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Nikon V1 Digital Camera Review$899.95
In color testing the Nikon V1 we found that it was able to reproduce a standard Gretag-Macbeth ColorChecker chart with an average color error of 2.15 at best with practically perfect saturation. That's quite good for any camera, putting the V1 among the best cameras we've tested—when you get white balance correct. When using an automatic white balance, color becomes a total crapshoot, and it's not uncommon to see color error jump to above 4 in those cases, with a strong green bias. More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The Nikon V1 is clearly capable of some remarkable color accuracy when white balance is spot on, but we highly recommend shooting in RAW (or at least RAW+JPEG) and using a RAW developer to set a custom white balance after the fact whenever possible. While Nikon's demosaicing algorithms are generally among the best around, the V1 is just too inconsistent to really be trusted for anything other than snapshots, especially in mixed lighting where the white balance system is easily confused.
The Nikon V1 features several of the standard "picture controls" that you'll recognize from any other Nikon camera. These modes include the usual group of standard, neutral, vivid, monochrome, portrait, and landscape. The color modes can be adjusted, with options for sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. You can view the relationship between each of the modes by pressing the zoom toggle, which shows each mode placed on a grid plotted by contrast and saturation.
The Nikon V1, like the J1, really struggled to establish white when using the automatic white balance system. This is an issue that really held the J1 back and it rears its ugly head here yet again. The camera couldn't come within 1000 kelvin of a compact white fluorescent light source, with daylight shots coming out much cooler than normal as well. This is despite multiple attempts, turning the camera completely off, removing the battery, taking a custom white balance, and then switching to automatic. After that the daylight shots looked better, but the compact white fluorescent shots continued to look terrible.
What's most dismaying is that the Nikon V1's rear monitor often shows shots that have white balance that is very close to correct. When you take the shot, however, there's a huge gamma shift between what the screen displays and the final shot looks like.
Automatic White Balance ()
The Nikon V1's automatic white balance ultimately performed acceptably under daylight lighting conditions, with an average kelvin temperature error of around 188 kelvin. Under compact white fluorescent, it was a different story, with an average error of 988 kelvin at best. In tungsten lighting conditions, the error actually wasn't so bad relative to cameras at large (most of which struggle greatly with light that warm), but the V1 was still off by 1510 kelvin on average.
Custom White Balance ()
When you take the time to capture a custom white balance the Nikon V1 performs much better. In daylight conditions with a custom white balance the Nikon V1 had an average error of just 218 kelvin, which only jumped to 273 kelvin in compact white fluorescent. Under tungsten lighting we found that error dropped all the way to just 120 kelvin on average, which is quite good.
In general we found the white balance to be fairly poor on the Nikon V1 relative to its peers. This isn't surprising, though, as we saw the same issues with the Nikon J1. When you're able to manage a solid color temperature reading the V1 is capable of some very good color accuracy, but the white balance system is looking like a consistent problem across the 1 system cameras.
White Balance Options
On the Nikon V1 you have the option of capturing a white balance measurement, using the automatic white balance, or employing one of several presets. Each of the presets can be adjusted on a four-way grid, which can help combat specific biases in measurements. The only bias we could consistently see was a slight green bias, so ticking the grid one box toward magenta can help, but it's not consistent enough that we'd recommend it in every setting.