The Nikon 1 system - Some humble pie I think - Part 1

Now I have been less than enthusiastic about the Nikon 1 system. See previous posts. Regular readers will of course not be surprised that I've now bought into it. Indeed the more criticism I level at something, the more likely I am to buy it! I've bought a significantly discounted V1 + the two kit zooms and have gone somewhat further than I intended having bought a grip for the camera, the Nikon F adapter (Since I have Nikon lenses) and the 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. This is a start of a series of posts on how I get on with the system and an appraisal of how it relates to APS-C CSC's and m4/3.

To start with its worth repeating why I thought it may work for me. I have been working through images I shot with early small sensor cameras (Olympus E-10 and Minolta 7i) and uploading them to picture library sites. The one thing its difficult to miss is just how much depth of field you get. This is an example of what the E-10 could do. 

As you can see, everything in focus from a few inches to infinity at f/11. Now this is very useful for what I shoot. VERY useful, and I do in fact like the 'look' very much and would use it extensively if I had a camera that provided the quality I need. m4/3 did of course provide a lot of DOF, but not this much. 

So I looked at some compact camera samples and didn't particularly like them much, so then thought about the Nikon 1 system with its 1" sensor. I had a Sony RX100, which I was happy with in terms of IQ but not in terms of handling and lack of viewfinder. The Nikon 1 seemed to offer the same advantages with the sensor and with its EVF and grip options a much better handling experience. Plus with less MP, a bit less noise than the Sony. I liked the samples I saw, and I only want to use it low ISO's so I thought I'd give it a try, particularly since Amazon were selling the V1 + 2 lenses at £367, which is something like £500 less than when it first came out.

So having outlined why I decided to try it, whats the Nikon 1 V1 like in reality?

First impressions are positive.

Things I instantly liked.

The camera body is just superb. Its very metallic and heavier than I thought. With the grip attached its very nice to handle.
Viewfinder is excellent. More or less polaroid sunglasses friendly.
It uses the same battery as my Nikon D800E and (hooray!) there is a % indicator for how much battery life there is left.
It has an electronic shutter. Totally silent.
It has ISO 100.
Menu system is simple and uncluttered.
AF and VR for my Nikon G lenses with the adapter.
Sensor for moving between EVF and screen.
Manual Focus has the same white dot confirmation system as my D800E.
Stereo mini-jack for non-proprietry microphones. 
Very flat colour balance.
Restrained noise reduction on low ISO jpgs. 
Only 10 MP, so not pushing the sensor too far.
Lenses small and light and well made.
Everyone goes on about the video and 60fps, but this is basic stuff and all the fancy gimmicks in the world can't make up for a camera that is a pain to get round. It is obvious when you pick it up that this is a camera made by a camera company, rather than an electronics / consumer appliances company. 

Things I didn't like.

No articulated screen.
No AF with my 50mm 1.8D.
Non standard hotshoe.
Grip has to be removed to access battery and card compartment.

This is of course on of the the first Nikon 1's and things have moved on from this, but on the whole its still very nicely put together and well thought out.


Well its actually very good. At ISO 100, you'd never guess this was a 1" sensor. Sharp, no luminance noise. Better than the Sony RX100 certainly, and dare I say it, m4/3, which of course doesn't have ISO 100. Higher ISO's are not so good but the jpgs. are OK up to ISO 800, I haven't checked out higher than that.

So I think I will be eating some humble pie with this. Its actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be. 

Just one crazy thing it does. I put my 55-200m zoom on it, which turns it into a 148.5 - 540mm lens in 35mm terms, and it works, The VR on the lens keeps the images sharp and it delivers useable images. 

I can't wait to try it out for real.

A few test shots.


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