Nikon J5 Field Test

A Worthy Contender in the Crowded Compact Camera Market

by Jeremy Gray | Posted

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
297mm equivalent (110mm), f/8, 1/60s, ISO 360, fill flash
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

A Change in Direction

The Nikon J5 is a clear shift in focus for Nikon's J-series of CX-format cameras. Compared to the J4, the J5 has numerous features that make it more suited to photography enthusiasts without sacrificing the small size and ease of use that consumers expect from an affordable compact system camera. With a new, retro-inspired camera body, a tilting touchscreen, a new image processor, and a new 20.8-megapixel, backside-illuminated 1"-type sensor (referred to by Nikon as a CX format sensor), the J5 is an excellent option for many photographers.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
48mm equivalent (17.6mm), f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO 160, High-contrast Mono scene mode
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

Key Features

  • New 20.8-megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • 160-12,800 ISO range
  • Compact camera body with a front grip and P, S, A, M exposure modes on mode dial
  • 3" tilt-able touchscreen
  • 20fps continuous shooting with full AF, 60fps with locked AF
  • Interchangeable lens system
  • Compatible with many Nikon DSLR lenses via the Nikon FT1 adapter
  • 4K resolution video
  • EXPEED 5A image processor
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Product Image Front Left

Small and Capable Camera Body

The Nikon J5 is small and light, but it still feels sturdy and is easy to hold. With a retro-styled appearance and multiple finish options (black, silver, and white), the J5 looks fantastic. Unlike the J4, the J5 has a small front grip, which allowed me to get a good hold on the camera body. The camera body weighs only 12.3 ounces (350 grams), including the battery and the 10-30mm kit lens. In the pursuit of a small camera body, the J5 uses MicroSD cards rather than the large, more common SD memory cards.

The multi selector on the back of the camera didn't feel quite as responsive as the individual buttons. When using the multi selector to navigate the camera's menu, there were a few occasions when I had to press multiple times to get the desired result because of its small size. I had a different issue with the dial surrounding multi selector, which is used for various adjustments such as aperture in aperture priority mode. It is very sensitive and is easy to accidentally rotate while using the camera. Considering the J5's impressively small form factor, there are bound to be a few compromises, but overall the camera handles well.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Product Image Back

The back of the camera is dominated by a 3" tilting touchscreen that has 1,036,800 dots. The display is sharp and bright, but at times the menu system doesn't feel optimized for the touchscreen because some buttons are quite small and difficult to tap.

Impressive Image Quality from the New 20.8 BSI-CMOS Sensor

The 1"-type 20.8-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor of the J5 offers slightly more resolution than the J4's 18.4-megapixel sensor did. While this is not a very big jump in resolution in any practical sense, the backside-illumination should theoretically improve higher ISO performance and reduce noise levels compared to the traditional CMOS sensor found in the J4.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
162mm equivalent (60mm), f/22, 1/20s, ISO 160, Nikon 60mm f/2.8G attached via Nikon FT1
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

The J5 produces impressive high-quality images. The images from the J5 can certainly be used for large-format prints. As is often the case, the compressed 12-bit RAW files need a bit of sharpening and processing, but JPEG files with standard Picture Controls are sharp with accurate colors. With Vivid Picture Controls, images are vibrant and look great.

Picture Controls presets can be customized by selecting your preferred sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. In addition, there is an Active D-Lighting option in the shooting menu, which when turned on has the ability to increase the dynamic range of a single image file by adjusting shadows and highlights. Active D-Lighting is often a subtle effect that can work well, although it can increase visible noise compared to images taken at similar ISO speeds with Active D-Lighting turned off. The RAW images from the J5 contain a fairly impressive dynamic range for the sensor size, providing decent flexibility for making exposure adjustments.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
27mm equivalent (10mm), f/8, 20s, ISO 160, Manual mode and manual focus
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Capable Kit Lenses Cover a Large Range

The Nikon J5 is available for purchase in multiple kits. I tested the Nikon J5 with the 10-30mm and 30-110mm kit lenses, which is currently on sale for $650 USD, but it is also available with only the 10-30mm lens for around $500 or with a Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 lens for around $900 (at current prices). With the kit that I tested, you are able to cover a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 27-297mm, which is a range capable of photographing a wide variety of subjects.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
79mm equivalent (29.1mm), f/8, 1/640s, ISO 160
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom lens is very small, with a 58mm diameter and 28mm length when retracted. At 3oz (85g), the lens is lightweight as well. The weight is particularly impressive given that the 10-30mm lens has 9 elements in 7 groups, including 4 aspherical lens elements. The zoom ring has a plastic grip, and the ring itself doesn't rotate very smoothly. Unfortunately, by utilizing a cap-less design, there is no ability to attach filters to the lens.

