on November 1, 2011
I am a professional photographer and have been for a long time. I also write books about photography. I like cameras and own many different kinds, from medium format film cameras to super zoom compacts. But I've been very interested in the whole category of mirrorless cameras for the two years. I own three different Olympus Pen cameras, including the new Pen EP3, so it was a little bit counter-intuitive for me to pick up a Nikon V1 as well. I was originally attracted to the camera because of the industrial design which (unlike just about every one else on the web) I like very much. It's clean and to the point. I like cameras with high resolution EVF's because it makes the process of shooting (and especially shooting video) seem very much like using the traditional cameras I grew up with. I cannot understand the fad of holding a camera at arm's length and trying to compose a good photograph. Just doesn't work for so many reasons.
I've shot with the Nikon in the studio (using LED light panels) and outside for the last five days. It focuses very, very quickly and with the mechanical shutter engaged it shoots at 5 fps. You can also use the electronic shutter to shoot 10, 30 or 60 fps. Amazingly fast. The EVF works very well in bright sun and in low light.
The camera is small and light and the video specs are very good as well. There is even a high speed video mode that allows you to shoot very short clips at 400 fps. When you play back at a normal 30 fps the footage becomes incredibly slow slow motion. While the video lacks a bit of finesse in the audio realm the test clips I've shot at regular 1080i and 1080p are sharp and the color is great. There is a standard socket for an external microphone and variable sensitivity settings in the menu. Just not fine tuned control over manual sound levels.
The two lenses I got are the standard kit lenses and both of them work well, provide great Vibration Reduction and seem sharp even when shot wide open. I hope they flesh out the offerings to include some high speed prime lenses as well.
The camera, when used with the electronic shutter, is 100% silent in operation.
What are the flaws? 1. You should be able to turn off the image review but you can't. That means, when shooting in single shot mode, the camera will show you a review image after each push of the shutter which slows your shot to shot time down to about 2 seconds. If you were able to turn off the review the camera is completely capable of shooting very, very quickly. In the continuous mode there's enough shutter delay to throw you off your game if you've been shooting with a $5,000 sports camera. If you are upgrading from a point and shoot, you won't notice it at all. The cure is to go electronic and set the camera for 10 fps and then shoot in bursts. No lag and you're pretty much guaranteed to catch some peak action
The menu is much less detailed but much more straightforward than the menus in the Olympus Pens which is both good and bad. The Nikon is easier to learn (especially for people coming from Nikon SLR's) but the Olympus menus give you more fine control over just about every setting.
I've had great luck with the images that come out of the camera. The jpegs are well exposed, full of good detail and the colors are right on the money. Just as good as the "famous" Olympus Jpegs. I'm waiting on Adobe to implement the new nef raw files into ACR and Lightroom so I can start shooting raw files. You can use the supplied software for now but the workflow is so much slower I just can't stand it.
I'm certain that Nikon will do well with this system because it's quite a huge step up from cameras like the Panasonic LX-5 or the Canon G12 and lets you interchange lenses. When they add a pro model and an ultra wide angle the ball will really start rolling.
For me it's the new "compact" camera. I take it with me everywhere and it takes great images without much intervention on my part. Is it as good as my Canon 5Dmk2 or Canon 1DS mk2 full frame cameras? No. The files aren't as detailed and they don't have the same sense of depth. But the iSO of the Nikon is close to my 1ds2 and that camera was $8,000 only a few short years ago.....
If you are a parent and your kids play sports like football and soccer this might be the ultimate camera for you. It's easy to use and the longer zoom lens is sharp and locks focus quickly. Coupled with a fast frame rate and you fix all the stuff that cheaper DSLR's and point and shoot superzooms tend to muff.
I just wish they had supplied the flash in the same shipment as the cameras....I want to try using it as a trigger for my studio flashes.
The mirrorless cameras represent a new direction for camera makers and I think, for users as well. The handling and image quality is more than enough for most of the stuff we want our cameras to do. And the Nikon is in the same league with the m4:3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic.
on November 23, 2011
First of all, Amazon - please limit reviews to those that actually own what they are "reviewing". I consider Amazon reviews a good resource but do not like having to wade thru the worthless gripes of non-owners that better belong on camera forums.
