Nikon 1 V1 - Surprise camera of the year for me


I am genuinely really surprised by how much I like the Nikon 1 V 1 I bought recently. I was certainly not expecting this. Bought because I liked the micro sensor depth of field from some old images I was editing, I thought that it would be something I might use occasionally when I needed a light small camera, and one that is relatively unobtrusive. Useful in crowded urban situations for example and when it would be useful for me to look like a tourist snapping away rather than a serious photographer.

What I wasn't prepared for was how much the build quality, the overall feel of the system and the genuinely impressive image quality would please me so much. My headline 'The Nikon 1 is the best mirrorless system. Period!' was intended as provoking and attention-grabbing, and while it isn't something that I would attempt to argue for, there are certain things about the system that I really appreciate and I prefer over other mirrorless cameras I've used.

The first thing that I like is the really nice build quality of the camera. Its difficult to get an idea of how a piece of gear might feel by looking at pictures and reading reviews. How its going to feel in the hand is impossible to guage until you actually do it, and I was pleasantly surprised when I took the camera out of the box and held it for the first time. Adding the grip improves this handling no end. The nice thing for me is that its a 'proper' grip. Some of these ridiculous things that are available for small cameras strike me as being virtually useless. There is one for the Sony RX100, for example, which strikes me as a waste of time and money as its so small. 

Secondly I like the 'photographic' nature of what it offers. Interestingly, some of the headline features, such as the slow motion video options and the 'smart snapshot' or whatever it is are the most gimmicky and least successful, though 60fps at full resolution is undeniably impressive.

Thirdly, the lenses are excellent. Again well-made and providing decent image quality.

As usual, its the images that count, and the biggest surprise to me is how they look. I've written several times about how they look like images taken with a larger sensor. This was brought home to me yesterday when I was editing some images taken with the Sony RX100 I had over the summer. I know it has less pixels, but my V1 images look nicer to me. The RX100 files don't like being under or over exposed even a little and attempting to lighten them particularly, results in a fair amount of noise. The Nikon 1 images are surprisingly flexible, however. Not that this is a problem, since the V1 has excellent accurate metering.

So it is a nice surprise, and from a camera that didn't cost a lot. (Though this is because of a pretty hefty discount.) And it is most definitely fun to use. So much so that I haven't really got round to seriously looking at the Nikon D7100 yet.

Discoveries like this are a genuine pleasure, and this one more so, since I was so rude about the system in general before actually trying it out. As I wrote before preconceptions are a barrier to discoveries like this and while I try to avoid dogma and closed thinking, I must plead guilty to suffering from it from time to time. Fortunately, I have the capacity to reconsider and make u-turns without hesitation, so I've got there in the end.