Performance with the 10-30mm PD-Zoom kit lens is impressive. Autofocus is quick and accurate, the vibration reduction works well, and the optics deliver quality results. There is some noticeable distortion at 10mm (27mm equivalent), but the in-camera distortion correction handles it well. There are also vignetting issues when shooting the lens wide open. Nonetheless, the 10-30mm PD-Zoom is an impressive lens.

The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 kit lens is also pretty small considering its focal length range, being 2.4in (61mm) in both diameter and length and weighing 6.2oz (175g). Unlike the 10-30mm PD-Zoom lens, the 30-110mm has a lens hood and accepts 40.5mm screw-on filters. The 30-110mm has a button on the zoom ring (which has a comfortable rubberized grip) that unlocks the lens. By unlocking the zoom ring and turning it to 30mm, you can power on the camera. Likewise, you can turn the camera off by holding the button and zooming the lens out beyond 30mm. The 30-110mm lens has 18 elements in 12 groups and has vibration reduction.

The autofocus performance is quick and quiet. The lens is sharp wide open and doesn't have a lot of distortion nor vignetting, although there is some vignetting when using the lens at its wider focal lengths. Vibration reduction works really well with the lens and allows for handheld shooting at shutter speeds well below 1/100s when at 110mm (297mm equivalent focal length). Interestingly, vibration reduction is turned on via the camera's menus for both kit lenses rather than on the lenses themselves. Likewise, manual focus is handled via camera body controls rather than the lens as neither lens has a focus ring.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
297mm equivalent (110mm), f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 1600
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

Both the Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom and Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 kit lenses impressed me a lot in terms of their size and optical performance. Considering the usefulness of a 27-297mm equivalent focal length range, this kit provides an excellent value.

Nikon FT1 Adapter Provides Flexibility

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
162mm equivalent (60mm), f/18, 1/5s, ISO 160, Nikon 60mm f/2.8G attached via Nikon FT1
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

By using Nikon's FT1 adapter (currently available for slightly less than $250 USD), you can attach Nikon F-mount lenses to the J5. Not all lenses are compatible with the FT1 or the J5, however, so you should consult Nikon's website for additional details. The adapter is fairly small and has a built-in tripod/monopod mount. Provided that the attached lens is an AF-S lens, autofocus is possible. There is a catch with the autofocus, however, as you can only utilize single-point AF mode and can only use the central AF point. This means that you cannot shoot in full-auto mode when using the FT1 because auto mode uses auto-area autofocus rather than single-point autofocus. With the lenses I tested on the FT1, autofocus was generally quick. However, lenses can become 'stuck' at certain focusing distances because the camera incorrectly thinks that a subject is in focus. In these instances, I had to manually override the focus on the lens and get the focus close to what was necessary for the camera to start focusing again. This issue happened most frequently with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G lens, but it also happened with my Nikon 60mm f/2.8G macro lens on a couple of occasions. I found reference to this issue in the manual for the J5 (also see Nikon's site), but I cannot be sure how common it is with lenses I didn't test. Nonetheless, it is not a massive issue because as long as you're aware of it, it is easy to overcome. Most of the time, the FT1 provides quick and accurate autofocus, but the inability to use autofocus points beyond the most central one can be frustrating when trying to compose a moving subject away from the center of the frame.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
1080mm equivalent (400mm), f/10, 1/160s, ISO 1600, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G with Nikon TC-20E III.
Due to the J5's smaller sensor size, the 2.7x crop factor makes telephoto lenses have a much greater reach than they would on DX or FX cameras. This proves to be very useful for capturing images of small or distant subjects.
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Great Performance in the Field

The Nikon J5 is enjoyable to use out in the field. While I did have some minor issues with camera handling as I discussed above, the J5 delivers great performance when it comes to its most important task, taking photos. The J5 performs well in fully-automatic shooting modes, but it also feels like a camera that was designed with enthusiasts in mind. Unlike the J4, P, A, S, and M exposure modes are right on the mode dial, and the addition of a function button on the front of the camera make the J5 a more appealing option for enthusiasts.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
143mm equivalent (53.1mm), f/4.5, 1/160s, ISO 400
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Contributing to the impressive performance across the board is consistently accurate metering performance. The J5 offers matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering options where the spot is 2mm centered on the selected AF point. If the camera doesn't produce the expected exposure, by pressing right on the multi selector you can change exposure compensation by up to +/-3 stops. There's no auto exposure bracketing, or other bracketing with the J5, however. White balance metering is impressive, although I found that the J5 did have an inclination to produce slightly cool images in overcast conditions when using auto white balance. White balance can certainly be a case of personal preference, however.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
81mm equivalent (30mm), f/4, 1/320s, ISO 160, Auto, Landscape Scene
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

In Auto Mode, the J5 determines the scene that you're photographing and chooses the optimum settings. Within this mode, the J5 utilizes auto-area autofocus and can record RAW images. Many cameras I've used record only JPEG files when in fully-automatic shooting modes, so it's nice to see the J5 buck this trend. By default, flash is set to auto, but it can be turned off by pressing down on the multi selector. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't save the selected flash setting after the camera has been shut off. When shooting in auto mode, there is an interesting Live Image Control feature that allows you to preview a chosen effect in real-time. The choices of effects include Active D-lighting, background softening, motion control, brightness control, and creative palette. The creative palette option allows for rotating through a wheel of different image effects such as various saturation levels and color tones.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
65mm equivalent (24mm), f/6.3, 1/250s, HDR, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G attached via Nikon FT1.
This image has been resized. Click for original image. Click here for non-HDR version.

