This is an in-depth review of the new Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens, also known as “1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6” that was announced on September 21, 2011 specifically for the new Nikon 1 system, together with three other lenses and the new Nikon V1 and J1 cameras. The Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is a general-purpose consumer-grade lens designed for the new Nikon 1 camera system. It is bundled with the Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1 cameras as a standard kit lens and cannot be purchased separately. With its focal length of 10-30mm on the Nikon 1 CX sensor (2.7x crop factor), its coverage is equivalent to a 27-81mm lens. The variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 means that its maximum (largest) aperture changes between f/3.5 to f/5.6, depending on the focal length. It is a very lightweight lens, and similar to interchangeable lenses from other compact mirrorless camera manufacturers such as Olympus, the lens is collapsible, which also makes it quite compact for travel and transportation.
In this review, I will provide a thorough analysis of the Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens, along with image samples and comparisons against other Nikon 1 lenses.
1) Lens Specifications
- Compact and lightweight with 3x standard zoom lens to cover practical focal length
- Retractable Lens Mechanism increases portability
- Design elements, colors, and materials are carefully chosen for the camera body design
- Vibration Reduction (VR) enables sharper pictures when shooting telephoto subjects, dimly lit scenes and other handheld situations
- Minimum focus distance of 20cm from focal plane at all zoom positions
- Three aspherical lens elements
- Mount Type: Nikon 1
- Focal Length Range: 10-30mm
- Zoom Ratio: 3x
- Maximum Aperture: f/3.5
- Minimum Aperature: f/16
- Format: CX
- Maximum Angle of View: 77°
- Minimum Angle of View: 29°40″
- Lens Elements: 12
- Lens Groups: 9
- Optical Conversion Factor: 2.7x
- Compatible Format(s): CX
- VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization: Yes
- Diaphram Blades: 7 (rounded diaphram opening)
- Aspherical Elements: 3
- Autofocus: Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.66ft (0.2m)
- Filter Size: 40.5mm
- Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
- Lens Barrel Retraction Function: Rotation of zoom ring
- Dimensions: (Approx.) 2.3×1.7in. (Diameter x Length), 57.5x42mm (Diameter x Length)
- Weight: (Approx.) 4.1 oz. (115g)
- Supplied Accessories: LC-N40.5 Snap-on Front Lens Cap, LF-N1000 Rear Lens Cap
Detailed specifications for the lens, along with MTF charts and other useful data can be found in our lens database.
2) Lens Handling and Build
If you have used Nikon Nikkor lenses in the past, you will not be disappointed with the new Nikon 1 lenses. The Nikon 1 10-30mm VR is built very well, despite its compact size. The base of the lens barrel seems to be made with the same tough plastic Nikon uses in its DSLR lenses. The thick rubber zoom ring with a plastic base has pretty good traction to easily zoom in and out with fingers and sits in between two thin metal rings. The top of the lens has another thicker metal ring, which is there for additional protection and aesthetics. The lens employs a retractable lens mechanism, similar to the Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm, which reduces the size of the lens to approximately 42mm and locks it in place when fully retracted. Here is a comparison of the lens with the Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lenses:
As you can see, the Nikon 1 10-30mm VR is the smallest in the group, although considering CX and Micro 4/3 sensor differences, the Nikon 1 10-30mm should have been even smaller.
The barrel is fully extended at 10 and 30mm focal lengths, which almost doubles the length of the lens, so it is definitely nice to be able to collapse it when not using it. Nikon put plenty of thought into the new Nikon 1 lens line-up and developed the CX mount from scratch. Compared to the current Nikon DX/FX mounts with 8 contacts, the Nikon 1 lenses and cameras have a total of 12 contacts, which allows for more communication between Nikon 1 cameras and lenses. As a result, many of the lens functions are now controlled by the camera, so all the extra buttons and switches have been eliminated. Even the manual focus ring has been removed to simplify lens operation. There is only one button on the lens located on the zoom ring and it serves a dual purpose – it is used to collapse or extend the lens and to turn the camera on. I really like that the camera turns on when the lens is extended – one less thing to do when taking pictures. Sadly, collapsing the lens does not turn the camera off, which would be great if it did. Obviously, this behavior can be easily overridden by the camera on/off button. Another positive outcome of the new CX mount with extra contacts is the ability to upgrade lens firmware through the camera, which has never been possible before. Now you see an extra “L” firmware in addition to the traditional “A” and “B” under “Firmware version” in camera setup menu, which shows what firmware the lens is running on. Nikon has already identified and resolved a serious problem with Vibration Reduction (read on this below) on the Nikon 1 10-30mm lens and released a firmware update.
Just like the rest of the Nikon 1 lenses, the Nikon 1 10-30mm has a metal mount. This is surprising, because kit lenses of this caliber from Nikon like the Nikon 18-55mm typically have plastic mounts. Even the Olympus Zuiko 14-42mm has a plastic mount. This is great news for the Nikon 1 system owners, because it means that all future CX lenses will most likely have metal mounts as well, even on cheap zoom lenses. On the other hand, the rubber gasket on the lens mount that Nikon has been putting on all new AF-S lenses is absent, which could make the lens and camera more susceptible to dust. As of now, none of the Nikon 1 system components (including all current lenses) are weather sealed. On a positive note, I have used the Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR in cold, windy and very dusty environments (Great Sand Dunes and White Sand Dunes in November) and I did not have any issues with dust specks making their way into the camera or the lens.
Despite its compact size, the Nikon 1 10-30mm sports impressive optical features such as Vibration Reduction (VR), Super Integrated Coating (SIC), Internal Focusing (IF) and Silent Stepping AF Motor (STM). Vibration Reduction is Nikon’s term for image stabilization, which is a very useful feature in low light situations, where camera shake and slow shutter speed can cause images to be blurry. Super Integrated Coating helps reduce lens flare and ghosting. Internal focusing means that the lens barrel does not change when the lens focuses. And finally, Silent Stepping AF Motor is a brand new motor specifically developed for the CX lenses, which allows for super fast and near-silent autofocus operation.
The Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR has a complex optical design consisting of a total of 12 lens elements (in 9 groups), 3 of which are aspherical elements. Aspherical lenses greatly reduce lens aberrations such as Spherical and Chromatic Aberration and significantly increase lens sharpness. Even the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G does not have a single aspherical element by comparison.
Unfortunately, Nikon does not ship the Nikon 1 10-30mm kit lens with a lens hood. It can be purchased separately, although I do not see much value in getting one – you can always use your hand to block off the light, if it impacts your images.