A year with the Nikon 1 V1, a long term review.

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Richard Murdey
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A year with the Nikon 1 V1, a long term review.
6 months ago

A year is a fairly long time. Long enough, in camera terms, to dispel any illusions.

In my year with the V1, I've also used the 10mm, 10-30mm, 18.5mm, and 30-110mm lenses. Bought the SB-N5 flash, the grip, and the leather eveready case accessories. I've pretty much put it through its paces, seen what there is to see, good and bad.

TL;DR version: it's staying. The initial annoyances have faded over time, and I've gradually learnt to appreciate the control system and features.

I still don't know what the V1 is though. That is, I don't know who it was designed for.

The best clue I can give is to note that the top of the 4-way controller is the AF/AE lock. The "under your thumb" controls also include EV, AF mode, and program shift. That's an interesting, and telling selection. These are pretty advanced things, things that you should be thinking about shot-to-shot but things I'm willing to bet many of you don't change all that much on the fly. ISO, WB, shooting mode, etc. are all given second tier status, accessed from the main menu.

Hands up, and be honest, how many of you adjust the ISO more often than you use the AE/AF lock function? That would be me, before I got on Nikon's wavelength...

The Nikon V1 screams "don't be a dial-twiddling schmuck, act like a pro and let the camera take care of that for you!". It is not accommodating to other points of view on this matter.

For me, that's fair. It's a small camera and there can really only be room for one usage concept when it comes to the control layout.

The weird thing is it's like the team that came up with the control layout was the same one that field-tested the D4 to get it ready for the Olympics. You are probably laughing but that's honestly the vibe I get from this camera. It's the compact camera that wants to be a professional dSLR. No fooling around taking photos of flowers, the V1 just gets out of your way to get the shot, repeatedly, for as long as you care to demand. Baby portrait mode and "art" filters? Trash.

"It just works" has long been a touchstone of Nikon's high-end offerings, but in the V1, Nikon took the idea to a whole new class of camera:

- autofocus is fast, accurate, and reliable. I said fast. I'll say it again: fast.

- buffer capacity of close to 40 frames RAW. (!!)

- enormous battery capacity, just not an issue anymore.

- rugged body, and (once you get used to it) extremely quick and sensible control layout.

- excellent EVF, with high resolution and fast refresh rate. Very nice rear LCD too.

- the whole camera flies, no lag in any of the controls, shutter button is very quick, and the EVF "black outs" between shots are minimal.

- accurate metering and sensible program lines.

- (SB-N5) sophisticated (pan and tilt!), powerful, accurate and compact speedlight.

- generally sensible lens selection, with more than sufficient image quality.

- excellent auto WB.

In short, it gets all the important things right. All the nuts-and-bolts can safely be left to the camera, leaving the operator to concentrate on composition and being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time.

I've learnt to let it do its thing, limiting my user overrides to EV adjust and AE/AF lock. It's just nice to use a small camera that doesn't need much attention, one that it absolutely ready when you are. It doesn't baby you, it's not "auto everything" ... more "I've got your back, now get to work!"

I normally use the 10mm F2.8 and the Nikon grip. The 30-110 VR is a bit of a gem, and great fun to use from time to time. I sold the 10-30, and lost my 18.5mm with no desire to buy a replacement.

The V1 has not replaced my dSLRs. For slower things, for nice bokeh, for macro, flash, and tripod work, for ambient light ... whenever I have the time and inclination to use the big cameras I will. The V1 is for quick and dirty stuff, for messing around, for carrying on the off chance of catching something interesting, and for anything involving kids. That sounds a little condescending, but its not really; it ends up to be a good fraction of my shots taken.

Its closest relative out there is probably the Panasonic GH3. Another camera that isn't really understood by the masses. Both are/were perceived as overpriced. The V1 well, was. It's been at giveaway prices since at least before I got mine though. It was, and is, one of the best deals going.

 Richard Murdey's gear list:Richard Murdey's gear list
Nikon D40 Pentax K10D Nikon 1 V1 Nikon D600 Pentax smc FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited +6 more
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