The J5's Creative Mode offers a variety of special effects and scene modes. Standing out from the large group are HDR and Easy Panorama shooting modes. The HDR option isn't customizable, but it delivers a fairly natural-looking and subtle HDR image. The camera takes two images, and they're processed quickly. The Easy Panorama mode comes in standard and wide varieties and can be captured horizontally or vertically. I found that the camera did a good job at stitching together panoramas, but horizontal panoramas are only 920 pixels tall, however, so the quality isn't outstanding. There is also a high contrast monochrome option that I really liked. This mode allows you to customize settings like sharpness and contrast as well.

For the enthusiast photographer, or anyone who wants to take more control of their images, the J5's P, S, A, and M exposure modes work well, although there are a few things that took some getting used to. When shooting in fully manual mode, you manually focus the kit lenses by rotating the multi selector on the camera body. Given the small size of the kit zoom lenses, it makes sense that there wouldn't be a focus ring on the lenses themselves. However, this means that you have to press the OK button to make the multi selector the focus dial rather than the aperture control. Using the multi selector for focus is a somewhat slow and tedious process because the dial isn't a precise input device and the focus scale on the screen doesn't update precisely in real-time. The camera can zoom in while manually focusing, but it doesn't offer focus peaking.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
53mm equivalent (19.7mm), f/8, 20s, ISO 160, Manual Mode and manual focus
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

When in aperture priority mode, rotating the multi selector changes the aperture and as I mentioned earlier, the multi selector dial is very sensitive and can be accidentally rotated during normal use of the camera. When in aperture priority mode, the command dial isn't being used, so it would be nice if there was an option to use the command dial for changing the aperture within aperture priority mode instead. In shutter priority mode, the command dial is used for changing the shutter speed. The command dial works well for making adjustments because it is practically impossible to accidentally rotate it. The command dial clicks as it moves, allowing for precise adjustments and good tactile feedback. All of the P, S, A, and M modes work well, but they could all benefit from a live histogram display option. However, you can toggle on a histogram during image playback, which is good although not a true substitute for a live histogram.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Left Side Tilting Screen

The touchscreen works better when taking photos than it does when navigating the menus. There are tap-to-shoot and tap-to-focus options available on the left-hand side of the display. Tap-to-shoot works well, and tap-to-focus is particularly useful when using single-point AF, which is what I most often use. Rather than having to press the OK button and then moving the AF point around using the multi selector, tap-to-focus allows you to quickly move the autofocus point around the screen. The large tilting range of the display proved useful, as well, because the display tilts a bit further than most of the tilting screens I've used.

By pressing up on the multi selector, you bring up the Feature Menu. The Feature Menu is context-dependent and can be brought up during shooting or during playback. It cannot be used in auto or sports mode, however. The Feature Menu shows important settings such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, Picture Control, metering mode, and more. The Feature Menu can be used with either touch or the multi selector, and I found that touch works well as the different settings are in large enough boxes to easy to tap. Another nice usability feature, one that wasn't available on the J4, is the addition of a function button. The J5's function button is on the front of the camera and is easy to press. The function button is mapped to ISO speed by default, but it can also be set to provide quick access to exposure compensation, metering, white balance, Picture Control, AF-area mode, and focus mode.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
540mm equivalent (200mm), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 800, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G attached via Nikon FT1
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Unfortunately, the battery life of the J5 is not great, so you might want to carry a spare battery if you intend to spend much time out with the J5. The battery life is rated for 250 shots, which is a 17% reduction compared to the J4. Nonetheless, the J5 impresses out in the field. It felt like I always had the option to take as much control of the camera as I wanted to, but could confidently rely on the camera's automatic shooting modes as well.

