Nikon J1 Review

Nikon J1 Review

Nikon’s mirrorless camera system was expected by many, and yet with the two cameras 1 J1 and 1 V1 it turned out differently than many had thought possible. But this system, which was designed and constructed from scratch, throws inherited burdens overboard; the planning began, so to speak, with a white sheet of paper. The result is no competition to the typical DSLR, but something new that could bridge the gap between high-end compact cameras and DSLRs. The Nikon 1 J1 is the cheaper model of the new Nikon 1 system, it is rather aimed at beginners in my opinion.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High speed such as shutter release delay, continuous shooting, etc.
  • Good image quality without glaring weaknesses up to ISO 800
  • Unobtrusive photography due to whisper-quiet shutter release and compact size
  • High-quality processing with premium design

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Partially too menu-heavy operation with missing individualization possibilities
  • Still relatively small range of lenses, especially compact and fast lenses
  • Not many features available.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Cute and noble are the first attributes that come to mind when we think of the Nikon 1 J1. Nikon 1 is the new mirrorless system from Nikon, which comes with a 13.2 x 8.8 millimetre sensor. As usual for a system camera with interchangeable lenses, this sensor is open when the lens is removed. However, a non-stick coating should keep the dirt away, but ultrasonic cleaning should remove any adhering dirt particles. The J1 has a high quality finish, the front of the housing is made of metal.

The editorial staff had a black J1 available for testing, but it is also available in other colours such as silver, white, red or pink. If the front of the camera did not have a rather thick, well made lens, you could easily mistake it for a normal compact camera. The design is simple, especially the front of the case and the top appear tidy. At the top of the camera body there is only the power button and two shutter releases – one for video, the other for photo.

On the bottom side of the camera Nikon has placed a tripod thread made of metal, professionally arranged in the optical axis. Next to it is the battery and memory card compartment, which is blocked when using a tripod. However, a battery dummy can also be used to supply power via a mains adapter. The small lithium-ion battery is a little weak on the chest, after 230 shots, half of them with flash, it runs out of breath according to CIPA standard measuring procedures. The SD card slot also accepts SDHC and SDXC cards – enough capacity for long lasting photo and video sessions. On the right, a hard rubber piece covers the USB and the mini HDMI connection. The 1 J1 cannot be connected to an old analogue television. A remote release connector is also not available, but the camera has an infrared sensor on the front so that it can be released wirelessly with the optional remote control.

On the back of the camera, there are all kinds of controls whose appearance is more reminiscent of a compact camera. For example, the four-weigher with a central confirmation knob, which is enclosed by a control wheel. It is flanked by four additional keys. This means that the thumb has easy access to eight functions in the smallest of spaces. The mode dial is also located on the back and takes up a threatening amount of space on the thumb rest – this is also familiar from compact cameras. Unfortunately this wheel has only four positions. This makes the camera look simpler, but on the other hand makes for a more menu-driven operation. Above the wheel there is a rocker and a function button.

By far the largest area on the back is taken up by the 7.5 centimeter screen. Its brilliance appears as noble as the camera, but the resolution of 460,000 pixels is only mediocre. By calling up the menu, one is surprised as a Nikon connoisseur. Nikon has redesigned it, it looks modern and classy – so it fits perfectly with the camera. The tidy menu has astonishingly large font, half cut lines indicate where to scroll. In the normal screen view, however, there are still quite small icons that are probably harder to decipher than the menu for people with impaired vision. What the Nikon J1 lacks are individualization possibilities in the form of programmable buttons. Although this makes the camera purer and easier to use, it cannot be adapted to personal preferences and needs.

Equipment

Poor in features in comparison with other similar cameras. And yet Nikon breaks with some usual standards and saves a lot of little things, whereby the camera appears a little bit slimmed down. On the other hand, this makes operation easier. This way, the photographer does not have to think about which subject program to choose because he is not even offered a choice. If you do not want to trust the automatic motif control, simply switch to the classic program, aperture or aperture priority mode. But the J1 also offers a manual mode including bulb long time exposure, but in order to switch over accordingly, one has to call up a menu item. For those who do not want to use automatic exposure, but are put off by the classic exposure programs, the “moving snapshot” mode can be activated on the mode dial. Here he has the choice between “beauty”, “waves”, “relaxation” and “tenderness” – so the Nikon 1 J1 can also be taken esoterically. A short video sequence and then a 16:9 photo is taken.