I am a certified professional photographer and use Nikon and Leica "full frame" equipment for my commercial and portraiture work. However, for my daily walks I often want to use a good compact camera which was a Lumix LX5. I have used a few images from this camera for a gallery I sell in but find that in the large print sizes (20" or so) the small sensor just does not quite get it. So I have been looking for a better compact camera and was pleased to see the Nikon 1 system with a somewhat larger sensor. After reading some reviews I decided the weight, size, and lack of control did not make sense for me. But after reading an open minded and knowledgeable review by Rob Galbraith I changed my mind. As to the size compared to larger sensor cameras he actually compares them with lenses' on the body, unlike other reviews, and it shows that it is indeed very compact in comparison. He also compares the simplicity to Apple design, which being an Apple computer convert, caught my attention. Some reviewers confuse the simplicity of the control layout with lack of control and that is a false assumption. The black body is also a very nice, simple, elegant, design
I bought the 2 zoom lens kit from Amazon, and liked it so much I bought the 10mm lens a few days later. I was even lucky enough to find a flash.
Some initial thoughts:
- Yes it much bigger than my LX5 but not too big as a larger sensor system would be for my use.
- Focus is at least as fast as my Nikon D3 and fast glass, and exposure is almost always right on.
- I use the camera in aperture mode, and it is very fast and easy to change aperture, and you can do it while looking thru the viewfinder. I prefer it to a dial.
- The menu is very well done and I like that it stays where you last used it. For instance, if you just changed the ISO, if you want to change again, just hit the menu button and you are at the ISO line, no searching thru the whole menu again.
- Preliminary thoughts on lense's - the 10-30 is soft in the corners wide open, but have not tried it since the recent firmware upgrade. The 10mm is great! The 30-110 is fun - such a long range in such a small lens. It seems quite sharp but not much testing yet.
- Just got the flash today. More good thinking by Nikon - has bounce and rotates and is light as it requires no batteries. Exposures made inside, bounce and direct, look nice and even. It of course will take down the charge on the camera battery but one of the good things about the "chunky" body is it has room for a large battery
- Having the flexibility to change lens on a compact camera is super. Today I had a lens on the camera and a lens each in of the pockets of the light jacket I was wearing for my walk and the lens in the pockets were so light they were barely noticeable.
- Looking forward to the adapter for my Nikkor 50 1.4 and 85 1.4
- Great camera for fast, from the hip, shooting. The LCD can easily be turned off, the viewfinder is off until you bring it to your eye, so you can leave the camera power on for a fast grab shot without draining the battery
- Lenses do not go on with the quality feel I get from the D3, the 10mm even feels a little rough
- Glad that Nikon had the courage to start an all new sensor size - it may not be for everyone but is exactly what I was looking for
That is all for now, will update this review as I learn more about the camera system.
on November 6, 2011
This camera has freed me from SLR bondage. I understand now why many pro photographers sold their high end DSLR's and bought a Leica m9 rangefinder digital. Four years in development, this camera hits a grand slam for Nikon and I believe it's a game changer.
Forget the armchair quarterbacks bemoaning the small sensor. It's good enough. Better than my d200 and about on par with my d300 without going under the microscope.
The genius of the 2.7 crop is the tiny, tack sharp lenses. Yes, they're a bit slow but that's what the higher ISO is for. This camera has a useable 3200 speed. The lenses probably have in-camera correction for various aberrations since you cannot see any chromatic aberration. none. Even wide open. They are sharp, sharp, sharp. Again, I think with the processing power available that this camera applies barrel and pincushion correction. Just my humble opinion.
You have HD video. You have 1200 fps slow motion. There are a ton of cool gadgets here. Leave your video camera at home? Well, no, if it's a high end Canon in the $3k up range. But if you've forgotten it, you won't feel disarmed. In firearms parlance, this is an excellent backup to your real weapon, and it's in a major caliber.
To fully "get" this camera, order the 10mm fixed prime. You then have a tiny, pocketable powerhouse that forces you to work on framing and composition. If you have dabbled in photography for 35 years like I have, you will understand what Nikon was going for with this camera- freedom. No heavy body and gaggle of lenses in a bag. I bet you'll shoot much more, since you'll have it with you. The first rule of photography is to have a camera with you.
You can fully control this camera. It's not as easy as it should be. Going back to full auto takes too many steps. But it can be done. It's almost as if the camera is forcing you to slow down and think about what you're doing.
