So… in 2011 Nikon mystified everyone with the introduction of their
mirrorless system, called “Nikon 1”, featuring a relatively tiny 1”
(2.7x crop) sensor. Nikon was very proud of this sensor, because it
had fast AF and a bunch of other things no-one really cares about;
everyone wanted a 1.5x crop sensor or bigger that they could mount
their big lenses on. Oh, and Nikon decided that this little sensor was
worth a lot of money so their pricing was insanely high. The Nikon V1
cost ~$900 at introduction, with the kit 10-30mm lens.
Well, you don’t mess with Mother Market, and a few years later I could
score a nice used V1 kit for 170 EUR. So, how does this little runt
compare with my other used old camera, the Nikon D700 DSLR?
This is only my superficial notes. If you want a rant-y real review
of the Nikon V1, check out Thom Hogan’s one
also publishes an ebook that covers the first generation Nikon 1
cameras - Complete Guide to the Nikon
purchased it and can recommend it. That work also tells some of the
history of the Nikon 1’s design. Basically, Nikon skated in the
opposite direction of the camera market puck…
What I like
- It’s small and light. It fits (with some effort) into my coat pocket,
and doesn’t weigh down my bag. This is good because the D700 is way
too big for everyday carry, at least where I am right now in life.
- The image quality seems ok to me. The short focal length of the kit
lens doesn’t really bother me, as much of my so-called “work” is
“urban landscape” and I’m not that interested in thin
depth-of-field. If this is important to you, go ahead and get a Sony
- It’s an all-dancing, all-singing techno-wunder camera. It has stuff
like VR in the lens that helps with slow shutter speeds, Lightroom
does auto-correct of distorsion, there’s a fancy EVF in it, it takes
movies… considering my D700 is treated as a digital FM2n, this is
a big deal for this cheap-ass Luddite.
- It doesn’t break the bank. I paid as much for this camera as for a
crappy little P&S my kid got for Christmas. The lenses available for
it aren’t that expensive either (I’m looking at getting the 30-110mm
tele-slowzoom, and maybe the 18.5mm normal)
- Image quality is “good enough”. If I ever feel the need to create a
masterpiece fit for a giant printout with oodles of dynamic range,
I’ll bust out the D700 and tripod. But for cat pics on the internet
the V1 suffices.
- It has an EVF - this was a dealbreaker for me when it comes to compact/mirrorless cameras. While I appreciate the read LCD in some situations, I really prefer holding a camera up to my eyes and squinting at the scene through a tiny hole.
What I don’t like
- the controls are retarded. See Thom’s review for more details. The
“mode” dial in particular is a pain, as it often slips from the only
good position into stupid stuff like “Motion Snapshot”.
- There’s no built-in flash, something that can be forgiven due to the
size of the body. But the accessory slot is not compatible with any
SLR flash, and there’s no adapter available.
- Battery life could be better, but that may be due to the battery I
have being used.
The digital compact camera is an endangered species - cellphones are
eating their lunch, and the traditional camera manufacturers don’t
have a good answer to them right now. The Nikon 1 series was designed
for a world where there would be a niche between compact cameras at
the low end and DSLRs at the high end. It tries to combine the
portability of a compact with the fast AF of a DSLR, adding
exchangeable lenses and balancing the act with a small but not tiny
Now that niche is no more, and the Nikon 1 is floundering in a sea of
mirrorless cameras, many more capable and cheaper than it is. But if
you can find one for a decent price, I can recommend it. The pros
outweighs the cons.