You may have noticed that there’s been a growing trend to produce ‘compact system’ digital cameras with detachable lenses, which make ideal bridges between the point-’n'-click compact brigade and the serious pro-am DSLR owners – who want stacks of manual controls. Hence, the Olympus PEN series, Sony’s NEX-3C and the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G3, etc.
Nikon’s first foray into this genre is the Nikon 1 J1, with the slightly more complex V1. The J1 comes in five chic colours, including the highly attractive white and black model that we were sent for review. The full kit includes a 10-30mm lens, in addition to a 30-110mm variant with the current online retail price is around the £500 mark, for the complete set.
Intriguing shooting modes
Although the J1 is a compact camera it still feels reassuringly solid. The camera body alone weighs 234g, where any one of four Nikon 1 lenses available at launch, click smoothly into place. There is aslo a separate zoom release, which makes you ready for instant action. Controls have been kept deliberately minimalistic. The top boasts power, shutter and video record buttons and round the back is a conventional D-pad plus zoom, Function, Delete, Playback and menu buttons beside a 3-inch 460k-dot TFT LCD.
Where the J1 departs markedly from its rivals, is with its unusual mode dial that is at the heart of this camera’s intent – with an emphasis on speed and quality. There are just four settings; still image; Smart Photo Selector; movie and Motion Snapshot. Still images, which include the RAW format, can be shot at an incredible 60fps thanks to Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processor and moving images can be tracked. The Smart Photo Selector fires off 20 shots and keeps the best five for you to choose from, while 1080p HD movies can be filmed at 30fps in 16:9 format. These are in normal and slow motion, where full resolution stills can be captured at the same time, without interrupting filming. Motion Snapshot is especially intriguing as it allows you to take a still, while simultaneously recording a burst of slow motion movie footage. The two are then combined to produce a unique memory.
Super fast AF
You might think because the Nikon 1 makes use of a CX-format CMOS image sensor, with a maximum 10.1 megapixels, perhaps image quality might be slightly less impressive than you might woul have hoped. In fact, it’s the opposite as the amount of detail produced on nature and animal images, in particular, is amazingly profound. The colours often seem to leap out of the screen. If there is a slight downside, then it would be related to the curious pop-up flash. This looks like a little plastic periscope, which can cause shadow issues especially in macro shooting. There’s no hot shoe available, to add an external flash and some might bemoan the absence of an EVF. However, the superb image quality and scintillating speeds, plus a super high-speed autofocus system that Nikon claim is the speediest currently available on the market – all mean that there can be little to seriously complain about.
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- Superb photo quality and exceptional shooting speeds.
- A rather underwhelming flash unit.
The Nikon 1 J1 stakes its claim to be one of the finest compact system cameras on the market, thanks to the exceptional photo quality, ultra-fast AF and continuous shooting. This is all with fascinating ways to capture that special moment.