Build quality is amazing. I own Rolex watches not because they are accurate, but because they are amazing mechanical devices that are impeccably built and engineered. This body exudes that quality. The lenses are plastic, and so a bit of a letdown tactilely, but movement of the zoom is fluid and feels expensive. I hope someone makes a Leica M adapter for these bodies; they deserve nothing less.
Nitpicks? Lack of short depth of field. That's it so far.
Will housewives like this? Yes. But there are other cameras cheaper that will satisfy them. This is a camera for someone who already understands photography. One who owns many SLR and DSLR bodies and lenses. One who knows what a camera can do. But one who is looking for freedom. Freedom from menus and buttons. Freedom to express and grow.
on March 27, 2012
When this camera was first introduced the negative comments overwhelmed the photo sites; the sensor was too small. No grip to speak of. No traditional Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual and Video selection dial. Motion snapshot what the heck is that?!!! No internal flash. And on it went.
I purchased a Fuji Finepix X100 last year. A fine camera for someone willing to spend the time with it. But quirky for me. There were so many things I had to check before taking a picture I felt I was flying a plane and not just using a camera. And although firmware updates have improved the speed of the focusing it still is not anything to write home about.
Enter the Nikon 1 V1. I find the V1 menus well laid out and responsive. Oddly the selection dial on the back of the camera is smaller than the X100 but it is more responsive and easier to use. Want to delete a picture? Press the delete button and press it again to confirm the delete. You do not have to take your thumb off the delete button and press the OK button to confirm as you do in other cameras. It is the little things like this that only a company like Nikon, that has been dedicated to the photographer, can get right.
Startup is almost immediate. On the X100 there was a wait if you were using a slow video card. The V1 does take a few seconds to wake up if it has gone to sleep so if it is a long time between shots it is best to power down and power up again.
The built quality is simply excellent. The camera is well balanced and seeds nicely in your hand. It is not weather sealed so use with protection in variable climates. The EVF is superb. Better than the X100 but the reviewers say there are better viewfinders out there and I am sure there are but this one is pretty darn good.
Presently I use the 10mm f2.8 lens. It is great. I would have preferred a faster lens but this is the fastest of the lot right now. It also takes up the least amount of real estate on the camera. There is a mounting attachment you can buy for the camera called a FT1. It enables you to use your DSLR Nikkor lenses with the V1. It is expensive but I have tried it at the store and it is amazing. A list of compatible Nikkor lenses can be found on the Nikon website and only Nikkor S lenses will be able to take advantage of the automatic focus but it extends your camera. Also the 2.7 crop factor of the sensor means that a 50mm DSLR lens becomes a short zoom of 135mm on the V1; a 30mm DSLR lens becomes your 80mm portrait lens.
The speed of focusing is beyond any mirrorless camera out there. It is astounding. Half press of the shutter and snap you are there. No hunting. No whir as the lens tries to find the sweet spot. Pop it is there. There are always exceptions to focusing - out a window, monochromatic surfaces predominating etc. But for general purposes, day-to-day you will not find a better focusing camera.
It has three shutter modes - manual, electronic and electronic (hi). If you are in place where the shutter sound is distracting you can silence the camera in the electronic shutter modes. You can set the shutter for a single shot or continuous. In manual it shoots 5 frames per second and buffers after 10 to 14 shots. The electronic shutter speed is beyond silly but to get that prime shot while watching a sports event it will not let you down.
The menus and options are very extensive on this camera. For me there is nothing lacking. As with any camera I find where the features I use most frequently are and practice setting them. No matter the dial or menu configuration I can change settings quickly. For instance on the V1 scene, programmed, aperture, shutter, and manual priorities must be set via the shooting menu but leaving the menu pointer on the Exposure Mode option means I can change modes very quickly; not dial quick but almost.
In one of the forums someone was lamenting all the shortcomings (as he saw them) of the V1 and as often happens said they were going to wait for the V2 which he was sure would address these issues. A veteran replied he couldn't wait for the V2 and that he wanted to grab a V1 before another version was introduced as he was sure the V1 would become a classic. After having this camera for a while I think he is right. The camera is excellent and for many it will become a classic, if not broadly, then certainly for Nikon affectionados.
on December 20, 2011
I have high-end full-frame DSLR gear and have shot indoor sports part-time professionally. However, I've realized that most of the memorable moments of my little girls have been captured with my cell phone. This is tragic, but as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you, and I just can' t be lugging a DSLR around everywhere.
