The Nikon 1 J1 is a rather heavy semi-compact 10.1Mp digital camera that follows Olympus, Leica and Fuji’s lead into the retro-styled market.
In fact the rounded ends of the chunky Nikon 1 J1’s body reminded us instantly of Leica styling.
Although a mirrorless camera in the vein of compact cameras using large Micro Four Thirds and even larger APS-C sensors, the magnesium-alloy Nikon 1 J1 takes its own sensor, 13.2 x 8.8mm in size.
Rather than offering up nostalgic grainy film, pop art, pinhole and sepia settings – as Olympus does with its PEN cameras – Nikon has chosen video as the J1’s bigger selling point.
A separate red button on the top-plate is dedicated to this function. As well as the standard 720p resolution recording at 30 frames per second, there’s the option of 1080i at 60fps. Even more interestingly, you can select 400fps or even 1200fps (albeit down to 640 x 240-pixel or 320 x 120-pixel resolution respectively.
Both these enable slow-motion video playback that can stretch out a few seconds recording to around a minute.
We filmed young children bouncing on a sofa and chasing each other around indoors, while our outdoor video efforts focused on the family cat leaping off a tree and preening herself in the sunshine.
Blown up to fullscreen, the fuzziness of the 640 x 240-pixel video is all too apparent, but acceptable for viewing on a small screen such as an iPhone, or as embedded video in a website.
More importantly, the action is smooth, light artefacts well compensated for and – in the catch-all ISO auto to 3200 setting – colours faithfully reproduced.
In high-definition 720p and 1080i video mode, footage was far more acceptable, but sound curiously absent.
The camera itself has two main settings: a white camera icon denotes the Smart Photo Selector (similar to the Best Shot Selector on Nikon Coolpix cameras), while thumbing the scrollwheel to the green icon dedicates the camera to still photos.
In either mode, face-recognition software will automatically try to frame whoever’s in shot. Program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes can be chosen only in the still photo mode.
We were largely happy with the photos we took; once the camera is switched on, it quickly focuses on a subject and snaps them – useful if you’re photographing those restless children or pets.
Colours were deep and detailed such as wood grain, animal fur, and individual leaves came out well. If anything, there was a little too much saturation.
One point of contention here was that the flash isn’t integral to the camera, so indoor photos can’t always be taken in true point-and-shoot fashion.
When required, the built-in flash is called up by sliding a notched button to the top left of the Nikon 1 J1’s 3in LCD. The pop-up flash light perches atop a 3in plastic arm.
(Given the £400+ price tag, it’s likely the J1 will be chosen by those with more than a passing interest in photography and less prone to shooting on a whim.)
We didn’t particularly rate the hard vertical rocker used for zooming – it’s too small to accurately zoom.
So far the only lenses available for the Nikon 1 J1 and its V1 sibling are the standard 10-30mm lens supplied as the J1’s lens kit, and a 10mm fixed pancake lens.