Nikon 1 V1, Nikon D7100 and Fuiji X-E1 Video comparison. Plus a discussion on video enabled stills cameras.

Nikon were the first to put video in a DSLR, the D90, though it wasn't particularly good and after that they somewhat lost their way, conceding much of the marketplace to Canon and Panasonic. However recently they have been getting a lot better with lots of options and the DSLR's in particular have been used in TV series, advertising and movies. And then along comes the Nikon 1 system, with a lot of attention to the video. A slow motion feature, 60fps and a lot of manual control. So how does this small sensor camera perform against a camera such as the D7100? As well as this I've had my Fuji X-E1 for a while without shooting a single frame of video, so I thought I'd add that into the mix.

First off here's a series of clips shot first with the D7100 and the V1. Plus three other clips at the end, which could be shot with one or other of the cameras, or both. I've decided not to caption the clips to see if you can spot which is which.

The first four are sharper than the second four, so does that mean that the bigger sensor has the advantage here? They are also somewhat more saturated, so does that mean that this shows the more 'domestic' camera was used? You might get a clue from the depth-of-field, but then I deliberately changed the aperture settings to avoid that being obvious. I used a 30-100m lens on the V1 and 55-200mm lens on the D7100.

The second video is the Nikon 1 V1 compared to the Fuji X-E1. For this I used the 30-100mm on the V1 and my Voigtlander 90mm on the Fuji.

Again this is four similar clips, shot with the Fuji X-E1 and the Nikon 1 V1. The first four have somewhat odd colour, while the second four look a lot better and are a lot more accurate in terms of that. Again I changed the apertures around to make it harder to see an obvious difference in depth-of-field.

Video is much harder to see differences with. There are high-quality broadcast quality video cameras that use smaller sensors than the V1. Full 1080 HD footage is after all only 2MP, so this isn't a problem. There are as well many situations where the smaller sensor and its larger depth of field is an advantage. Its been suggested that this is a kind of 'documentary / news' approach versus a 'film / movie' sensibility. I have however been somewhat skeptical of this. I've always thought that if you want to shoot movies with a 'film look' then use film. Video looks like video, it doesn't look at all like film, and whether or not you use 24fps, 25pfs or whatever, its still going to look like video, no matter how many fast lenses at f/1.4 etc, you use. 

There is also the question of what, as photographers, we use video for. Like everybody else, we can use it to document our lives, our families, our friends, holidays and special occasions. It is of course, these days, capable of much more than this. However there is a fundemental difference between what our video enabled cameras can achieve as video cameras and still cameras. Virtually any stills camera over 10MP is capable of producing an image that can be used as a front cover for a glossy magazine, and A3 spread. Go a little higher up the MP scale and you have cameras that are capable of high-end advertising shoots as well. The cameras that can produce this are relatively inexpensive and need very little in terms of extra equipment. So its not particularly difficult or costly to shoot high quality still photography.

Contrast this with video. While the image quality is undeniably excellent, and feeding footage I've shot through my flat-screen TV I've seen just how good it can be. Every bit as good as the output I see from the TV companies in terms of how it looks. However the camera is just the starting point in terms of professional broadcast video. We've all seen, I'm sure, pictures of small cameras such as the Panasonic GH series buried beneath a huge amount of ancillary equipment in order to make drama and documentary TV programmes and for shooting adverts and movies. In order to to create this, a lot more than a camera, a lens and a tripod is necessary. Somewhat different to the stills photographer out on location.

There are still occasions though when this pared down approach can work. With many news photographers now required to shoot video for newspaper and magazine websites, the camera, lens and tripod option can result in useable footage. Short items shot in faraway places don't require huge crews, masses of lighting and all the other paraphenalia of movies and TV programmes. Plus these days the most telling footage of breaking news items is often shot by the particpants themselves on their mobile phones. And difficult to view and low quality it may be, it does have a certain gritty sense of authenticity about it. In fact would we believe beautifully shot, professional looking footage of the various conflicts that we see on our news channels?

So the video component of our cameras is there for us to use, or ignore as we wish.And many photographers do choose to ignore it.

For those who don't going back to the comparisons above. The first, the Nikon 1 V1 and D7100 comparison has the V1 with the first four clips, the D7100 and the last three are V1, D7100, V1. In the second video, the first four clips are the Fuji X-E1, fairly obvious from its odd colour and the second four are from the V1.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but in both cases I prefer the V1 output. Its sharp, in fact probably the sharpest HD video I've ever seen from a stills camera and the colour is much nicer for me. I would mention that its actually more accurate too. So with the Nikon 1 system (and I'm assuming all the cameras have a similar output) you get nice looking HD output with full manual control in a very small package. I don't shoot much video these days, but when I do I know what camera I'll be using and its the V1.

Finally I decided to put together something high quality from the V1 and upload it to YouTube in full 1080 HD. For it I decided to use my 55-200mm zoom, which in 35mm terms goes up to a whopping 540mm. And no its not pretty, but it works really well.

So here's the video. Do have a look at it in its highest quality form. I think its incredibly good. See what you think.