Nikon 1 System Starts Off with J1 and V1 Mirrorless Cameras

Posted by at 12:30 pm on September 21, 2011

Nikon on Wednesday marked the rare start to a new camera format in launching the 1 System. Starting off with the J1 and V1, the two use a new CX-format, 2.7X crop factor 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and mirrorless interchangeable lens system that’s below Micro Four Thirds but still larger and richer than in compact cameras. They also become the first with the dual-core Expeed 3 processor and are key to getting a fast 73-point, phase-based autofocusing system that Nikon claims is even faster than on newer Olympus PEN cameras.

The added speed is also key to high-speed still and movie shooting. Either camera can ramp up to 10 frames per second in full resolution, even with autofocus; if autofocus is locked, it can record at an unprecedented 60 frames per second. Video tops out at 1080p at 30 frames per second, but photographers can still capture still images in mid-movie and get noise reduction while they shoot. Footage, shot in H.264 (AVCHD), always comes with stereo audio recording and can kick into slow-motion 60, 400, and 1,200 frames per second modes, albeit at lower resolutions.

Normal sensitivity is slightly above that of a compact, at a normal ISO 100 to 3,200 range, but can kick up to ISO 6,400 in manual mode. Still images get their own unique options. Motion Snapshot mode mixes a still image with a short burst of slow-motion video to create the effect of a “living” photo with its own soundtrack. Smart Photo Selector, in turn, starts aggressively pre-shooting images and after the shutter press narrows it down to the five best picked based on exposure, how well it got focus, and if faces were recognized in the shot.

Control is a bridge between compacts and pro cameras. Although it uses a more compact-like mode dial and command dial, these focus on more professional features such as autofocus lock and exposure compensation than basics. A dedicated F button brings up features immediately relevant to the context of the shot.

Differences between the J1 and V1 are dictated by their audiences. The J1 is the baseline and intended as a crossover camera for newcomers, with only the three-inch LCD available for previews and a slew of colors that include red and bright pink. The V1 only comes in black and is intended for more serious photographers with a built-in 1.4-megapixel electronic viewfinder, a mechanical shutter instead of just the electronic on the J1, and a proprietary port for a new SB-N5 Speedlight flash or a GP-N100 GPS add-on for geotagging shots. A stereo mic input helps with sound capture.

Unlike most Nikon releases, the 1 System has a hard release date, with both the J1 and V1 shipping to the US on October 20. The two come in kits with a new 10-30mm (27-81mm equivalent) f3.5-5.6 1 Nikkor lens and start off at $650 for the J1 and $900 for the V1. More lenses will be available, including a 10mm f2.8 pancake ($250), a 10-100mm f4-5.6 lens with powered zoom ($750), and a 30-110mm f3.8-5.6 telephoto. The Speedlight and GPS units both cost $150.

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