That’s “Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens,” or a SLR without the “R”eflex mirror. And here is how Nikon got EVIL:
This is the Nikon 1. For obvious reasons, Nikon is not calling it EVIL, but instead A-CIL (Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lenses). Call it what you like, I’m a big fan of the EVIL camera, and this is the first of this type introduced from the “big two” (Canon or Nikon).
The new camera will debut in October with two body types (J1 and V1), with four lenses and three accessories..
Conclusion (up front)
I apologize for burying the lede at the bottom in earlier drafts. I moved it to the top.
EVIL Buying recommendations.
Your goal here is to get the “best camera”—that’s the one you would actually have on you and use.
Which one is that? Do what Jeff Hawkins did when he created the Palm Pilot (mentioned in the article): picture using it. Only you won’t have to pretend like he did, you can borrow a dSLR from a friend and see if it’s too much; you can use a pocket digicam and see if you are willing to live with something bigger. Then ask yourself how much bigger you can stand; ask yourself if the pocket camera is too limiting: missed shots due to slow autofocus or shutter lag, poor frame rate, lack of reach in the zoom, low light performance, etc.
- If you are making the switch from a pocket camera or iPhone to a camera system, then you should consider the Nikon 1 J1. Alternatives include the Olympus E-PM1, Olympus E-PL3, Panasonic G3, the Panasonic GF3, or any [entry dSLR][dslr1].
- If you are getting serious very fast or are already adept with camera systems and photography, do not buy the Nikon 1. The system is too new and it will take a couple years before it can be versatile enough to satisfy an advanced shooter.
- If you’ve owned and never really used your dSLR because its bulk means you never carry it and you carry a laptop bag or purse daily, then you should consider buying a Nikon 1 V1 and selling your dSLR camera gear soon after. You will lose money on the body and kit lenses but should break even on other lenses. Alternatives include the Olympus E-P3, Sony NEX 7, and Samsung NX (if you are on a budget).
- People serious about videography should purchase a Nikon 1 V1 as it accepts an external microphone as well as a Nikkor 1 VR 10-100mm PZ because of the power-zoom feature. Remember though, while the V1 is probably the most versatile photocamera for movie work (lightning quick phase-detect AF, 1080p, 1080i, 720, variable frame rate up to 60fps, 400fps & 1200fps high speed video, uninterrupted photo stills while recording), it does not have the depth-of-field advantages of a large sensor camera like the Canon 5D Mk II.
- If you are a dSLR enthusiast or professional who carries your camera regularly and are looking for a smaller, more-portable second camera, you should probably avoid any camera system entirely. Instead look at the Fuji X100, Fuji X10, or a high end compact P&S (personal recommendation: either the Olympus XZ-1 or the Panasonic LX5). If you need a crummy version of your dSLR with a kit lens, there is the Canon S100. Also, too, there is an camera built into your iPhone.
- An exception to the above if you already own a camera system that has a compatible EVIL system. Nikon F shooters should consider the Nikon V1, Olympus E-system should consider the Olympus E-P3 or Panaonic HF3, Sony Alpha shooters should consider the Sony NEX-7. All sell adapters so your lenses will work on those bodies.
Defense of Nikon’s choices against Nikon 1 haters:
The mirrorless market is moving what people are buying. Other than a brief, pent-up burst of customers, nobody is buying mirrorless ILC cameras that are complicated (E-P1/E-P2), retro (X100), or simply have a big sensor that requires lenses that are either crummy or too big (Sony NEX), no matter what the price (Samsung NX), or how fun it is (Pentax Q). Instead what people are buying are ILC cameras that are small (the smaller the better), with a simplified UI like their pocket cameras that they are upgrading from. Those people have never owned a dSLR, or are selling their current one on eBay because they never use it.
In this market, you see things get smaller (GF1→GF2→GF3), much smaller (E-P1→E-PL1→E->PM1), simpler (dials and buttons gone, more touchscreens), and cleaner (handgrips gone). Nikon decided to shortcut that trend by coming out with the Nikon 1 J1 and V1: smaller than the smallest (other than the Pentax Q, it is the smallest and uses the smallest sensor), simpler than the simplest (4 modes in the dial, everything in a menu), and cleaner than the cleanest (the optional handgrip costs a lot and must be attached to the tripod mount). They added a bunch of features, especially in video recording, to distinguish it from dSLRs. They improved the performance to be that as a dSLR, so you wouldn’t confuse it with any pocket camera you’ve ever owned or could ever buy. But it still (almost) fits in your pocket so that you might actually use it, instead of just talking about using it.
If you don’t like it, buy something else. You didn’t. That’s why Nikon isn’t making the camera you are asking for: an ugly, retro-inspired camera with a APS-C sensor that somehow is introduced with a line of Nikkor-quality pancake lenses all under the entry price of $500…oh yeah, and an optical viewfinder, in the size of something that fits in your pocket. Well, that and the fact that neither Nikon nor Canon can’t violate the rules of physics… yet.
Keep hoping for a pony; the rest of us will keep shooting.
The future of EVIL:
I believe that EVIL cameras are here to stay.
Perhaps someday EVIL will replace the entry dSLR as the de-facto camera for enthusiasts. (I do not mean that APS-C or “full-frame” SLRs will die—rangefinders didn’t die; medium format didn’t die; large format didn’t die; even film didn’t die.) I mean the “camera of the age” in the early days was the large format; when LIFE magazine came out, it was the rangefinder; when electronics improved, it became the SLR; currently, it is the dSLR; someday, it will be the EVIL.
The person best served by an EVIL camera is the enthusiast (or future enthusiast) who finds their pocket camera limiting but hasn’t bought a dSLR. Or maybe they have, but they keep it in their closet and haven’t used it in ages (you know who you are). A mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is even more appropriate if you are a woman—extra bonus points: no bag-buying trauma! A compact system camera (EVIL) is about as perfect a “blogger” camera as you are going to get: whether you express yourself with video, or photos, or even with words.
Many are not served by any EVIL. I believe professionals and enthusiasts who have no problem carrying a dSLR should stick to it. I think those same pros and enthusiasts looking for a second camera are probably better served by going smaller (pocket-size point and shoot), doing without (just use their iPhone cameras), or thinking different (a Leica, a Fuji X-100, or a lensbaby).
If your digital pocket camera works for you, that’s fine too. Same if you’re happy with the images on your smartphone. If all you are doing is uploading your photos to Facebook, you don’t need anything better than whatever you have.
You’ll know you bought the right EVIL camera when you Craigslist your dSLR.
Analysis of the Nikon 1:
Most other EVIL systems out there are better than the Nikon 1 (currently). The Sony and Samsung have better at image quality. µ4:3 is the most complete system; the Nikon is barely a system right now. You might be better served in choosing one of these, or you might not. It’ll take three years to figure out the answer. Ask me then.
I will not be buying the Nikon 1 for myself, as I already own a µ4:3 and a Leica. But everyone should keep an eye on the Nikon 1. That is because the Nikon 1 system is not simply a “pocketable dSLR”. Instead it is is the first EVIL camera system which aims at a “someday” future where the CSC becomes “the camera of the age.” Nikon’s design choices, features, and firsts in the camera reflect one such possible “someday” future as a compact hybrid camera that combines moving and still images.
I don’t know if this attempt will be successful or fall flat on its face. I find Nikon’s attempt inspiring even if it fails and applaud this attempt.
Finally, should it or another EVIL camera succeed, you can trust Canon to introduce their own version—late to the party as usual. Somehow, over 50% of you will buy the Canon one. I will be blogging much bitterness about you bandwagon hoppers.
What is EVIL?
On the higher end, the full-frame dSLR never got much cheaper. While its popularity has increased with Nikon’s late debut in 2007, the entry (APS-C) dSLR continues to outsell the full-frame by many multiples—dominating the more budget-friendly $500-$1900 sweet spots.
Since the days of film, the lower end of entry SLR cameras was bracketed by the “bridge” camera: a largish camera lacking interchangeable lenses. The digital bridge was forever being squeezed from below by the pocket digicam and above by the dSLR. It eventually got crushed by the entry dSLR as the latter was more versatile, soon became cheaper, and is not all that much bigger, in the first place.
After all, a box is a box. The problem is not the size of the box, it’s that it’s a box in the first place.
