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Talking myself out of the Nikon V1

eNo | Buying Guides | Published Dec 22, 2011

People are asking whether I think the newly released Nikon V1 is “a camera I should get.” When people ask me this type of question, I turn around and ask them how they intend to use the camera, in other words, list the requirements they have for the camera, then decide based on its capabilities (and price) whether it’s a good fit.

For example, if you want to photograph your child’s soccer games, it appears from early reports (like this write-up from a wild life photographer) that, unlike previous small cameras, Nikon has done a terrific job with the auto-focus system. The V1 (and its cousin, the J1) should be able to track your speeding striker without too much trouble.

I don’t know everything you have in mind for a camera, and maybe you’re still evaluating that question so that you can decide whether the V1 (or some other camera) is for you. Here’s how I look at the Nikon 1 system, J1 and V1 included.

  1. Not wide enough: For me, 27mm (10mm multiplied by the 2.7x crop factor) isn’t wide enough. Nikon may eventually address super wide angle photography with upcoming, less than 10mm lens releases for its 1 system, but at the moment, landscape photography of the sort I do would be curtailed by lens restrictions. On the other hand, the 30-110 lens gives a terrific range for those wanting to shoot in the telephoto range.
  2. Not shallow enough: That 30-110 at maximum focal length (equivalent 297mm, so round up to 300mm) will give you okay bokeh, but don’t expect those creamy backgrounds we get with a DSLR and a large aperture lens. The compromise here isn’t insignificant: without going into technical complications, just know that f/2.8 on a 1 system camera turns into roughly f/4… and neither the 10-30 nor 30-110 lenses are as fast as f/2.8. In short, if you want to isolate your subject in a portrait by blurring the background, you are going to have to work very hard (close in the distance between subject and camera, and expand the distance between subject and background), and in most cases, you’re still going to be left wanting.
  3. Not sensitive enough: In the low noise, high ISO area, Nikon have done an admirable job with so small a sensor. Still, from samples I’ve seen, ISO 800 is all I would safely use for my concert photography, and that’s just not fast enough. Lots of post-processing for noise reduction may get you part of the way there, but you’ll always be losing details.

If you understand these (and other) limitations and are not hard over them, the Nikon V1 (or J1) may be for you. It would make a fine backup, spur of the moment camera — and a very capable one at that. If you are deciding whether to get it, I would recommend the V1 rather than the J1, which doesn’t come with a viewfinder, unless you’re 100% okay with shooting through an LCD that may become virtually useless in bright ambient light. For now, though, I am talking myself out of the Nikon V1.

(Replicated by author from the original article)