N1 V1 First Impressions

Started Dec 4, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Joe Marques
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N1 V1 First Impressions
Dec 4, 2011

Long time DPR member, much less active here because I haven't shot much the last year or two and I also grew weary of the nonsense that is often DPR. But I'm so pleased with this camera, and find the non-user bashing particularly funny (funny sad), that I would be remiss not to comment on this camera.

First, this is based on actual use. I think it's important to state that overtly since the V1 has more uninformed opinions than I can remember here on DPR. This helps readers sort through the chaff. Some other info: I just sold off a disappointing kit - Panny GF1/GH2 and a few lenses. Great for video but not quite ready for tough conditions as a still camera system. So I went back to Nikon and got a D700 and a few lenses about 2 months ago. Added the N1 and 10 2.8, 10-30, and 30-110 as my grab and go kit.

So why is the Nikon N1 V1 a winner? It is superior to many if not most cameras in its class in all aspects of autofocus (huge benefit), fps, metering, and auto WB. The "dreaded" IQ is equal to m43 at ISO 3200 which is surprising given the supposed sensor "advantage".

The AF on the Nikon V1 is AMAZING. I couldn't find a scenario where it struggled to lock focus. I always preferred DSLRs for AF and found the Panny G series a compromise. Not so now. The V1 can just about match my D7000. It might even have the edge in very low light. For me making a worthwhile image starts with focus before I worry about noise, color, etc - all things I can fix later.

The V1 destroys "hardcore" P&S's by a very wide margin and matches most low to mid DSLR's (not sure it doesn't compete with pro DSLR's - I had no trouble tracking focus late in the day and firing 10 fps). Oh, and almost no one mentions the fact that the V1 does AF tracking during video - something the Panny G series doesn't do nor does any DSLR (I'm talking tracking the subject around in the frame - not continuous AF - BIG difference). Huge plus for video shooting. So the V1 is top of class in AF performance and that alone makes it worth considering.

This leads to fps - high fps means nothing if the tracking AF doesn't work well. The V1 nails both. I shot my two sons playing catch at 4:15 pm - sun was behind trees - a bit cloudy - pretty rough light. The AF just didn't miss a shot and the 10 fps made this a truly miniature sports camera.

Some samples - caveat - I'm much better with LR 3 and didn't want to try RC 3.6 so I used NX2 where I'm much less skilled. So I expect to have much better noise handling with LR3.6 final. These are also heavily cropped because I was testing AF tracking within the frame and not trying for tight shots. I'd love to see ANY P&S, micro 4/3 or entry level DSLR track and fire as well as this in a sports setting:

Nearly a Heisman pose:

Part of 10 fps series - ball in flight:

Very next shot in 10 fps series - successful catch - both feet off the ground:

Could have been a really cool shot if I was 10 feet to the left and got his facial expression too:

I've owned the D2H and 1DIIn so I know what real tracking AF and fps can do. This is the best I've ever seen in a non-pro camera - yes BETTER than entry level DSLRs in both fps (by 3x's in many cases) and AF tracking.

On to metering. I'm stunned at how well the V1 meters. I took 120 junk shots around the house at night - all kinds of tough contrast scenes. I tried to fool the meter and it just wouldn't happen. I'm convinced this thing meters better than my D7000. Now I know metering isn't critical given many of us shoot in manual but it's a big plus for these cameras and why not use it if it works? Just another "automatic" feature where I don't need to worry. Especially useful when I hand it off to my wife to use.

The metering advantage goes hand in hand with exceptional auto WB. Again, I tried to "break" it by challenging the camera with all types of lighting. I'm simply amazed at how well it does - certainly out classing any camera I've used. I just haven't seen auto WB this good before. Although this too is not critical it's another huge nice to have that I certainly value. Why work harder when the camera gets it right for you?

So as an owner/former owner of a number of top DSLRs (D2H, D700, 5D, 1DIIn and currently the D7000), a few top P&S (LX3), and micro 4/3 (Panny GF1/GH2) I am a demanding user and find the Nikon N1 V1 to be a very fine tool. Is it perfect? Certainly not. The biggest miss was not releasing it with the fov equivalent of a 30-35 1.4-1.8. Most of my indoor shots would be at ISO 800-1600 vs. 3200. I'm not worried, I'm sure that and more is on the way very soon. I also think the lack of a traditional hot shoe was risky but I get why and accept it.

Having said that, it gets SO much right and I believe most of the noise is ignorant chatter by those who haven't touched let alone tested the thing. I know...just another day at DPR. But my purpose is to inform those who want an actual user to comment and compare.

For the non-user/non-believer contingent - fire away, I love a good hypothetical debate - especially when one party is guessing. For the rest, give it a try and you will be pleasantly surprised. A tip of the hat to Nikon for taking a risk and delivering a winning product if you just understand what it does well, appreciate where it fits in the product line, and accept what it does not purport to be. Beyond the analysis the biggest win for me is how much fun I have using it - I shot more images the last two days than I have in the last 3 months. After all, isn't that what it's about?

Comments always welcome, thanks for looking.

Joe

Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS-1D Nikon 1 V1 Nikon D2H Nikon D700 Nikon D7000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
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