But what if we think outside the box? What if we could make a camera with interchangeable lenses, but not make it so boxy?
To start, you would throw out the reflex mirror. With the mirror gone, gone too is the through-the-lens (TTL) viewfinder. Assuming you want a viewfinder at all, you are left with adding a rangefinder, an electronic viewfinder, or both. The whole reason you are started this is not to use some backward-looking mechanical viewfinder on film, but something that takes advantage of the digital nature of your imaging chip. Voilá, you now have an Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens camera, or EVIL. This is also known as a “compact ILC (interchangeable lens camera),” “compact system camera (CSC),” or a “mirrorless.”
That’s what EVIL is: it’s a backwards bridge. Where film technology pushed you to a box without an interchangable lens (a bridge), digital technology demands a camera that can take interchangeable lenses but isn’t a box (EVIL).
As good electronics superseded good (and costly) mechanical design, the SLR replaced the rangefinder. If you take advantage what micro-electronics and digital really has to offer, people might realize the dSLR is a actually a backward-looking design. In the digital photography age, maybe the EVIL will replace the SLR?
Nikon 1 is an EVIL camera system built by Nikon.
And that’s all you really need to know about the Nikon J1 and V1.
What is Nikon thinking?
The most heated debate is going to center around the size of the sensor. The Nikon 1 will have a 13.2mx8.8mm sensor (1″) which Nikon is calling CX format (they call APS-C “DX” and 35mm “FX”). And despite the griping, it’s obvious why the choice. Take this Wikipedia graph:
The new CX sensor format slots nicely in a gap where no camera currently exists. If you are going to make a camera unique, it’s best to choose somewhere your competitors won’t go. The CX format is that.
But what are the consequences? I’ve said this stuff a zillion times but:
- vs. larger sensors (µ43, Sony NEX, and dSLRs) the advantage is smaller size: on average, this camera will be about 2/3 the size of other EVIL cameras, half the size of a dSLR, and 1/3 the size of a professional dSLR. Another small benefit is the lenses will be better suited for close-up photography. The tradeoff is worse low light capability, dynamic range, and/or color reproduction. Also there is a greater depth of field at the same working distance, equivalent focal length, and aperture.
- vs. smaller sensors (pocket digicams) the advantage is better low light capability, dynamic range, and/or color reproduction, also a smaller depth of field. The tradeoff is that you have a much bigger camera: on average, this camera should be 1.4x the size and 3.5x the bulk of the pocketable Canon S100 or (not-really)pocketable Canon G11.
As a physicist who believes that even Nikon is incapable of violating its laws, I think the smaller CX size makes a lot of sense. The choice for a smaller sensor is because:
Nikon is, first and foremost, a photography company.
Before you laugh, realize the above statement cannot be said of Canon, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, or the parent-company of Pentax/Ricoh/Cosina. Leica and Olympus could claim this.
This statement means Nikon designs first for a photographer’s need and then makes the engineering or marketing follow that decision. The CX sensor size is based on this “photography-first” decision with respect to EVIL design itself. I am going to argue that those clamoring for larger APS-C sized EVIL are showing either an engineering mindset (specification over functional practicality), or a marketing one (completely divorced from reality: “I want the camera to shoot better than my Nikon D3, but it should fit in my pocket.”).
(Placing photography first is why you don’t see Nikon coming out with f/1.0 or f/1.2 primes—the performance and image quality on these are terrible so the only real reason for them is to get people with too much money to buy them. This is also why they hire people like Ashton Kutcher to front their CoolPix line, because only a terrible marketer would do that…or choose a name like “CoolPix.”)
A lot of enthusiasts are angry at how small the CX sensor is. It is smaller than 35mm sensors and film; it is smaller than APS-C in an entry dSLR and EVIL manufacturers Sony and Samsung; it is smaller even than the µ4:3 from competing EVIL manufacturers Olympus and Panasonic. The tradeoffs mentioned vs. larger sensors explain why some people are not happy.
The cold, hard fact is, if you are looking for dSLR image quality/dynamic range, the ability to shoot in available darkness, or go bonkers for bokeh, you need to look at something other than the Nikon 1.
Instead, the CX sensor reflects the “photography-first” priority. It is why you’d never see Nikon make a mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor size. When I mentioned my size advantages/disadvantages above, I was somewhat disingenuous. The size I was talking about was the size/bulk of the lens as a function of the sensor size. But the camera system is the size/bulk of the lens plus camera body.
And this is where you get to see Nikon’s “photography-first” thinking. The sensor chooses the lens; the lens chooses a body which balances it. An APS-C sensor demands an APS-C-sized lens, which in turn is best balanced by an dSLR body. An smaller sensor allows for smaller-sized lenses, which in turn are best balanced by a mirrorless design.
Let’s consider how the APS-C sensor came about in the first place. In the early days of dSLR: the choice of APS-C was a practical one. Digital is more demanding optically than film and the price of the sensor wasn’t going to follow Moore’s law. These twin observations mean a (practical) dSLR should have a slightly smaller sensor than 35mm film, and the most successful “step-down” turned out to a 1.5x “focal length multiplier” with higher-end cameras that were 1.3x (APS-H). You see a similar “step-down” gap between digital medium format and medium format.
In other words, stick an APS-C sensor on a mirrorless camera and the optical cost principle applies. You still have an APS-C lens on a small body, and you’ve created a camera that’s all lens. This is not exactly a winning form-factor, unless you’re Sony, which has made digital cameras like that since the late 90′s. Maybe consumers might buy it, but photographers won’t. A photographer would be better served saving a few $100 and buying a APS-C dSLR—its extra size is well-balanced by the larger lens.
There has been a lot of talk about noise, color-depth, and dynamic range. How much are we giving up by shrinking the sensor? Ignoring depth-of-field, diffraction, and bokeh issues, the CX gives up one stop to the µ4:3 and one and a half stops to the APS-C. What this means is that the CX sensor should match that of a µ4:3 at one stop higher ISO—that’s a lot but not significant. For instance, 20% of the difference is made up by a smallermegapixel count alone (12mp vs 10mp). Furthermore, if the CX sensor in the Nikon 1 is a backlit CMOS, this should make up the full stop right there. And I haven’t brought up microptics, hot-mirror choice, on-sensor or in-camera image processing. Over the years, these have contributed to why newer cameras outperform older ones in image quality.
(Example: The sensor in the Olympus Pen (E-P1, E-P2, E-PL1, E-PL2, E-P3, E-PL3, E-PM1) and Panasonic GF (GF1, GF2, GF3) is three years old. It has a DxO mark worse than the Nikon 1 even though it should be 1 stop better.)
Now examine the other end. On the far end a tiny sensor allows for a fixed tiny-sized retractable zoom lens, which in turn is best balanced by a digital compact point-and-shoot. This restriction will bracket our sensor choice.
Just like the digicam adds significant camera bulk over your iPhone, interchangeable lens support adds significant body bulk over a pocketable digicam. So it is reasonable to assume that we need to be even larger than the 1/1.7″ in the high end enthusiast pocket digicams—yes, even larger than the largest of the bunch: the Olympus XZ-1 (1/1.63″), or even the just-announced Fuji X-10 (2/3″).
Finally the target market of the Nikon 1 is not the professional or enthusiast. Instead these users will be upgrading from either a pocket camera or an iPhone. Image quality-wise, a CX sensor will blow those out of the water by a country mile: 3x vs. high-end digicam, 6x vs. pocket digicam, 12x vs iPhone. Keep that in mind.
Crunch the numbers: bigger than 2/3″; smaller than 1.5x (APS-C)…and you’re left with either a 2.0x (Four-Thirds) or the one Nikon chose: 2.7x (CX).
So why not the 2.0x? Beside the obvious fact that there is a vendor consortium competing at that size, I think the answer comes out to this: if those guys got a do-over, they’d probably have chosen 2.7x over 2.0x, also.
A lot of people seemed to have forgotten that there was Four-Thirds (4:3), long before anyone heard of micro-FourThirds (µ4:3). The 4:3 choice was identical to the APS-C one their competitors adopted, just a little more distant 35mm film. It was still created to create a digital version of an SLR. History shows that the APS-C came and knocked dSLRs out of the park. 4:3 was languishing and nearly dead with it’s dSLR offerings. The reason why sales of 4:3 dSLRs are anemic, and have always been anemic, is still exactly what I said years ago: the 4:3 standard on dSLRs is not removed far enough from APS-C for its size advantage to offer significant uniqueness. Think of 4:3 as a dSLR only a little smaller. Yes, it’s a a smaller box, but it’s still a box.
