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Nikon V1 Digital Camera Review$899.95
When we reviewed the Nikon J1, our chief complaint against the camera was its sub-par handling owing to its slick exterior and complete lack of grip. The Nikon V1 counters that with a rougher exterior, a small nub for a grip on the front, and altogether an easier-to-grip body than the J1. The V1 still isn't perfect, especially compared to competing compact system cameras which still offer a grip despite their small size. That said, the V1 feels secure in your hand, even when using a larger, heavy lens like the 10-100mm powered zoom lens.
While all compact system cameras trade some measure control for portability, the Nikon V1 and J1 are definitely on the more compact end of the spectrum. The V1, even with its built-in viewfinder, is very easy to carry around in a jacket pocket with one of the smaller 1 system lenses. You certainly won't mind having the camera with you for a day of shooting with either the 10-30mm or 10mm pancake lens options. All in all the V1 is the better handling of the debut 1 system Nikons, but we hope for an even better handling experience whenever Nikon updates this line of cameras.
Buttons & Dials
The buttons on the Nikon V1 all look very stylish and are easy to use, offering a solid response and an audible click when they've been engaged. The buttons have very little travel, and it's easy to navigate through the menu or multiple options as a result. The rear control dial feels a little loose, but it's easy to rotate it several times with the thumb, as it doesn't require much force to go from point to point.
The one point of contention we'd have with the design of the V1's button and dial layout is the mode dial. The dial at its present size has room for around 9 options, yet Nikon has given it only four. The four include motion snapshot, smart photo selector, still shooting, and the movie mode.
This keeps the usual group of PASM exposure modes hidden in a menu, with the user having to go into the menu to designate which mode they want to shoot in. It wouldn't take much to include those four modes right on the physical dial (which has quite a bit of empty space left on it), at least for still photography. As a result switching from automatic video shooting to aperture-priority still photography requires turning the mode dial, a trip to the menu and back when, on most cameras, it's as simple as turning a dial. It's an extra step that is, frankly, unnecessary and a problem that would be fixable without any real change in the physical design of the camera.
The rear monitor on the Nikon V1 is quite excellent, with a 921k-dot resolution. The display is sharp and vivid in most lighting conditions, though it does suffer in direct sunlight from the glare issue that plagues all rear displays. We found it was more than sufficient for checking focus and other small details, and usually found it easier to use than the electronic viewfinder, when available.
The electronic viewfinder on the V1 is nice and bright, with a very low response time. As you move around there is little of the motion blur you frequently get with other electronic viewfinders. The viewfinder is triggered automatically whenever it sensors anything in close proximity, so it's available almost immediately after bringing it up to your face. The one complaint we'd have with it is how small it is, as it feels cramped compared to finders on some other cameras, but it's right in line with the finder on a camera like the Sony NEX-7, with far less response lag.
The 10-30mm kit lens that ships with the Nikon V1 was quite capable of producing sharp shots even when subjected to a low level of shake. Our image stabilization rig follows a shake pattern that is designed to replicate the camera shake that would happen when shooting handheld, at a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second. The resulting shots were quite good, but were even better with stabilization active.