Nikon 1 J1 has some impressive movie recording capabilities, again, we have not seen anything like this on any of the Nikon cameras previously. 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 J1 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 a typical camcorder, because the J1 can easily replace one. Video recording is limited to 20 minutes, which is more than enough for most situations.
The Nikon 1 J1 has two separate buttons to record stills and video. This was primarily done to be able to take stills while recording video but to be honest, I do not really see much value in this feature. I do not think it is worth having a dedicated video button on the top of the camera. A better approach would have been to designate one of the buttons on the back of the camera to capture stills if a video is being recorded. I would rather use one button to capture both stills and video. But Nikon has been doing that for a while even on its DSLRs, so I am not surprised to see this.
One feature I was excited about when I got the camera was slow-motion video recording. Just like the V1, the J1 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 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.
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 J1 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, even when compared to the Olympus E-PL3. 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 on your photographs.
HDR photographers won’t be happy with this camera, 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.
Table of Contents