However, when they got rid of the mirror, they could get rid of the box. They called the new standard the micro-FourThirds (µ4:3) system and offered a camera and lens that offered a better, more-complimentary balance than the 4:3 dSLR. The µ4:3 system took off in a big way. I have owned two of them. I decided to buy the first based only on the µ4:3 standardization specification, more than a year before the first µ4:3 camera was introduced.
So, if you got a mulligan on your design, knowing that you’re be going mirrorless without the pain of trying and failing with the single-lens-reflex (SLR), do you honestly choose a format that is only one step away the most successful dSLRs? Or would you choose a format that is as far from both the dSLR above you and the pocket digicam below you as you can get? (Remember, for the size advantage and camera balance, you’re going to give up depth-of-field and low-light advantages to the dSLR anyway.)
In other words, the Nikon 1 is smaller than any dSLR for any photographer who might shoot a dSLR—and not by a little, but by a lot. And yet, it’s still much bigger than any pocket digicam because of the interchangeable lens tradeoffnecessitates a bigger camera anyway.
Slot this hypothetical design in at $650 for the camera kit—that’s about $150 more than the cheapest dSLRs and most expensive compacts—it had better offer something significantly different from either. Anything else and a photographer would be better served with an entry dSLR and spending $150 saved on a good plastic-fantastic (50mm f/1.8 prime).
So get the dSLR out of your mind. A mirrorless is a camera for a different sort of photographer than the current professional. Not even enthusiasts willing to truck around a big box on their chest or shoulder should be buying this camera. But let’s say…
You want a camera that will fit in your purse, or your laptop bag, or even your coat pocket in a pinch. You want that camera to be your primary camera with the versatility of having interchangeable lens system.
Then the Nikon 1 with its CX sensor is your guy.
There is a famous story about the inventor of the Palm Pilot. Jeff Hawkins thought that the failure of tablets and handheld computers was that they were “still too big.” He decided that the device should fit in a shirt pocket, so he went to his garage and cut a block of wood about that size:
Then he carried it around for months, pretending it was a computer. Was he free for lunch on Wednesday? Hawkins would haul out the block and tap on it as if he were checking his schedule. If he needed a phone number, he would pretend to look it up on the wood. Occasionally he would try out different design faces with various button configurations, using paper printouts glued to the block.
A computer this small back then was not without tradeoffs, but a handheld computer that a real person might really use necessitated those tradeoffs.
So such a device was made: the Palm Pilot. It was not a handheld computer because it compromised too much. Instead it would mark the first and most iconic example of a completely new category of devices: the personal digital assistant.
That is what the Nikon 1 wants to be.
And that is why the Nikon 1 has a CX sensor.
Here is Nikon’s “defense” of the choice.
I find this defense either disingenous or mistranslated. The “smaller sensor” that affords faster “software crunching” that Ken Kusakari is speaking about is not the physical size, but instead the megapixel count. The Nikon 1 is 10 megapixels, in a market where their competitors seem to be at 12 (µ4:3, high-end compacts) or 14-16 (APS-C).
Some firsts and features
We learned from our mirrorless competitors about how to distinguish the “1″ system from F-mount. … [The Nikon 1 is…] a new class of camera. —Masahiro Suzuki, GM Nikon R&D
For the last few years, Nikon has been patenting ideas in the mirrorless camera world. During the design of the Nikon 1, they looked at the competitor’s cameras and spotted what they felt were weaknesses:
- They felt the camera+lens combinations in competitor EVILs were too large. This necessitated the creation of the CX sensor size mentioned above.
- They felt that this should be a category that was distinct from both point-and-shoot and dSLR. This means that the camera is targeted to someone who wants to replace the compact without jumping to an SLR because of bulk and complexity, not necesarily a professional who is purchasing this as a second camera. This meant that they wanted to have something with dSLR performance but point-and-shoot simplicity.
- They felt that competitor EVILs perform too poorly (focus speed, shutter lag, frame rate). So they applied some of these patents and new technologies to generate some new camera firsts that would distinguish this camera from any other.
- They felt that competitor EVILs don’t take advantage of fact the camera is mirrorless. So they introduced some new shooting features never before seen to create a camera that merged still and moving images seamlessly (they hoped).
NikonRumors teases out a list of firsts with the Nikon 1.
Nikon 1 J1 is the world’s smallest mirrorless camera.
NikonRumors is misquoting. First of all, every compact P&S is “mirrorless” so they mean mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Second the Nikon 1 J1 is 10.6×6.1×2.98 cm; the Pentax Q is 9.8×4.8×3.1cm. That makes the Pentax Q smaller in all dimensions but one and overall much smaller. They are both the same weight (8 oz). Also, the Olympus E-PM1 has a listed dimensions of 10.9×6.35×3.3cm, which is similarly sized and actually looks smaller in side-by-side pics because it has an extended lens mount copied from the Sony NEX.
(The Panasonic GF3 is 10.8×6.7×3.3 cm and was previously billed as the world’s smallest ILC with flash. My thinking is the above should be: “The Nikon 1 J1 is the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera with flash,” or “The Nikon 1 J1 is the world’s smallest camera with a sensor larger than 1 inch.”)
Despite the dispute, these are tiny dimensions. My (almost) pocketable EVIL is the Olympus E-P2 which comes in at 12.1×7.0×3.5 cm—or 50% bigger in the body alone. Add an equivalent lens (if one ever becomes available for the Nikon) and it should have my Pen beat handily. Another way of looking at these dimensions is the iPhone 4 comes in at 11.5×5.9x.93cm. This means that other than thickness, this camera will be smaller than an iPhone 4 with bumpers on it!
It is because it is so small—and the CX sensor guarantees that it will remain much smaller than the competition—that Nikon did the “big hands” advertising installation in Europe:
The size of the Nikon 1 excites the imagination as Nikon’s promotional videos show. It should continue to do so once the lens selection is more complete.
Nikon 1 V1 is the world’s smallest and lightest mirrorless camera with an EVF
This is true as the other vendors either remove the EVF or have the EVF as an add-on module which adds significant bulk. The only exception is the Sony NEX 7: 12×6.7×4.3cm compared to the Nikon 1 V1: 11.3×7.6x43cm. By my math, the Sony NEX 7 is slightly smaller—add a lens though and it’s much, much bigger.
Built-in EVFs typically have better resolution than LCDs (and the V1 is no exception), they stabilize the camera, and using them blocks out visual clutter when framing a photo. The downside is it’s still an electronic finder meaning there are refresh delays, time lags, less dynamic range, and severe shutter blackouts.
Nikon 1 has the world’s shortest shooting time lag
This will be discussed with autofocus below because it is measured from pre-focus lock.
Please realize how the half-press focus lock trick mentioned in every digital photography book seems outdated. Further emphasis on how this is not like any P&S you know. Nikon was definitely going for that, with this benchmark.
Nikon 1 has the world’s fastest continuous shooting at 10fps.
This is not exactly true. In DX crop mode, the Nikon D3 and D3s can hit 11fps. So they are talking about entire image area stills. Also, my Sony DMC-WX1 pocket camera shoots 11.4fps in burst mode, and there is a line of Casio cameras that can do 1000fps video mode. So really they mean to say the following: “Nikon 1 has the world’s fastest full-image still continuous shooting with autofocus at 10fps.”
On the other hand, something not mentioned is that if you don’t need continuous autofocus, it can do 60fps. Thats 60 frames per second of full-resolution stills—also a record by a large margin. Crazy!
One reason for these impressive numbers is this is the first Nikon that has the next-generation image processor in it: the EXPEED 3. Newer ASICs usually mean more data throughput, and now we know that the EXPEED 3 is among the first ASICs with, not only two channels, but two separate CPUs and is capable of working with 10 megapixel images to the tune of 60 frames/second or 600 megapixels/second! I know of no other camera with throughput that fast.