Although the camera is quite compact, Nikon was able to accommodate a flash in the housing, which must be activated manually. It jumps up quite high and therefore shines out quite well, with a reduced tendency to red eyes. In addition, a pre-flash can be activated to further minimize the risk of red flashing eyes. Furthermore, the on-board flash can be synchronized with longer exposure times, either at the beginning or at the end of the exposure. Other important parameters such as white balance, exposure metering, ISO sensitivity, even with limitable automatic, focus mode and much more can also be set as desired – sometimes via menu, sometimes via a dedicated button. Nikon has even given the J1 an interval function.

The lens, which can be folded in, ensures particularly compact transport dimensions. When you turn it off, the camera automatically turns on. However, when the lens is retracted, the camera does not automatically turn off but displays a message on the screen. The 10-30 mm and the 30-110 mm have a corresponding mechanism. Due to the image sensor, which is 2.7 times smaller in the diagonal than a 35 mm sensor, the lenses correspond to a 27-81 mm or 81-297 mm lens. Those who like it particularly compact can fall back on a 10 mm pancake, which at F2.8 is, however, not much brighter than the 10-30 mm standard zoom, which has an aperture of F3.5 at a focal length of 10 mm. The J1 not only focuses quickly and silently, but also very accurately. Pumping of the autofocus is practically undetectable. The shutter release is also whisper quiet, because the Nikon 1 J1 is the first mirrorless system camera without a mechanical shutter. Only the quiet clatter of the bezel is still audible in quiet environments.

Speed is the trump card of the new Nikon system. Not only the autofocus and the camera reaction times give no cause for complaint, but also the continuous shooting speed is extremely high. This is especially true for videos that reach either 400 or 1,200 frames per second in slow motion mode. If you prefer resolution, FullHD provides you with the latest technology. The frame rate is 30 full frames per second or optionally 60 fields. A stereo microphone is of course built in, it delivers an amazingly good sound quality. Only one external microphone connection is missing. The focus tracking works fast, unerringly and precisely, but above all inaudibly. Unfortunately, video recording with the video recording button can only be started in video recording mode. Actually, Nikon could have saved itself the video shutter release with it. Even those who want to play creatively with the depth of field when filming will be disappointed.

Nikon was also economical with the image processing possibilities directly in the camera. Only cropping of images and cropping of movies is possible. Only the Active D-Lighting function has made it into the camera as image optimization. After all, RAW files can be saved as an alternative or in addition to JPEG, so that nothing stands in the way of professional editing of the photo shots on the PC.

Image quality

Like any other system camera, the Nikon 1 J1 had to undergo extensive measurements in our test lab. In addition to the standard zoom, which served as the basis for the evaluation in this test, laboratory tests of the 30-110 millimeter telezoom and the 10 millimeter pancake are also available.

Often it is not so much a peak value in a single measurement that is decisive for the overall image quality, but rather the sum of all parameters. Especially if there are no glaring outliers that visibly reduce the image quality. Thus, the Nikon 1 J1 with its 10 megapixels does not set any records in the resolution measurement. On the other hand, the sensor itself is fully exploited by the standard zoom, which means that the lens would also be suitable for higher resolutions. In front of all, there is only a weak marginal decrease of the resolution, one could best say that the zoom is slightly weaker at the tele end than in the wide angle and at medium focal length. The edge darkening is at best measurable, but not visible; here a balanced electronic correction intervenes. The distortion is not as well corrected. At wide angle there is 2.5 percent barrel distortion, at medium focal length there is minimal distortion and at telephoto there is virtually no distortion. The most likely criticism could be the color fringes, which are easily visible at least in their most extreme forms towards the edge of the picture, but do not disturb the overall picture decisively. This is a good standard zoom that is rarely found in this form in cameras with a larger sensor.

We were curious about the noise behaviour of the 1 J1. The sensor, which is small in relation to the DSLR, doesn’t bode well, but on the other hand the resolution is rather moderate and the latest image processing technology is able to bring out some quality. The signal-to-noise ratio then shows that the pixels are not so large. The ratio of the image signal to the noise signal slides at the limit of acceptable to bad at all sensitivities, is, as expected, best at ISO 100, but shows a surprisingly flat gradient.

At ISO 800, it is clear from the measured values that a stronger correction is applied, as the falling trend of the values is briefly reversed or stopped. Therewith, Nikon barely pushes the ISO 800 to the usable side, but from ISO 1.600 on, the measuring values decrease again. Fine textures up to ISO 400 are sharp, at ISO 800 just sharp enough, but from ISO 1.600 on, the images become noticeably softer due to the noise reduction.

