Weekly Performance

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nikon J1 ~ Hands-on Review

Nikon J1
Nikon 1 series is Nikon's answer to the fast growing mirrorless interchangeable lens camera industry. The first two models released by Nikon are the J1 and V1, with the latter being a more advanced model. Though Nikon are latecomers to launch its mirrorless cameras, they come with something new to offer, giving them significant edge. The 1 series cameras come with 1" CMOS sensors that gives a 2.7x focal length multiplier. This means the 10-30mm standard zoom kit lens is essentially 27mm-81mm at 35mm equivalent. With a Hybrid AF System with both phase and contrast detection, the 1 series worked very fast in low light conditions. With an in-built dual EXPEED 3 image processors, Nikon 1 shoots at a remarkable 60fps at full resolution, putting up a fight against Sony NEX. One of 1's marketing feature is that the image is taken before the shot is taken, which Nikon calls it the Smart Photo mode. In the Smart Photo mode, the camera "silently" buffers frames before and after the shot was taken, after which you are presented with a series of photos to select as the "perfect" shot. This feature is ideal for capturing the best out of fleeting moments, such as blowing a candle, jump shots or eliminating blinking eyes. The Nikon 1 is also capable of recording full HD videos and slow motion videos at 400 fps and 1200 fps, putting new creativity into video recording. During video recording, do not miss any shot with Nikon 1, as you can still snap a still while the 1 is still rolling. With a myraid of features, the Nikon 1 is definitely 1 camera worth picking up!


Both Nikon J1 and V1 cameras are heavily reviewed by reputable sites, including dpreview, hence I shall not review it here. I will just be sharing my take on using the J1.
I would like to express my thanks to Nikon Singapore for sponsoring the Nikon J1 for a hands-on review.

Nikon J1
with standard 10-30mm F3.5-5.6 VR
The lens is collapsible making it a smaller lens to carry around.
Turning the barrel out, turns on the camera as well.
Nikon really put some thoughts into making it convenient for users.

10-30mm F3.5-5.6 VR 
mounted with bayonet lens hood
The Nikon J1 dual lenses kit comes with one bayonet lens hood which can be mounted on both the standard zoom as well as the telephoto zoom lens.

The 1 sensor

Nikon 1 10-30mm F3.5-5.6 VR
The 1 standard zoom kit lens comes in a small package but delivers excellent performance. 

Nikon 1 30-110mm F3.8-5.6 VR
The telephoto kit lens is slightly bigger than the standard zoom and is also collapsible.
The focal length of this telephoto lens is 81-297mm at 35mm equivalent.

30-110mm F3.8-5.6 VR
mounted with bayonet lens hood
Both kit lenses share the same lens hood.

with Olympus PEN E-P1 and Panasonic LUMIX LX5
with Nikon D90 DSLR
with the retired compact point-and-shoot cameras
with the vintage cameras
with my Android devices
with my other photography subjects

Wear the Nikon J1
The minimalistic design of the 1 series demands the fashion forward to wear it and look good!
The J1 comes in Piano Black, Pure White, Metallic Silver, Scarlet Red and Cute Pink versions.
Wear the Nikon 1 to your style!

Photos from the Nikon J1
Here are some photos taken with the Nikon J1 during a recent trip to Jeju and Seoul, Korea.

Videos from the Nikon J1
HD videos and Slow Motion videos shot using the Nikon J1.

The first impression on using the Nikon J1 is that the overly simplified menu got me frustrated as I was used to having the controls at my fingertips. However, Nikon managed to keep the buttons to a bare minimum thought I would have preferred more quick access. I had the Nikon J1 set to Matrix-metering, Center focus, Auto-ISO, Vivid +1 and Auto-WB. 
Image Quality: After the first night shot with the J1, handheld without tripod, I was impressed by the image quality at high ISO. I could almost not differentiate that from my Nikon D90. The day shots were as good as my D90. I could immediately feel dependent on the J1 alone. I could never have that feeling with my PEN E-P1 and LUMIX LX5 as the photos do not impress me as those from my D90. I will usually not travel without my Nikon D90, but after using the Nikon J1, I can do with just the J1, provided I have a travel lens that covers wide to telephoto.
Handling: The J1 is small and does not have a hand grip, but handling is actually quite comfortable for my big hands. Controls are easily accessed using the right thumb. Single-handed shooting can still deliver decent results as the J1 is not heavy and the VR lenses give a decent stable shot.
Video Recording: The J1 allows recording of videos in high resolution 1080i HD and in Slow Motion (400fps and 1200fps; at low resolution). During video recording, you can still capture snapshots, which the J1 allows a buffer for 14 shots. This is indeed quite a nice feature as you do not have to stop and snap and continue to film. The Slow Motion recording adds a whole new level of creativity to fun with videos. The only caveat is that the video is restricted to only 4 seconds real-time and the very low-resolution. Check out the samples above.
Battery Life: The J1 comes with a smaller battery capacity compared to the V1. I tried going out for a day with just the J1 and not my DSLR. The battery could not make it till evening. I would strongly urge those who are interested in the J1 to demand a spare battery.
I will definitely recommend the Nikon 1 series to those who are looking for a DSLR! Yes, DSLR and not just those looking for mirrorless cameras. The reason is because I can achieve similar results from the J1 as with my D90. The size may not be the smallest among its league of cameras, but it makes an overall smaller package than a bulky DSLR. If you love to have room for expansion, you should choose the Nikon V1, for its accessory port for speedlight, but note that you cannot use your Nikon speedlights for DSLR. If you have a budget constraint, the J1 is the perfect camera as it costs lesser than S$800 to get started. Both J1 and V1 allows you to use your Nikon F mount lenses with an adaptor, so the J1 can still be pimped up as well!
You like the best, go for Nikon 1!

Note: I do not get paid by Nikon for this review, but I am a diehard Nikon fan!

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Photography & Editing by William Tan
©a day in the life of a bearbrick 2012