Having shot well over 10,000 frames since I got my Nikon 1 V2 in late August 2013, I thought it would be interesting to test this little mirror-less camera and two of its most popular kit lenses under some very difficult shooting conditions. So, I headed off to the International Auto Show in Toronto Canada with my Nikon 1 V2 and a couple of kit zoom lenses to see how this CX gear would perform. What makes an event like this challenging is the wide variance in lighting conditions. At times you’re shooting feature cars with numerous flood lights beaming down on them and lens flares can be a challenge. Other subjects can be in quite poor light, requiring either shooting at high ISOs, fast apertures, or slow shutter speeds.
I thought about what I’ve learned over the past 5 months shooting with the Nikon 1 V2 (see my complete review) and developed a simple game plan:
- To limit noise with the CX sensor I’d shoot the entire day at ISO-800 and if I needed more light I would shoot at slower shutter speeds. I knew that this was going to be an interesting challenge since the two kit lens are not ‘barnburners’ in terms of speed, i.e. the 10-30mm is f/3.5-5.6 and the 30-110mm is f/3.8-5.6.
- Rather than shoot images of ‘full cars’ I would shoot a lot of close ups to get a good sense of the detail that the camera and lenses could capture.
- I would not use a tripod or monopod and would shoot everything hand-held to see how the VR on the two kit lenses would perform.
- I’d use auto white balance.
- I would shoot in RAW to see what kind of processing I’d need to do to try and get the most out of the images.
I must say that I was quite impressed with how the Nikon 1 V2 with the two kit lenses performed. Obviously, the quality was not as good as what I could get with my D800 and ‘gold ring’ Nikon glass, but I did come away with a lot of very good, usable shots. And, the compact size of the Nikon 1 V2 made it very easy to get in and out of various cars on display.
I found that the focus was fast and accurate on the Nikon 1 V2 in all of the lighting conditions I faced in the exhibit hall. The VR on the two kit lenses worked very well indeed with some ‘keeper’ shots taken at shutter speeds of only ¼ to 1/8 of a second. There are two specific images to look at closely in terms of examples of very slow shutter speed performance with the Nikon 1 V2 and the Nikon 1 ‘kit zooms’ VR capability. The ‘Buick emblem’ image was shot at f/7.1, 1/8 second with an EFOV of 297mm. Another image of note is the Maserati cockpit. This one was shot at f/5, 1/5 second with an EFOV of 49mm. Of the 11 images featured in this article a total of 6 of them were shot at shutter speeds of 1/30 and under. My YouTube video has complete shot details if you’re wondering which other 4 images were taken at slower shutter speeds. I think the small size and light weight of the Nikon 1 V2 makes it easier to maintain proper shooting technique and obtain good results at slow shutter speeds. Lens flare was a challenge at times and there were a couple of instances where I simply could not take the photo I wanted because of it. This was not a surprise. After all I wasn’t shooting with professional caliber Nikon glass with Nano Crystal Coating. We’re talking about kit lenses in the $185 to $250 range each, so the results are that much more impressive from a cost/quality perspective.
In terms of processing the RAW files I found that I often had to pull the highlights down as far as possible in CS6, and even after doing that I often had to knock the whites down considerably to try and avoid clipping. Adding black and some contrast also helped most of the shots quite a bit. After some basic adjustments in CS6 I put the images through Viveza 2 and added some Structure, usually to about 20. All of these adjustments were fairly simple to do and I don’t think I spent more than 90 seconds on any given image.
As I mentioned in my original Nikon 1 V2 review article, this little mirror-less camera and lens system gets dismissed out-of-hand by a lot of people because of its small CX sensor. I think these images show that the Nikon 1 V2 is capable of quite good results, especially if you understand the strengths of the camera system and shoot accordingly.
Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved, no use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
There’s no doubt that Pentax makes very fine cameras. I had a look at the K-3 scores on DxOMark and the camera scores very well indeed! The colour depth is 23.7, dynamic range is 13.4, and it has an ISO rating of 1216…..all pointing to a very versatile, quality camera.
Thanks very much for your positive comments on my article…much appreciated.
I appreciate this article and your observations as well as some very good photos. Up until a few months ago I had dismissed the N1 system due to its small sensor and cost. I picked up a V2 with both kit lens at Christmas and I’m quite impressed with this little camera. Its a great compliment to my ny Nikon dSLR’s. The N1 system is compact and lightweight, it’s built well and the IQ is much better than any P&S that I’ve owned. I find that the V2 shoots like my dSLR’s. I really hope that Nikon continues to develop the N1 system
Thanks for your article.
Thanks for your comments! I’m glad that you are enjoying your V2. Like you, I have found it to be a great compliment to my Nikon DSLR. I’m hoping that Nikon not only continues the Nikon 1 line of cameras (a V3 soon perhaps?), but also brings out more Nikon 1 mount lenses. They have patented a 70-300 Nikon 1 lens…efov of 189-810! That would be a great, compact set up for birding with a V2.
Thanks for sharing the really sharp and nicely done pictures. With this type of quality off of a small sensor is the exact reason why I decided to stick with Pentax and get the new Pentax K-3. With the high ISO capabilities of today’s cameras, I didn’t feel it necessary to go to the full frames at this time. Pentax is bringing new life to the APS-C sensor as Nikon and Canon concentrate on the full frames and the V2 format. Keep up the good work and give us more articles on the small sensors. And by the way, how about a Pentax guy on the staff?
Thanks very much for your comments on the article….glad you enjoyed it. Like you I have found the Nikon 1 V2 to be a great camera to carry with me on all of my client shoots. The lenses are so compact that I usually take all four of them with me (6.7-13, 10-30, 30-110, 18.5 f/1.8). The V2 is also a great second camera for client videos too and is a great compliment to my D800 in this regard.
I’m also looking forward to Nikon bringing out a V3. Of special interest to me will be the sensor that they choose to put in the camera and whether they will stick with the Aptina 14.2 MP or move to the 20 MP Sony sensor that is in the Sony DSC-RX10. This camera also has a CX sized sensor but it is made by Sony, is 20 MP and has much better colour depth, dynamic range and ISO performance compared to the 14.2 Aptina sensor in the Nikon 1 V2.
For example….according to DxOMark, colour depth V2 = 10.8, DSC-RX10 = 12.6, dynamic range V2 = 20.2, DSC-RX10 = 12.6. ISO for V2 = 403, DSC-RX10 = 474. The Sony 20 MP CX sensor doesn’t have the focusing speed performance of the V2 but brings a lot more image quality to the table. It will be interesting to see what Nikon does.
As far as the negative comments about the Nikon 1 V2 a lot of them are from people who have never even shot with one and simply dismiss it because of the sensor size. They would likely be shocked to see some of the images that the Nikon 1 V2 can produce.
Thanks for the wonderful article and great pictures. Its nice to read something positive about the Nikon 1 system since most of the stuff I read about it is negative. I find the V2 more than adequate for a lot of my work and it is so nice not to carry around a bunch of heavy equipment. Even if I am shooting with any of my DSLR’s I always have the V2 with the FT-1, 6.7 -13 and 30-110 in my bag. Looking forward to the V3 which I hope adds a few features that the V2 lacks like: auto exposure bracketing, high speed flash sync, more DSLR like camera controls that do not require me to go into the menu, and a standard hot shoe.
Also congratulations on becoming part of the Photography Life team.
Oops!!! got the dynamic range wrong with the DSC-RX10….it should read 22.9 compared to 20.2 for the V2.