Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-30mm VR @ 10mm Center Frame
The Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is currently the standard kit lens that comes with the Nikon 1 V1 and J1 cameras. Let’s see how the 10mm pancake lens compares to the Nikon 1 10-30mm VR lens at 10mm.
Wide open at f/2.8, the Nikon 1 10mm performs better than the Nikon 1 10-30mm at f/3.5 (Left: Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8, Right: Nikon 1 10-30mm VR):
The performance difference shrinks greatly with both lenses stopped down to f/4:
At f/5.6, I cannot see any difference between the two:
Stopping down to f/8 negatively impacts image quality due to diffraction on both lenses:
Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-30mm VR @ 10mm Corner Frame
Let’s see how the corners compare between the two. Looks like the wide open performance of both lenses is about the same:
Stopped down to f/4 the Nikon 1 10mm seems sharper, but has some visible green and purple fringing:
Again, some heavy CA at f/5.6:
Both lenses look more or less the same at f/8:
And diffraction just ruins the f/11 performance on both lenses:
Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-30mm VR Conclusion
When comparing the Nikon 1 10mm pancake lens with the Nikon 1 10-30mm VR, we have to keep in mind that both lenses serve different purposes. The pancake lens is the most compact lens available for the Nikon 1 system today and it offers faster speed (larger maximum aperture), which is useful for low-light situations. The Nikon 1 10-30mm lens, on the other hand, is a general-purpose lens that offers the versatility of a zoom lens. If we are to talk purely about lens sharpness and performance, then both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Nikon 1 10mm offers superb wide open performance in the center, but suffers from lateral chromatic aberration in the extreme corners. The 10mm pancake also has a heavier amount of vignetting at its maximum aperture, although it seems to handle ghosting and flares a little better. AF performance seems to be about the same on both lenses, although the 10mm pancake is noisier.
Overall, the Nikon 1 10mm seems to offer only two advantages over the Nikon 1 10-30mm – compact size and larger maximum aperture. Performance-wise it is not really better than the 10-30mm zoom (due to its rather high level of CA) and has one disadvantage – it lacks image stabilization.
Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-100mm VR @ 10mm Center Frame
One interesting lens that Nikon introduced for the Nikon 1 mount is the Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 VR PD-ZOOM, also known as “1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM”. This superzoom is the most expensive Nikon CX lens and it is also the biggest/bulkiest of the four. The Nikon 1 10-100mm is equipped with a new “Voice Coil AF Motor” (VCM), which allows zooming in and out by using the power zoom switch on the lens. Its focal length is equivalent to a 27–270mm lens in 35mm format and it is also equipped with VR (plus a bunch of nice optical features from DSLR lenses).
Let’s see how both lenses compare at 10mm wide open. With a more than 1 stop of difference, the Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 seems to have slightly better sharpness and contrast than the 10-100mm superzoom:
Both lenses perform about the same when stopped down to f/5.6:
Then diffraction starts kicking in at f/8:
And finally, diffraction is at its worst at f/11, although the Nikon 1 10mm seems to suffer a little more from it.
Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-100mm VR @ 10mm Corner Frame
The corners, on the other hand, seem to be better on the Nikon 1 10-100mm, largely due to less pronounced chromatic aberration (although the Nikon 1 10-100mm is also showing very noticeable green aberrations:
The corner performance starts to look similar when the Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 is stopped down to f/4:
At f/5.6, the corner performance on both lenses looks about the same:
Not much changes at f/8:
And diffraction impacts both lenses at f/11:
Nikon 1 10mm vs Nikon 1 10-100mm VR Conclusion
Once again, both the Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 VR serve different purposes and have completely different optical and physical characteristics. The Nikon 1 10mm is a very compact prime lens for still photography, while the Nikon 10-100mm is a big and heavy superzoom for both stills and videos. Weighing a whopping 530 grams, it is about 7 times heavier than the 10mm pancake! When it comes to pure optical performance at 10mm, the Nikon 1 10mm shows superb center performance, beating the 10-100mm superzoom in sharpness and contrast. However, its corner performance is not as good wide open due to noticeable green and purple chromatic aberration and only gets comparable between f/4 and f/5.6 apertures.
While the 10-100mm VR lens is designed specifically for videographers, it certainly does have very nice optical features that also make it a great lens for photography. However, the lens is too darn big! It is bigger and heavier than most Nikon DSLR kit lenses, which is ridiculous, in my opinion. It defeats the purpose of having a compact camera system like the Nikon 1. Walking around with the lens is not only inconvenient, but also painful, because it balances terribly with the V1/J1 cameras. The thin camera strap of the V1/J1 cameras quickly transferred the weight of the lens to my neck and it was a painful experience. While it may have some of the best optical designs out there with Vibration Reduction, High Refractive Index, Internal Focus, Super Integrated Coating, 2 Aspherical and 3 ED elements, it is very heavy and bulky for the Nikon 1 system. I definitely prefer the 10mm pancake or the 10-30mm over the 10-100mm because of this.