If anyone wants to guess at what the Nikon D4, D800, and D400 are going have, start with this processing chip and extrapolate that to the D3s, D700/D3x, and D300s, because these will definitely have this chip in them. Also remember to consider this when you read about the “smart photo selector” and the “motion snapshot” modes below.
(Why with this camera first and not a D4/D800/D400? I think these features show us the reason for the delay in these models. It’s easier to debug the EXPEED 3 if it’s processing only 10 megapixel images, than whatever the new Nikons are going to weigh in at. It’s much cheaper to build an in-sensor hybrid AF in a smaller sensor. Until the EXPEED 3 can get 60fps full-throughput performance at 18 megapixels, and until whoever can get APS-C and 35mm sensor yields up to an acceptable level, we aren’t going to see these cameras. :-(.)
Note that Continuous AF @ 10fps obviously doesn’t include face-priority AF.
The Nikon 1 are equipped with focal plane phase detection AF for the world’s fastest autofocusing.
With the Nikon 1, there will be a lot more discussion of autofocus systems. Before this, it was simple: digital P&S (and EVIL) cameras used contrast-detection for autofocus; dSLRs used phase-detection.
To understand the difference, consider setting autofocus distance like guessing a number between 1 and 100. Contrast detect autofocus works where every time you guess a number, it just tells you if you are getting closer or further from the correct number. Phase-detect autofocus is where it also tells you if you have guessed too high and roughly how far off your guess is.
Obviously, the latter would make it much easier (and faster) to guess the correct number.
(If you were try to do do “contrast autofocus” a good algorithm might guess: 33, 66 (colder: 0-50), 17 (hotter), 33 (hotter: 25-50), 42 (hotter: 37-50), 46 (colder: 37-44), 39 (hotter), 41 (colder: 37-40), 38 (hotter), 39 (colder: 38). Answer is 38! Notice how the numbers seem to jump around the correct answer (sometimes even settling on the correct one) before guessing it—this is why your pocket camera (and my Olympus E-P2) lens seems to move back-and-forth a lot as it tries to search for the correct focus.)
The Nikon 1 includes a contrast-detect and phase-detect autofocus, known as “hybrid” autofocus, in a mirrorless ILC body (a first). How Nikon works this magic is based on a patent from two years ago. Basically the way phase-detect autofocus normally works involving a beam splitter behind a transparent part of an SLR mirror sending light to the bottom of the body. Nikon’s patent puts these optics in the sensor itself. What you get is a P&S camera with SLR-speed autofocus.
(The “record” comes from the fact that the lens/sensor is smaller than a dSLR. If these things are smaller, the auto-focus elements do not have to travel as far (or be as accurate). Another function is it is measured between start and shot, so having less shutter time lag is a factor. It can do that because there is no mechanical shutter. Note that Olympus is also claiming that their new “FAST” based autofocus is faster than the fastest dSLRs. It achieves this by using a new dual processor ASIC to do contrast AF at twice the speed. Somehow I don’t think this will stack up well to the Nikon 1′s hybrid sensor in tests.)
The Nikon 1 has the most focus points in the world.
A fringe benefit of building a hybrid AF sensor is that you will do AF over a large area by sampling at many points than traditional systems. In this case, the Nikon 1 has 73 AF phase-detect points in addition to its 135 contrast-detect AF points—surely a record. At that point, we have don’t care about the number so much as the coverage and performance, which later reviews of the camera will break down.
One sacrifice of this design are some pixels are lost due to them not being used for the focus system, instead of image capture. We are talking about a couple hundred pixels at most in a sensor with millions, so these blind spots should be readily removed by the image processing system.
Another sacrifice is that a in-sensor phase-detect AF system is probably can’t focus in low light situations. This is because the AF micropixels should occupy a much smaller area than in an SLR. It’s difficult to know for sure because the SLR system had a lot of light-loss in the mirror, and there is probably an assist across AF pixels for things that are far out of focus. In these low light situations, one expects the system to switch automatically to a contrast-detect mode, in order to take advantage of their larger image processing area (the entire sensor).
(I fully expect the hybrid AF technology to be put into SLR cameras soon. For those of you waiting for a Nikon D4, D800, or D400, this will mean a live view that auto-focuses fast and without waiting for the mirror to come down. Gone will be the days of Sony’s pellical mirror.)
This is a high resolution still bracketed by high-speed video both before and after. The video is recorded at 60fps, but played back at 24fps. The video plays and then fades out to show the still. The idea is to give motion context to the still image.
Personally, I’m nonplussed with this feature since there is really no playback technology that can really highlight the still image resolution. That’s probably why the video is played back in slow motion—to add some distinction in time because the user cannot see the distinction in quality on their monitors.
It’s a gallant try. I think we should start calling this “Harry Potter mode” since the only thing it could look like is like those photos in Harry Potter’s magical world—complete with background music that can be added to the playback.
Smart Photo Selector
This feature takes 20 full resolution images on a single shutter press and selects five, highlighting what it thinks is the best. Some things to note:
- It shoots at 30fps, so the smart photo selector takes under a second.
- It actually starts buffering the images before the shutter button is pressed, so if you are slow on the press, you’ll be saved by the camera.
- There is face detection in the selection processor. No more blinkies! Also smile detection is a factor in the processing.
- Another algorithm is simply look at the compressed image size: larger file = more relevant image. For instance, if you are shooting a moving bird and it goes out of frame during your photo, it’ll throw those photos of an empty blue sky away.
The promotional videos to follow shows it’s application. If you are shooting someone blowing out candles, a couple kissing, uncorking champagne, a group of people who blink a lot, this feature will handle these difficult situations with aplomb.
Another way to look at it is as a computer-assited Henri Cartier-Bresson mode: the camera selects for you the decisive moment as long as you are within about a second of it.
This technology has been used before, just for a different purpose. With the EXMOR sensor, Sony cameras introduced the same multiple photo selector tech but used it to integrate a photo to improve it’s lowlight performance without adding camera shake. It would also reduce blinkies at the expense of more noise as that subimage would be removed from the frame. I think there must be some patent cross-licensing between the two company’s as I’ve noticed the latest Nikon compacts have the sweep-panorama feature found in the Sony EXMORs.
I’m a big fan of camera technology used in this way. It’s the reason I own a Sony DMC-WX1. I expect to see these ideas put to even more use.
You can take full-resolution stills while shooting 1080/30p or 1080/60i HD movies.
As far as I know this is the only camera that does this. Whenever I use the movie mode on my Olympus E-P2, I wish it had this feature as it takes at least five seconds, and often much more, to switch between movie mode and picture-taking mode. In fact, this is probably the #1 reason I do not shoot much video.
The feature is a clever use of Nikon’s dual core EXPEED 3. I expect competitors to follow suit in future upgraded mirrorless cameras. Olympus’s latest line uses the dual core to improve the autofocus (in continuous mode) or reduce the blackout time in live view, but I think this example is more useful, especially since hybrid AF eliminates mitigates the need for either.
It may also be possible that this is the only photocamera that can do both 1080/30p and 1080/60i.
Slow motion movie mode.
You can vary the fps of movie, from 1200fps (320×120) or 400fps (640×240) to extending it for several seconds to make a time-lapse video. Talk to Casio owners about movies this fast.
A lot of photography is learning to show the world in a different light. For instance, waterblur is done by setting the shutter speed slower than 1/24 and all of us have seen the amazing photos of “Doc” Edgerton, even if we didn’t know who created them.
Variable fps take that idea into the realm of video. We’ve just started to see the impact of time lapse. Obviously varying the film rate from 12000fps to now opens the creative possibilities of the camera to a budding photographer willing to blur the lines between video and stills.
(Note: 1200 and 400 fps are of limited utility unless you have very bright lighting. Also note that the resolution in those modes is severely diminished due to bandwidth throughput issues.)
There has been a lot of griping about the lack of grip. However, this is obviously a lesson learned from their competitors. There are very few EVIL bodies on the market with a grip, and only one with an interchangeable one. If a grip were a selling point that many pros and enthusiasts make it out to be, then you’d see the reverse trend. Instead customers are speaking loudly with their dollars that they want a camera that more closely resembles their Canon SD compact and do not care for “retro” styling.
Nikon will sell an optional grip that works by clamping onto the tripod mount a la Leica. Of course, at that point, these people complain about the price.
Dial with only 4 modes, Auto Scene selector.
