the day I packed it back in. The goal is to see how easy it is to operate these cameras for a person that is not familiar with them. The Nikon 1 J2 menu is very intuitive and easy to use, especially if you previously handled a Nikon camera. Depending on which mode you are in, the camera will only display what you should be seeing and switching between playback, mode menu and setup is super easy with the rotating dial on the bottom right side of the camera. It is a very lightweight menu system that is designed to be easy to navigate and understand.
On the other hand, the simplistic menu approach of the J2 is missing some serious functions that should be there. For example, image review after a photo is taken cannot be turned off. So if you find yourself in a situation where you want to prolong the battery life of the camera by turning off image preview, you will not be able to do it. In-camera editing options are also very limited to cropping and resizing, which is surprising, since JPEG shooters would probably find those features useful. No HDR options that Nikon has been bundling on the latest DSLRs. Exposure bracketing is also missing, but that’s understandable, since Nikon does not provide bracketing features on its entry-level DSLRs either. By contrast, the Sony NEX series cameras have all of these integrated in its firmware, including in-camera panorama and 3D image processing (and much more).
A welcome feature is a built-in intervalometer for time lapse photography (called “Interval Time Shooting” in the menu). Sony DSLRs and NEX cameras are notoriously bad for time lapse photography, because they miss an intervalometer and the only option is to buy an accessory to shoot images in sequences. You can put the Nikon 1 J2 on a tripod, set camera parameters, set the interval and the total number of shots (up to 999 shots allowed) and start the sequence. Just remember to set the exposure and white balance manually when shooting in JPEG format.
The great Auto ISO feature we normally see on Nikon DSLRs is replaced by a much more simplified Auto ISO capability. There are three pre-defined Auto ISO modes to choose from – A3200 Auto (100-3200), A800 Auto (100-800) and A400 Auto (100-400). Neither of these options allow setting a minimum shutter speed, which is a huge drawback. There is no way to tell when camera decides to use which ISO and having no control over this threshold is very unfortunate.
The Smart Photo Selector and the Motion Snapshot modes (on the exposure mode dial) are interesting innovations, but not very useful/practical, in my opinion. The Smart Photo Selector works by firing 20 images in electronic shutter mode before and after the shutter button is pressed (starts when the shutter-button is half-pressed). It then analyzes these twenty images and picks the best 4-5 images automatically for you based on a number of factors, including image blur. To be honest, I am not sold on this feature – why would I want my camera to choose an image for me? I would rather do that myself. Sometimes even blurry images can be keepers. If a situation is critically important, I would rather set the camera to 60 fps and spray and pray. As for the Motion Snapshot feature, it feels to be incomplete. The sound effects are limited to a few boring ones and worst of all, the movie files that are produced do not have these sounds embedded into them. You have to use a special Short Movie Creator software to convert it to what you would see on the camera. The movie is saved in MOV format, while the snapshot is saved in JPEG format, separate files. Motion snapshot is too short as well – the 60 fps capture rate is played back in slow motion at 24 FPS or 2.5 seconds total.
8) Autofocus / Manual Focus Performance and Metering
The Nikon 1 J2 comes with the same “hybrid” autofocus system as the J1, V1 and V2 cameras – a combination of phase and contrast detect autofocus. As I have previously mentioned in my other Nikon 1 system reviews, this hybrid AF system is superb for photographing moving subjects. And that’s with an impressive 135 focus points! In AF-S (single servo) mode, the camera uses contrast-detect AF and you can use any of the 135 focus points to acquire focus. Surprisingly, the AF performance in AF-S mode is very good, not the sluggish contrast detect we get in Live View modes of current DSLRs. The moment you switch to AF-C (continuous servo) mode, the camera changes to the hybrid AF mode with 73 focus points and does an excellent job at tracking movement in daylight conditions. In indoor environments with less light, the camera automatically switches to contrast detect and AF slows down significantly.
I have taken a number of images with the J2 and I have yet to find an image that is out of focus. Yes, it does have to do with a larger depth of field due to the smaller sensor on the camera, but I have had a lot of blurry images on point and shoot cameras with even smaller sensors before and the J2 is a world better than any of them. In very difficult low-light, low-contrast situations, the camera will struggle with focus acquisition and you will see the focus point flash in red when that happens. Switching to AF-A or AF-S mode activates the green AF-assist lamp, which helps a great deal in acquiring focus on close subjects.
