As an owner of a Nikon 1 V2 and a selection of Nikon 1 lenses I’m always looking for ways to extend the use of this compact-sized camera system. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and photograph a waterfall with the Nikon 1 system. When many of us first start out photographing waterfalls we are often disappointed with the images we capture as they have a ‘frozen’ appearance and lack the ‘smooth water’ effect that can add beauty and drama to our photographs. To achieve the ‘smooth water’ effect we need to slow our shutter speed down. This can be accomplished by using the lowest possible ISO setting, stopping our lens down, and by using a neutral density filter.
Nikon has just announced the Nikon 1 V3, an update to the existing Nikon 1 V2 mirrorless camera that was released two years ago. Unlike many of the recent camera introductions which have been relatively small improvements over previous versions, the Nikon 1 V3 is a substantial rework and renewal of the Nikon 1 V2 and frankly, the changes appear to be exciting. First, is a new sensor with more resolution (18.4 MP), better ISO sensitivity (12,800) and a new EXPEED 4A processor to accompany it. Second, there is an improved hybrid autofocus system which incorporates 171 autofocus points (171 points for contrast detection and 105 points for phase detection) for fast and accurate focus acquisition and tracking. For comparison, the V2 uses 135 focus points (135 for contrast and 73 for phase-detect). These alone would be nice improvements, but Nikon went further and improved the frame rate to a WHOPPING 20 fps at full resolution AND full autofocus. To put that into perspective, the new D4s which costs $6500 “only” shoots at the rate of 11 fps. Why stop there? How about a new tilting touch screen monitor with higher resolution than the previous V2? Finally, throw in built-in WiFi and you’ve made not just an incremental upgrade, but a totally new camera.
Let me start off this hands-on review of the Nikon 1 V2 with a reminder that no one camera can do everything that an owner may require. Regardless of the price paid, every piece of equipment comes with compromises. And, so it is with the Nikon 1 V2. I should also state upfront that I shoot more client videos with my Nikon gear than I do still photographs, so this review does contain a reasonable amount of evaluation from a video perspective.
Nikon has just made a very surprising move and released a rugged Nikon 1 mirrorless camera, the AW1. I have not been excited by a Nikon announcement in a long time now as they have, just like Canon and Sony, been releasing products that have barely changed since their last iteration. Not this time. The Nikon 1 AW1 is the first camera in its niche, and I hope it is not going to be the last. Of course, a waterproof interchangeable lens camera makes little sense without appropriately rugged lenses. Therefore, two lenses – a 10mm f/2.8 AW and a 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 AW – have also been announced. A proper new addition, this, and will make Nikon 1 system very tempting for some.
Nikon has just announced a brand new lens for the CX mount – the Nikon 1 32mm f/1.2. While this news might not be interesting for Nikon DSLR, it surely will be to anyone that owns a Nikon 1 camera system. It is the first Nikon 1 lens with an insanely fast aperture of f/1.2, Nano Crystal Coat, Silent Wave Motor and a real manual focus ring. With a focal length of 32mm, this lens is equivalent to an 86mm lens on full-frame, which makes it a really nice portrait lens. In terms of depth of field, because the sensor of the Nikon 1 system is only 1 inch in size, the full frame equivalent would be around f/3.2 – a downside of a small sensor. Still, considering how much technology Nikon put into this lens, it will surely be the sharpest lens in the Nikon 1 line.
We may be a bit late to publish this particular announcement, but it did take some time to comprehend what Nikon has done, or, to be precise, hasn’t done. Along with the USA availability of their D5200 DSLR camera, they have also introduced two new Nikon 1 cameras and lenses. Firstly, there’s the J3, which is a successor to the J2, which was announced less than half a year ago (click here for our review). If, previously, the J-series were thought to be entry-level Nikon 1 offerings, such positioning has changed with the introduction of a lower-end S1 camera. The two lenses are 6.7-13mm F3.5-5.6 VR wide-angle zoom (18-35mm equivalent) and 10-100mm F4-5.6 VR super-zoom (27-270mm equivalent).
Key Specifications and Commentary
Lets start with the recent update to Nikon 1 J-series, the J3.
