Operation and Controls

The operational ergonomics of both the J1 and V1 are focussed around automatic operation, and as point and shoot cameras, both work very well. Two unique shooting modes - Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector - are given pride of place on a mode dial on their rear (alongside more-conventional Still Image and Movie modes), and what little direct control the cameras offer is basic.

Naturally though, this simplicity of design does have consequences for more experienced shooters who wish to change parameters between shots. By relegating PASM modes to the cameras' menu systems, as well as direct control over white balance and ISO, users who want to take greater control over their cameras' behavior will have to get used to dipping into the menu system. It is worth noting that one aspect of the J1/V1's feature set over which you get absolutely no control is one of the most interesting - their 'hybrid' AF systems. The switch between phase-detection and contrast-detection AF is completely automatic, and the cameras determine which mode to use based on the amount of light coming through their lenses.

Top of camera controls

The J1 and V1 offer only the most essential controls along the top of the camera. A shutter release, movie record button and power switch constitute the entire layout. The movie button cannot be used in Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector modes, but in Still Image mode it initiates 720 / 60p video recording in 3:2 aspect ratio, and in Movie mode it initiates video recording at whatever settings you've chosen.

The V1's speaker sits to the right of the EVF (the V1 is shown above). On the J1, a much smaller speaker sits directly in line with the center of the lens.

Rear of camera controls

Along the rear panels of both cameras you will find a relatively standard layout of control points. Along the upper edge are a flash switch (J1 only - shown here), a non-customizeable 'Feature' button and a jog lever that inputs exposure settings in PASM modes and image magnification in playback and MF modes. Below these are the main mode dial and a combined 4-way controller/selector dial.

The mode dial is unlike that on any other camera. Instead of selecting between exposure modes, it switches the camera between four operational modes. Motion Snapshot records a short movie clip alongside a still image, while Smart Photo Selector shoots a burst of 20 images and saves what the camera considers to be the best 5 (these modes are covered in more detail in the 'Features' page of this review).The other two positions on the dial cover conventional Still Image and Movie modes.

The Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector modes are fully automatic; no control over exposure, ISO sensitivity or focussing behavior is possible whatsoever. In Still Image mode (represented by a green camera icon on the dial) you have the choice of Scene Auto Selector mode (in which the camera automatically selects an appropriate 'scene' mode depending on shooting conditions) or the traditional PASM exposure modes; you select the mode you want to use via the main shooting menu. In Movie mode, you have the same options, and full manual control is possible over aperture and shutter speed even during filming.

A thumb-operated jog switch is used in concert with the rear dial to adjust exposure values in PASM modes. Switching the shooting mode in 'Still Image' mode requires a trip to the Shooting menu and a minimum of three separate button presses.

The Feature button is mode-dependant. On the J1, in still image mode it offers access to continuous shooting options, and in the case of the V1, it brings up a menu for you to choose between mechanical and electronic/electronic (Hi) shutter. In movie mode this button allows you to choose either HD or slow motion record options. It is also used to select among audio themes in Motion Snapshot mode. Here's a table showing its different functions, in each camera, per shooting mode.

Shooting mode Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 J1
Motion Snapshot 'Theme' (Beauty / Waves / Relaxation / Tenderness)
Smart Photo Selector N/A
Still Image (PASM) 'Shutter Type' (Mechanical / Electronic / Electronic (Hi) ) 'Continuous' (Single Frame / Continuous / Electronic (Hi) )
Movie 'Movie Mode' (HD Movie / Slow motion)

Onscreen controls

The onscreen controls of the J1 and V1 are fairly minimal, with limited options for controlling the information that is displayed in live view. Exposure values are displayed along the bottom of the screen and an icon in the upper left indicates the currently selected shooting mode. Although the cameras offer a fair number of external control points, users who wish to choose among even basic shooting parameters such as a PASM mode, WB settings or ISO sensitivity will have to first locate these items in the onscreen menu.

Live view offers just two information displays. In the V1's Still Image mode (shown above) battery status and camera settings are displayed in the more comprehensive view. In both Single-point and Subject Tracking modes, you can press 'OK' and then use the control dial to adjust the position, though not the size, of the AF point.
Exposure compensation can be adjusted +/- 3 stops EV using the rear control dial, but the resulting exposure change is not displayed in live view until you confirm your selection with the 'OK' button. You can capture 16:9 still images with the main shutter button while simultaneously recording video in HD movie mode, but you do not get visual confirmation of AF acquisition.


The Nikon 1 series cameras have a very simple menu interface divided into three separate categories, reminiscent of the layout found on the company's Coolpix compact models. The category devoted to shooting parameters is mode dependent. In Still Image mode its list spans 21 items, which makes for a fair amount of scrolling should you want to change, say WB - located towards the middle of the list - and AF-area mode which resides near the end of the list.

Curiously, for cameras aimed at point and shoot users, there are no 'art filter' or equivalent creative effects that can be applied to images in-camera outside of Nikon's traditional Picture Controls.

The cameras' menu systems are divided into Playback, Shooting and Setup menu categories. The Shooting menu is the most comprehensive category. Key functions such as WB, ISO and exposure mode are only accessible via this menu.

Review, edit and playback

In playback mode, you can review images and use the Disp. button to toggle between three separate information overlays. You can scroll through images quickly by rotating the control ring or simply pressing its left and right cardinal points. Pressing the Feature button brings up a ratings interface with which you can assign star ratings of 1-5 or mark images for deletion. Slideshows can be set to use these ratings to filter images for playback.

The lever on the rear of the cameras - which controls exposure parameters in PASM shooting modes - zooms in and out of the selected image when you're in playback mode.

In playback mode you can view single images accompanied with a basic info display,histogram and detailed exposure settings, or in an image-only view. Using the rear playback control lever enables you to zoom out to multiple-image views of 2 x 2, 3 x 3, and 8 x 8 grids as well as a calendar view.

Reviewing images is an easy process and both J1 and V1 respond swiftly to most operations, with the notable exception of thumbnail views. Using the playback control rocker to switch among thumbnail views, involves waiting for the cameras to load each image on the screen in succession. This becomes most frustrating in the cameras' 8 x 8 grid view, which takes about 8 seconds to populate the screen with thumbnails.