The four modes on the dial are: photo, movie, motion snapshot, and smart photo selector.
Though nearly every setting is overrideable throug the menu, this choice clearly broadcasts Nikon’s intended market as not being the photographer who lives in the old mode of aperture/shutter speed/iso, but a new one of picture types.
(ISO in digital should be as easy to access as aperture and shutter speed. This philosophy is true for the Nikon 1 as they are all buried deep in the menus and equally impossible to access. Yet this marks another camera being manufactured without a dedicated ISO button. I can only hope that the Nikon D4/D800 will finally add that. Note that the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2 had dedicated ISO buttons, but this was eliminated in the E-P3, again indicating that pros do not buy EVILs in enough number to justify dictating design terms.)
Nikon is going for a clean, uncluttered, unimposing interface for photography with the J1 and V1. Someone likened the look to Apple and the iPod/iPhone/iPad. Keep that in mind when you look at it.
Active D-Lighting and Picture Control
These are features I’ve talked about before and have appeared in other Nikon bodies. Active D-lighting is really useful and, since it is pre-RAW processing, should be left on nearly all the time. Picture Control would be more useful if you are uploading your images directly to Facebook or printing. I don’t do this, and with iOS 5 I don’t see myself as needing this feature.
12-bit RAW capture
Having it is a sign that RAW has reached the consumer market. 12-bit may seem low, but there is not much dynamic range available in the small sensors. If compression is done correctly, these 12-bit files should have everything the sensor can deliver.
As a hypothetical, if I wanted to get a mirrorless for Marie to replace her D5000, I would be best served by either getting her an E-PM1, or getting myself an E-P3 and gifting her my E-P2. I’ve already got a great set of lenses and accessories; it won’t be that much bigger than a Nikon 1 (neither are pocketable, both are “purseable”).
But then you see this video:
And you’ve got to admit, the Nikon 1 is just too cool for words. As Mr. Suzuki wrote: It’s not a simply a new camera, it’s a new class of camera. One that uses a new form factor, mixes in modern day image and video processing technology to rethink what photography might mean going forward.
Nikon vs. the world
What about the other EVILs, and EVIL-like?
Let’s first dispense with the Sony NEX. The NEX is so popular Sony has supplanted Nikon as #2 camera seller in parts of Asia. It’s single-handedly responsible for causing Nikon to open up their dozens of patents on EVIL-cameras they’ve been racking up and actually release the Nikon 1 camera. The NEX uses an APS-C sensor which they manufacturer for practically every dSLR that isn’t called “Canon.” The NEX is typically Sony: an amazing piece of engineering, which I’ve alluded to as being their philosophy. It has a build quality that screams “CAMERA.” Heck, the form factor is practically all-camera lens.
But that’s the problem: you’ve gotten rid of the box and replaced it with a cylinder. In my opinion, a cylinder isn’t much an improvement to the box. Especially because this cylinder has a thin metal deck of cards attached to an end of it (the NEX camera body).
(Yes, they do make one pancake lens for it: the 16mm f/2.8 wide angle lens (24mm equivalent). Spec-wise it’s sounds a lot like the Nikkor 1 10mm f/2.8 announced with the Nikon (27mm equivalent). The Sony 16mm pancake performs like ass. Anyone want to bet me about the Nikkor 1 10mm? I’ll take the side that Nikon would never let something so terrible out the door with the Nikkor brand name attached to it.)
Sure in terms of image quality, it’s a no-compromise camera. But you know what is also a no-compromise camera in terms of IQ and is cheaper to boot? Answer: any entry level dSLR. This has the added benefit of a built-in flash, much better battery life, shot-to-shot performance, and an instant optical viewfinder. Oh yeah, and you can buy it from any vendor with nearly any lens system.
Of course, if you like the NEX, go buy one. What the heck were you doing waiting for Nikon to come up with a NEX knockoff? It was never in the cards—not even the cards attached to a big honking cylinder of a lens.
The Samsung NX. What to say? Well, it’s Korean, so the Japanese are going to gang together to kill it. Other than that, whatever I said about the NEX applies when you use the same sensor and just take away the E.
Look at these models if you are on a budget, like many things Korean, they are the best price/value around.
I’m Korean so good luck, Samsung.
Read more about the Samsung NX.
The Olympus E-PM1, E-PL3, E-P3, and the Panasonic GF3, GF2, GF1? (I’m ignoring the Panasonic G3 and GH2 because they’re styled more like SLRs.) I own one. I love them. They take great shots. They’re not going away.
The system is here now. With two vendors making bodies, four vendors making lenses, and three years to do it, it’s more complete than Nikon’s.
(Yes, there are a couple weird cross-compatibility quirks in the system that happen any time you have something spec’d out by a committee. Ever try to get IBM SOAP client to read a Microsoft-generated SOAP service via UDDI only to have it barf on some weird XSD-difference buried in the WSDL? Well, it’s not nearly that bad, but I made you think about how messy spec-by-a-committee-composed-of-your-competitors is. All I have to say is 4:3 and µ4:3 owners should thank their lucky stars that Nikon and Canon will never sign on board…well, that and I really despise the SOAP protocol. That’s a couple years of my life I’ll never get back.)
The only major weakness is it’s only pocketable without the viewfinder, with a pancake prime lens attached, and when you have really large pockets. It’s small enough to fit in almost any bag though—just don’t put on the Panasonic 10-150mm OIS HD travel zoom unless this is your primary camera.
I have a friend who sold his Nikon D300 shortly after buying the Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 combination I recommended. In fact, for 90% of you, sell your dSLR and buy one of these instead. Which one? That’s for another article (ask me really nicely and I’ll do a writeup).
Great camera. Love mine. The new ones are even better. I’ll probably stay with this system.
What about the Pentax Q?
I do know that Pentax knows how to build pancake lenses, They’re awesome at it. You can actually fit this camera (with lens) in a real pocket—can’t do that with the others, even the Nikon.
On the other hand, the sensor is 1/2.3″. You could buy an Olympus XZ1, Panasonic LX5, or Canon G12/S100. Sure, you lose the interchangeable lens, but get better image quality and save a lot of Benjamins. At this price, I don’t picture that many people buying this.
The price means if you own one, your pictures taken with this (and its quirky lenses) will look different (a big plus). Question: Do you have $800 to blow on a third camera?
You do? Lend me your Q. I’ll even write a review of it. I promise to return it in a year (or so).
Read more about the Pentax Q.
The Ricoh GX+mount.
The Ricoh is more like EVIB (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable body). When you changed the lens, you changed the sensor. That never did it for me (nor the market). The latest incarnation (Mount A12) allows for Leica M mount lenses on an APS-C sensor (1.5x), making it an EVIL. The problem is Leica lenses are all manual. At that point, you might as well get a used Leica M8 (1.3x). That’s what I did.
My point is not to diss the Ricoh but to say, if you are thinking of a Leica-style camera, then none of these cameras (not the Nikon 1, not the Sony NEX, not the Samsung NX, not any of the µ4-3 cameras) are for you. Yes, the Ricoh GX + Mount A12 camera may fit the definition of EVIL, but it’s like budget Leica M8 or M9—different shooter altogether.
Different ball of wax.
Read more about the GXR Mount A12.
The Fuji X100 (or X10)
These are not EVIL because they don’t have an interchangeable lenses. The only thing “EVIL” about them is the exhorbatant prices people charge for them on eBay because the Japan quake wiped out the the ability for Fuji to keep up with demand. No wait, that’s a different sort of evil. My bad.
But people love to talk about the Fuji X100. It is about the same size as an E-P3 with pancake, so that makes this 20mm f/2 fixed, about 50% bigger than the Nikon V1 with Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8.
The only thing I want to talk about them here is hit has a phase-detecting hybrid autofocus that makes them fly. Well, that is Fuji licensing the Nikon patent I mentioned earlier—the same patent that makes the Nikon 1 focus fast.
These are retro so the same argument about how this is a completely different ball of wax than an EVIL camera applies. Consider one of these as a second camera if you are a professional… or a hipster.
You’re a professsional hipster? You should probably be shooting a Polariod.
