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Nikon V1 Digital Camera Review$899.95
When Nikon announced their new "1 System" of compact interchangeable lens cameras, they debuted with two models, the J1 and the V1. The cameras are the first digital Nikon cameras to utilize an entirely new lens mount system, and an image sensor that is smaller than those used in competing cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung.
The question begs, why would Nikon choose to use this smaller sensor, with all the performance challenges that come with that choice? The answer to that question is speed. The Nikon V1 is capable of some blistering speed, with the ability to capture nearly standard definition video at 400 frames per second (and 1200fps if you're willing to sacrifice quality).
In addition the V1, like the J1 we already tested, can capture full resolution still frames at 60 frames per second. Its buffer can only manage to capture 30 shots at that speed, but these are full resolution stills. That puts the V1 and J1 in a class of their own in terms of raw speed when you need it. It also improves the video quality when shooting at 1080/30p, as the "jello vision" you normally see in video from CMOS-packing DSLRs is greatly reduced due the fast sensor readout.
Unfortunately, this first generation of "1" System cameras still has some performance hurdles to overcome. The smaller sensor really limits dynamic range, and noise levels are higher than we'd like. The noise reduction system employed in the camera keeps ugly grain under control without throwing away too much fine detail, but it's not perfect, with plenty of artifacting in high ISO shots.
Our main complaint with the J1 also holds true for the V1: this camera simply can't white balance consistently when you let the camera make its own decisions automatically. When you take a custom reading it does much better, but it's still among the most finicky cameras we've tested, especially under artificial light.
When it does achieve correct white balance the Nikon 1 V1 offers great color accuracy, with little chromatic aberration and acceptable sharpness with the 10-30mm kit lens. We'd certainly recommend shooting RAW where possible, though, to get the most out of your photos and bypass the need to rely on the in-camera white balance.
The one question that persists is whether the V1 is worth getting over the J1. The J1 has a much slicker surface, making it harder to grip, but otherwise offers nearly identical performance. The built-in electronic viewfinder and high-end screen on the V1 are nice, but ultimately your pictures are going to be nearly identical. It's good of Nikon to not hamper the J1 by stripping out software features, but we think most shooters will get by just fine without the viewfinder on the cheaper of the two models.
Overall, the Nikon V1 is a solid performer for anyone looking for a compact sub-$1000 interchangeable lens camera that is easy to travel with. The initial lens lineup from Nikon is small, but strong, with more compact options than the competition. The J1 may be the better value if you can live without the viewfinder, but both camera give us reason to be excited for what Nikon can do with this system going forward.