Somebody tell the retro-tastic Olympus E-P3 to step aside, because there's a new speed king ready to take the mirrorless camera throne: Nikon's J1 and V1. Nikon's quite possibly the second to last major camera maker to release a mirrorless camera system (Canon has yet to show any interest).
The J1 and V1 are a pair of cameras with interchangeable lenses that sit between a high-end point and shoot and a heftier DSLR. Both are built like a tank and fire off shots so fast that you'll never have to double check to see if you captured your desired snap or not.
Attention to the Details
Similar to the way Olympus split its PEN cameras into three ranges, Nikon's mirrorless cameras come in two models as well. The J1 is the less expensive of the two, lacking an electronic viewfinder and no hotshoe for attaching accessories. The larger, nicer V1 does have both of those features and felt noticeably faster when shooting on burst mode.
Both cameras sport a 3-inch LCD (no touchscreen), USB and HDMI ports, as well as ISO speeds of up to 3,200. The missing touchscreen and low ISO does bring it down a bar or two when compared to its competitors, but remember, a faster lens will always trump higher ISO (higher ISO equals more picture noise). Nikon's first attempt at a lightweight interchangeable lens camera is all about shooting great photos — no gimmicks here.
Differences aside, we really like how Nikon's lenses are nice and small, and the lens lock button is a simple little circle (haven't seen this before). On the V1, the electronic viewfinder has a snazzy proximity sensor that activates when you pull it up to your eye. It's a neat touch, but a Nikon rep tells us toggling it on drains the battery much faster. So much for that.
Too Fast For Its Size
Proving that the megapixel war is meaningless, the photos we managed to take of some lovely on-site models came out crisp despite using some ultra zoom. In the hand, the cameras felt weighty and slightly heavy, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your shooting stance. We preferred the V1 and its electronic viewfinder for composing less shaky shots, but the J1 produced stabilized shots mostly thanks to its uber speedy autofocus.
Both the J1 and V1 sport 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensors and can snap still shots with 73-points of autofocus. Compare that to the Olympus E-P3's ex-record of 35-points and you get the picture.
Aside from snapping frames (on burst mode) at rapid-fire, the cameras also have a slow motion mode that can handle 1,200 frames per second and are capable of shooting 1080p HD video while simultaneously taking full-megapixel snapshots. A Nikon rep said that the cameras aren't ripping stills from the the HD video feed, but is actually taking full-size photos simultaneously.
From what we gleaned, the simultaneous video/still shooting mode is cute, but it's not as functional as we would have liked. Despite Nikon's claims, in our experience the snaps looked somewhat grainy and lower resolution compared to regular still shots.
Pricing and Release
When can you run out and buy one of these speed demons? Nikon's official U.S. release date is October 20. The J1 will retail for $650 with a 10-30mm lens kit and the V1 will sell for $900 with the same 10-30mm lens kit in red, black, white, silver and pink. Additional lenses run the gamut from $250 for a 30-110mm lens to $800 for a 10-100mm. Will they burn holes in your wallet? Hells to the yes, but so does the Olympus E-P3.
As with its competitors, Nikon's J1 and V1 are cameras aimed at the person looking to get more control over their photos — the person who wants the sharpness that different glass enables without having to carry large and bulky DSLRs. True to its camera origins, Nikon's J1 and V1 are welcome competitors to the small interchangeable lens systems space. Mirrorless cameras are all the rage these days, so that price may be high now, but it won't be in the next few years.
All photos for DVICE by Raymond Wong