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Nikon V1 Digital Camera Review$899.95
Kit Lens & Mount
The Nikon V1 uses a "CX" size image sensor that is smaller than the "DX" APS-C image sensors found in Nikon DSLRs like the D3100, D3200, D40, or D5100. The CX image sensor is also smaller than competing mirrorless sensors like those found in the Micro Four Thirds lineup from Panasonic and Olympus.
With that new smaller sensor comes the 1 system lens mount, designed to fit smaller, much more compact lenses on to the body. As the J1 and V1 are both new to the market, the lens system is understandably quite small, only featuring a few lenses. The kit lens is a standard 10-30mm, which closely resembles the field of view you'd get from an 18-55mm lens on the larger APS-C image sensors.
Of all the lenses in the 1 system we felt the 30-110mm telephoto lens was the best, as it offers a good combination of size and image quality. The 10-100mm powered zoom lens is also nice, but in our opinion powered zooms are only really useful if you're going to use the camera primarily for video, as it's much easier and faster to just manually turn a zoom ring.
The CX image sensor in the Nikon V1 is made by Aptina, and it does well for its size. While we'll dig deeper into the sensor's performance in other sections, we'll say the sensor does struggle to offer dynamic range that can match DSLRs, while also suffering from noisy images at high ISOs. This is to be expected as the first generation of a new, smaller sensors, and it's right in line with what we saw from early Micro Four Thirds cameras. What remains to be seen is how Aptina develops this technology further, and if they can really deliver entry-level DSLR performance on a compact image sensor.
Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared
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 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 Nikon V1 does not include a built-in flash, but instead offers an accessory port for the user to attach one. The flash looks somewhat awkward when attached, as it slots in over the viewfinder like a Tetris block. The only flash available for the 1 system as of this writing is the SB-N5 Speedlight, which offers an effective flash range of two to 66 feet, with the ability to bounce lighting in a variety of directions. The flash can also be used as a continuous light source for up to six seconds, just long enough to take a short video clip. The Speedlight does come at a price, however, at a suggested retail price of $149.95.
The Nikon V1 features built-in HDMI, proprietary USB, and 3.5mm mic ports. All three ports are housed on the left side of the camera behind a small plastic flap. The accessory port for attaching the flash is also located on the left side of the top plate of the camera, with a rubber insert that camouflages it with the body. The mic port separates the V1 from its younger sibling the J1, offering it a little more legitimacy as a video-recording device.
The battery in the V1 is the Nikon EN-EL15 lithium-ion rechargeable. It is removable from the body, charged in an external cradle that comes with the camera. The battery is quite large for such a small camera, occupying nearly the entire grip. It offers right around 350 shots on a single charge according to Nikon's usage by CIPA standards. Those standards are strictly tested but aren't going to represent the usage pattern of most people. If you're taking a lot of shots in succession, for example, you're going to get far beyond the 350 shots listed.
The Nikon V1 makes use of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, which go into a dedicated slot inside of the battery compartment. All SD/SDHC/SDXC cards on the market should work fine, as there doesn't appear to be any upper limit on the size of card that can be utilized—at least not any upper limit that a firmware upgrade won't fix in the future.