Nikon 1 series: The tests

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Camera Review
Interchangeable Lens cameras by Nikon | Nikon J1: a small camera with a great sensor? | Nikon V1: review of the high-end Nikon 1

 Having reviewed the results for the entry-level Nikon J1, here are the results for its big brother, the Nikon V1.

In principle, the specifications for both the J1 and V1 sensors are the same, with the sole difference of an anti-dust window on the J1 which is absent on the V1 (equipped with a more traditional anti-dust system). This design difference shouldn’t have any effect on image quality.

Other differences include:

  • A more robust magnesium housing vs. the all-plastic housing of the J1
  • A 1.44Mpix electronic viewfinder, whereas the J1 uses only its screen to aim
  • A better screen resolution of 0.9 Mpix vs. 0.46 Mpix for the J1
  • Multiple accessories, including the ability to connect an external flash

But now let’s look a little closer at the V1’s DxOMark test results.

Nikon V1 sensor measurements

You can see the complete results here: Nikon 1 V1 measurements

No suspense here: the sensors for the Nikon V1 and the J1 are strictly the same (8.8 x 13.2 mm, 10.4Mpix). There are slight differences in the scores for each, resulting in an overall score of 54 for the V1 and 56 for the J1, but these differences are so small that they are well within the limits of measurement uncertainty and variances in manufacturing quality. (As a reminder, a difference in DxOMark scores of 5 points is equal to 1/3 stop and is barely noticeable on images.)

For more details, see the comparison between the two models here: Nikon 1 V1 vs Nikon 1 J1

It is possible, however, to raise some serious questions about the V1, as its price would tend to place it in competition with such cameras as the Nikon D5100 or even the Sony A580: Nikon V1 vs Sony A580 vs Nikon D5100

Similarly, pitted against a high-end compact such as the Fuji X100 or an entry-level DSLR such as the Sony A35, the V1 does not appear to justify its higher price: Nikon V1 vs Fuji X100 vs Sony SLT A35

In short, at this price, the V1’s sensor puts it at a disadvantage.

In conclusion, even though the Nikon J1 appears to achieve its goals, we are a bit skeptical about the Nikon V1's ability to find a place in its market category.

One last remark: the Nikon 1 RAWs are cooked

One last thing about the Nikon 1 line: we have detected some smoothing on RAW files —a first for Nikon, though a somewhat regular occurrence for Sony and Pentax cameras. As explained in more details in a previous article, such smoothing artificially suppresses noise by lightly mixing neighboring pixels, but comes at the price of a loss of resolution.

So as to fairly analyze each camera, we have estimated the amount of sensor noise prior to smoothing and indicated with a white dot each ISO for which we detected smoothing. More precisely, this smoothing is clearly apparent starting at ISO 800 and intensifies right up to the maximum ISO (ISO 6400).

The amount of smoothing also varies depending on the gray level: it is weak in highlights, but becomes proportionately stronger in the shadows.