Nikon joins mirrorless movement with V1 and J1 system cameras

Nikon has finally bowed to the relentless enthusiasm for compact system cameras and released its own long-awaited offering – the Nikon 1 system. Leading the way are the new Nikon V1 and Nikon J1 compact system cameras.

Compact system cameras offer lighter, more portable alternatives to DSLRs. With no mirror inside the body of the camera, it’s possible to make the camera smaller and lighter.

With Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and Samsung all enjoying success with their compact system cameras, it was surely only a matter of time before Nikon stepped away from the mirror and released its own compact SLR alternative.

Related links:

– Micro four third cameras from Panasonic
– Micro four third cameras from Olympus
– NEX compact system cameras from Sony

The Nikon 1 system

Nikon 1 and 1 Nikkor lenses

The Nikon 1 cameras will use the new 1 Nikkor lens system

It’s no surprise that Nikon was slower on its feet to release a mirrorless compact system camera – unlike the rival brands who were first to the market, Nikon has a colossal portion of the DSLR market and a huge range of Nikkor lenses used by a loyal customer base. The risk of creating a new system that could alienate existing Nikon loyalists was considerable.

Though the new Nikon 1 system has its own lens mount compatible with the “1 Nikkor” lens range (four lenses will be available at the outset), an adaptor (the Nikon FT1 lens adaptor) will be able to attach standard AFS and AFI Nikkor lenses to the 1 system cameras. Details and prices of the new 1 Nikkor lenses can be found below.

Smaller CMOS sensor inside

Within the body of the Nikon 1 system is an entirely new CX-format CMOS sensor. What’s interesting about this sensor is that while it’s larger than what you’ll find within any fixed-lens compact camera, it’s still noticeably smaller than what’s on offer inside rival compact system cameras – an interesting move on the behalf of Nikon as the company was working from a blank canvas.

Sensor sizes on compact camera systems:

  • Nikon 1 system: 13.2 × 8.8 mm
  • Panasonic/Olympus micro four thirds: 18 × 13.5 mm
  • Sony NEX system: 23.5 x 15.6mm
  • Samsung NX system: 23.5 x 15.6mm

The size of the image sensor is crucial to the overall image quality. Roughly put, the larger the sensor, the more detail the camera is able to capture in challenging low light, and the better the depth of field effects you’ll be able to achieve.

Nikon has taken a risky punt with this smaller image sensor – specs-wise, it puts the 1 system behind all of its immediate rivals, though the smaller sensor should allow for especially-compact compatible lenses. The Nikon 1 sensor will have a 2.7x crop factor with attached lenses – so the 10mm 1 Nikkor pancake lens will have an effective focal length of 27mm.

While the Nikon 1 sensor is still safely larger than anything you’ll find in a point and shoot camera, we’ll be interested to see how the system fairs in our tests of low light image quality when the V1 and J1 are available. When asked about the smaller sensor size at the Nikon 1 unveiling, Nikon explained to Which? that the size and resolution of the sensor helped them optimise the camera’s processing speed.

Nikon J1 camera

Nikon J1 camera

The Nikon J1 is designed for straightforward shooting

The Nikon J1 is being launched as an approachable camera for those who want superior image quality without intimidatingly complex controls.

Design-wise, it’s not far removed from the Panasonic GF2 or Olympus E-P3 and E-PL3 system cameras, and it takes a noticeably stripped-down approach.

If you’re looking for hands-on controls and plenty of dials and buttons, the J1 wouldn’t fit the bill, but for a point-and-shoot approach it may have plenty to offer.

The Nikon J1 offers a 10Mp image sensor and 73 autofocus points, and it can capture Full HD videos as well.  It will be available in black, white, silver, red and bright pink, with a launch date of 20 October. Prices are detailed below.

Nikon V1 camera

Nikon V1 camera

The Nikon V1 has a built-in electronic viewfinder

For more demanding photographers, Nikon is launching the V1 system camera. Unlike the lower-spec J1, the Nikon V1 features a built-in electronic viewfinder and hot shoe mount for accessories.

The LCD viewfinder has a 1440-dot resolution, which Nikon claims will offer excellent sharpness. If nothing else, it’s very impressive to see an EVF made available in such a slim camera body.

We were hugely impressed by the OLED viewfinder in the Sony NEX-7 compact system camera, but the intimidating £1,200 pricetag on that model was a real downer for some.

The NikonV1, will sell for around £830 with the 10-30mm kit lens making this camera a cheaper alternative to the Sony NEX-7 to anyone looking for a viewfinder on a compact system camera.

The Nikon V1 shares the same 10Mp image sensor as the J1 camera, and will also offer 73 AF-points and Full HD video recording. It will also launch in the UK before on 20 October.

Both the V1 and the J1 offer the same full manual control, however the lack of dials and a lens ring for the manual focus means that you’ll need to toggle between exposure settings for fine tuning. Both cameras can capture JPEG, RAW or JPEG and RAW images together.

Key differences between the V1 and J1

In terms of sensor quality and camera speed, the V1 and J1 are very similar – it’s the size that, at first glance, distinguishes them from each other, with the J1 being smaller.

