Nikon 1 S1 review: A new product line for the Nikon Hybrid system

By Paul Carroll - Wednesday February 20 2013

Sensor Review
Introduction | Nikon 1 S1 sensor performance | Nikon 1 S1 versus competition | Conclusion

Nikon 1 S1 Vs Nikon 1 J3 Vs Nikon 1 V2: Greater ISO latitude wins the day for the S1

With no discernible sensor improvement over existing 10-megapixel offerings in the Nikon 1 range how does the latest S1 compare against the higher resolution Nikon 1 J3 and V2 hybrids boasting 14-megapixels?

The 10-megapixel S1 just nudges out its 14-megapixel siblings in the DxOMark Sensor Scores but in real world terms offers no significant improvement.

With an Overall Score of 56 compared to 52 for the J3 and 50 for the V2 the S1 has just a 1/3rd of a Stop improvement over the V2 and less over the J3. Drill down into the categories and both the Landscape and Sports Scores are similar, so it’s the Portrait (Colour Depth) score where the S1 ranks higher with 21.4 bits, compared to 20.4 bits on the J3 and 20.2 bits on the V2. That’s a +2/3rds of a Stop improvement for the S1 and it’s the result of the extended ISO range and lower minimum ISO sensitivity offered on the new Nikon 1 S1.

Whereas both the J3 and V2 feature a 160 – 6400 ISO range the S1 boasts greater sensitivity latitude with a 100 - 6400 range and that has positively affected both the Portrait and Landscape Scores. This is because a Categories Overall Score is the sensor’s best score and that’s usually achieved using the lowest ISO sensitivity. As the Overall DxOMark Sensor Score is a balance between the three categories the S1’s Overall score has been positively impacted, too. It’s only in the Portrait category the S1 has an advantage though and for many photographers the higher resolution of the J3 and V2 will be more important.

The Nikon 1 S1 offers a +2/3rds Stop improvement in Color Sensitivity over the 14.2-megapixel Nikon 1 J3 and V2 models thanks to the greater 100 – 6400 ISO latitude offered on the S1.

Nikon 1 S1 Vs Panasonic Lumix DMC GF5 Vs Fujifilm FinePix X10

With an Overall Score of 56 the Nikon 1 S1 has a similar sensor performance to the Panasonic GF5 and Fujifilm X10, although the GF5’s larger sensor is better in low light.

So how does the S1 compare to similar price offerings like the $489 fixed lens Fujifilm X-10 or $449 interchangeable lens Panasonic GF5 Hybrid? Well the S1’s DxOMark Sensor Score of 56 stands up well against 50 achieved by both the GF5 and X-10 and offers a 1/3rd of a Stop improvement but with 2 million fewer pixels than the other two.

If Color Depth is important the S1 also wins with 2/3rds of a Stop improvement over the Portrait Scores of the GF5 and X10. One of the best results for the X10 is its Dynamic Range Score of 11.3Evs, which is almost equaled by the Nikon 1 S1’s 11.1Evs and in reality there’s no difference. Dynamic Range is weak on the Panasonic GF5 however and with a score of just 10Evs both the S1 and X10 offer +1Evs performance in this regard.

In lowlight however it’s the opposite story with the larger Micro Four Thirds sensor on the Panasonic GF5 beating both the smaller 1-inch CX sensor on the S1 and even smaller 2/3-inch model used in the Fujifilm X-10. With 573 ISO for the GF5 compared to 397 ISO for the S1 and just 245 ISO for the X-10 the Panasonic boasts a ½ Stop ISO performance improvement over the S1 and more than 2/3rds of Stop over the Fujifilm X10.

If you’re interested in Fujifilm’s fixed lens system however make sure you check back soon for our results and analysis on the X10’s upgrade - the Fujifilm X20.

Sensor size is the key factor for ISO performance with the GF5’s APS-C variety out performing the S1’s smaller 1-inch and X10’s even smaller 2/3rd-inch sensors.