So I've been looking for a compact camera for years that would be able to acceptably capture kids in normal room light without a flash. Technology seems to have finally gotten there and I debated between this, the Canon s100, the Panasonic GX1, and the Sony NEX 5n/7.
The size of the Canon S100 was certainly much more attractive, being able to slip it into a jeans pocket. However, this can still fit in jacket or cargo pant pocket with a pancake; or easily fit with a zoom in wife's handbag or pouch on pack or stroller.
As soon as my kids realize I'm shooting them, their precious moment is ruined and it's, "I wanna see, I wanna see". So shooting in normal room light without a flash is key, and also the ability to shoot without a shutter sound. The S100's low light image quality without flash is arguably passable, but the Nikon's is just so much better. I'm not aware of being able to shut off the shutter sound for any of the other cameras.
This is where the Nikon really shines with its phase-detect autofocus. This is no big deal if you're shooting landscapes or bowls of fruit, but is really a huge breakthrough that seems to be underplayed for shooting active youngsters. All the other cameras, even most DSLRs, spend too much time hunting during video, with the subject frequently going in and out of focus. The Nikon's ability to keep things in focus is remarkable, even tracking multiple faces when shooting video. The Sony was particularly bad at continuous focusing, constantly wobbling in and out (with lens noise while doing so), and often missing the moment. Capturing the moment with acceptable image quality trumps missing the moment with great image quality every time.
People tend to focus on the negatives of a relatively small sensor.... the theoretical lessor low-light image quality, and the larger DOF. But there are a number of advantages. The first being the larger DOF. I appreciate nice bokeh as much as anybody, but for capturing moments, I want to be able to shoot with a fast prime, say f1.2 or f1.4 (in order to get lower ISO/higher shutter speed) and get BOTH my kids in focus, and even some surrounding area for context, especially for video. Second, longer reach from standard prime sizes. Not sure if I'll spring for the F-Mount lens adapter yet, but being able to reach a gymnast from the bleachers with an f1.4 would make a DSLR jealous. Third, smaller file sizes. Half the size of the GX1, effectively doubling the capacity of memory cards and SSDs (which aren't cheap). Also makes for twice as fast per-image transfer.
The Nikon's image quality was quite a bit better than what I saw from the S100. When looking at raw image samples in Aperture, I found the high-iso detail between the V1 and G3 (proxy for GX1) to be pretty close, despite the G3's larger sensor and 60% pixel advantage. That indicates a lot about the sensor technology advancements being used in the Nikon. Also, the Nikon images consistently looked great straight from the camera, whereas the Panasonic consistently needed +2/3 stop exposure compensation and a hue shift. The Sony's low light performance seemed to be about 1-2 stops better, which was its main draw for me. It was hard to say for sure because Aperture didn't support Sony's RAW format. Also, Sony's color seems a little too reddish for my taste.
Sony's lenses are on the large side, and pricey. At the moment, m4/3 seems to have the best lens offerings, with a well-regarded Olympus portrait prime, a 40mm f1.7 pancake for around the house. And a powered zoom that's even smaller than Nikon's yet has powered zoom and power collapse. That's compelling. However, the rumored/leaked Nikon roadmap looks pretty good with some fast primes on the way. Fast primes are really key for this Nikon, in order to get away from the high ISO indoors.
I like being able to capture full res snapshots while recording video. I don't think any of the other contenders can do that. Uses a video format I can play directly on computer and various devices without having to convert (as I would with AVCHD from the Sony). Nikon's video generally looks great. No "jello effect". The 60fps progressive is great for shooting kids and sports. Noticeably smoother action, and gives the option to do slow motion, which is nice for incorporating into slide shows. S100 and Panasonic can't do this, NEX can. Nikon can also trim videos in-camera, which is nice for freeing up card space before you get a chance to dump. Warning, though, you have to do this well before the card is full, because it takes temporary space to edit.
Compact flash disconnects and stows easily. Allows for bouncing, even in portrait mode (unlike NEX), which gives more pleasing results than straight-on flash in dark environments. More power than any built-in flashes gives much better results, yet so much more convenient than full size speedlight. The ease of use of the flash is really nice. No extra batteries to deal with. No waiting for charge. Can leave it turned on and it shuts on/and off with the camera. Always gets the right exposure no matter the bounce position, ISO, etc. It does lack power to bounce off particularly tall ceilings, but upping the ISO helps that.