Color and luminance noise are easily visible at all sensitivities, but do not increase excessively due to the ever-increasing noise reduction. The graininess of the noise, on the other hand, is quite high, with the exception of ISO 800, so that the noise is always slightly visible. Thanks to the electronic tricks, the input dynamics are always at a good to high level between 9.4 and 9.8 f-stops, so that the J1 is able to capture high subject contrasts well. The tone curve is crisply tuned – typical for an entry-level camera. This also applies to the edge sharpness, which sometimes results in slight sharpness artifacts. Although Nikon does not make full use of the possible tonal value gradations, it does make sufficient use of them. The J1 reproduces colours well differentiated and on average also accurate enough, some shades deviate slightly or are slightly more saturated. But overall, the picture impression is very natural, respectively appears pleasantly embellished due to the slight tendency to a slightly warmer reproduction (for example slightly saturated red tones). All in all, Nikon has thus adapted the 1 J1 well to the target group and it belongs to the cameras mentioned at the beginning, which are well balanced without major weaknesses.

Conclusion

Those who have the claim to acquire a mirrorless system camera as an alternative to the DSLR will not necessarily be well advised with the Nikon 1 J1. Even as a supplement to the DSLR, it is only suitable if you partially throw old familiar operating philosophies overboard. But those who are looking for a simple, compact digital camera with a relatively good image quality that offers the possibility to change the lenses and is also fast as a DSLR will be right with the Nikon 1 J1. It has a high-quality finish, a noble design and offers, with the exception of the somewhat short battery life, a performance that doesn’t need to hide behind a DSLR. The video quality is also impressive, but this is especially true for the image quality. The J1 has no glaring weaknesses and surprises with a good quality up to ISO 800 – made possible by modern sensor technology and image processing.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Nikon
Model 1 J1
Price approx. EUR 570* EUR t market launch
Sensor Resolution 10 megapixel
Max. Image resolution 3.872 x 2.592
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Sensor size 13.2 x 8.8 mm
Lens F3.5-5.6/10-30mm
Filter thread 40.5 mm
Searcher
Dioptre compensation
Resolution
Enlargement
Image field coverage
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 460.000
rotatable
swiveling
as viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes automatic subject only
Portrait
Children/baby
Landscape
Macro
Sports/action
Other scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection
Remote release infrared
Interval recording yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format MOV
Codec H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 30p/60i
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-3.200 (upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 100-6.400
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadows
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 35
AF auxiliary light glaring white
Speed approx. 0.3-0.5 s
Languages English
Additional languages 25 other languages available
Weight
(ready for operation)
275 g (housing only)
385 g (with lens*)
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life 230 images (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available
* with VR 10-30 mm lens 3.5-5.6

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High speed such as shutter release delay, continuous shooting, etc.
  • Good image quality without glaring weaknesses up to ISO 800
  • Unobtrusive photography due to whisper-quiet shutter release and compact size (especially with pancake)
  • High-quality processing with noble design

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Partially too menu-heavy operation with missing individualization possibilities
  • Still relatively small range of lenses, especially compact and fast lenses
  • Poor in features.

Nikon 1 J1 data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 1″ 13.2 x 8.8 mm (crop factor 2.7
)10.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.4 µm
Photo resolution
3.872 x 2.592 pixels (3:2)
2.896 x 1.944 pixels (3:2)
1.936 x 1.296 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 60 p
Video format
MPG4 (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon 1

Focus

Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 460,000 pixels

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/16,000 to 30 s (automatic)
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure Compensation -3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 6,400 (manual)
Scene modes Automatic, Landscape, Portrait, 0 other scene modes
White balance Sun, shade, flash light, fluorescent lamp, incandescent light, manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 10.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 13 stored photos, 10, 30 or 60 frames per second
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 5 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)

Flashgun

Flash built-in hot shoe
: not available
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/60 s
Flash code Guide number 5 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL20 (lithium-ion (Li-Ion)
)70 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Image index
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Image parameters Contrast
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Expeed 3 image processorHybrid AF systems
(phase detection and contrast AF),
Active D-LightingBuilt-in
stereo microphoneDust filter
before sensor pre-capture

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 106 x 61 x 30 mm
Weight 227 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Nikon AN-N1000 Storage AccessoriesNikon
BF-N1000 Lens AccessoriesNikon
EN-EL20 Special Battery PackNikon
MH-27 Charger for Special Battery PackNikon
UC-E15 USB CableChargerUSB Connection CableStretch StrapImage Editing SoftwareViewNX2Movie Software
Short Movie Creator
additional accessories Nikon EH-5B Power supplyNikon
EN-EL20 Special battery power supply
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.