(And to all the pros complaining—and from the forums there are a lot of you—that the Nikon 1 is should be more like a Fuji X100, go buy a damn Fuji X100. If more of you were actually buying this or the Olympus E-P1/EP-2/EP-3, I guarantee Nikon will have an interation of Nikon 1 with at least this styling, or introduce an APS-C mirrorless. But you didn’t buy one at all, did you? In the meantime the E-PL1 and E-PL2 sold like hotcakes. Despite all your talk, you didn’t put a penny where your mouth was.)
Read my friend Ryan’s review of the X100.
The Olympus XZ1, the Panasonic LX5, the Canon S100, the Canon G12… or some other high-end pocket camera.
There is a lot of confusion of the sensor size. The reason is that standards measured in inches are actually generous by about 30% of the actual sensor size is because they are diagonal measurements of a TV aspect ratio. Therefore the CX sensor is not a little larger than the high-end point-and-shoot: 1/1.7″, it is nearly twice the linear dimension. This means that if the megapixels are the same, these sensors get three times as much light. For instance, the Canon PowerShot S100 is 12 megapixel at a 20-120mm (equivalent) f/2.0-5.9 lens. The Nikon 1 (10 megapixel) equivalent is the bundled kit lens: 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm (27mm-80mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6. Because the sensor is 3x bigger and the dot pitch less, you can go 2 stops lower to get the same IQ on the Nikon as on the S100. This means zoomed-out f/3.5 is a half stop “faster” than the S100, and zoomed-in it is two full stops faster. Since the lenses are interchangeable on the latter, this is a “worst case”, put the right lens and you’ll have a brighter low-light image.
The take home message is in terms of image quality, even the most expensive pocket digitals cameras just don’t compare. Of course, none of the above are interchangeble lens cameras. but you’re buying one of these high-end pocket digitals for the convenience of it actually fitting in your pocket.
(The Nikon 1 is one and a half stops faster than the largest-sensor pocket digitals. On the other hand, a similar argument can be made between this and µ4/3: the latter is a full stop faster than the Nikon; similarly with the Samsung NX or Sony NEX: it is one and a half stops faster; finally with a full frame Nikon D3: it is three full stops faster (8x brighter).)
Read more about my recommended pocket alternatives (in decreasing order of recommendation): Olympus XZ-1, [Fuji X-10][steves 10], Panasonic LX5, Canon S100, Canon G12, and the Nikon P7000. The last two are not recommended as they don’t fit in your pocket—that design (pocket camera, optical viewfinder) is going to slowly die out.
Here is what I wrote in comments to criticism of the Nikon 1 design choices:
Here is some tough love:
If a lot of you people griping would vote with your dollars instead of your mouth, Nikon would have come out with a camera you wanted.
- Want a mirrorless with APS-C sensor? Buy a Sony NEX
- Want a mirrorless that is a good value? Buy a Samsung
- Want a mirrorless with retro compatibility? Ricoh GX with A mount
- Want a smaller compact with ILC? Buy a Pentax Q
- Want an optical viewfinder and retro compatibility? Buy a Fuji X100
- Want a mirrorless with enthusiast friendly controls and a grip that doesn’t cost extra? Buy an Olympus E-P3.
The reality is that nobody is buying these in numbers to justify a new lens mount for Nikon (need a new mount because of the smaller register distance without the mirror). What is selling well is a mirrorless ILC ~$600 with styling and features similar to a compact. All the new designs are heading to more automation, clean lines, and touch screens because that’s what people are buying.
As for the price? Yes, that’s $200 more than a high end pocket camera, but this has 3-6x the sensor size and accepts interchangeable lenses. If you guys actually cared about the price, Samsung would not be an also-ran. If you guys didn’t care at all, then the Fuji X100 would be commanding $2000 on eBay. Neither are true. Instead the mirrorless in the $600-800 kits are the only ones selling in numbers that don’t scream to Nikon and Canon as being a niche (and in Canon’s case, they need to scream a bit louder).
Nobody is buying a mirrorless with external optical viewfinder. That’s why even the V1 has the viewfinder integrated.
By the way, I voted with my $. I am a Nikon photographer, but also own/owned a Leica M8 (retro styling and quality lens selection), Olympus E-P1 and E-P2 (enthusiast ILC with anti-shake), and Sony WX1 (processor features). My vote was counted, but I was outvoted.
I learned to deal with it, you should too.
DigitalCameraInfo.com has their usual comparison review, avaialble for your perusal.
Two bodies. Which 1 should I buy: J1 or V1?
The first thing to note is all the Nikon 1 bodies, lenses, and accessories are made in China, not China or Thailand. This probably indicates Nikon is keeping costs as low as possible. If you are expecting a competitor to launch a camera like this for less than $650 entry price, you are going to have to make some severe compromises somewhere.
(As noted above, people are noting that the entry is $200 more than a high end compact and $150 more than the low-end of the dSLR market. I learned this lesson when the iPod mini came out: size costs money, and people pay for style.)
Both cameras have an AF illuminator lamp which was missing from early model EVIL cameras. Again, Nikon did their homework.
The construction of both bodies is metal, and the The LCD on the back is 3″ and made of glass. Construction for a camera of this size should be on par with competing cameras and better than some.
3D View of the cameras.
The Nikon J1:
It’s available in five colors: white, silver, black, red, and pink. The V1 is only available in two. Kit lenses purchased with the camera are color-matched to the body. The back of all the bodies are black, so this is just the front faceplate and the plastic body around the lenses that is in color.
As I mentioned in my review of the Pentax K-x, color options means that the camera is targeted at women. Ayasuyuki Okamoto, the product manager, pretty much admitted this on launch day. He also mentioned that women compose 15% of dSLR photographers, but 35% of EVIL photographers—now that’s something to think about!
The price of the J1 is $650 for the entry kit. That same kit as a V1 would run $900 so there is a $250 savings in this body.
(The pink one is a special model that comes with the 30-100mm telephoto. At $930, it costs $30 more than the two-lens kit and comes with a pink lens hood, pink leather hand strap and pink wrapping cloth. Clearly we can guess the target market of this one. :-))
The J1 has a built-in pop up flash. The flash doesn’t pop up very high and is extremely weak (Guide Number: 5 meters). Because the shutter is electronic only, the sync speed maxes out at 1/60th. Therefore you cannot use this flash as outdoor fill.
The Nikon V1:
(The Nikon V1 is supposed to be available in black or white, but I’ve only seen it on pre-order in black. Let’s hope this isn’t an Apple iPhone thing, and is more that Nikon thinks the V1 purchaser is going to be a guy.)
The V1 has a 1.44M pixel electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage—this is roughly equivalent to the high-resolution external viewfinder Olympus uses and blows away the anemic one for the Panasonic. Unlike those, however, this one is very well thought out: it one does not take up an accessory slot, nor does it add much to the camera bulk.
There is supposed to be a color filter to prevent color breakup in the viewfinder, which is important if it works since a major complaint a lot of people have with EVF is the color mismatch with the final stills. Personally, it never bothered me; what does bother me is the lag and blackout of the EVF vs. optical rangefinders as I mentioned earlier. The viewfinder seems to have licensed Sony’s eye-point technology so it automatically turns on when it detects that it is being used.
The V1 has an accessory port that can take external accessories (currently a flash and a GPS are being offered). The J1 does not.
The V1 has a 3.5mm stereo mini jack for an external microphone, the J1 does not. It also has ports for video-out.
The LCD on the back is 920k pixels instead of 460k pixels in the J1. This is a common upgrade among the more expensive entry dSLRs so it comes as no surprise. Be aware there are a number of mirrorless bodies with 230k LCD screens out there. Since many photos are going be taken with the LCD as the viewfinder, the minimum acceptable standard nowadays should be 460k.
The V1 uses a different battery than the J1: and EN-EL15 vs. EN-EL20. The battery should have about 80% more charge.
Dust protection on the V1 consists of dust shake in addition to just a glass shield in the J1. A nice convenience in the V1.
The body is magnesium-aluminum alloy. The J1 body is aluminum only. I guess it was a cost saving measure in the J1 as I would guess that the frame can be made a different color than the covering, so uptake of the powdercoating process should not be an issue.
This camera has two shutters: a mechanical one and an electronic one. The J1 only has an electronic one. I assume the addition of the mechanical one was so that the external flash can sync fast enough to keep up.
I listed things in the order of what I felt as the most important upgrades first. It’s up to you if these extra features and limited color selection is worth $250.
