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Nikon V1 Digital Camera Review$899.95
The Nikon V1's main advantages for beginners are its relatively uncomplicated control scheme and straight to-the-point menu system. It's still not as intuitive as those found on Canon DSLRs, but it's miles better than what Nikon generally offers in their interchangeable lens cameras. The easiest thing about the camera is that, in every shooting mode, when you press menu the first option that is available is the "Reset shooting options" setting. This means that whatever you screw up, you can easily return to normal with just a couple of button presses. This should go a long way toward easing the fears of those stepping up from point-and-shoots who just want to learn the camera at their own pace.
The other feature that really aids beginners is the smart photo selector mode, which is right on the physical mode dial. This mode takes a large buffer of images from the time you half-press the shutter button until you take a photo. It then captures what it feels are the five best shots from before and after you pressed the button, saving those to the memory card and showing you the best one.
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.
Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes
The Nikon V1 doesn't include much in the way of selectable effects, filters, or scene modes on the camera. You can use the four standard PASM modes or the scene auto selector, which automatically decides which scene mode that it wants to employ, with no user overrides. In playback you can do some very minor editing, but nothing that would drastically or creatively alter your images to any great degree.
The menu on the Nikon V1 is practically identical to the menu on the J1. It's laid out in a manner similar to Nikon's DSLRs, with three tabs on the left side of the screen that are accessible by pressing the left key on the rear control pad. Within each tab, options are presented in a long list, with no easy way to move between pages. This is in line with what they've done in the past, and it's a shame because it can often involve scrolling through a page or two of options before getting to the one you want.
The loose control dial does help here, though, as you can quickly scroll down many options with a few turns of the dial. Still, this method is definitely inferior to the way Canon and Samsung lay their menus out, with tabs aligned horizontally on the top of the screen and multiple pages that don't require scrolling to get through. This is a fundamental issue with Nikon's menu system that really needs to be changed in the future, as it slows down menu navigation and only steepens the learning curve.
The Nikon V1 includes a printed manual and a more in-depth reference guide on a CD-ROM. The reference guide is available in .pdf format in English, Spanish, French, and Portugese. The manual does a good job of explaining the basics, with diagrams and step-by-step guides for using certain features. Nikon also has an online service called Digitutor which is available with specific instructions for the V1, available at Nikon USA's website.