* Prices may differ from that shown
The Nikon J1 is the younger sibling to the V1 and part of Nikon's new '1' camera system. Essentially this is Nikon's version of the micro four thirds type system, designed to compete with the Panasonic G series, Sony NEX and Olympus pen. All these cameras are interchangable lens systems that are designed to be more compact that a traditional SLR.
Quick specification and features list:
- 40.5mm thread diameter on the standard 10-30mm lens (not a standard thread size so makes it a bit of a pain to get filters ie UV and CP)
- Metal lens mount (more secure than plastic)
- 10 megapixel (smaller sensor than many similar cameras so the pixels need to be lower in an attempt to avoid excessive 'noise' at higher ISO's)
- Uses ENEL20 battery (plus and minus contacts are not the outer two as standard on most batteries - something to remember if you ever plan to use universal chargers)
- Time lapse and slow motion movie (up to 1200fps)
- Motion snapshot (records for about a second, then plays back in slow motion alongside a choice of 4 musical themes - gimmicky but could be handy for things like powerpoint presentations).
Main differences between the J1 and the V1:
The most obvious difference is that the V1 comes equipped with a viewfinder where the J1 relies entirely on the rear LCD screen. The other main difference is that the J1 has a pop up flash and no hot shoe, however the V1 has a hot shoe and no built in flash (flash gun costs extra).
The J1 is available in a dazzling array of 5 colours - from the standard black to pink and green! Personally I prefer to have my cameras in traditional colours and I would be a bit embarassed to be seen carrying around a lime green camera, but I suppose it must appeal to some people.
The styling on the camera itself is quite retro, the pop up flash in particular is very angular and the camera seems bulky despite its overall compact size. It also feels very heavy and for me it didn't sit nicely in the hand when held in shooting position.
Physically it seems to me to be all but the same size as a Panasonic GF3, and to be honest I was expecting it to be smaller given all the hype.
Ease of use:
Like the olympus pen, the lenses for this camera have a locking system, which require you to push a button and twist the lens open before you can use this. This in itself is not especially difficult, but when you combine it with turning the camera on and removing the lens cap, it means that there is a good 5 second delay between picking the camera up and being able to use it.
Nikon claim the menu system is very intuitive, however as a Nikon user in a professional capacity, I have to say that I unfortunately don't agree with them. The camera is largely menu driven, with no manual options on dials and it took me a little while to discover where fully manual was and how to set the shutter speed etc. Once you've got used to where everything is, then it is fairly easy to use, but no good from a speed perspective.
There's no internal buffer on the camera and it cannot fire without a memory card, which may irritate some people.
The dial only has a few shoot options to choose from - one of which is 'motion snapshot' and I found it very easy to accidentally leave it on this rather than switch back to standard photo taking mode which can be quite infuriating.
The subject tracking feature took me a while to get to grips with how it worked, but once engaged it tracks subjects fairly well if a relatively slow pace of movement is maintained, I can't however see it being much good for faster moving subjects such as sports and pets. Furthermore the focus seems to be fixed on the first point that the subject was detected so even though the subject is being tracked, you will still need to half depress the shutter to adjust the autofocus.
To delete photos on playback you simply press the delete button twice in quick succession which is standard on Nikon cameras. This means that you can only delete one photo at a time, although formatting the memory card is of course the preferred option to remove all photos.
The weight of the camera, compared to its size ratio does make the camera feel of very sturdy build, and the metal lens mount supports this. The pop up flash initially looks fairly flimsy, but has very little horizontal movement to it.
The LCD screen, it has to be said, is amazing - it is the best I have ever seen and I work in a camera shop so I've seen alot! It is incredibly crisp and clear.
The ISO range is expandable up to Hi1, which admittedly is very grainy, but also far better than compact cameras (I'd compare it to about 1600 on my Canon Sx210). There are a range of auto ISO setting that allow you to cap it to a maximum of 400, 800 or 3200 - I personally think this is an excellent idea. Obviously acceptable levels of noise are dependant on personal preference, but for me I would say 3200 gives acceptable 6x4 snaps, 1600 gives a clear looking image in highlight areas but is fairly noisy in the shadows and down to 800 erradicates excessive shadow noise. I would advise leaving the high ISO noise reduction on as it is very effective for removing coloured noise.
The picture control allows you to pick the way the colours are displayed - I personally prefer vivid as it makes the colours feel more natural and with better contrast than the neutral setting.
The VR control could be better - I was getting camera shake at 1/30sec with my arm steadied against a desk, when I can hand hold my compact camera to 1/15th before getting the same issues.
I wouldn't advise significantly cropping from the original file sizes or blowing up into very big poster prints as the images lose definition quite significantly when looked at at 100%.
Obviously prices are liable to fluctuations at any given time, but presently you can purchase the standard single lens kit (10-30mm) for around £500 and the twin lens kit (inc. 30-110mm) for £640 on the highstreet.
Is it worth buying?
For me I'd say the answer is a no - despite its size it's heavy, it doesn't have the same lens options as an SLR, its very expensive, the sensor is too small and it's too menu driven. Yes the LCD screen is amazing, but that really isn't enough to tempt me. I can't see it being much use to professional photographers wanting more of a 'pocket' camera and I would think enthusiasts would want better access to manual options, those people who aren't that into photography but like nice photos aren't likely to want to spend that much on a camera. So who exactly are Nikon targeting? I have to say I don't know! At the shop I work in we've had the camera a few weeks now, haven't managed to sell a single one and have only had a couple of enquiries about it.