Four lenses (and an accessory). Which should I buy?
1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 (bundled)
Given that this is a new system with barely a lens selection to speak of, it is color-matched to the body (even hot pink), and you have no choice anyway, I think this is a necessary purchase. This is the “kit zoom” that comes with many systems. Because this is a new system and the target market for the cameras, I don’t see body-only cameras or kits with just the 10mm as being offered in the near future. Check back in 8-12 months.
Like the 14-42mm Olympus Pen kit lens and the Nikkor 1 30-110mm, the lens can be retracted back into the body when not in use. This is done by going to the widest angle and then pushing the lock button. Because of this capability, it uses a non-standard 40.5mm filter diameter. It can take a bayonet lens hood (HB-101) which is sold separately and takes a special hood cap (HC-N101).
This lens is advertising as having a silent step AF motor (STM) to minimize AF noise, which is important to video work. I believe the Nikkor 1 30-110mm and the Nikon 1 10mm have it also. I’m not sure if this is just marketing-speak for a ultrasonic piezoelectric motor (Nikon calls this SWM elsewhere).
Unlike high end Nikkors, the lenses cases on all the lenses are optional purchases. I find a lens case a useless thing and leave mine in the box.
Like the kit, this mechanically retracts into the barrel so it is still surprisingly small but not pocketable. I’m not a fan of the focal length or the aperture so I’m not a fan of this lens.
This uses the same retractable locking mechanism as the 10-30mm. It uses the same 40.5mm filter size and comes with a bayonet lens hood. The MTF curves look nice.
Remember, this lens is color-matched when purchased with the kit.
People who have kids who play sports and no dSLR should consider purchasing this with their camera. Everyone else should hold off.
1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 ($250)
With this lens on, the camera is truely pocketable. It is roughtly a 27mm equiv. lens making it a wide-angle prime. It’s the only prime in the lineup. Unfortunately, the aperture is somewhat anemic.
This uses the same 40.5mm filter size as the other two. A useless lens hood can be purchased separately—it has the same SKU as the 10-30mm, but it is a different design.
This is the only lens of the bunch without image stabilization (VR), though it is probably not useful at such a wide angle.
It is color-matched when part of a kit, but options later might be limited. This means it is not available in pink (because the pink kit is not sold with it).
Anyone who carries a camera in a pocket instead of their purse or laptop bag as well as those who plan on getting serious on photography should get this lens. Everyone else should hold out for something better.
This is a 27-270mm equivalent making it a travel kit with an extended zoom. Like the 10-30 and 30-110, this lens is retractable. However extending it is done automatically when the camera is turned on. When extended this is a sizeable lens roughly on par with an SLR. When collapsed it’s bigger than most kit-zooms. Balance will be an issue with this lens on a Nikon 1.
The “PD” designation is to emphasize the zoom is a powered one like a video camera instead of a twist one like a photographic camera. This is important to avoid shake in videography. Also it has a new voice-coil motor (VCM) to dampen noise when zooming? its three adjustable zoom speeds.
The lens construction looks like they pulled all the stops: two aspherical lenses for compactness (like the 10mm), 3 extra-low dispersion elements for apochromatic correction at telephoto lengths (like the 30-110mm), and the addition of a highly refractive index element (HRI) for abberation correction without multiple optics, yet still for a total of 21 elements in 14 groups. The lens flare on this will be a beast. It is, however, a marvel of optical engineering.
It takes a standard SLR 72mm filter and is supplied with a lens hood.
It only comes in black.
Anyone who does a lot of traveling should probably get this. If you plan on using the Nikon 1 primarily for videography, this is your lens–get rid of your videocamera. Everyone else should save the money until they have a real need for this.
Mount Adapter FT1 ($TBD)
This allows you to use venerable Nikon F lenses with your Nikon 1. Be aware that there is a 2.7x focal length multiplier making nearly everything you own a zoom. It should be compatible with nearly all the lenses for metering, but I don’t think it has a screw motor in it so I’m not sure it will autofocus the old lenses. I think the odd shape is so that you can tripod-mount the camera: it would move the balance forward and provide clearance for most the much larger F lenses.
If you already own more than two Nikon lenses, this should be purchased.
I recommend you purchase one of the three optional lenses or the FT1 with your kit. The Nikon 1 is a “system” camera which means you should take advantage of the interchangeble lens nature of it, and it is unlikely that there will be any more Nikon 1 lenses for at least six months. Pick the one you think you will use the most for the photography you want to do.
To assist in a purchase, Nikon has provided a lens simulator. Unfortunately, they have not updated it for the Nikon 1. So just choose “FX Format” for body and lens and multiply the above numbers by 2.7.
Nikon has shown mock ups of future lenses (parenthesis are guesses):
- a prime lens for portraits (30mm f1.8, a la [M.Zuiko 45 f.18][olympus 20mm])
- a wide-angle zoom for landscapes (4-10mm f4, a la Lumix G 7-14)
- a high-powered zoom lens for travel (unclear: 30-110? 30-150? 110-200?)
- a super-telephoto for sports (unclear 30-75mm f/2.8? or 75 f/2.0?)
- close up for macro (Micro-Nikkor 14 or 20mm f/2.8)
- a pancake normal zoom (10-30mm f3.4-5.6, a la Lumix X PZ 14-42mm).
Given the selection covers all the bases, I don’t think these will be ready for at least a year, perhaps two. Instead I believe they’re showing proof-of-concept and to give an idea of how the system will be sized for various uses: travel, portrait, landscape, sports, macro, etc. While the landscape zoom and close-up macro represent real gaps in the system, the portrait prime, high-powered zoom, and super telephoto can all be mimicked today (with a bit of bulk) by getting the Nikon F-mount adapter and a good Nikkor F lens.
Honestly, of the list, the only one that sounds unique is the last. It’d be interesting to see if they can get a zoom that is actually pocketable and it will probably be modeled along the lines of the Lumix G X 14-42mm. That might be very useful for a minority as it will make the camera truly pocketable along with a power zoom feature for video. The problem is the price would probably made it prohibitive to be used as the new kit.
The glaring obvious omissions from the list (for enthusiasts) would be large aperture pancake normal and and pancake portrait—I’m thinking a (just shy of) 20mm f/1.7 and a 30mm f/1.4ish a la Voigtlander. Both could be done because we have models out right now for bigger sensors: The Panasonic Lumix G /1:1.7/20 ASPH. and the Voigtländer 40 F1.4 NOKTON Classic—both lenses I coincidentally own:
As I noted in the Sony discussion above, I believe small lenses should be made for small systems. I think the lack of it (and the choice to mock up a zoom instead of a prime) clearly stakes out Nikon’s position that the Nikon 1 system is designed as utility camera for the upgrading snap-shooter, not as a second camera for the pro or enthusiast (at least not yet).
Professionals would be desiring a a pancake normal zoom, a pancake wide angle, a large-aperture pancake prime normal, and a large-aperture prime for portraits—all of which the µ4:3 system has already. However, it took a three year wait to get three quarters of them, so expect a similar wait with the Nikon 1. (Also, only one of those lenses exist for the Sony NEX system.)
The system will eventually grow with a budding photographer—but an enthusiast has no lens to be enthusiastic about right now.
Two ThreeLots more accessories. What are they and why?
There were two more accessories as well as a third that was released earlier but compatible with the Nikon 1.
The Nikon 1 SB-N5 Speedlight ($150)
This is the flash for the V1. It’s a big improvement in power (Guide Number: 8.5 vs. 5) and sync speed (1/250 vs 1/60) over the one built into the J1. It is also further away and can be bounced. Finally, it has a small continuous LED for videography. On the other hand, that’s a really pathetic guide number in SLR terms. My SB-900 is over 16,000x more powerful (Guide Number: 34).
Since this is the only game in town, I recommend this accessory.
GPS GP-N100 for Nikon 1 V1 ($150)
It will automatically tag your photos with GPS information (including the correct time). One nice thing that is almost unnoticed by the journalists is that it has an assisted-GPS feature for faster locking. (I’m not sure how you update the A-GPS database or how long the data is valid for.)
Of course, since it takes the accessory slot, you cannot use this with a flash. On the other hand, indoors, a GPS is useless.
It is currently only available in black.