The V1 pretty well attains the benefits of DSLRs in a compact size, but one area that is more "compact" than DSLR is the shot-to-shot time when not doing continuous. It seems to be somewhere around 1.5 sec, and requires a little care in timing the half-shutter presses (1 to get out of the preview, and a 2nd to focus).
on October 25, 2011
Amazing little camera. I am no expert, but I do often lug around a 5D with giant white 28-300 lens, and while this is not in the same class, it comes so close, and is so much more versatile... as a pro-photographer friend told me many years ago: the most important feature of a camera is to HAVE IT WITH YOU! This is compact enough (esp. with the fast 10mm aka 27mm prime) to be with me at all times, and the quality is every bit (to my non-pro eyes) as good as the Likes of the 500D or the NEX-5 (I tried both for extended periods).
Given I struggled between waiting for the NEX-7 and the V1... The focus speed (shooting kids running around FAST, Skiing with the Camera and being able to get high fps sequences, great video) was critical, and as promised it's phenomenal - esp. considering what a compact package it comes in. Build quality is SOLID... I guess this is as close as one can get to a Rangefinder experience without spending MUCH more money. I am happy :-)
The final decision between this and the NEX-7 is between choosing flexibility, speed and price (V1 wins, as far as I can tell) vs. overall resolution (and maybe low-light quality), where the NEX-7 probably wins. I played a little with the Panasonic 3/4th family and prefer the Nikon - better speed, focus, flexibility... and build quality.
UPDATE: to make sure no one is confused - if your biggest worry with a Mirrorless is Auto Focus, this review and the V1 is for you. if your top priority is image quality and AF performance is less critical, get a NEX...the image quality is good - even great in the right situations, but clearly other cameras with much larger sensors are better re absolute image quality, this is why my *other* camera is a 5D.
UPDATE2: check out this article, I agree: (...)
on September 24, 2012
I bought this camera to travel around Africa because I didn't want to lug around a Nikon D3S and all the lenses. The thought of having them stolen there was enough to motivate me to find an alternative system. I decided on the Nikon V1 with the 10-30mm and the 30-100mm as well as the flash (which is a no brainer), a 50mm 1.8 (which I barely used), and the adapter to fit Nikon lenses. I also brought my Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8.
The good: This camera with the Nikon 1 lenses is a fantastic video camera with excellent auto focus! It's small which is great because people are not intimidated by it and you don't have to lug around a huge camera/lenses all day/night. As for the focus, it's very good in daylight; it struggles and tends to hunt a bit in darker situations. Image quality is very good as long as you don't get camera shake or have a fast enough shutter speed. Battery life was excellent, I took thousands of images daily and only once didn't make it through the day. There are plenty of options in the settings that will give you full creativity with shutter speed, aperture, and a host of other settings so you have total control over your images. I love the flash because it uses the camera battery, is very small but works excellent.
The bad: I got very frustrated with not only the shutter lag but also camera shuts off after time, which caused me to miss some nice moments. Being used to a D3S, this is obviously and adjustment and not something everyone will run into. The Nikon 1 lenses are sharp but the 5.6 aperture is a bummer for me as all my Nikon glass is 2.8 or faster, so another adjustment. ISO was a little grainy at 3200 but I actually liked the look it gave these specific images of Africa, on the gritty side. With the adapter, you can strap on any Nikon lens but you lose a lot of functionality like continues focus, the ability to move focus points so that kinda of sucks in some situations, especially for video where you pretty much have to use the Nikon 1 lenses. Shooting in manual mode is a bit strange, it was not real precise, you can move the shutter speed 2-3 stops before the meter will start to move, so I stuck to aperture priority most of the time.
All in all, there wasn't a single day that I would have traded my tiny little V1 for my D3s and big heavy lenses (although there were a few moments I would have liked to have my pro gear). The V1 served me very well and I love this little camera. I would strongly recommend it to pros and hobbyist alike for a serious travel camera or just going out with friends.
on December 1, 2012
I have been either a photography student, professional photographer, and/or photography teacher for the past 18 years. I learned on a fully manual film camera and still use my beloved Nikon FM2 film camera a lot. Of course, back the film days, I had an F5 for when it seemed necessary, but I am a petite woman (under 5' tall) with small hands and the F5 was chore to use. When digital sensors came out I was disappointed to see them only go into the large SLR bodies. I have always wanted a digital equivalent of a fully manual SLR. The smaller, lighter, plasticy "prosumer" DSLRs seemed like a poor compromise to me. I was hoping the new mirrorless cameras would fit the bill. I read a lot of reviews, went to stores to hold various cameras and settled on this Nikon. I have been using it for almost 2 weeks now, shooting in a lot of different conditions and I am very happy with the camera.
