Tetsuya Yamamoto, General Manager of Nikon’s Development Headquarters within its Imaging Division. (Image courtesy Nikon Inc.)

At this year’s International CES show in Las Vegas, we spoke to Tetsuya Yamamoto, General Manager of Nikon’s Development Headquarters within its Imaging Division. We discussed the market’s reaction to the 1 J1 and V1, and how the system might evolve in the future.

According to Yamamoto, Nikon has been pleased with the success of the 1 System, especially the J1, in the American market but that even before the system's launch 'we were very confident that there were customers out there who would gravitate towards the V1 and the J1'.

He told us that the sort of people buying the J1 and V1 are those customers that 'want a DSLR but don’t want something big and heavy’. He went on, '1 System customers like the fast AF and the size of the cameras and lenses, and once they’ve used [new features like] Motion Snapshot they really like them'. 

1 System sensor 'capable of 2K / 4K video'

Yamamoto told us that Motion Snapshot, which combines a still image with slow motion video in a single capture is a feature that Nikon is keen to improve in the next generation of 1 System cameras. There’s good news, potentially for videographers too - according to Yamamoto 'the [J1 and V1’s] sensor is capable of 2K (2048×1080px) and 4K (~4000px horizontal resolution) video and in the future we hope to incorporate [these functions]'.

'We are going to develop brighter lenses for better total performance'

Also on the agenda for future 1 System products it appears, are improvements to their innovative 'Hybrid' AF systems, which combine conventional contrast-detection AF with a faster phase-detection system, all using the main 10MP imaging sensor.

The key, according to Yamamoto, is faster lenses. He told us 'we want to develop higher speed AF, and specifically to improve phase-detection AF from the imaging sensor. This depends on lens aperture – if the lens [has a larger aperture] then AF is much faster'. In the future, he told us, 'we are going to develop brighter lenses for better total performance – brighter but still small'. 

The Nikon 1 J1 and V1 are built around a one-inch 10MP CMOS sensor that is capable of both phase-detection and contrast-detection AF. The EVF-equipped V1 is aimed at a slightly higher level than the J1 but both are essentially intended to be used as point-and-shoot cameras. 
The Nikon 1 V1 pictured with the currently available 1 System lenses - (from right to left) the 10-30mm F3.5-5.6 VR, the 30-110mm F2.8-5.6 VR, the 10mm F2.8 pancake and the (comparatively) enormous 10-100mm F4.5-5.6 VR powerzoom.

Manual AF control, in-camera NEF editing and Effects filters 'for the future'

Still on the subject of Hybrid AF, which switches between contrast-detection and phase-detection AF modes automatically depending on light level, we asked Yamamoto why Nikon made this system entirely automatic. 'We are studying [manual AF mode control] for the future' he told us: 'for V1-class cameras we would like to do this manually but [AF mode selection in] J1-level models will remain automatic'.

Also potentially on the horizon for future 1 System models, Yamamoto told us, are in-camera NEF (raw) conversion, and in-camera 'Effects'. Asked why the first two functions were omitted from the J1 and V1, Yamamoto explained 'the J1 and V1 are in a new category, and [for these initial releases] we wanted to [focus on] enhancing basic functions like AF and introduce new ones like Motion Snapshot'. In the future though, he told us, 'we are studying the inclusion of [both] in-camera effects and raw conversion'.

'We may provide an option to customize Auto ISO in the future'

During the process of creating our in-depth review of the 1 System cameras, our experience of the J1 and V1’s Automatic ISO system has been that they constantly risk blurry images in low light by selecting low ISO sensitivity settings and relatively low shutter speeds. Yamamoto assured us 'we are aware of the issue'. But, he explained - 'the target user [for the J1/v1] is a point-and-shoot customer and for that user we thought that it was better to make [the function] purely automatic'.

'We always have to find a balance [between noise and sharpness]' he went on, 'but after having a lot of discussions and getting feedback we may need to come up with another option'. Encouragingly, he added that 'we may provide an option for customers to customize Auto ISO performance in the future'.

We ended the interview by asking Mr Yamamoto for his vision of the future, and whether mirrorless cameras will replace consumer-level DSLRs. 'We don't think so' Yamamoto told us - 'mirrorless is one solution [if the aim is] compactness but it is just one approach. We don't think it is the only direction, and we are considering further reductions in size even for [our DSLR] cameras'. 

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