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.
The Nikon 1 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
The Nikon J1 is being launched as an approachable camera for those who want superior image quality without intimidatingly complex controls.
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
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