New Gear: Nikon J1 and V1 Interchangeable Lens Cameras

Nikon treads new ground with an ILC and a wholly new lens mount

Nikon 1 Main system
Nikon 1 Main system

Nikon has been extremely tight-lipped about their newest camera system, but tonight they pulled back the curtain and unveiled a pair of interchangeable lens compact cameras that bring the company full-force into the ILC war.

The guts of both cameras revolve around a 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor in what Nikon is calling the CX size. That's 13.2mm x 8.8mm which makes it smaller than its four thirds competition, but bigger than the upcoming Pentax Q system. That gives it an overall crop factor of 2.7, which comes into play when using the F-mount adapter (more on that in a minute).

One of the main talking points for Nikon about the sensor is its ability to do focal plane phase detection AF at hugely fast speeds. When phase detection is wrong for the shooting situation, it automatically switches to contrast AF for speed. First impressions from technical editor, Phil Ryan suggest that it's fast, but not really noticeably faster than Micro Four Thirds in terms of AF. It also helps that it has 73 AF points in phase detection mode. That's a serious array -- more than any other interchangeable lens camera according to Nikon.

Image processing is handled by the Expeed 3 processor, which allows for a burst rate up to 10 fps with AF tracking.

One of the big new stories here is the introduction of the Nikon 1 lens mount. At launch, the J1 and the V1 will have the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6, 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM. The FT1 mount adapter will allow you to slap any F-mount lens on a 1-series body, which may be a substantial advantage considering their current user base.

There are two models to choose from: The V1 and the J1. The V1 is the higher-end model and includes an integrated electronic viewfinder with 140k dots of resolution. It covers approximately 100% of the frame. It also has a 921k dot TFT LCD display, a mechanical shutter and a flash sync speed of 1/250th of a second. All of that is wrapped up in a magnesium alloy body tougher than that of the J1.

The J1 loses the integrated viewfinder and drops the resolution of the LCD display to 460k dots. It also has an electronic shutter, to help keep the price down.

The V1 also has the advantage of an accessory shoe into which you can plug a flash -- neither have one built-in -- or a GPS module, neither of which have received official pricing info yet. The J1 has a pop-up flash to make up for its lack of shoe.

Nikon has also spruced up the shooting modes in their new little cameras, some of which blur the line between photography and video capture. Both cameras can capture 1080p video at 60i with simultaneous still image capture at full-resolution.

The Motion Snapshot mode records "about a second" of video footage surrounding the shutter press. It's recorded at 60fps and plays back at 24fps. It actually sounds a lot like a non-repeating cinemgraph.

Both cameras will be available October 20th. The cheaper J1 will cost $649 and come packed with the 10-30mm zoom lens. The V1 will cost $899 packaged with the same lens.

We'll have more info and some hands-on impressions with the new cameras tomorrow, so stay tuned for a lot more about Nikon's new babies.

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We spent a solid afternoon yesterday playing around with Nikon's new J1 ILC at a press event here in New York City. We also tried out three of the four available lenses for the new system including the 10mm pancake, the 10-30mm and the 30-110mm -- keep in mind of course that the crop factor on these lenses is 2.7x. Our time spent with this fashionable little ILC gave us a chance to test out its full ISO range, and see just how powerful its relatively small sensor really is. All of the images that follow are directly from the camera and are completely unprocessed. ISO 140 at 1/60 sec, f/11
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc18.jpg
The fine pattern on the ceiling behind the balls illustrates some loss of detail when you get up to ISO 1600. It does get credit, though, for doing a pretty good job of figuring out the exposure in a very high-contrast setting with a lot of reflective elements around. ISO 1600 at 1/1000 sec, f/5.6 Lens: 10mm Click for Full-resDan Bracaglia
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Compared to the previous image, it seems that there's a pretty discernable difference between ISO 800 and ISO 1600, especially when viewed at full-resolution. ISO 800 at 1/640 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc15.jpg
ISO 3200 is technically the highest "native ISO" the J1 will go up to, however, there is a "High-1" option that is the equivalent of ISO 6400. This flower presents a fairly tricky color to reproduce, especially at such a high ISO. ISO 3200 at 1/160 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc13.jpg
Some of the pre-set ISO options include automatic ranges. At Nikon's suggestion, I shot around using the Auto 100-800 mode which keeps things from getting too noisy regardless of shooting conditions. ISO 800 at 1/125 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc14.jpg
A self-portrait of the pink J1 taken in the reflection of a spherical, reflective decoration. The AF system didn't seem to have any trouble getting focus in what could likely be considered a tough situation. ISO 1600 at 1/640 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc10.jpg
Stepping up to ISO 3200, you can see the loss of image detail. ISO 3200 at 1/6400 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 110mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc16.jpg
Despite being lit with a high-end set of hot lights, the light in the room was a bit of a tricky mix. The skin tone rendered by the J1 is pretty accurate for having used the auto white balance setting. That's the most important aspect of the image anyway. ISO 800 at 1/400 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc17.jpg
The noise is, as to be expected, more noticeable in the shadow areas, so the 6400 ISO images look better when shot brighter.
ISO 6400 at 1/500 sec, f/5.6 Lens: 10mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc11.jpg
The 1/10000 sec shutter speed isn't a typo. The little J1 is capable of shutter speeds up to 1/16000 of a second, which is nice if you're shooting in bright sun and want to use a wide aperture or you're just trying to freeze some action under a lot of light. The speed of the electronic shutter helps make up for the lack of a mechanical one. ISO 3200 at 1/10000 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
iso 6400.jpg
6400 is beyond the native ISO setting for the J1, which stops at 3200. Predictably, the details are muddled and noise abounds. It's a setting you'd likely only want to use in extenuating circumstances, which is the norm for expanded settings like this one. ISO 6400 at 100% (shot as a "fine Jpg").Dan Bracaglia
iso 3200.jpg
This is the J1's highest native resolution. Again, there's a fair bit of noise and artifacting. ISO 3200 at 100% (shot as a "fine Jpg").
iso 200.jpg
Once you get into the lower ISOs, things start to look much better. This is the same shot at ISO 200. ISO 200 at 100% (shot as a "fine Jpg").
iso 100.jpg
This is ISO 100 and things are looking better still. If you want a run through of all the ISO settings, you can click through the images that follow this one. There's one shot of the same scene from each setting. The full-res is available for each if you want to do your own comparisons. ISO 100 at 100% (shot as a "fine Jpg").
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No, this was not shot through a glass window. All of the images shot for our ISO comparison were shot from a 21st floor balcony, with the camera leaning on the flat railing. ISO 6400 (High-1) at 1/6000 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc02.jpg
ISO 3200 at 1/13000 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc03.jpg
ISO 1600 at 1/16400 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc04.jpg
ISO 800 at 1/3200 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc05.jpg
ISO 400 at 1/1600 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc06.jpg
ISO 200 at 1/800 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
nikonj1ilc07.jpg
ISO 100 at 1/400 sec, f/5.6
Lens: 30mm Click for Full-res
Dan Bracaglia
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