1) Nikon 1 J3
- 14.2 megapixel CX (1″ sized) CMOS sensor with 4608 x 3072 image size and 2.7x crop factor
- Tough metallic body construction, as with previous Nikon 1 cameras
- Well-received Hybrid AF with both contrast- and phase-detect systems for very fast and accurate focus acquisition and up to 135 focus points
- 3″ 921k dot LCD screen
- Shutter speed range of 30s-1/16000s
- 15 frames per second shooting speed
- 1080p/60 video support with max 1200 frames per second recording at 320×120 resolution for super-slow motion playback
In short, this is a Nikon V2 camera in a J2 body. If previously the J2 was only a minor update to the original J1, this time the newest camera in J-series gains 14.2 megapixel sensor from its bigger brother. As usual, it is very fast in both shooting speeds and autofocus, offering 15 frames per second with continuous AF. The high build quality is also a reassuring factor, no doubt. However, all is not so good when you take a closer look at what Nikon has done with the controls. I am about to rant now.
This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 1 J2 mirrorless camera that came out on August 9, 2012, less than a year after Nikon debuted its mirrorless system with the introduction of the Nikon 1 J1 and V1. Along with the J2, Nikon also released the 1 Nikkor 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5-6 zoom lens, a very compact lens to complement the J1/J2 cameras. In this review, I will go over the features of the camera, talk about its pros and cons and compare it to other mirrorless cameras such as Sony NEX-series, Canon EOS M and Olympus OM-D E-M5. This is the first camera from the “Battle of the Mirrorless” series. The recently evaluated Nikon 1 V2 will be featured in the second part.
As promised, I have performed some additional dynamic range tests on the mirrorless cameras I am testing (Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5) and I have the data ready for your viewing pleasure. As expected, the Sony APS-C sensors performed the best, with the Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 leading the game (although other NEX series are extremely close) followed by the Olympus OM-D EM-5, then Canon EOS M and then finally the Nikon 1 J2. Here is a comparison chart that shows performance of the various mirrorless cameras:
I have spent a considerable amount of time working with 7 different mirrorless cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Olympus. I apologize for not being able to provide periodic updates on these cameras. I have come up with new ways to measure digital camera sensor performance, so it took me a long time to do it in a way that I believe will be more accurate and objective compared to my previous methods. Not only will you be seeing crops of sensor performance in a controlled environment, but I will also provide some numbers to quantify performance in colors and dynamic range. As I have already mentioned before, I will be measuring dynamic range myself going forward without having to rely on other websites for the data. It will be interesting to see how my data compares to other sites like DxOMark. I am not planning to do anything super intensive and I bet my measurements will not be without issues and errors, but I believe it is something worth trying. Hopefully it will give a different perspective to testing sensors.
Here is the first test that shows the low light performance of the following mirrorless cameras: Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5. Since these cameras all look excellent at ISO levels between 100 and 800, I decided to only show ISO performance at 1600 and above. Take a look!
Nikon 1 J2
Bad product? Bad marketing? Predatory pricing? A simple act of desperation? Or all of the above? Nikon has just slashed the price of the Nikon 1 V1 kit (with the 10-30mm VR lens) again, down to $299. A product that sold for $899 exactly one year ago when I reviewed it. Wait, there is more – the Nikon 1 J1 camera, which has far less impressive specifications sells for $100 more. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
How can a product get 3 times cheaper in less than a year? Usually, you don’t see a 66% discount on an electronics product in a 12 month period after its launch. That just doesn’t happen…typically. And when it does happen, there is usually something wrong with the product, or the product fails to sell due to lack of mass adoption. Like Betamax versus VHS or HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray wars. Or many other similar stories. Nikon came a little late to the mirrorless market with its Nikon 1 system. The Micro 4/3 alliance already matured by then, with excellent lens choices, bigger sensor and lots of built-in features. Sony also gathered a big fanbase around its tiny cameras with big APS-C size sensors. Others were pushing hard with innovative designs, great lens choices and more. While Nikon wanted to capture the hearts and minds of many photographers, the product did not get the stamp of approval from the mirrorless community, mostly due to its high price tag. Many reviewers praised the Nikon 1 V1 camera, but could not justify its high price when compared to the competition. Not when Sony was selling its excellent mirrorless cameras like Sony NEX-5N for several hundred dollars less. And with Canon also adopting APS-C sensor size for its new EOS M mirrorless system, it was getting clear that Nikon would have a hard time competing in the mirrorless market. And now here we are – the Nikon 1 V1 is the cheapest of them all (in the high-end mirrorless category).