Nikon 1 V1 / J1 Review
The Nikon V1 and J1 come with several pieces of software but the key one is ViewNX 2 - a generally capable raw conversion platform. ViewNX 2 is not as sophisticated as Nikon's Capture NX 2 (available separately for $180/£160), but it offers most of the key functionality that a beginner will require when starting out with the Nikon 1 system, including the ability to crop and straighten images, and change white balance and exposure in NEF files. More advanced tools include D-Lighting and highlight/shadow recovery sliders, plus lateral and axial chromatic aberration correction. Basic video editing functionality is also available. In a nice touch, many of these parameters can be built into presets using the Picture Control Utility, meaning that presets you find yourself regularly applying can be uploaded to the camera. Inexplicably absent, however, are any noise reduction options.
As well as being free, ViewNX 2 has another advantage over Capture NX 2 in that it is a small program that does not require a huge amount of computing power to run. It's far from being as slick as Adobe's Camera Raw plug in for Photoshop, but much more forgiving of older, slower computers than Capture NX 2. As well as raw conversion, ViewNX 2 also allows you to geotag photographs using Google Maps (automatically if you use the optional GP-N100 GPS unit), and to rate and label images with stars or colors for ease of organization. You can even modify the names of the color tags so that they show up as 'Work,' 'Holiday,' 'Portraits' or whatever best suits your needs.
As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. In the case of the Nikon V1 we used the supplied ViewNX 2 and Adobe Camera RAW 6.6.
- JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
- VNX - ViewNX 2.0.3
- ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 6.6 (at default 'Adobe Standard' setting)
Sharpness and Detail
We often see that careful raw conversion can bring out a more convincing rendition of ultra-fine detail than out-of-camera JPEGs. However, at default settings, only Adobe's Camera RAW squeezes a minimal amount of extra detail out the camera's RAW files. The image rendition of View NX, Nikon's free RAW converter, produces output that is slightly less detailed than the camera's JPEGs which appears to be caused by an over-enthusiastic noise reduction at default settings. Unfortunately View NX doesn't offer the option to change noise reduction. You can play with the sharpness setting but, while the image looks a little crisper, this doesn't get you any additional detail.
In the crops below, both ACR and the camera JPEGs are able to describe the finest feather detail with more finesse than ViewNX. Of course this only really matters if you regularly view your images at 100% on-screen or print really large. At smaller viewing sizes you won't be able to tell a difference.
|Adobe ACR 6.6 RAW -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
|Nikon View NX 2 RAW -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
|JPEG out of camera, High quality setting, manual WB (all other settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
The differences between ACR and Nikon's ViewNX 2 are minimal when resolution shots are compared, as you can see. We'd stick our necks out and say that ACR gives fractionally better detail rendition than ViewNX 2 as the lines on our chart approach Nyquist, but there's very little in it. In this test both raw conversion engines have produced very slightly better resolution than is possible from in-camera JPEGs, and both describe some lines up to and after Nyquist (although this is not 'genuine' detail).
|Adobe Camera RAW 6.6||ViewNX 2|
The examples below illustrate the kind of real-world advantages you can get from shooting in raw mode. In the first example, some of the highlights in this contrasty scene were a little washed out, so we applied a minimal digital exposure compensation of -0.20EV to the image. We also pushed the detail sharpening up to 65 which brings out some more of the fine detail in low contrast areas such as the bush behind the person in the crop. That said, the V1's out-of-camera JPEGs shows already pretty good detail at a pixel level. At low ISO sensitivity settings, the improvements in detail you can achieve through shooting in raw mode and doing your own processing are actually fairly modest.
|JPEG, ISO 100 (Active D-Lighting on)||Raw file processed 'to taste' in ACR 6.6|
In the example below, taken at ISO 800, you can see the difference that careful processing of a raw file makes to detail retention in a situation where noise-reduction reduces resolution in JPEG mode. A lot of additional detail can be drawn out of the J1 and V1's .NRW files but this comes at the expense of a modest increase in 'grittiness' as luminance noise is accentuated.
|JPEG, ISO 800||Raw file processed 'to taste' in ACR 6.6|
RAW files for download
Don't just take our word for it - take a look at the J1 and V1's raw files for yourself, and run them through your own software and preferred conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of 'real world' scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the studio scene shots, you can download original raw files from our Compared to (RAW) page.