The V1 is a relatively bulky camera very similar in size to the Olympus PEN E-P3. It has a rather utilitarian shape, largely free of tonal or textural contrasts. Its excellent electronic viewfinder provides sufficient eye relief for users wearing glasses and because of this relief, we haven't had a problem with nose-induced smears on the rear LCD.
Like the J1, the V1 offers relatively large, easy to press buttons on the rear plate as well as a rear mode dial, which allows you to switch between still image capture mode, movie capture mode, Smart Photo Selector mode and Motion Snapshot mode. Enthusiasts should note that PASM exposure modes must be accessed via the onscreen menu.
Unusually, the V1's rear four-way controller lacks either a WB and ISO setting, instead providing access for AF/AE lock and AF mode. Setting WB and ISO sensitivity again requires a trip to the menu screen. An 'F' (Features) button sits within easy reach of the thumb when your hand is in the shooting position. Yet this non-customizeable control point is only capable of triggering a total of three separate mode-dependant options, and is completely inactive in Smart Photo Selector mode.
The optional Speedlight SB-N5 flash unit attaches to the V1's accessory port. The head can be tilted up to 90 degrees and swivels 180 degrees in both directions. It's quite pricey, though, for what many users will consider an essential accessory.
Compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 and Sony NEX-C3
The V1 represents a rather unique interpretation of the needs of would-be point and shoot upgraders by Nikon. While the camera body is physically larger than nearly every other mirrorless competitor, it of course houses a sensor smaller than the Micro Four Thirds offerings. It falls in a similar price range to the more enthusiast-oriented Panasonic GX1 and we've chosen the Sony NEX-C3 to represent the most closely comparable APS-C performer in terms of resolution. The V1 is the only model with a built-in viewfinder but offers much less in the way of customizeable options than either of the other two cameras.
The V1 is slightly taller than the GX1, owning largely to its built-in viewfinder. As you can see, however, the viewfinder gives the V1 considerably more depth than the GX1, which further exaggerates the difference with a pancake-sized kit zoom lens.
Front a front view, the V1's significantly larger height is even more remarkable when you consider that the NEX-C3 houses a sensor with more than three times the area of that in the J1. Of course a smaller sensor does allow for the possibility of smaller lenses. With both lenses covering a nearly identical focal length range, the V1's kit lens makes for a slightly less bulky pairing.
The Nikon 1 series introduces a 10MP CMOS sensor that measures 13.2 x 8.8mm. The 'CX format' lens mount is new as well, but a great many lenses for Nikon's F mount can be used on the J1/V1 via the FT-1 adapter.
On the V1's front plate you can see, from left to right, an AF illuminator, two stereo mics and one of the camera's two infrared receivers (the second is on the back of the camera).
An electronic accessory port (V1 only) sits along the camera's top plate and can be used to attach an SB-N5 Speedlight, external stereo microphone or a GPS unit.
Along the top of the camera plate sit the power switch, shutter release and movie record button. The latter is positioned flush with the camera body to minimize accidental operation.
A monaural speaker is visible to the left of the power switch.
All of the camera's rear control points are located along the right side of the body. A mode-dependent function button sits to the left of a multipurpose lever. The mode dial has only four settings, two of which are completely automated. The traditional PASM modes are available only via the onscreen menu.
At the bottom of the camera sits an integrated control dial and four dedicated buttons. A round infrared receiver (V1 only) is located directly beneath the dial. To its left is a memory card activity indicator.
A 1.44 million-dot electronic viewfinder (V1 only) helpfully comes with an eye sensor - located just to the left of the screen - for automated switching between the viewfinder and rear LCD. A diopter adjustment wheel is visible on the right of the viewfinder housing.
The camera's ports are housed behind a flexible plastic flap. In addition to HDMI and USB connections, the V1 provides a 3.5mm stereo microphone socket.
The tripod mount is directly in line with the sensor which is quite helpful for panoramic shots. However it is also quite close to the battery door, making it impossible to change the battery or card while on most tripods.
The V1 ships with a robust EN-EL15 battery (the same model that powers the D7000). It provides 13.3W of power for a CIPA rating of approximately 350 still images.
The memory card slot sits beside the battery, and accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC types.