OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nikon 1 V2 Review

Nikon 1 V2 is the latest mirrorless camera from Nikon. The letter V in the model name indicates it’s the high end model that is targeting users who wants more features than the base J and S models. While the V2 has inherited a number of internal features from it’s predecessor V1, Nikon has also made a number of changes internally and externally such as a new image sensor, different button/dial layout…etc and made it quite a different camera to the V1.

The most obvious difference between the V2 and the previous Nikon 1 cameras is it’s much larger grip and a more industrial look. While the larger grip does make the camera quite a bit larger, holding the camera especially with one hand also feel a lot better and more secure. Nikon has also redesigned the button layout, and make it more similar to it’s DSLRs. There are also two big dials on the top of the camera which makes changing mode and settings a lot easier. With the big grip and changes in the button/dial layout, the Nikon 1 V2 is definitely the most comfortable Nikon 1 camera to hold.

V2 has a new 14.2MP CMOS sensor. ISO range is from 160-6400. From low to mid ISO up to around 800, the picture quality is really good, the photos have very nice colours, and decent dynamic range. At ISO 3200, you can see the noise reduction algorithm is starting to remove quite a bit of finer details but overall the picture quality is still ok. ISO 6400 is for emergency use only. While it’s high ISO performance is definitely nothing like a full frame sensor, it’s still very good for a 1” sensor and can easily challenge a few mirrorless cameras with slightly larger sensor.

As a top end model, the Nikon 1 V2 has a built-in Electronic View Finder (EVF) in additonal to the main LCD screen. The EVF is pretty bright, smooth and has decent resolution. The lag is minimal so I can take action photos using the EVF easily. While I still prefer full frame DSLR’s good old optical viewfinder, the latest EVF like the one in the V2 is getting very close to the quality of the OVF and you have the advantage of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) when you are adjusting settings like exposure or white balance. Having said that, I did notice that sometimes the brightness of the image I see in the EVF is quite different to the final image captured by the camera and i can’t figure what is causing that. But apart from that, I enjoy taking photos using V2’s EVF.

One thing that can make or break a camera is it’s autofocus system, and V2’s Autofocus system is simply amazing. It’s a hybrid autofocus system that combines both phase and contrast detection. There are a total of 73 phase detection AF points and 135 contrast detection AF points that gives you a total of… 200+ AF points. Yes crazy! And it does work very well in real life too! Not only autofocus is lighting fast when shooting static object, (somehow i feel it’s even faster than my D800!), the autofocus accuracy is also very good. And when I was shooting moving object, the tracking works quite well too. I tried using the V2 to take photos of cars, birds or my daughter running around, and I was really amazed by the very high percentage of good photos that the V2 managed to capture. In comparison, my Olympus OM-D, which is also pretty fast and accurate when shooting static objects, performs very poorly once the object starts moving. V2 with it’s hybrid autofocus is definitely the best mirrorless camera for shooting moving objects.
Just a note, the V2’s autofocus system is basically the same as all the other Nikon 1 cameras, so V1, J1, J2, S1..etc they should all have the same amazing autofocus capability,

V2’s mechanical shutter speed has a maximum speed of 1/4000s which is similar to most cameras in this class. But it also has an additional electronic Shutter with a maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000s! And if you switch on the “Silent” mode, the camera makes no shutter sound at all when you are taking photos. This is really great when you want to take photo at a quiet place and don’t want to create any noise. Like taking photos of your baby and not worry about waking him up from his sweet dream.

Nikon put a lot of creative features into it’s 1 system camera and the V2 is no exception. The V2 not only inherits a lot of features from its predecessor like the Smart Photo Selector , it also has some new features like the Best Moment Capture Mode. The Best Moment Capture mode allows you to use slow view a moment you are capturing in real time. You just need to half press the shutter button and the camera will start capture live action (approx. 1.33 seconds). At the same time, the camera plays it back at five times slower than normal speed (approx. 6.66 sec) and you can pick the best moment you want. This action is replayed repeatedly as long as the shutter-release button is half-pressed.

Another big selling point of the V2 is it’s high burst rate. V2 can take photos at 15fps, with autofocus and at full resolution! It’s faster than the Nikon D4! But if 15fps is still not fast enough, you can increase the speed to 60fps if you don’t need autofocus between the continuous shots. And you still get the full resolution files (RAW/JPG). It means the camera is capturing 840 megapixels per second!! Crazy!

