Count me among those who were less than overwhelmed by Nikon’s “big” announcement of its small interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon 1 system. For years, many Nikon enthusiasts, myself included, have wanted a small camera that delivered great image quality and high performance. The consensus was that if Nikon built a compact, mirrorless camera based on one of its APS-C sensors, they’d have a real competitor for the Leica and Micro Four-Thirds system cameras out there. Instead, it seems that Nikon chose to go the other direction by giving us a new format, CX, with a sensor size of 13.2mm x 8.8mm and 10.1 megapixels. CX is smaller than APS-C and M4/3. In fact, it has a “crop factor” of 2.7x. Nikon touted this camera as a fast performing alternative to a traditional point and shoot camera with a good set of lenses and accessories to support it.
It’s at this point in the story where you have to remember how Nikon engineering works. They decide who the product is targeted to, and design it to that perceived market. So to all of us who are in the pro/advanced DSLR camp, the Nikon 1 system seemed like a disappointment. After all, we’re the ones using our DSLRs in near darkness. And while we may be disappointed that the Nikon 1 system wasn’t going to be the APS-C based walkabout camera we wanted it to be, we need to consider the actual intended target market for this camera: people who want a small, compact camera that is responsive and produces good images in most conditions. In other words, families.
It is in this light that I’m going to review the Nikon 1 V1. I have a Coolpix P7000, and while I like it in general, it still frustrates me at times. It does not focus fast enough for any kind of action shots, and the tiny sensor makes noise reduction a must at just about any ISO. Moreover, the Coolpix P7000 only produces an 8-bit NRW format RAW file, which isn’t as good as the 12-bit NEFs my DSLRs generate.
I bought my Nikon 1 V1 after a lengthy conversation with a colleague, who had recently tested one in Africa. He, too, has a Coolpix P7000 and a Canon G12, and he said that after using the V1, he’ll never touch either of those cameras again. I had a family trip to Disneyland coming up, and I wanted to get good shots but also travel light. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to test the V1, so I went ahead and bought one from B&H, along with three lenses, the 10mm f/2.8 “pancake,” the 10-30mm VR zoom, and the 30-110mm VR zoom. I also picked up the accessory Speedlight, SB-N5. Continue reading Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless Camera Review: A lesson in expectation management