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Review Nikon V2 (Nikon 1)
Jop Steenhof de Jong,
The Nikon 1 V2 is the successor to the V1. This is more than a cosmetic upgrade: the V2 has a built-in flash, is therefore a bit bigger and now seems like a DSLR in pocket size. The sensor has a higher resolution with 14 megapixels. The specifications of the Nikon V2 give up nothing to many SLRs. The operation is, just like the design, comfortably classic, with a PSAM-disk on top, and two rotating disks for the controls. An ideal stepping-stone camera for those who want more than a compact camera, but mind the weight and dimensions of an SLR camera.
With the addition of the built-in flash, the camera housing of the Nikon V2 became somewhat taller bigger. The Nikon V2 now really seems like an SLR camera in mini size. The dimensions (l x w x h) are 151x45x80 mm. It's not a pocket camera any more, though, although that also depends on the lens used; We tested the Nikon V2 with both the Nikon 10-30 mm kit lens, with the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 and the Nikkor 18.5 mm f/1.8 with a fixed focal point. The housing is rubberized, and with the large protruding hand grip and thumb grip, the body fits perfectly in the hand. The LCD screen measures 3 inches. The battery and SD card sit behind the same little door on the bottom plate. On the back wall there are 4 push buttons for display, menu, review and and delete, and a four-way turntable annex switch, which as far as we're concerned should have been a touch bigger.
TheNikon 1 system
The Nikon 1 system consists of nice, fast cameras with a number of unique technical ingredients. It is not so much a technological breakthrough, but more a complement to the market in the form of a camera with the features of a DSLR, with the convenience of a compact camera. In comparison with the cameras that we normally test for CameraStuffReview, the relatively small CX-sensor, which is called '1 inch' and in reality is 13x9 mm; about half the size (in mm2) as the Micro Four Thirds system, and a quarter the size of APS-C. The image quality of a Nikon 1 is much better than a compact camera and even surprisingly good in comparison with SLRs or system cameras. However, in practice, it's not actually about how a camera performs, but about how the public thinks it performs. The Nikon 1 falls into the category of compact system cameras. And there is fierce competition. Competitors like Sony and Samsung have APS-C system cameras on the market that aren't that much larger than the Nikon 1. Also the micro-43 system offers various very compact mirrorless cameras, as for example the Panasonic GM1, with interchangeable lenses.
The Nikon 1 system consists of four bodies: the AW, S, J and the V-series. The Nikon J is a compact camera with interchangeable lens, no viewfinder and a limited number of possibilities. Also in terms of operation this type is intended for the starter. The J has an electronic shutter with the capability of very short exposure times but with the inherent disadvantages of 'rolling shutter' effects and a long flash time; the V has a focal plane shutter, also very fast, with the added bonus of a flash sync speed of 1/250 sec. The Nikon V is bigger, thanks to an electronic viewfinder in addition to an LCD viewscreen, and has a lot more capabilities. The S version is the cheapest entry-level model of the Nikon 1 series. The AW model is waterproof (but not unlimited, of course) and shockproof (up to almost 2 meters, according to Nikon).
Nikon V2 versus Panasonic GM1
Nikon V2 has a built-in viewfinder and more buttons on the camera
Panasonic GM1 has a touch-screen
Nikon V2 has fewer megapixels (14 vs 16) than the GM1
Panasonic GM1 offers WiFi
Viewfinder, screen and menu
The Nikon V2 is so small that you can hold the camera in front of one eye, while you view the environment with your other eye – ideal for street photography. The viewfinder precision of an electronic viewfinder is of course 100%: What you see is what you get. That is an advantage over cheaper SLRs that usually have a viewfinder precision between 85 and 99%, not allowing you to see the whole picture that is eventually captured by the camera unless you're shooting with Liveview. The monitor on the back of the camera is pretty bright, but neither rotatable nor tiltable. The camera menu is concise and that's nice. You learn to use this camera quickly.
