Design & Usability
While we certainly weren't as harsh on the V1 as we were on its puerile brother, the Nikon 1 J1, we were dismayed at the lack of a substantial grip and simple features like a mode dial with aperture/shutter priority, program auto, and manual (PASM) settings. Both of those criticisms have been wiped away with the V2, which has a large, elegant grip, a physical mode dial with PASM mode settings, and a built-in flash.
The design of the V2 certainly abandons the idea of a pocketable camera in lieu of something that an advanced shooter could really fall in love with. That's a good change—the V1 with a lens was never really that pocketable anyway—and the result is a body that is slightly more compact, with a deep, rubberized grip that aligns well with your hand.
Nikon's changes seriously differentiate the V2 from the newly-announced J2, providing much-needed controls right on the body. The repositioning of the hot shoe also is more sensible, though external flashes look a bit awkward perched atop the more substantial EVF housing. Altogether it's a bold move for Nikon, but the additions are almost entirely positive. The V2 is easier to shoot with, offers more direct control, and is less likely to slip out of your hands, even if it's now impossible to slip into your pocket.
We do have one qualm, though it's relatively minor: The V2 has what seems like a typical DSLR power switch around the shutter button, but its lack of hard stops for on and off make it operate more like a zoom toggle on a point-and-shoot. It's a small complaint, but we felt it was too easy to flick the camera on and off when we didn't mean to.
The real question mark about the Nikon V2 is going to be its redesigned 14.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor. It's still a CX-format sensor, which is about 1 inch across diagonally (13.2mm x 8.8mm)—a size that has been maligned by some as too small for an interchangeable lens camera.
While we were less than impressed with the first generation of this sensor (in both the J1 and V1), we're holding out some hope for the V2. It's the same size as the sensor found in the Sony RX100, which has been praised for having such a large sensor in a compact camera. Two cameras, same size sensor, totally different opinions; as always, it's all about perspective. More important will be if Nikon can fix some of the processing issues—namely white balance—which were a constant headache when we shot with the J1 and V1.
Other than that, the V2 inherits most of what made the V1 special. It has speed to burn—something that is a criminally underrated facet of the 1 series—allowing for burst shooting of up to 60 frames per second and continuous autofocus shooting up to 15 frames per second. There are also all the other creative modes that that kind of speed allows: slow motion video (400fps and 1200fps, reduced resolution), Nikon's improved "Motion Snapshot" mode, and a new "slow view" mode that buffers 40 frames, slowing down the action to around 6.6 frames per second until you select the shot you want.
These aren't the kind of modes that a truly advanced shooter will get much use out of, but for the people who are looking for a camera to grow with, they're fun, useful alternatives to what you get with a standard DSLR. That the V2 now looks and feels more like a true DSLR in miniature is only going to help ease the transition those people will make towards more serious bodies down the line.
While we weren't big fans of the original Nikon 1-series cameras last year, we held out hope that Nikon would turn it around. After all, the lenses are quite good and very compact, the speed is a real asset that has been overlooked, and features like "Motion Snapshot" were at least fun and clever.
The biggest issues we had were with the design. Sure the J1 and V1 were cute and minimalist, but they were also lacking in fine control, sometimes unnecessarily. Having a half-empty mode dial without something as obvious as PASM modes is fine for an entry-level camera like the J1 or J2, but it was inexcusable on the V1.
Nikon clearly saw the writing on the wall, and the result is the V2. The grip is far larger, the mode dial includes PASM settings, and the camera has a redesigned sensor that could offer better performance than we saw from the 1 V1. We'll have to get the camera into our labs before we can vet the performance claims, but the V2's design at least shows that Nikon's 1 system is on the right track the second time around.
The Nikon 1 V2 is what happens when a company takes criticism to heart; A total revamping of the Nikon 1 V1, the V2 answers the main complaints leveled at Nikon's first attempt at a compact prosumer mirrorless camera. The V2 inherits the same 1.4-million dot electronic viewfinder, but features a more traditional hot shoe, a new 14.2-megapixel 1-inch image sensor, and a more pronounced grip on a smaller body.
The V2 also inherits the speed capabilities of the V1, capable of shooting full resolution stills at up to 60 frames per second with focus locked, or 15 frames per second with continuous autofocus. The V2 is expected to be available in black or white beginning late November, kitted with the 10-30mm Nikkor 1 lens for $899.95.