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Hands-on with Nikon V2

Barney Britton | Product Reviews & Previews | Published Oct 25, 2012

Nikon announced two major products at this year's Photo Plus Expo tradeshow in New York - a new constant-aperture F4 70-200mm zoom for its range of DX and FX-format DSLRs, and the V2, which replaces the V1 as the flagship in Nikon's 1 System. The CX-format V2 features an all-new 14MP CMOS sensor and a built-in flash, a proper exposure mode dial (oh, happy day...) but retains the same innovative Hybrid AF system and 1.4 million-dot EVF as its predecessor.

We caught up with Nikon on the first morning of the show, and managed to get some time alone with its new high-end 1 series camera and 18.5mm F1.8 prime - the fastest lens in the system (making it equivalent to a 50mm lens in terms of field-of-view and F4.9 in terms of depth-of-field). 

Our first impressions, seeing the camera 'in the flesh' for the first time, are that it isn't as ugly as it looks in photographs. Yes, it looks like a Sony NEX with mumps. But the lumps and bumps that characterize its external design are much less objectionable when you actually pick the camera up and start using it. We know this might be controversial, but we might actually prefer how the V2 looks compared to the V1...

This view shows the V2 without a lens mounted, and its 1" (13.2 x 8.8mm) CX sensor exposed for all the world to see. Much more businesslike in appearance than the J2 and even its predecessor the V1, the V2's lumps and bumps are functional, if not terribly attractive.

The protruding grip allows for an unusually firm hold (by MILC standards) and the faux-prism hump above the lens houses an EVF and a pop-up flash. 

Another thing that isn't all that apparent from press photographs is how small the V2 is. We didn't have competitive mirrorless cameras nearby to compare it to directly, but it's about the same size as the Olympus PEN Mini, if you ignore the viewfinder hump. The view of the exposed 1-inch CX sensor, above, should give you some idea. In terms of how it feels in the hand, the V2 reminded us of a slightly miniaturized Sony NEX-7, more than anything else. The same super-thin body, similarly nice metal construction, and a deep, rubberized handgrip.

Other than the pronounced hump, the 14MP V2 is one of the smaller mirrorless ILCs. Our model has pretty dainty hands (and charming nail varnish) and as you can see from this view, the V2 isn't much of a handful, even for her. Viewed from the back, the V2 is very different to its predecessor, The control layout has been overhauled, and enthusiasts will appreciate the exposure mode dial on the top-plate, and the control dial at upper-right. 

The rear of the V2 is quite different from the V1, and actually, rather NEX-like as well. It's dominated by a large LCD screen and integrated control dial/four-way controller, but unlike many of its competitors, the V2's rear LCD screen is fixed rather than articulated. New to the V2 is the vertical strip of buttons on the left of the screen, replacing the dense cluster of control points which surround the 4-way controller on the V1.

The V1's rear-plate mode dial has been deleted completely, to be replaced by a 'proper' exposure mode dial, complete with PASM positions, which can be found on the top of the camera - exactly where an enthusiast would expect to find it. Even better than this, the V1's sharp little control toggle has also been removed, and replaced by a more traditional control dial. 

The V2 is Nikon's most DSLR-like 1 System camera yet, and features about the most generously-proportioned hand grip that we can remember seeing outside of the realm of DSLRs.   The control layout of the V2 has been completely overhauled compared to its predecessor the V1. There's an exposure mode dial on the top, and to the right, a control dial which replaces the fiddly up/down toggle on the V1.

The V2 still has a proprietary 'multi accessory port' connector, limiting flash choice to the SB-N5 or new, more powerful, bounce-able SB-N7.

With the camera held to the eye, there's no novelty. The view is the same as you'll get through the EVF on the older V1, because it's the same viewfinder. That's no bad thing though. Although not class-leading, the 1.4 million dot display (800 x 600 RGB pixels) built into the V2 is bright, contrasty and detailed. There's a diopter wheel on the left, for those of us with less than perfect eyesight. 

The model that we handled is unfinished - Nikon reps were keen to stress that it might not perform quite as well as the final shipping cameras, but we're happy to report that with the fast 18.5mm prime attached, autofocus seems extremely fast and positive, even in the poor light of a tradeshow meeting room. The bigger the aperture, the more effective the V2's Hybrid AF system (which uses fast on-sensor phase-detection in good light, falling back on contrast-detection when illumination gets low) should be, and that certainly seems to hold true for this new prime. We should have a production sample of both camera and lens soon, and look forward to doing some real-world shooting.