In short, Nikon’s implementation of hybrid autofocus rocks. I very much hope that this technology will make its way to Live View / Video Modes on future DSLRs, since the current contrast-detect-only mode is too slow. This new AF engine is probably the biggest advantage of the Nikon 1 system over its competitors.
On the flip side, since the manual focus ring has been completely eliminated from all 1 NIKKOR lenses, manual focus has to be performed through the camera, which is cumbersome and imprecise. You first have to switch to MF through the camera menu, then you have to hit the middle “OK” button to start manual focus operation. The up/down switch on the top back of the camera is used for zooming in and out, while the rotary dial is used to move the zoom area when pressed and change focus when rotated. Zooming in greatly decreases the clarity and resolution, which makes it difficult to obtain precise focus – the same “Live View Interpolation” problem Nikon D90 and D800 DSLRs have. Unfortunately, this manual focus implementation is the same on all Nikon 1 cameras.
9) Movie Recording
Like all other Nikon 1 cameras, the J2 has some impressive movie recording capabilities. Full 1080p HD mode (H.264 compression codec in MOV file format) can be recorded at 30 fps and 1080i at 60 fps, while smaller 720 HD movies can be recorded at 60 fps as well. Unlike some of the entry-level Nikon DSLRs, the J2 is not limited to automatic exposure control for videos, which means that you can fully control the exposure in video mode. Just switch the camera to manual mode through the video recording menu and set your shutter speed and aperture to whatever you want. The camera LCD will reflect these changes and you will see exactly what you are capturing. But the biggest surprise here is the ability to autofocus and track subjects while recording videos, which works really well. Say goodbye to your old camcorder, because the Nikon 1 cameras can easily replace it. Video recording is limited to 20 minutes, which is more than enough for most situations.
One feature I was excited about when I got the camera was slow-motion video recording. The J2 has two slow-motion recording modes – 640×240/400 fps and 320×120/1200 fps, both limited to 5 seconds of action (which translates to roughly 66 total seconds on 400 fps videos, since slow motion is played back at 30 fps). While the resolution is rather low, the 400 fps videos are not bad for posting videos online. The catch with slow motion video is that it requires a lot of available light. In normal indoor environments slow motion videos come out too dark and the video would often flicker. Increasing ISO and decreasing lens aperture definitely helps; you can still fully control the exposure and even use exposure compensation if the scene is too light or too dark. The 320×120 resolution on 1200 fps videos is too small and unusable even for the web in my opinion. Here are a couple of slow-motion videos I shot at 400 FPS with the Nikon 1 V1 (the J1/J2/V2 can do the same thing):
VR works great for video recording, but you have to be careful when panning the camera with VR turned on, because it will occasionally bump the camera up or down. This is normal VR behavior and the same thing would happen if you were to pan while taking stills.
Other than this, all videos look great with plenty of sharpness, colors and contrast.
10) Dynamic Range / Active D-Lighting
Smaller sensor typically means less dynamic range and with a relatively small 13.2mm x 8.8mm sensor, the dynamic range of the Nikon 1 J2 is nothing to brag about – it is obviously worse than on 1.5x and M/43 sensors. On the other hand, shadow details on RAW images do not look too bad. As with all digital cameras, increasing camera ISO also decreases dynamic range, so shoot at base ISO of 100 if you want to preserve the most amount of information in your photographs. I did a comparison of dynamic range between the Nikon 1 J2 and other mirrorless cameras earlier this month and I was able to actually measure the range with Imatest. The results confirmed the above statements – the J2 is worse than any other mirrorless camera that I tested. Here is the dynamic range test result for your viewing pleasure:
HDR photographers won’t be happy with this camera either, because it has no built-in HDR mode, and it does not offer any sort of exposure bracketing. Your only option is to set the camera to manual mode, then take images at different shutter speeds.
As for Active D-Lighting, if you shoot RAW and do not use Nikon’s Capture NX2 product, you should just turn it off. For all other cases, leaving Active D-Lighting On works great.
Let’s see how the camera does in ISO performance against other cameras. Choose the next page below.
11) ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Some Technical Info:
- White Balance: Auto, changed to “Custom”: 4500 Temp, +6 Tint in Lightroom
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Tested with 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
- Aperture: f/5.6
- Manual Focus
- Active D-Lighting: Off
- Long exposure NR: Off
- High ISO HR: Off
- Image Format: RAW/NEF
- Imported images into Lightroom and cropped to 100% – no resizing was performed in Photoshop
- No exposure adjustments were performed in Lightroom (besides White Balance)
- Lightroom sharpening: 25, 1.0, 25, 0 (default)
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon 1 J2 performs at low ISOs. Here are some 100% crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
Base ISO 100 looks somewhat clean, similar to DX performance, but ISO 200 already shows some noise.
ISO 400 adds a little more noise and the shadows get a little grainier, but overall it still looks pretty good. ISO 800, on the other hand, seems to be adding larger grain than ISO 400, but image detail is still preserved well.
12) High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
Let’s see what happens when ISO is boosted to much higher levels:
Even larger grains at ISO 1600 and the shadows get noticeably grainier as well. Details still look very good though. ISO 3200, which is still native ISO, is where things get considerably worse. Noise almost doubles and we see loss of details and colors.
When ISO is boosted to 6400, large grains and artifacts show up all over the image.
Overall, the ISO performance of the Nikon 1 J2 camera is impressive for a small CX sensor. Let’s see how it fares against the competition. Select the next page below.
13) Nikon 1 J2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Here is a comparison of both cameras at ISO 200 (Left: Nikon 1 J2, Right: Olympus OM-D E-M5):
At base ISO 200, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 looks cleaner and sharper than the J2, because the image was downsampled from 16 MP to 10 MP to match the print size. Notice that there is a slight difference in ISO between the two sensors – the Nikon 1 J2 image looks a little brighter in comparison (all were shot with the same settings). After I tested all cameras, I came to the conclusion that the Olympus is the one that is little darker in comparison, by about 1/3-2/3 of a stop…
At ISO 400, the Nikon 1 J2 gets more noisy, while the OM-D continues to look great with no visible noise.
As we increase ISO to 800, the noise difference is now even more apparent, especially in the shadows.
14) Nikon 1 J2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
The same trend continues at ISO 1600 – the J2 is still noisier in comparison.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 loses image quality quickly at very high ISO values and you can see it from the above image crops at ISO 3200. While the J2 never catches up, its performance gets closer at higher ISOs.
The same goes for ISO 6400.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 can be boosted all the way to ISO 25600, but I won’t be bothering with those crops, since there is nothing to compare against.
15) Nikon 1 J2 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Summary
As you can see from the above crops, the Nikon 1 J2 looks worse than the Olympus OM-D E-M5 at all ISO values. It starts out noisier at low ISO values and the difference is pretty clear between ISO 200 and 800. However, since the image quality of the OM-D E-M5 quickly drops at high ISO values, the difference between the two cameras gets smaller at ISO 3200 and above. Sensor size and resolution matter, and this comparison is the proof of that. Looking at these results, if Nikon made its mirrorless system with a sensor size similar to the Micro 4/3, it would have looked better at all ISO levels (Nikon’s in-camera noise reduction algorithms are excellent). At about half the size of the Micro 4/3 sensor, Nikon is clearly at a loss here…
16) Nikon 1 J2 vs Sony NEX-5R Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Again, sensor size and resolution win big time here – the J2 looks noisy in comparison to the NEX-5R even at base ISO of 100.
No need to repeat the same words – the NEX-5R looks very clean and practically noise-free at ISO 200 and 400.
At ISO 800, there is a little bit of grain on the NEX-5R, but it still looks very good in comparison to the J2.
17) Nikon 1 J2 vs Sony NEX-5r High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
Again, the much larger and higher resolution sensor of the Sony NEX-5R does make a difference here – it performs very well at high ISOs, even at ISO 6400 when downsampled.
18) Nikon 1 J2 vs Sony NEX-5R Summary
As I have numerously talked about before, the only proper way to look at sensor performance is by down-sampling. While the J2 looks great at pixel level, it certainly disappoints when its competition is down-sampled to the same resolution. The Sony NEX-5R looks exceptionally good when its images are at 10 MP – those extra 6 MP help reduce noise and bring out the sharpness of the image. At the same time, don’t forget that the sensor of the NEX-5R is also over 3 times larger than the one on Nikon 1 J2. A larger size sensor also means larger lenses – and that’s Sony’s biggest weakness. It has a very compact camera body, but much bigger camera lenses (with the exception of the 16mm pancake lens). On the other hand, a large sensor also means two things: shallower depth of field and better dynamic range – two major factors that work in NEX-5R’s favor. Sony has a few other advantages, such as excellent grip / handle, swivel / touchscreen LCD, in-camera editing, HDR, panorama and 3D modes.
