Featuring a revamped 1-inch CX-format 18.4-million-pixel CMOS sensor with fast read out the new Nikon 1 J4 delivers continuous full resolution shooting up to 20 frames per second. But can its performance match its speed? Jon Devo finds out.
Promising so much on the spec sheet I was genuinely looking forward to using the J4, but within minutes of turning it on, I was finding it a particularly frustrating camera to use.
Auto focusing is very fast indeed and I experienced very few out of focus images. I was also very pleased with the metering, although I did notice a slight tendency for the camera to underexpose images.
Image: I noticed a slight tendency for the camera to under expose and produce cool tones under cloudy skies
The kit lens doesn’t help matters either as I found it to be quite soft, particularly at its telephoto extremes. But this is an interchangeable lens camera so that issue is easily solved with better quality glass. The biggest challenge with the J4 camera is finding the right settings for the job at hand.
The camera’s mode dial has five settings: Movie, Auto, Best Moment Capture, Creative, and Movie Snapshot. All other adjustable exposure settings within those modes are then assigned to the F (feature) button at the top of the multi selection wheel or one of its other three buttons, which are set to exposure compensation, flash and release.
Manual control hides inside the Creative setting on the mode dial, then all manual modes and their respective settings can be adjusted using the touchscreen or the rear wheel.
The result of this approach means that I regularly had to scramble between menus and settings trying to find the right ones for each scene, not least because the mode dial can be turned accidentally with little effort.
Image: Although there are blown highlights as expected, the camera’s metering system still delivered a pleasing exposure of the balloons
I found the operational performance of the J4 a hindrance and unnecessarily awkward unless left in Auto mode, where Nikon has been helpful to beginners and replaced photographic terminology such as exposure compensation and shutter speed with phrases like “brightness” and “motion control”.
Another issue I experienced when using the J4 was that unless I left the toy machine gun-like shutter release sound turned on, there was no discernable way of knowing whether or not I was taking any pictures at all during continuous shooting. Holding down the J4’s shallow shutter button, the screen gives no indication that you’re capturing images, there’s no shot counter and as it has an electronic shutter, there’s no blackout as the shutter is released.
Because of this quirk it’s hard to be confident that you’ve got the shot you wanted without constantly checking. It’s a small issue, but it makes a difference and results in wasted card space.