This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 1 V1 mirrorless camera that came out on September 21, 2011 along with the Nikon 1 J1 camera and three 1 Nikkor lenses. The Nikon 1 V1 and J1 cameras are Nikon’s first attempt to produce a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, which took 5 years of careful design and development by Nikon’s engineers. Why did Nikon decide to enter the mirrorless market and where is the mirrorless technology positioned relative to the DSLR and point and shoot market? How does the Nikon 1 mirrorless system compare against the competition? In this review, I will provide answers to these questions, along with comparisons of the Nikon 1 V1 against the Sony NEX-5n and the Olympus E-PL3 mirrorless cameras.
The Nikon 1 V1 and J1 cameras, along with 1 Nikkor lenses were kindly provided by B&H – the largest photo reseller in the world that I personally use to buy my photography gear.
1) Nikon 1 V1 Specifications
- 10.1 Megapixel CX-format (2.7x crop factor) CMOS Image Sensor
- 13.2mm x 8.8mm sensor size
- Nikon 1 Lens Mount
- Compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards
- 3:2 aspect ratio for still images
- 12-bit compressed RAW image support
- Full 1080p HD Cinematic Video at 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p video resolutions (16:9 aspect ratio)
- Slow-motion Video at 400fps / 640×240 resolution and 1200fps / 320×120 resolution
- Hybrid phase detection / contrast-detect Autofocus with up to 135 focus points and an AF-assist illuminator
- Subject and face tracking
- ISO sensitivity 100-3200, expandable to ISO 6400 equivalent
- 3-in. LCD monitor with with 921,000 dots
- Built-in HDMI, USB and audio ports/inputs
- 5 Automatic Exposure Scene Modes – Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Close-up and Auto
- 5 Shooting Modes – Still Image, Smart Photo Selector, Movie, Movie Slow Motion and Motion Snapshot
- 6 Exposure Modes – Programed Auto (P), Shutter Priority (S), Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M) and Scene Auto Selector
- Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls
- Accessory hot shoe for Nikon 1 accessories such as GPS, Flash, Microphone, etc
- Compact and Lightweight Design
- Features Nikon’s new EXPEED 3 image processing engine
- Active D-Lighting for shadow highlight recovery
- Dust-reduction system with Image Sensor Cleaning
- Electronic color LCD viewfinder with 100% viewfinder frame coverage
- Electronic lens aperture control
- Two shutter types – Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal plane mechanical shutter and electronic shutter
- Mechanical shutter up to 1/4,000 sec, electronic shutter up to 1/16,000 sec; up to 30 seconds slow shutter for both
- Flash Sync Speed 1/60 (electronic shutter) and 1/250 (mechanical shutter)
- Built-in intervalometer
- Up to 5 fps in standard mode, up to 10, 30 or 60 fps in electronic [Hi] mode
- Spot, Center-weighted and Matrix metering modes
- Focus Modes – Auto (AF), Auto AF-S/AF-C selection (AF-A), Single-servo AF (AF-S), Continuous-servo (AF-C), Full-time Servo (AF-F), Manual Focus (MF)
- An FT1 adapter (must be purchased separately) allows using certain legacy F Mount Nikkor DSLR lenses on the camera
- Battery Life up to 350 shots per charge
- Dimensions 4.4″ x 3.0″ x 1.7″ / 113mm x 76mm x 43.5mm
- Weight: 10.4oz (294g)
Detailed technical specifications for the Nikon 1 V1 are available on Nikonusa.com.
2) Why Mirrorless Nikon?
Why did Nikon decide to enter the interchangeable mirrorless market (also known as “EVIL”- Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens), despite the fact that it has a strong presence in both point and shoot and DSLR markets? Because it makes a lot of financial sense for Nikon. Mirrorless falls right in between point and shoot and DSLR in terms of features, size and weight, so it is a nice compromise. Without the need for a reflex mirror, a pentaprism and other heavy and bulky DLSR components, mirrorless cameras can be much lighter and smaller in size. With the ability to use different types of lenses, mirrorless cameras no longer have the disadvantage of point and shoot cameras and open up great opportunities for creative photography – something only the SLR market has been enjoying for many years.
Pioneered by Panasonic in 2008, mirrorless cameras have been in huge demand with a tremendous year after year growth. It makes a lot of sense, because point and shoot cameras have too many limitations and problems, while DSLRs are just too bulky and heavy for everyday use. A mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses enjoys a sweet spot here. The point and shoot camera market is over-saturated with too many options and with the integration of relatively good compact cameras on mobile devices, the demand for point and shoot cameras will continue to drop. This presents even more growth opportunities for the mirrorless market. A number of manufacturers like Olympus, Pentax, Fuji, Sony and Samsung saw a great opportunity in expanding their markets and introduced a number of mirrorless cameras, while both Canon and Nikon have been quiet, despite statistics and articles like this pouring in from all directions.
It turns out Nikon had been developing its own mirrorless camera since 2006 and spent a considerable amount of R&D time and money to create its own version of a mirrorless “EVIL” camera. That’s how the Nikon 1 camera system, along with 1 NIKKOR lenses came into existence this year, with two new mirrorless cameras – Nikon 1 J1 and Nikon 1 V1, and four 1 NIKKOR lenses – 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8, 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6, 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM.