Nikon 1 V2 £799.99

14th Jan 2013 | 11:00

Nikon 1 V2

Nikon 1 gets serious

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Small body; Advanced controls; Viewfinder;

Dislike:

Small sensor; Average EVF; Fixed LCD;

Introduction

Although the Nikon 1 J1 proved to be an incredibly popular compact system camera (which has since been replaced by the Nikon 1 J2 and joined by the Nikon 1 J3), its larger sibling, the Nikon 1 V1, was never as popular.

Perhaps seen as not serious enough for "advanced photographers", its high asking price put off the beginners who were busy investing in the Nikon 1 J1.

Now, however, Nikon has replaced the Nikon 1 V1 with the Nikon 1 V2, which promises to be an evolution of the existing camera and is what Nikon hopes will attract those lucrative more serious customers - the ones who are more likely to buy additional lenses and other accessories down the line.

Nikon 1 V2 review

The Nikon 1 V2 has a new 14.2 million pixel CX format (1-inch or 13.2 x 8.8mm) CMOS sensor. This is accompanied by a new processing engine dubbed Expeed 3A.

According to Nikon, this sensor and processor combination has enabled it to push the sensitivity range of the Nikon 1 V2 a stop higher than before, extending it from ISO 160 to ISO 6400 instead of ISO 100-3200, which should prove useful in low light.

Low light capability has been further extended by the addition of a pop-up flash unit, as well as a hotshoe, compatible with the new Speedlight SB-N7 and existing SB-N5 flashguns. Previously, the Nikon 1 V1 only had a hotshoe, while the J1 and J2 had a pop-up flash and no hotshoe.

Nikon 1 V2 review

It's also an accessory port, and can accept devices such as the GP-N100 GPS unit for tagging images with location data as they are captured.

One of the most interesting features of the Nikon 1 V2 is its continuous shooting ability. Thanks to that Expeed 3A engine, Nikon promises that the camera is capable of producing up to 45 full-resolution images at up to 15fps in continuous autofocus mode and for 40 images at 60fps when the focus mode is set to a single AF and the focus point and exposure are fixed from the first frame onwards. This makes it a great camera for capturing brief bursts of action.

Lots of its specs are very similar to its predecessor's. It features the same 3-inch 921,000 dot LCD and 0.47-inch 1,440,00-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) for composing and reviewing images.

Nikon 1 V2 review

The EVF is a key distinguishing feature between this camera and the Nikon 1 J1 and Nikon 1 J2, and should appeal to more serious users, as well as making it easier to use in bright sunlight.

The same hybrid AF system can also be found on the camera, with it switching between using the 73 phase-detection points and the 135 contrast detection points as it deems necessary.

The Nikon 1 V2 is priced at £799.99/US$899.95 with one 10-30mm kit lens included, or £969.99/US$1,149.95 with both 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Build quality and handling

One of the key distinguishing features of the new Nikon 1 V2 is the much larger grip, making the design of the compact system camera much more akin to a miniature DSLR. The pronounced grip makes it much easier to hold, and makes it feel secure in the hand, especially when shooting with one hand.

Another big improvement is the addition of a mode dial at the top of the camera. This enables quick changes between the camera's automatic, semi-automatic and manual modes. Previously, in order to access P/A/S/M modes, you needed to delve into a menu - this was one of the main gripes about the Nikon 1 V1 that made it appeal less to serious photographers.

Also on this dial, you'll find some of the Nikon 1's unique features, such as Motion Snapshot and Best Photo Selector. Like the Nikon 1 J2, the Nikon 1 V2's Best Photo Selector has been reworked for the latest version of the camera to include the new Slow View mode.

Nikon 1 V2 review

When the camera's dial is set to Best Moment Capture, pressing the Fn button enables you to choose between two options - Smart Photo Selector and the new Slow View.

Slow View is particularly interesting, and although it takes a minute or two to get your head around it, it could prove very useful in a range of situations. In essence the camera records 40 full-resolution images at 15fps from the moment that the shutter release is half pressed.

While the release remains half-pressed, the camera plays back these 40 images in slow succession so that you can decide which one you want to keep. When you reach that image, pressing the shutter fully home records it to the SD card.

Nikon 1 V2 review

It's a fun feature that's useful for capturing quick happening moments, such as school sports days, but it does take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. It's no good starting to shoot before the action has started, for instance, because the shots will be taken before the subject has got going.

There are two options for actually switching on the Nikon 1 V2. The first is a small switch around the shutter button, which is akin to a zoom lever on a compact camera and can be a little confusing at first. The second is via the lens itself, and makes it quick to capture moments as they happen.

When in aperture priority mode, a dial on the top of the camera can be used to alter aperture, and when in shutter priority mode, to control the shutter speed. Exposure compensation is controlled by first tapping on the four-way control pad, and then scrolling with a dial around the pad.

Nikon 1 V2 review

It would perhaps have been nice to see another dial, or a more direct way to control exposure compensation, but it's not too tricky to use.

Near the aperture/shutter speed scroll dial is a small function button for accessing some of the key parameters, such as white balance and autofocus mode. It would have been nice to have a few more features included here, or the ability to customise which features can be accessed from the function button.

The Nikon 1 V2 doesn't have a touchscreen, which is a shame, since that would have made it quicker to set the autofocus point.

Nikon 1 V2 review

As it is, it's not too laboured a process, requiring first a tap of the central 'OK' button on the four-way keypad, then a use of the directional keys to position the autofocus point. Alternatively, you can have the camera select points for you.

On the back left of the camera is a row of buttons, including the Menu button for accessing the more extensive settings of the camera. These buttons can't be reached when using the camera with one hand, which isn't too much of a problem, thanks to the function button.

The menu itself is reasonably well laid out, with most parameters where you'd expect them to be. If you've used a Nikon camera before, it's likely you'll be familiar with the setup.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Performance

With the promise of improved performance from the new sensor, we had relatively high hopes for the Nikon 1 V2. Luckily, we've been pleased with what the compact system camera can produce.

Images are punchy and vibrant, with excellent colour reproduction and plenty of detail, especially in low noise shots.

Autofocusing speeds are pretty quick in good light, but this does drop when the light starts to fall. On several instances during our testing where the light was very poor, the camera struggled to find focus, in some cases failing altogether.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Unlike the Nikon 1 J2, there are no digital filters that can be applied with the Nikon 1 V2. This seems like a great shame, since it surely wouldn't be too difficult to port these over from the Nikon 1 J2.

However, if you're feeling a little creative, you can alter the Picture Style. Options here include Monochrome (which also encompasses sepia and cyanotype, along with other colour tints), Vibrant and Landscape.

The good thing about using Picture Styles while shooting in raw format is that a clean version of the image is preserved should you change your mind down the line. Although it's a shame not to see more options, the black and white option is rendered well and there's lots of scope for customisation, especially with regards to contrast.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Automatic white balance does a good job of judging the scene to produce accurate colours, even under artificial indoor lighting. If you do find that it struggles slightly, you can change the WB setting via the function button.

Similarly, metering does a good job of accurately assessing the scene in front of it to produce good exposures.

The high resolution screen on the back of the camera does a good job in all but the very brightest of sunlight at reducing the amount of glare and reflections. The EVF is also very good, again having a high resolution and perhaps appealing to those photographers used to optical viewfinders.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Despite its comparatively small size, the one-inch sensor on the Nikon 1 V2 is still capable of producing attractive shallow depth of field effects.

The widest aperture the standard 10-30mm bundled kit lens can achieve is f/3.5, but some good effects can still be achieved with this optic. Focus drop off is good, with out of focus areas rendered well.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Nikon 1 V2 with the Panasonic GF5, Nikon 1 V1, Sony RX100 and Olympus E-PL5.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Nikon 1 V2 review

These results show that the Nikon 1 V2's JPEG files have a signal to noise ratio that is stronger than those from the Nikon 1 V1 throughout the sensitivity range, and stronger than the Panasonic GF5 at every setting but ISO 160 and ISO 400. The Nikon 1 V2 sits below the Sony RX100 and Olympus E-PL5 at every sensitivity setting.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Nikon 1 V2 review

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon 1 V2 are lower than those from the Olympus E-PL5 and higher than those from the Nikon 1 V1 at every sensitivity setting. The V2 is also stronger than the Sony RX100, except at ISO 6400. It is stronger than the Panasonic GF5 at the lower ISOs, but the Panasonic drops off at ISO 400 and above, so the V2 overtakes it after that point.

JPEG dynamic range

Nikon 1 V2 review

JPEG results for dynamic range are stronger than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Nikon 1 V2 producing results better than the Panasonic GF5 and Nikon 1 V1 throughout the sensitivity range, and better than the Sony RX100 at every setting but ISO 6400. The V2 sits below the Olympus E-PL5 at every ISO setting.

Raw dynamic range

Nikon 1 V2 review

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Nikon 1 V2 have a greater dynamic range than those from the Panasonic GF5 at every sensitivity, and from the Nikon 1 V1 at every setting but ISO 3200. The Nikon 1 V2 produces raw images with less dynamic range than those from the Sony RX100 and Olympus E-PL5.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon 1 V2, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 160 the Nikon 1 V2 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Nikon 1 V2 review

Full ISO 160 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 160, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 1600, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 3200, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 6400, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 160, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 400, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 1600, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 3200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Nikon 1 V2 review

ISO 6400, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Nikon 1 V2 review

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Colours from the Nikon 1 V2 are represented well, being bright but not overly vibrant.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Despite its relatively small sensor, the Nikon 1 V2 is still capable of producing pleasing shallow of depth field effects.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Monochrome is one of the Picture Styles you can choose to shoot in, with options to customise parameters such as the contrast.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

You can create a Cyanotype image using one of the settings from within the Monochrome Picture Style.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

The standard kit lens that comes bundled with the Nikon 1 V2 has a focal length of 10-30mm, which is an equivalent of 27mm at the widest point, providing a reasonably wide angle of view.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

At the telephoto end of the kit optic, the equivalent focal length is 81mm.

Nikon 1 V2 review

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Sepia is another option from the Monochrome Picture Styles.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Nikon 1 V2 review

Full ISO 160 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 160

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon 1 V2 review

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ISO 400

Nikon 1 V2 review

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ISO 800

Nikon 1 V2 review

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ISO 1600

Nikon 1 V2 review

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ISO 3200

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 6400

Raw

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 160

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 200

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 400

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 800

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 1600

Nikon 1 V2 review

Click here to see the full resolution image

ISO 3200

Nikon 1 V2 review

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ISO 6400

Verdict

It's clear that Nikon has put some considerable thought into the upgrade of its Nikon 1 V1 camera in the shape of the Nikon 1 V2.

What we have now is a more sophisticated CSC that is more likely to appeal to advanced photography enthusiasts than the previous iteration, thanks to the addition of a mode dial and the improved ergonomics.

We liked

The new shape of the camera makes it much easier to hold and helps it feel sturdier, especially when shooting one-handed. Something as simple as adding a mode dial to the top of the camera makes it a much nicer experience when you want to quickly change between modes.

We disliked

It's a shame that digital filters couldn't have made their way onto the camera for those looking to be a bit more creative, but Picture Styles are a good backup.

Final verdict

Whether it will tempt anyone away from the slew of larger sensored compact system cameras currently on the market seems questionable. While it does produce good images, those looking for something a little more advanced will probably be more at home with the likes of the Panasonic G5, Sony NEX-5R or Olympus PEN E-PL5.

That said, it's a nice small size, making it ideal for carrying around a lot. And the unique modes, such as Motion Snapshot and Best Photo Selector, do elevate it higher than the compact cameras that many be used to.

Nikon has done a good job with its upgrade of the V series of compact system cameras. Although it probably still won't overtake the J series in terms of popularity, the images from it are a step up for those looking to get a little more serious with their photography, making it a good introduction to the world of CSCs.

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