This is the perfect camera for a photographer like me. I am not a gearhead...as long as the image quality is sufficient, I am happy. I need a camera that works like a screwdriver, not a supercomputer. This is not a camera for a gearhead or a lazy photographer. I would think it could also be a great camera for an enthusiast or amateur wanting to learn and improve. The camera is beautifully designed, feels great in the hands, and the controls are intuitive and responsive. With the electronic shutter, stabilization, and no mirror, I can successfully handhold the camera at a half second shutter speed with no camera shake...pretty cool! Those who complain about the lens selection can buy a converter for use with larger Nikon lens. Those who complain about a lack of "grip" can buy an attachable grip from Amazon ($30 for generic, $70 for Nikon) but I see no need for it. Some reviewers complain about having to go into menus, but I don't find it problematic. You can easily use the auto exposure and auto focus locks to avoid having to change many settings in the menu. Who needs to change ISO in a split second anyway? (Again, this is coming from someone who is comfortable with a fully manual film camera, so take my opinion with a grain of salt). I have had no problem with the flash connector cover coming off as others have complained about. The battery life is great, the viewfinder is great, and the camera is very fast. It is easy enough to use that I can put it auto mode and my husband can use it with great results.
Looking at the new V2, it seems that the gearheads may have already killed this great camera (like they kill so many great things). This new design has been "improved" to address the complaints of reviewers (translated = gearheads). I prefer the design and simplicity of the V1. For under $400, the V1 is a great investment.
on April 4, 2012
Other reviews have pretty well captured this little jewel. I have the V1 with the 10-30 and 30-110 lenses, the flash, and the F mount adapter. I've only used the camera a few times - but earlier this week had a chance to try it for golf photos at the Masters.
The electronic shutter is a wonder - I'm able to stand a few feet from a golfer and throughout the setup and backswing, I can photograph at will. These are shots that just cannot be taken normally - they are simply not permitted. But with the V1 they are not a problem as the camera is completely silent.
I'm still getting used to the differences between the V1 and my Nikon DSLR's. The controls are a bit different, but generally presented in context so the interface is pretty easy. If you are n Still mode, you have a different set of menu items from Movie mode.
I found Auto ISO generally did not work for me - I wanted a higher shutter speed than was permitted.
AF was fast and accurate. The exception was the face recognition tended to pick up background faces in the crowd if the subject was not facing the camera.
Electronic High mode for fast frames and movies worked very well. Golf is a perfect place for ultra- high frame rates.
The size was very compact and easy to carry.
The 10mp RAW images are quite good - excellent color, matrix metering produces very good exposures, and noise at base ISO is acceptable.
At higher ISO levels, the image can be a little noisy. Not bad but don't expect to shoot this camera at ISO 1600 without noise.
For a DSLR user, there is more learning curve on the V1 than picking up another DSLR. You need to take the time to learn the camera and it's capabilities. But it is well worth the investment and is a very good little camera.
on November 9, 2012
I have owned the Nikon V1 wide angle kit for some months now. I shoot candid photos, and landscape panoramics. This machine was designed to perfection for my needs. It's very simple looking black body does not disturb people, and they relax very quickly after noticing it. Maybe it looks enough like a cell phone with the very small 10mm prime lens attached.
I chuckled about it's manual shutter until I tried it. The sound and slight vibration of it's operation give me valuable tactile input. It also seems to give better results. The 5 frames per second continuous mode is about right for gentle action like rock climbing or changing facial expressions.
I have been shooting raw frames, and am very satisfied with the sharpness and color saturation that the cx sensor is capable of. The kit lens has some distortion, which can be removed easily. The 10 mm prime lens captures images that are good right out of the camera. Also, this prime lens has no moving parts on the outside. It is suited to our desert air, which is burdened with dust. It does not change length, so once it is attached [hopefully, in a clean location], it has no way to draw dust into the body.
The 10 megapixel limit of the sensor can be daunting. I shoot my landscapes with 3 to 30 overlapping frames, ending up with a huge image that can be printed out mural-sized. So, the 10 mp frame is plenty of resolution. I benefit from the speed of the camera, because I have to pivot the camera on the tripod, and trigger it multiple times with the remote, all before the clouds move very far. If you must do this with a single frame, you will have to spend quite a bit more for the body and lenses.
As far as build quality, this model is very strong. It looks simple and pretty, feels like a little brick of solid metal in the hand, and operates like a miniature professional camera. The electronic viewfinder is perfect for eye level operation in all conditions, and the screen works very well when holding the camera at arms length, or using it on a tripod. I have never once wished for the screen to tilt, or accept touch commands. I prefer sturdy build and simplicity to wealth of features.
The menu system works well once you find everything. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of full manual operation. Shutter and aperture each have a control. There is an exposure indicator, but the live view does not reflect the exposure chosen. You have to snap one to see where you are at. It is better to use manual focus for low light landscapes to prevent focus seeking. Then, you must remember to switch back to auto, or all subsequent shots will be blurry. There is a warning in the evf and on the screen than you are still in manual focus mode, but there is no external switch to remind you.
The external flash is a must if you will face low light, and it works really well without requiring it's own batteries. It swivels in many directions, and throws enough light for nighttime gatherings and to provide fill flash of flowers and portraits and pets. The 18.5 mm f1.8 lens with the small 'innie' hood works very well with the flash, as the coverage is very even at this focal length, the focus assist light is not blocked, and enough light hits the sensor to focus easily. I am glad that Nikon did not include a pop up flash on this model.
In short, if you like simple, durable devices, and you do not require more than a 10 mega pixel sensor, this little camera [and it's surprisingly sharp lenses] might be for you.
update after one year:
I have been shooting the V1 pretty constantly for the last year. I learned a lot about the wonderful machine, and do not regret my choice in any way. I have added the 30 - 110 mm zoom, and the 18.5 mm f1.8 prime, and really can't say enough about the sharpness and color and contrast of these optics.
The long zoom has uncanny ability to cut through distance haze, and remains contrasty and crisp in difficult lighting conditions like strong backlight. The huge lens hood is an absolute must for anything but night shots. And, as i feared, the lens's huge range of expansion brings dust into the interior, where is makes the action raspy. I have not noticed reduced optical quality, but i think that primes will last much, much longer than zooms in dirty or damp environments.
The 18.5 is the perfect normal lens, and I am never tempted to attach the 10 - 30 mm kit lens with the 2 primes in my bag. The exception is macro stills and video, where the kit lens focuses well, and the active Vibration Reduction compensates for hand shake or tripod jiggle. An example is: [...] is a 4 minute beekeeping documentary that i shot with the kit lens and a spindly tripod.
I have not dropped the camera onto a hard surface, but have used it for roped shooting of rock climbing in high winds, and rainy hikes. It has taken many blows without any complaint, and has worn 2 system bags to tatters! i get lots more usable video footage and sharper stills than with other camera models that I have tried. [And, i get less tired holding it!]
As far as processing is concerned, The lens profiles are available from adobe, by downloading the newest dng converter. One should not even look at the raw images [especially those of the crazy sharp 18.5 mm] without applying the lens corrections. Once corrected, images from every lens are evenly lit and free of distortion and fringing. They are very suitable for automatically stitching together. You will have to use this technique to print huge images from this small sensor. holding the camera vertically, and shooting 3 overlapping shots left to right gives you a single horizontal composite image that could have come from the D 800 E.
I have ordered the 20 dollar fotodiox f mount adaptor, and plan to experiment with legacy glass next. I have the 75 - 150 zoom, and will order the renowned 50 mm f1.8 manual focus prime as well. Sports should be quite impossible with manual focus and exposure, but the sunsets and night shots are already done using a tripod, and with manual settings. I will order a set of extension tubes with the 50 mm lens, as these old optics might make pretty good macro lenses. You will see a detailed update to this review after my experiments.
Once again, if you are worried about the postage stamp sized sensor, I suggest that you order a 300 dollar V1 body and the 18.5 mm prime lens. Give it a week or 2 to get used to it before you start forming your opinion. The menu system and the fast prime are both a little hard to use at first. To shoot single shots rapidly, you have to press the shutter halfway down when the annoying preview appears. Other times, it is relaxing to evaluate the preview for a few seconds without the hurry. You will get many many great action shots by using the 5 frame per second manual shutter and a fast SD card. The clicking of the leaf shutter in the lens seems to give a better result, and the right amount of sensory input for your timing. You will get the expressions that you have always longed for by shooting people at 10 frames per second with the electronic shutter. It is silent, and there is no hint that you are shooting. You see a sort of movie of the shots that is useful for composing, but neither subject or photographer gets much sensory input.
The One Year Verdict?
This is the best candid or street camera available for the price. One routinely gets strangely great video, and crispy, focused stills for panoramic compositions or smaller sports shots. It is a pretty good macro camera for birds and bees and such. You will be limited to about a 2 foot print with a carefully processed 10 megapixel shot. You WILL need a larger sensor to obtain the shallowest depth of field, take very long exposures [without noise], or to print out a mural from a single still. you will need the weather sealed model [the AW1], and one of the 2 O-ring lenses to go under water.
And a final warning. The lenses for this system are cost effective, but they are addictive. It is hard to stop thinking about and ordering new optics. And, you will not experience much benefit from the new lens mount if you do change the lens! This is a strong, growing system, and it appears to be here for the long haul. It is for folks that love light and photography and portability, and not so great for those that love to compare complicated gizmos. It can be with you at all times, freeing you from the agonizing 'take or not take' choice! Thanks for reading!
On using the manual focus, manual aperture lenses
I have used 3 of the Nikkor ais lenses with the V1 at this point. I have been using the fotodiox adapter, which has it's own tripod mount. The lenses can be carried in ones bag with the adapter attached and a spare series one rear lens cap to seal it up.
I have written detailed instructions for using the manual lenses with the fotodiox adapter in my review for that product. So here, I will talk about what the legacy glass does to the systems usability.
The 50 mm f1.8 ais is a must! Attached to the adapter, it is roughly the same size as the 30 - 110 mm zoom collapsed, and maybe twice the weight. The first element is deeply recessed, and can be used safely with no hood. It gets absurdly sharp images that compare favorably with those obtained using the 18.5 mm f1.8. And where that is a 200 dollar normal lens, this is a 135 mm equivalent of the same impressive speed. and, It will cost less, even with an adapter and a metal hood. I was worried about finding my own exposure without any help from the camera, but the V1's rapid shooting speed allow one to fine tune their exposure in 30 seconds or so. What you see in the viewfinder is adjusted, but the review that shows up after the shot reflects the recorded exposure. A peak at the histogram is sometimes needed. Manual focus turned out to be much easier than expected, even without viewfinder magnification. You can focus before closing the aperture for precision, or after, to control the depth of field very carefully. I get about 70 - 80 % crispy shots, so I shoot some extras.
the 75 - 150 f3.5 E lens covers the next range of focal lengths. It shoots like a fast 200 - 400 mm equivalent. Because one is only using the center, it is sharp from edge to edge throughout it's range. You would think that a lens with this much magnification would not be useful without VR, But some low light sports shots quickly cured me of that confusion. I had some blurry shots from my poor panning, and some focusing errors, and a decent percentage of crispy raw images. These early manual lenses are very small and easy to handle, and use standard 52mm filters and hoods. Once you mount the long lens on a sturdy tripod, focus carefully, and stop the lens down, every landscape shot is perfect. The sharpness and contrast are extreme, and the color is different than the 1 lenses, but great! The lack of auto-focus and auto exposure is a benefit for landscapes. The cost is a tiny fraction of what one would pay for a 'modern' lens, and the build quality surpasses any plastic lens by a mile. Get this lens for 60 dollars, and if you can not focus it, it will be the coolest paperweight that anyone has [or, you can throw it at this reviewer!]
the 43 - 86 f3.5 ais is the first compact zoom lens that Nikon ever made. It is still an amazing short telephoto on the 1 system, and a handy portrait lens on a dx or fx sensor. You get the idea. You can have a handful of the cheap adapters, and a big bag of sharp, fast manual glass for the price of a modern plastic zoom lens. I have ordered more adapters, as well as extension tubes and hoods. The next lens that i will get is either the 200 mm f4 ais or the 300 mm f4.5 ais. I will post a few full resolution samples taken with legacy glass at my picasa page.