The J1 also has a lower resolution display, wtih 460k dot resolution compared with the 920k dot resolution of the V1. The display on the J1 is also smaller.

The V1 has the electronic viewfinder but lacks an integrated, pop up flash – something that the J1 has. Instead, the V1 has a hot shoe mount, which can have a speedlight flash, external microphone and a number of other accessories attached.

Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector

The new Nikon 1 cameras both offer some interesting new photo technologies.

One of these is Motion Snapshot, which captures a still image and a short slow motion video at the same time. When you play your file back, you’ll see a slowly-moving scene which can be accompanied by an audio track. Unfortunately, the audio clip can’t be removed until you upload the MOV file to a PC.

Smart Photo Selector allows the camera to capture 20 high resolution images at once. By using pre- and post-capture technology, the camera is able to start buffering images before you’ve even pressed the shutter button, and after you’ve depressed it.

The camera then analyses the images to suggest the best five shots based on facial recognition, focus and exposure. You can still reject these and scan through the alternative images.

New player on the compact system camera market

We’re looking forward to seeing more from Nikon’s 1 system – as one of the largest camera brands in the world, all eyes have been on Nikon to see how it would respond to the emergence of the compact camera system. The jury is currently out on how well the Nikon 1 system answers this call, but we’ll look forward to getting these cameras into our test labs as soon as they’re available.

In the meantime, all eyes can now pass to Canon to see if it will rise to the challenge of offering a compact system of its own.


  • Nikon V1 with 10-30mm lens. £830
  • Nikon V1 with 10mm lens. £880
  • Nikon V1 with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses. £980
  • Nikon J1 with 10-30mm lens. £550
  • Nikon J1 with 10mm lens. £600
  • Nikon J1 with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses. £700
  • Nikon J1 with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses in pink. £750

Lenses and accessories:

  • 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. £180
  • 1 Nikkor VR 30-110,, f/3.8-5.6 lens. £230
  • 1 Nikkor VR 10mm f/2.8 lens. £230
  • 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f4.5-5.6 powerzoom video lens. £680
  • Nikon F Mount lens adaptor FT-1. £230, available 1 December
  • Nikon SB-N5 speedlight. £130, available 20 October
  • Nikon GP-N100 GPS unti. £110, available 20 October

Categories: Cameras

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9 replies

  1. would still go for the larger NEX 7 sensor, as I would be using the camera with my Leica M fit lenses, and the smaller size sensor gives too much magnification with this. Bummer Nikon, Pentax mini system a joke, ( a keyring camera!!) over to you now Canon.

  2. I have no idea who this camera is aimed at. If it’s meant to tempt people away from compact cameras, it’s too expensive. It isn’t all that compact either, being about the size of Panasonic and Olympus 4/3 cameras. The sensor is small at 1″. Nikon seems to be ignoring their professional cameras, I see trouble ahead, indeed, over to you Canon!

  3. Don’t write this camera off just yet, because it has a small sensor. Nikon has put other system technologies into place to allow the camera to give excellent results. Let’s wait until the reviews are done to see how it performs. It may surprise all.

  4. Do not write this camera off because of it’s small sensor. Other system technologies have been put into place by Nikon. Which should give excellent results. Wait for the reviews. They may surprise all.

  5. When mirrorless digital system cameras were introduced, I understood the logic of not having a mirror, its operating mechanism and prism – but why are these cameras not cheaper than DSLR models as a result? If I really don’t need ultra compact size, it seems better value to buy a lower end DSLR for no less performance or image quality. Perhaps the entry of Nikon (and later Canon?) into the mirrorless digital system camera sector will provide new competition which will eventually drive prices down. While I am also happy to await reviews of the new Nikon models, I am not impressed by their already announced high prices.

  6. Actually, I think I am the exact target market. I don’t feel that compacts can offer the features and quality of image that I need, I am about to retire a Canon Ixus for this reason. I take a lot of animal / wildlife / equine photos. With a compact Ixus, all pictures are blurred, and the fps rate on a compact just isn’t enough (I have looked at a lot of them). Just three months ago, I was in a field with 9 fallow deer stags grazing as a herd. Very rare moment. I took some pics, and they were all blurred. I was gutted. So I decided I need to improve my camera kit, I then looked at DSLR cameras, but realised I don’t want to take the time to learn how to use one properly (I’m a busy person and have other hobbies that use up all my time) – I want good photos but without a 6 month investment in learning how to use the camera!! Also, there are so many DSLRs on the market, I wouldn’t know which one to buy, or which lenses I need. So, welcome to the Nikon J1 / V1….it has better quality than a compact, and even a camera-numpty like me can operate it. It does a lot of the hard work for me, there are a limited number of lenses and accessories available to buy. It will take 60fps, and recommend the best shots to me. No more having to sift through 30 blurred images to try to find one that is ok, (and having to manually delete the rest). I haven’t bought the camera yet, I am looking to purchase it this week. I’m excited to start capturing fast moving horse sports – and to get some nice pics out of it. So, for me, this camera fits the bill – better than a compact, and less complicated, bulky and time consuming than a DSLR. It’s exactly what I need! :)

    1. I’m looking to buy soon and would be keen to know how you’re getting on with this as you’re post is very similar to what I’m looking for.

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