. Belgium recently drew up a contingency plan if the Winter becomes harsh to ensure electricity. That was before I bought the V1. Now all it takes is hooking the battery into the network and voila! Well, sort of. It is simply wonderful to have loads of power and precise knowledge of the remaining power and the state of the battery (life time). It also charges quite fast. And no, it does not go to 270% but it feels like it compared to other smallish digital cameras.
The sound of silence
. The camera is to average human ears literally silent when set to the electronic shutter and sounds turned off (but remember to turn off that AF-light…). Actually it is possible to blast 60 fps for half a second without a sound.
It is the perfect indecisive moment camera
. Use the “smart photo selector” mode (it is where Custom 1 mode should be!) and the camera will capture 5 pictures before you have even pressed the shutter down fully and 15 after. Sadly the camera decides which are the five most worthy HCB moments. On the upside you can blame the missing master pieces on bugs in the firmware. I do.
The buffer and maximum fps
at full resolution are to my knowledge the highest of any standard camera and that is in real terms and not in marketing speak. This is really quite impressive [the V2 takes this even further] considering it creates 10 megapixel pictures.
are quite limited with something called video being the most useful. Surprisingly the V1 can shoot full size stills in 16:9 while shooting video without breaking up the video footage. Oh, and the video recording button does not have a life of its own like on some competitors! The AF had no problem keeping up with my sleeping dog.
What’s on the menu?
Here is a topic where I differ from the common notion. Having shot with Nikons for a decade I still find the menus on the V1 poor. Not Sony Nex poor of course (what is?) and not Olympus m4/3 poor. The layout is simple enough, and the font easy on your eyes, but a more logical grouping would be nice. Given the relatively few external direct dials and buttons it should have been grouped much better [the V2 brings a more traditional button/dial layout and is most likely to be faster to operate with fewer detours into the menus].
is severely limited (and why is there no ISO-1600?). One cannot specify any limits on the shutter time so that it chooses a shutter time and ISO combo that actually suits you and not the non-existing average photographer. Was the firmware written in total isolation from the rest of the camera design groups? Yes, I think so. Even though a firmware update has bettered it, the shutter time choices of the camera are still occasionally too optimistic for my hands.
Darkness on the edge of sensor
. The V1 is not a nocturnal animal (which somehow kills my hyena analogy) and that is to put it mildly. As soon as the light gets “low” the AF system hunts or does not lock at all even with the AF-light on. The Panasonic GF2 is much better at focusing in the dark with its AF-light.
The lenses are adequate and boring
. More are in the pipeline but Nikon repeats their DSLR mistake – no VR in prime lenses. It would have created a unique selling point against the competition. No hood is including either! That is quite unNikon and too stingy. I have found the kit lens to be remarkably resistant to flare though. I have not tried the FT1 adapter, but AF-performance looks amazingly impressive online.
The Monday Morning Syndrome is prevalent
. Many things about the V1 are so fast, but waking it up is difficult. The work around is to start pressing the shutter to make the camera wake up while moving the camera to your eye and then it is – more or less – awake (if still dewy eyed) when it reaches your eyes. Very unNikon. It is unclear to me if the V2 has bettered this. I sincerely hope so.
– even with the EVF built-in the initial price seemed like a ploy to reclaim R&D costs much faster than industry standards and the launch price was indeed far above market expectations (do read the conclusion below however). At around €400 with 10-30 lens this is a very good deal though. Why Nikon insists on keeping the high price level for the V2 is beyond me. The V1/V2 are not competing (at least in my eyes) with Nikon’s own DSLRs, so why not attack the m4/3 and Nex crowd on pricing?
The looks of the V1 are distinctive
. Obviously beauty is in the skills of the photoshopper these days and some may find the V2 much better looking. To me the V1’s design set it apart from the competition (and in a good way too), and that is important in a camera, which really has only three things that are not only second to none but better than all its competitors: frames per second, AF-tracking, and battery performance.
– if the V2 (contrary to the V1?) is aimed at enthusiasts, who (like me) may see it as their bring everywhere camera it needs to be weatherproofed (as are the Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic GH3).
Night & Day
. So far I have seen no evidence of the V2’s AF capabilities in less than perfect light, but this is the biggest problems in the V1. Contrary to most of the other problems there is no work around other than manually focusing as dark as your eyes allow you to go.
The missing peaking mode
. Although the absence of IBIS does limit the use of legacy lenses, it would be tempting to use a fast 50mm (full frame) and get a very fast 135mm equivalent. The standard lenses are not too difficult to focus manually, but peaking mode and greater magnification would be useful.
. Imagine being able to switch between “standard AF single-point at low ISO” to “fully AF-trackable electronic shutter 60 fps Auto-ISO 3200” by just turning the mode dial? But no, not even on the V2. Maybe Nikon did not really trust that the mode dial on the V2 would not move by itself…
Let there be light
. The V2’s buttons should have lights like on the D4 to set it apart.
If I were to advise Nikon they should write: “I am joy!
” instead of “I am changing everything” in their Nikon 1 advertisements. Because using the V1 is really joyful. It is not about great IQ in a small box (as in using a Sigma DP). It is not about using classical lenses on a digital camera with IBIS (like on an Olympus m4/3 with m-lenses). It is not about focusing with a rangefinder in aperture mode (like an Epson R-D1s or its clones).
Compromise - not compromised
. The V1 is about the whole experience of shooting. It is a great all rounder, a shrunk mirrorless version of the F100 or D700, the wildest Coolpix of my dreams. Yes, it is a compromise, but most things in life that actually work are. I really like it. And I really like using it.
Nikon know how to design great digital cameras. The V1 feels very well rounded and competent and yet there are glaring misses
. The V1 turns on quickly but is slow to wake up. The AF performance in poor light is sluggish and bettered by something as old as the GF-2. Sometimes it does not even get focus at all (but if there is a little light MF may help you). Why can you not customize more? And then the new flash system!
So does the V2 solve the problems?
Operational speed is still unknown. A built-in flash is a good start, but still no compatibility with the SB-400. The files are bigger now (a plus for many, a minus for me). With more buttons/dials the V2 may be faster to operate but there are still no custom modes to set up the camera differently and switch instantly. As to looks the V2 is a plastic surgery operation gone wrong. At least the V1 has character like a Lada Niva. The V1 was already priced too high and the V2 carries on. Or does it? And was the V1 really priced to high?
Seen in isolation the original prices of the V1 and V2
may not have been too high. After having used it I am more doubtful than before. They both offer a lot, but so does a D3200 and whatever you have been led to believe size matters (in sensors, obviously). Both the Nex-6 (a bit) and the E-M5 (somewhat more) with appropriate kit lenses are more expensive. But the smallish sensor and poor AF-performance in the dark of the V1 keep nagging, in particular if you have tried the E-M5 (static subjects only). Nikon have not quite succeeded in telling us why the price is reasonable and the yard sale of V1s seems a bit desperate.
Yet, this is primarily about the V1 and at the reduced price the V1 is one of the best bargains out there for one simple (and very, very important) reason: despite the few but significant shortcomings it is an extremely joyful camera to use that usually gets the picture
(if you are prepared for dancing squirrels, that is). It is one of the rare occasions where the camera seems to melt away and it is only you and the motif. There may be occasions where the picture is shaky, but by and large it delivers.
If I could afford it I would buy another with the 30-110mm lens. The V1 has almost instantly become my bring everywhere camera (in daylight). It is almost like Nikon finally made a modern Coolpix 4500
and I have no greater praise