Every now and then a camera comes along that challenges our ability to accept a new concept. The Nikon 1-series V1 is just such a model, says Damien Demolder
The Nikon 1 V1 is a digital interchangeable-lens camera that houses a 10.1-million-pixel, 13.2×8.8mm CMOS sensor capable of producing images up to a maximum size of 3872×2592 pixels in raw and JPEG formats.
The camera uses the new Nikon 1 mount, which has a diameter of 40cm. The small diameter of the throat and small sensor size make the camera an ideal target for lens adapters, although currently the only one available is designed to allow the camera to accept Nikon’s DSLR F-mount lenses. At the moment, though, the camera needs a recognisable lens fitted before it will operate, so a simple ring adapter won’t work.
With this size sensor, marked focal lengths need to be multiplied by a factor of 2.7x to discover the equivalent perspective from a full-frame, or 35mm, system camera.
The camera comes equipped with both electronic and mechanical shutters, and users have the opportunity to choose between them. While both shutter modes offer a maximum opening time of 30secs, the shortest mechanical duration is only a respectable 1/4000sec compared to the 1/16,000sec that the electronic shutter can achieve. In mechanical mode, flash syncs at 1/250sec, or longer, but the electronic shutter requires at least 1/60sec.
It is the electronic shutter that allows the V1 to perform some of its cleverest tricks, which rely on an ability to drive at 10, 30 and 60 frames per second. In normal drive mode, accessed via use of the regular exposure modes, the maximum rate at which pictures can be captured is a more sedate 5fps.
It is the high-speed shooting that Nikon is most proud of, though, and which has been used to create motion snapshot and smart photo selector modes and 60fps continuous shooting. In each of these modes the camera is able to work with full-resolution images because Nikon has used its Expeed 3 processor, which, the company tells us, is more powerful than that used in even its professional DSLRs.
Motion snapshot takes a picture as normal, but precedes it with a couple of seconds of movie. The result is a more dramatic entrance to a still, set to jingly music, and is quite effective – though also quite difficult to print. The smart photo selector mode shoots 20 images in very quick and silent succession, and then analyses them to choose the best five for displaying on the rear screen. The idea is to avoid closed eyes spoiling your pictures.
The other aspect of the camera of which Nikon is especially proud is the autofocusing system. Combining the usual contrast-detection system of compact cameras with a DSLR-type, phase-detection array embedded in the imaging sensor, the V1, Nikon claims, has the fastest AF in the world. The user has no control over which type of AF system is used, but the camera alternates according to the situation.
Users have the usual selection of exposure modes, as well as a collection of scene settings to work with. Nikon also provides picture styles that allow enhanced colour, and no colour, as well as access to contrast and saturation sliders to customise the default positions. White balance comes in the usual varieties, as does exposure metering alongside a decent enough ISO range of 100-3200.
The V1, being the more advanced model in the range, is equipped with an electronic viewfinder built in to the main structure of the body. This EVF uses a 0.47in chip containing 1.44 million dots and can provide a 100% view of the image to be captured.