Nikon's long-awaited mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras debut as the Nikon 1 series.
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
After much waiting, and lots o' leaks, Nikon finally unveiled its mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera line. But while you'd think the veteran Nikon would debut to an audience with pent-up demand for its product, signs point to Nikon fans greeting the Nikon 1 series J1 and V1 with less enthusiasm than expected. For example, Nikon Rumors ran a poll with more than 30,000 respondents--most likely Nikon fans--who indicate as of just before the announcement, almost two-thirds of them aren't planning to buy the camera(s). And that was before they'd even seen or had final specs for it.
That may be due in part to the sensor, dubbed "CX" to match the company's DX and FX mount/sensor systems, which turns out to be a surprisingly small, low-resolution version with a magnification factor of 2.7x, putting it between Olympus/Panasonic's Four Thirds sensor and Pentax's extra-small model.
While Nikon will likely be able to keep the photo quality up thanks to the relatively low resolution and support for 12-bit raw files, the smaller sensor negatively impacts the ability to get a nice shallow depth-of-field at a wide aperture, even with old Nikon lenses mounted via an adapter.
On one hand, it sounds like Nikon's pulling out all the stops with respect to autofocus, introducing a hybrid system that automatically determines whether to use contrast or phase-detection autofocus. Both Olympus and Panasonic have pushed contrast AF pretty far, though, so it remains to be seen how much of an advantage this confers on the cameras' performance.
Nikon has also done some interesting things with motion/movies, including a Motion Snapshot mode, which records a still image and about a 1-second clip, then plays it back at about 0.4x speed (slow motion) with music. There's also Smart Photo Selector, a 20-shot burst mode that saves the camera-determined best five photo.
Here are the camera specs in their competitive landscape:
(Update September 21, 2011: Had to drop the NEX-7 from the table to fit in Firefox.)
Compared with the J1, the V1 has an accessory port for flash and a proprietary GPS unit, as well as a built-in EVF.
At launch, Nikon will have four Nikon 1-mount lenses available: A main kit lens at 10-30mm f3.5-5.6 (27-81mm equivalent), a 30-110mm f3.8-5.6 (81-297mm equivalent), 10-100mm f4.5-5.6 (27-270mm equivalent) and 10mm f2.8 (27mm equivalent). All but the fixed focal length lens use Nikon's VR optical image stabilization.
I have mixed feelings about this duo. Though they have some novel sounding features, I don't think they're particularly compelling. And while I'm not a member of the more-pixels-at-any-cost club, I do think 10-megapixels is a bit low for the price and class of camera. And the battery life for the J1 looks terrible. Had Nikon come out with this system a couple of years ago--even last year--it might have been more of a no-brainer. Much will be riding on the shooting experience, performance, and photo and video quality. Even more than usual.