With the V1, a lot of people have complained that it doesn’t have a built-in flash, so you have to use the accessory port to plug in an external flash. But it means you can’t connect another external accessory (e.g. GPS) when you are using a flash. Good news is, the V2 now has an built-in flash as well as the accessory port.

Another cool feature of the Nikon 1 cameras, including the V2 is it’s ability to capture slow motion video at either 400fps or 1200fps. And tell you what, slow-motion videos are super fun! 1200fps is amazing and reveal things you never see with your naked eyes. But at 320 x 120, the resolution is really a bit too low for any real use.. The 400fps 640x 240 video is a better compromise in terms of speed and resolution. And is a LOT OF FUN! We spent a lot of time running around taking random slow-motion videos instead of photos when we were reviewing the camera. A lot of ordinary scenes suddenly look very interesting when captured at 400fps!

You can check out our youtube channel for some more slow motion video we captured using the V2:
http://www.youtube.com/user/NikonJin

For more advance video users, you can have full manual exposure controls when shooting in the Advance Movie Mode. And the camera also has a external mic input port.
Another cool feature is that you can capture high resolution photos when you are capturing full HD video. You won’t be missing a great photo opportunity anymore just because you are taking video.

If you compare the Nikon 1 cameras with other brand mirrorless cameras, you may notice the Nikon 1 camera bodies is a bit smaller, but not significantly smaller. But with any interchangable lens system, the size of the body is only part of the equation. Some of the large sensor mirrorless cameras may have a very slim and smallish body. But then once you mount a lens onto the camera, all of a sudden the camera is not really any smaller than a small DSLR anymore. Fortunately this is not the case with the Nikon 1 cameras. The loan unit I got from Nikon consist of a V2 + 4 different lenses: 2 zoom and 2 prime lenses. Everything fit inside a very small camera bag and total weight is next to nothing. Or I can easily put the camera with a prime or even zoom lens attached in my trouser pocket and put one or two more lenses in another pocket. The Nikon 1 lenses are really small and in my opinion that’s one of the biggest advantage of the 1” CX sensor. Among the 4 lenses I’ve tried, I especially love the 18.5mm f/1.8 lens. It’s nice, small, fast and picture quality is pretty good.

While the V2 doesn’t have wifi built-in, there is an optional WU-1b wifi adaptor. With the wifi adaptor and a iOS or Android device, you can have control the camera and take photos from your smart device. You’ll have realtime liveview, and ability to download photos through wifi. The wifi is pretty easy to setup, and the remote liveview has almost no delay, this is a lot better than the GoPro3 I recently tried which has a 3-4 second delay with it’s remote liveview display.. The only thing is, make sure you don’t lost the WU-1B as it’s really quite tiny. It would be good if Nikon can make the wifi module built-in for it’s future cameras.

During the review, I noticed the left side of the camera gets a bit warm after the camera’s being used continously for a while, especially after I took a number of slow motion videos. I am guessing the heat is generated by the cameras EXPEED 3A processor. The heat won’t make you feel uncomfortable but the camera is reminding you it’s got a really powerful processor and it is processing a lot of data!

But even with the powerful EXPEED 3A processor, battery life seems not too bad and is similar to most of the mirrorless cameras I’ve used in the past.

Conclusions:
For a camera that is small enough to carry with me almost all the time, the image quality from the V2 is really pretty good. The Nikon 1 V2 has an amazing autofocus system, very fast 15fps (or 60fps) burst rate, 400fps slow motion video, wifi remote control..etc make this camera a lot of fun! My biggest concern for this camera is it’s price. The camera is not available for sale here in NZ yet when I’m doing this review so I don’t really know the street price. But looking at the V1’s price, I have a feeling it won’t be cheap when it’s finally available for sale. There will be a lot of really strong competitors at the same price range, most of them are mirrorless or even DSLRs with a much larger sensor. So will the market prefer V2’s very impressive feature list and compact size, or will people prefer a larger camera with larger sensor? I guess it’s a really personal choice. If you want a good small camera that is easy to operate, and with lots of cool innovative features, you definitely should check out the Nikon 1 V2.

Pros:
Amazing Autofocus system.
Long list of innovative features
Capture full resolution photo at up to 60fps!
Slow motion video up to 1200fps
Compact size, that includes the lenses too.

Cons:
EVF brightness is different to the image captured occasionally.
Retail price could be higher than what people want to.
Wifi could be built-in instead of external

Sample Photos
(All sample photos are RAW file converted to JPG using Adobe Lightroom)


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR


Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 30-110mm VR

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

 

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