My guess is in a year, Nikon will be building the GPS into the camera body. I probably wouldn’t bother with it.
Nikon ME-1 Microphone ($180)
The accessory not mentioned at launch was because it was released for the dSLR line. This is a boom microphone that slides in to the accessory slot of the Nikon V1 (you need a AS-N1000 port adapter). Since the Nikon J1 does not have a stereo audio jack, it’s irrelevant for that model. However many companies make boom microphones compatible with 3.5mm jacks—even ones that slide into hotshoes, so there are a lot of options. There is no need to buy a Nikon-branded one, but you might need to buy the port-adapter to fit it on top.
The Nikon 1 Brochure lists a lot more accessories. They are
- Body Case for the Nikon J1(CB-N2000) or V1 (CB-N1000). This is a half case, I find these somewhat useful at preventing scratches. They’re available in all the same colors as the body.
- Body Case Set for the Nikon J1 or V1. This combination creates a full-case where you can shoot with the half case still attached. So it includes a lens/top covering that can fit either the 10mm or the 10-30mm. Leica makes this design for their cameras where they call it the “everready” case — everyone else calls it the “never-ready” case. You can gather what I think of these cases. They’re available in the same colors as the body.
- Strap (AN-N2000). I believe this will be bundled with the camera kits. It is availble in the same colors as the bodies.
- Hand Strap (AH-N1000). Very cool and useful, available in the same colors except pink—the Pink kit comes with one already. But I’d get a Gordy’s instead.
- Semi-soft Case (CL-N101/CL-N101). Possibly useful. I could picture getting this for extra protection if you want to carry your camera inside the outer pocket of a purse. You purchase a different model to fit the 10-100mm (I don’t see the point of that one). This is available in black, white, or red. The 10-100mm version is only availble in black.
- Wrapping Cloth (CF-N3000). Very Japanese. Basically it’s a cloth you wrap the camera in and tie with an elastic band. Sony popularized these with the Alpha so these are generic and you can buy from anyone. Useful at preventing scratches if you want to carry your camera inside another your laptop bag or purse. Avaailable in black, white, or red.
- 40.5 NC filter. A UV filter for stupid people who buy those things.
- lens hood (HB-N101), mentioned in the lenses section.
- hood cap for the HB-N101 (HN-N101), mentioned in the lenses section
- remote control (ML-L3). Looks exactly like the remote I bought for my Nikon D200, so it probably is. I like these things because you can set up a tripod and take a family picture when you go traveling. They’re also useful, but inconvenient, to avoid camera shake when doing tripod-based photography.
- Grip for the Nikon J1 (GR-N2000) or V1 (GR-N1000). screws into the tripod mount and makes the camera wider. I guess if you have really big hands, you can get one. Leica sells something like this that I found useful for low-light photography—but honestly I only used it because the person I bought my Leica from threw it in for free.
- Multi-accessory Port Cover (BS-N1000). If you lose the accessory port cover on you V1, don’t buy this as you will lose it too.
- Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery for the J1 (EN-EL20) or the V1 (EN-EL15). I recommend buying a spare battery, though you can probably get a bigger one cheaper from a third party.
- Battery Charger for the J1 (MH-27) or the V1 (MH-25). Don’t bother. This comes with your kit.
- AC Adapter (EH-5b), Power Connector (EP-5B, EP-5C). Normally these are purchased by professional studio photographers, for the Nikon 1, it might be useful if you are taking time-lapse photographs from your room… or something. I don’t who plans on doing that a lot.
At the launch, Nikon had mock-ups for a ton of accessories which will probably never see the light of day.
- “Communication” unit for the V1. It is very unclear what this is. I guess maybe it’s a WiFi transmitter for wireless tethered shooting.
- Projector for the V1. Nikon is the only company that makes pocket cameras with a built-in projector. The idea is you can use your camera to bore your friends with slide-shows of your latest trip. Somehow people buy those so I guess they think people will buy this.
- External Microphone for the V1. The difference between this and the ME-1 is this would not cover the accessory port but clamp on to the tripod mount instead.
- LCD viewfinder
- video kit for the V1: includes LCD viewfinder, boom microphone, and other stuff. The difference between this Mic and the ME-1 is this shares the accessory port with the LCD viewfinder which looks to be about twice as large as the rear LCD screen. There is also an (un)”steadycam” battery handgrip with a continues LED light attached. The whole setup reminds me of the old Sharp ViewCam’s Wayne Gretsky used to advertise in the ’90s. I suppose this set up could be worse as this set up would blow away any 3CCD videocamera in performance and versatility.
- video light: It screws on the tripod mount so it could be used with teh V1 or the J1. I guess it would also double as a (un)steadycam grip.
- macro light: Looks to be LED-based so this could also be used for macro videography. Of course, Nikon needs a macro lens first, until then, these could be used for food photography. They make knock offs of these for dSLRs very cheaply in China, so I’d be checking DealExtreme after this is launched.
- rubber accessories: How much you want to bet DealExtreme will be selling these before Nikon does?
- Nikon J1 in other colors: Because they will be the new pink, which is the new black.
What about Canon?
We haven’t talked about the other eleven-hundred pound elephant in the photography room: Canon.
Rainer Fuehres [Canon head of consumer imaging Europe] said that compact system cameras have been introduced by manufacturers that find it difficult to compete in the digital SLR market…
Despite an impressive list of Canon’s engineering firsts in photography and video. When the market leader, Canon has a history of being the last-to-market. (As one example, they were the last company to adopt high-definition in the video market, and they paid almost no price for that oversight.) If you pay no price for your misteps what incentive is there to change?
The growth of EVIL seems to have come at the expense of Sony eating Nikon’s marketshare, not Canon. Plus, toward the Nikon 1 System in particular, Canon already has two top-selling high-end compacts buttressing the inferior side of that: the Canon G-series (G12) and the Canon S-series (S95, S100). These are excellent cameras delta the tradeoffs I mentioned up above.
(Add to this there are still a lot out there paying top dollar for the mediocre Canon SD series based on name recognition and reputation alone. There are far better, cheaper, and more innovative alternatives out there by almost any other vendor.)
Right now, if you are a Canon guy wanting an EVIL camera from them, the best thing to do is root like hell for Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic/Olympus, and (probably less-so) Samsung. More movement in market share from these cameras might cause Canon to wake the fuck up.
Since Canon doesn’t have any patents or plans of developing EVIL, my guess is if the market does gangbusters, Canon will license one of the competing technologies (best guess: Sony NEX), slap a different mount on it (let’s call it “EF-C”), and label it a Powershot. Idiots will buy this in droves until Canon can build up some mirrorless intellectual property, manufacturing skills, and design ideas to build a successor. Canon will then clean house on the market. (In the HD video world, this videocam was called the Canon XL-HD1. It was an Canon XL-1 where the only change was to license a Panasonic HD sensor, and yet there are a ton of videographers who paid top dollar for this dud.)
Until the moment they are forced to do the above, expect Canon to continue shit-talking the entire mirrorless camera industry. (I remember when Canon video PR flacks were espousing the “cinema-like quality” of 24 frames per second (vs 30 and 60fps) as being superior to the high resolution of HD video…right up until the day they launched the XLHD-1 and changed thier tune.)
Remember, Nikon has been develiping, patenting, and licensing mirrorless tech for the last five years. Nikon patent applications in the last year had shown they had settled on the CX sensor size, implying the Nikon 1 was being finalized. There was over a year gap between the µ4:3 specification and the first µ4:3 cameras. I find Canon’s silence on the engineering and design front deafening.
Following the attention that Fuji’s X100 has received it isn’t inconceivable that a retro rangefinder system, designed around 1959 Canon P or 1965 7S rangefinder systems could be on the cards. We will just have to wait and see, but for now Canon will not rule anything in, or anything out.
Canon is a company that introduced the metallic beauty of the Powershot and the clean lines of the EOS SLR. Any expert who hypothesizes that Canon would enter the mirrorless market something so retro-looking as a Canon P or Canon 7 is smoking something. They need to stop dwelling in the past where “Canon” was synonymous with cheap, poorly-performing knockoffs. Canon moved on; they need to also.
In the long run you only hit what you aim at. Therefore, though you should fail immediately, you had better aim at something high.
—Henry David Thoreau (on the introduction of the Nikon 1)