Nikon 1 J2 review:

Nikon 1 J2

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Typical Price: £500.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Great looks; Compact lenses; Super-smooth screen; Excellent low-light performance.

The Bad Low resolution; Some stepped compensation in films; expensive.

The Bottom Line If you need high-speed burst shooting and excellent low-light performance in an attractive and compact interchangeable lens camera, you'll find it with the Nikon 1 J2. However, the 10.1-megapixel resolution might limit what you can do with the output, and at this price, it feels a little mean.

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7.5 Overall

With a retro body, shrunken lenses and understated, knocked-back menus, the Nikon 1 J1 was one of last year's classiest cameras.

Perhaps that's why the J2 looks almost unchanged. Stand it beside the J1 and aside from the new body colours and the model number stamped in one corner, you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart.

The Nikon 1 J2 is available to buy for around £500. But is it the same draw as its much-liked predecessor?

Tech specs

The appearance isn't the only thing to have stuck since last season -- the resolution hasn't budged either, with the 13.2mm by 8.8mm CMOS sensor still home to just 10.1 megapixels.

Nikon 1 J2 front
The J2 is one of the most attractive cameras you can buy, with a retro body and a series of compact lenses.

Resolution isn't the complete story when it comes to judging the worth of a camera -- 10.1 megapixels is still enough to print large A3-sized images, and beyond. But with more pixels comes greater flexibility, and that's what you'll miss with the J2. There's only so much you can do with a zoom lens -- at times you'll want to crop to a detail in post-production to recompose your shot.

Compare the J2 with Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-RX100. The Sony's sensor is the same width and height, yet it boasts 20.2 megapixels. That's twice as many as the J2, which means you could crop twice as close while retaining the same relative data. At that point the value of increased pixels becomes more apparent.

Nikon 1 J2 back
An updated touchscreen is smooth to refresh and very detailed.

Stills tests

That's where the disappointment comes to an end though. The J2 is every bit as fun to use as its predecessor and the shots it produces are hard to fault.

I performed my tests using the 10-30mm lens, which has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27-81mm. The camera was set to record JPEG and raw files side by side, but my analysis was performed with reference to the JPEGs as Adobe Lightroom doesn't yet have the drivers to access the raw shots.

The J2 has an impressive 135 focus areas. It takes around half a second to lock onto your subject if it's in a considerably different position to the last point of focus, but it's almost instantaneous if they're roughly on a plane.

The lens was sharp right across the frame and even the corners and edges can give the centre a run for its money. This is impressive, as the lens is working hard to bend the incoming light to the most extreme degree in the corners, while at the centre it's passing straight through.

Nikon 1 J2 test shot
The 10-30mm lens was sharp right across the frame, with the corners rivalling the centre for clarity (click image to enlarge).

It made great use of the available light and in bright direct sunlight produced vivid results that never strayed beyond the realms of reality. In the shot below, it's struck an accurate balance between the overcast sky and the grassy parade ground that falls in direct sunlight, each of which is full of colour and texture.

Nikon 1 J2 test shot
Colour reproduction was excellent throughout my tests and the J2 accurately captured a wide gamut (click image to enlarge).

One of the primary benefits of squeezing fewer pixels onto the sensor is increased sensitivity to a wider range of light levels, and consequently less interference and noise in the finished result. This is an area in which the J2 excelled, with clean, sharp, colourful results a consistent feature in my tests.

However, the same could be said of the RX100's images, with its higher resolution, and so once again Nikon's decision not to bump up the resolution in the J2 by 25-50 per cent is disappointing.

Sensitivity runs from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200, with exposure compensation of +/-3EV in 1/3EV steps. Even at the highest possible setting -- ISO 3,200 -- grain is almost undetectable, colours are bright and shutter speeds remain just about fast enough for you to hand-hold your shots.

Nikon 1 J2 test shot
These old advertising boards were shot at ISO 3,200. This allowed me to avoid using a tripod and, impressively, noise was kept to an absolute minimum in the finished result (click image to enlarge).

It maintains low sensitivities in overcast conditions. The council chamber below was shot late in the day yet the J2 needed only ISO 100, despite the failing light. There's wide tonal variation in the image, with an even spread of tones and luminance.

Nikon 1 J2 test shot
The light was fading by the time this image was shot, yet the J2 stuck to a low sensitivity of ISO 100 and still produced a balanced result, with a good spread of tones and luminance (click image to enlarge).

Its close-up performance is flawless, as the shot of the flower below proves. The texture of the petals, surface of the pistils and minute grains of dropped pollen are all clearly and cleanly captured, The bokeh effect in the background, where the focus gently falls off, is particularly attractive.

Nikon 1 J2 test shot
Close-up performance is excellent, with sharp details and an attractive bokeh effect behind the main subject (click image to enlarge).

There's no change in the impressive maximum burst shooting speed, which stands at 60 frames per second for up to 12 frames, so long as you're happy for the focus to be fixed on the first shot. If you're not -- perhaps because you're shooting an oncoming race -- it can adjust the focus between each shot and still maintain a speed of 10fps.

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