Movie mode

As it is the standard these days the Nikon V1 and J1 come with the ability to record HD video. You can choose between 1080/60i or 1080/30p modes to either record footage that is compatible with Blu-Ray standards or shoot video material that is more easily editable. There is also a 720/60p mode for smoother motion, albeit at a lower resolution. In the HD modes you can take full control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity. By default the AF is set to continuous but you can switch to single AF if you want to avoid the operational sounds of the AF motor recorded on your sound track. Alternatively an external microphone (ME-1) is available.

In addition to the HD modes the camera offers a 'hybrid' still/video mode called 'Motion snapshot' and two slow-motion modes which record video at 400 fps (640 x 240 pixels) and 1200 fps (320 x 120 pixels) respectively. You can view examples of these modes on the features page of this review.

You can trim the beginning and the end of movies in-camera but are allowed only a single edit per movie file. Presumably in the interests of protecting you from inadvertently deleting anything, any single trim you make automatically generates a copy of the selected movie. Should you want to trim from both the beginning and the end of a clip, you end up with two edited copies alongside the original video recording.

Video specification

The V1 and J1 can record in either 60i or 30p, and while both are compressed into .MOV format, it is easy to distinguish the 60i video clips in video of fast moving objects, with the faster capture rate of the interlaced frames giving the appearance of more fluid motion.

Sizes • HD
1920 x 1080 60i Avg. 24 Mbps
1920 x 1080 30p Avg. 24 Mbps
1280 x 720 60p Avg. 16Mbps
1072 x 720 60p (movies recorded in still image mode)

• Slow motion
640 x 240, 400 fps, Av. 1.8Mbps
320 x 120, 1200 fps, 0.6Mbps
Audio • AAC Audio
Format H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding compression
Max file size per clip 4.0 GB
Recordable time 20 minutes, 5 seconds in Slow motion mode

Handling in video mode

The 1 System cameras offer impressive video specifications but the user experience in video mode isn't as fluid as we'd like. A dedicated video button located next to the V1 and J1's shutter release is used to start and stop the recording process, but video recording is unavailable in two of the cameras' four exposure modes - Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector. In these modes, pressing the red movie button simply brings up an error message.

Furthermore, while the most commonly used Still Image mode does allow video capture, it does so in a rather unconventional 3:2 (1072 x 720/60p) format. This footage is perfectly useable (and arguably more useful for playback on a conventional computer monitor) but to take advantage of the J1 and V1's full video capabilities you'll have to switch over to the movie position on the mode dial. In this mode the live view display of the rear LCD (or EVF, in the case of the V1) switches to a 16:9 format.

You can take still images while recording video by pressing the shutter button, but images are also recorded in the 16:9 aspect ratio (at 9MP). The restriction on aspect ratio is mildly annoying, but impressively, recording is not interrupted when a still image is captured and because images are recorded using the cameras' electronic shutters, taking a still capture during movie recording is silent. Also impressive is the fact that in movie mode you also have the ability to adjust both shutter speed and aperture while recording. Slow-motion (400 fps or 1200 fps) video is also available, and can be selected from a sub-menu via the 'F' button on the cameras' rear (it is not possible to switch between slow and normal motion video capture during filming).

Video image quality

Both Nikon 1 series cameras produce good-looking video, benefiting from a metering system that produces pleasingly accurate exposures in a variety of outdoor lighting situations and renders reasonably accurate white balance. When recording a scene with brightness changes, the resulting exposure adjustments do display discernible 'stepping' of the aperture, which can be visually distracting. In the (default) Standard Picture Control mode, colors in well-lit scenes are nicely saturated without being unrealistic. Autofocus is accurate and generally quick to lock focus, though as with normal still imaging, AF performance drops significantly in dimly lit interior scenes. We could discern no audible sounds from the focusing mechanism of any of the Nikkor 1 series lenses.

Audio recording is crisp and clear on both the V1 and J1 in a variety of shooting situations, with a pleasing balance between ambient sounds emanating in front of and behind the stereo microphones. The wind reduction filter is easily overmatched, however, when shooting in exposed conditions. Vibration reduction (VR) works impressively well in minimizing camera shake with the camera hand-held in a static position. Although it is clearly no substitute for a tripod, VR can produce reasonably steady video. However, as we note in a video sample later on this page, panning the camera with VR enabled produces less than pleasing results.

Video samples

Video 1 (V1)

This hand-held clip from the V1 shows the zoom capability of the Nikkor VR 10-100mm power zoom lens. When the zoom lever is held at its minimum speed setting the result is a smooth, continuous speed zoom. It is of course much easier to hold the camera steady when you don't have to rotate a traditional zoom ring.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 26 sec, 75.9 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2 (V1)

In this clip you can hear that the built-in stereo microphones of the V1 are picking up quite a lot of wind noise in the open surroundings in which we recorded, even with wind noise reduction enabled. The microphone sensitivity level is at its default Auto setting.

1920x1080 60i, MOV, 18 sec, 53.3 MB Click here to download original file

Video 3 (V1)

This clip demonstrates the audio recording capability of the V1's stereo microphones. Even from a distance, the amplified music is recorded cleanly with minimal background conversation. You can also see how the camera's AF system attempts to reacquire focus when the lens is zoomed in and out.

1920x1080 60i, MOV, 26 sec, 76.3 MB Click here to download original file

Video 4 (J1)

In this sample you can observe the J1's metering system making exposure adjustments as the camera zooms in on the cooking pan which is lit by an overhead stove light. As the subject occupies a larger portion of the frame, the metering is adjusted so that the rice is no longer being overexposed.

1920x1080 60i, MOV, 18 sec, 53.5 MB Click here to download original file

Video 5 (J1)

In this hand-held sample you can observe the effects of the J1's Vibration Reduction (VR) feature when panning the camera to track a subject. The VR option is set to Normal. You can see abrupt 'jumps' as the camera tries to counteract the deliberate panning movements. While you can avoid this behavior by disabling VR when panning the camera, doing so will obviously lead to shakier hand-held video.

1920x1080 30p, MOV, 22 sec, 65.5 MB Click here to download original file