Sharpness: resolution Nikon V2
The Nikon V2 delivers sharp pictures, as you can read from our earlier testing of the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 and the Nikkor 8.5 mm f/1.8, both of which we tested with a Nikon V2. In terms of resolution, the Nikon V2 in combination with these, somewhat more expensive, lenses gives nothing up to the resolution that you get from an entry-level SLR camera with a kit lens. The great thing about these two fixed-focus lenses is the high brightness. If you take pictures at maximum aperture, then you get a blurred background, which emphasizes the sense of sharpness of the subject. With the smaller sensor, the background blur is of course not nearly as woolly as with a camera with full-frame sensor. But if you're used to a compact camera, it's a huge step forward.
Dynamic range Nikon V2
The Nikon 1 cameras have a much larger sensor than compact cameras that also have no high-pass filter. That has a positive effect on the dynamic range. Compared to compact cameras, the dynamic range is nice and big; it's even similar to slide film from the analog era. The total dynamic range that we measured amounted to over 9.5 stops for a 160 ISO jpg file. This results in a usable dynamic range for jpg files (with better signal to noise ratio) of 6.5 stops. For a RAW file without noise reduction, the values respectively amounted to 5.5 and 5 stops. If you take the trouble to edit a RAW file, you can obtain the best image quality, although the differences becoming smaller. In the beginning you'll even have difficulty matching the quality of jpg files when you start editing RAW files yourself.
On this component, Nikon 1 cameras still have to acknowledge the superiority of cameras with a larger sensor, especially at higher ISO settings. But the results are much better than those of compact cameras, and under 400 ISO you don't experience any disturbing noise, even if you enlarge the shot to 100% on your monitor. The following picutre was taken under poor lighting conditions at 400 ISO.
Color reproduction Nikon V2
In daylight, the Nikon V2 delivers pictures with good color reproduction. The color deviation (Delta E 94) is small for both a RAW file converted in Lightroom and a (neutral) jpg file straight out of the camera. The auto white balance of the Nikon V1 does its job just as well an SLR camera. In artificial light pictures, the deviation between RAW and jpg files is clearly visible, just as with all other cameras.
Color reproduction Nikon V2 in daylight
Color reproduction Nikon V2 in artificial light
Autofocus speed and precision
What I also like about the Nikon 1 series is the speed of the auto focus. Not only is the AF of the Nikon V2 lightning fast and precise, this camera can also take 50 shots per second in the highest resolution. Nikon rightly makes a big deal about this (Get the most out of every shot). Because the Nikon V2 with its very high speed can make a series of pictures one after another at full resolution, it comes down to having the right timing. If you shoot too early, then the buffer fills up (and locks up the camera until the buffer is empty again) long before the perfect moment for that nice action photo arrives.
Conclusion Nikon V2 review
Look in our list of tested cameras for specifications or a comparison of this performance with that of other cameras..
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FastAF: every shot is a hit
Great image quality
Dynamic range and noise are lower than for cameras with a bigger sensor
The Nikon V2 is an attractive mini-SLR camera for those who want to move away from a compact camera to a system camera, without making the switch to a single-lens SLR camera. It's a matter of taste, but I like working with a built-in viewfinder; photographing is much more comfortable for me that way than using the display on the back of the camera. That's why I have a preference for the Nikon 1 V-series above the Nikon 1 J, Nikon 1 S or the Nikon 1 AW series. Nikon is right advertising with the speed of Nikon 1 cameras ("Get the most out of every shot"). The Nikon 1 system in a relatively short time has grown into a comprehensive package, so there also lots of accessories and lenses available for the Nikon V2. It's a mature system, and I'm curious which features a successor to the Nikon V2 is going to get, to make that camera even more attractive than the Nikon V2.
Author: Jop Steenhof de Jong
Photography has been a hobby of mine for many years. For me, it's about the joy of creating. I like to find and share knowledge in depth topics again. After years of having fun with contributions made to the Dutch magazine "Camera Magazine", I test now with at least as much pleasure for CameraStuffReview.