As for other Sony NEX cameras, I won’t be providing comparisons to the NEX-6 and NEX-7 in this review, because they belong to a different league. If you would like to see a comparison anyway, check out my Battle of the Mirrorless – Low Light Performance article.
19) Nikon 1 J2 vs Canon EOS M (ISO 100-800)
The new Canon EOS M mirrorless camera has the same APS-C size sensor from the Canon EOS 650D DSLR. Physically, the sensor on the EOS M is twice larger than CX and hence has the same benefit as other cameras when down-sampling images.
As expected, even base ISO on the EOS M looks cleaner in comparison.
The same goes with ISO 200 and 400 – the EOS M is cleaner.
At ISO 800 the Canon EOS M adds a little bit of noise, which looks much cleaner than the noise on the J2.
20) Nikon 1 J2 vs Canon EOS M High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-6400)
No surprises here again – the EOS M looks much better in comparison.
21) Nikon 1 J2 vs Canon EOS M Summary
Having the smallest sensor, the Nikon 1 system is clearly at a loss when comparing the low light performance with other cameras. The Canon EOS M is no exception here – with its much larger APS-C sensor, the Canon EOS M packs many more pixels – 18 MP vs 10 MP. This has its obvious impact when the EOS M image is down-sampled to 10 MP. It looks cleaner, sharper and retains colors better at very high ISO levels, as evidenced from the crops above.
Please keep in mind that the above is a simple comparison of low light performance of both cameras. The Canon EOS M will be discussed in detail in a separate EOS M review.
Again, the above comparison is provided only as a reference, since we are comparing a small-sensor mirrorless camera to a high-end DSLR.
Summary and Image Samples
22) Summary and Image Samples
The Nikon 1 system has an interesting story to tell. When Nikon initially launched its first mirrorless system, it positioned two cameras for different segments – the Nikon 1 J1 for beginners and those who wanted to move up from a point and shoot, and the Nikon 1 V1 for photo enthusiasts and advanced photographers, who would look at the V1 as an everyday camera to complement their heavy DSLRs. Interestingly, the Nikon 1 J1 did relatively well (according to Nikon), especially in Asian markets, where the mirrorless market has grown significantly over the last couple of years. But the Nikon 1 V1 certainly did not sell as expected. I wrote a quick analysis on what went wrong with the Nikon 1 V1 a couple of weeks ago, but in summary, Nikon screwed up with its marketing strategy. It priced the product too high for a sensor that was smaller than most of the competition. A bold move, when there are better and more mature products on the market, with more features, bigger sensors and lower prices. And certainly not a good idea when targeting advanced photographers that know their gear and do their homework before investing in a camera system. As a result, Nikon slashed the price of the V1 from $900 all the way to $300. A necessary step to move a dust-covered product off the shelves. At the end of the day, if more people adopt the Nikon 1 mount, it will open up more opportunities to sell lenses and accessories in the future. So Nikon is desperately trying to gain more market share in the mirrorless market globally – by slashing the prices down at or below cost.
The Nikon 1 J2 is still an overpriced camera. At $550 for a single lens kit, it just makes no sense to buy it. Not when the V1 kit is $299 and not when excellent Micro 4/3 and Sony cameras are priced at $500 and below. In my opinion, the J1/J2 cameras should have been introduced at $299-$399 price range, while the V1 should have been at $499-$599. Then it would have been easier for Nikon to push more of its mirrorless cameras out to the market.
The bad news is that Nikon is still continuing with its bad marketing/pricing strategy and it has not fixed its mistakes (surprise, surprise!). It is funny to see the Nikon 1 J1 still listed at $649.95 on NikonUSA and the J2 listed at $549. As if the J1 is a better camera than the J2. The same with the V1 and V2 – the latter was introduced at $100 less than the V1 and both are still listed at their original “introductory” prices of $899 and $799, respectively. Yes, good lesson learned, the Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras were overpriced. But reducing the price down by $100 is simply not enough to make people buy it.
23) Where to buy and availability
24) More image samples
Many more image samples from the J1 and V1 cameras are available in my Nikon 1 J1 Review and Nikon 1 V1 Review. Both of these cameras have exactly the same sensor as the J2, so the image quality from these cameras is going to be exactly the same.