Autofocus Performance is Fast in Many Situations

Utilizing hybrid autofocus, the J5 is capable of very quick and accurate autofocus. When using single-point autofocus, there are 171 focus areas, the central 105 of which support phase detect autofocus. When using auto-area AF, there are 41 focus areas. There are subject tracking and face-priority autofocus modes as well. Servo options include single-servo (AF-S), continuous (AF-C), auto-select AF (AF-A), and full-time autofocus (AF-F). In AF-A servo mode, the camera attempts to determine if the subject is stationary or in motion and chooses AF-S or AF-C accordingly. In AF-F servo mode, the camera is always continuously focusing, whereas the camera continuously focuses only when the shutter button is pressed halfway in AF-C. In both AF-C and AF-F servo modes, images can be captured regardless of whether or not focus has been acquired.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
262mm equivalent (97.2mm), f/5.3, 1/250s, ISO 1000
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Single-point AF works very well. All of the autofocus points provide fast and accurate focus, but the phase detect points seemed a bit quicker in lower light or when contrast was lower. While not as fast as phase detect autofocus, the J5 still autofocuses quickly and accurately when using the contrast detect AF points. When using single-point AF, utilizing the touchscreen made the camera much quicker to use. It can take some time to cycle through the numerous AF points using the multi selector, but moving a point around using my finger worked great. The autofocus area covers a large portion of the image frame, which is excellent when trying to focus a subject near the edge of the frame.

Auto-area autofocus works well, too. Although not quite as fast as using single-point AF, auto-area AF did a consistently good job at determining the correct subject in a scene, provided that the subject contrasted with its surroundings well and the light was good. With 41 focus areas -- instead of the 171 available when using single-point AF -- auto-area autofocus is not as good for autofocusing on fine details in a scene. However, auto-area AF works great when photographing varied situations in quick succession. Auto-area AF is the only autofocus area mode available in the J5's automatic shooting mode as well; a shooting mode that it is well-equipped for.

Continuous autofocus performance is impressive on the J5. While continuous autofocus is not available at drive modes beyond 20fps, the J5 is able to continuously focus well at 20fps -- which is certainly a fast burst rate! Provided that there is a good amount of available light, the J5 can maintain focus on a moving object throughout a 20-frame burst. Using single-point AF provides more consistent continuous autofocus results than does auto-area AF.

In addition to continuous autofocus, the J5 has subject tracking that utilizes the touchscreen. To use subject tracking, you tap on the subject on the display and then the camera will attempt to keep the focus point on the chosen subject. This works well when the subject doesn't move really quickly. So long as the subject stays inside the frame, the J5 was able to maintain focus during my testing. There is a slight delay between the subject moving throughout the frame and the autofocus point moving to stay on the subject, however, so it is not as consistent as single-point AF and continuous autofocus. However, subject tracking doesn't require you to move the camera around when photographing a moving subject like single-point AF does, so they can both usefully serve different purposes.

In general, the J5's autofocus is very quick and accurate. Even at f/5.6 with the two kit lenses I tested, the J5 handled many different situations and shooting conditions consistently well. During my time with the J5, I was very rarely frustrated with its autofocus performance and was often pleasantly surprised by how well it handled typically difficult situations like low light and relatively small subjects.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
81mm equivalent (30mm), f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 200
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

High ISO Performance Leaves Something to be Desired

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
27mm equivalent (10mm), f/3.5, 30s, ISO 3200
This image has been modified slightly. Click for original image.

Like the J4, the J5's ISO range is 160-12,800. Auto ISO options include Auto ISO 800, Auto ISO 3200, and Auto ISO 6400. An Auto ISO 1600 option would have been a nice inclusion because images taken at ISO 1600 offer a nice amount of detail and quality without excessive noise, whereas images taken at ISO 3200 have a bit too much noise for my taste. I found that RAW images start to display noticeable noise at ISO 800, but it isn't until ISO 1600 that it became noticeable when viewing images at less than 100%. At ISO 3200, false color becomes very noticeable, with shadow areas of a scene displaying a lot of noise and a decrease in contrast. At ISO 6400, RAW images are very noisy, and I wouldn't use them for anything more than web viewing. ISO 12,800 is completely unusable for all but the most desperate of situations and the smallest of viewing sizes.

Nikon J5 Noise Comparison 100% Crops from RAW images (Click images for full-size files)
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 160 Full Scene
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 160
ISO 200
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800

With noise reduction on, JPEG images have minimal noise until ISO 6400, and even then the noise levels are very low considering the ISO sensitivity. At ISO 12,800, noise gets fairly noticeable and images take on a low resolution appearance. There is a catch, however, as the noise reduction, while successful at keeping noise at low levels through much of the ISO range, also removes fine details from images at ISO 1600 and above.

Nikon J5 Noise Reduction Comparison at ISO 3200 (Click images for full-res)
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image
ISO 3200 NR On
ISO 3200 NR Off

Noise reduction is either set to be on or off with the J5, as the camera doesn't offer various levels of noise reduction. This is unfortunate because the noise reduction is pretty heavy-handed and noticeably reduces fine details in images. Without any noise reduction, JPEG files show considerable visible noise at ISOs above 3200. The J5 does actually still perform some noise reduction even when noise reduction is set to off, it's just considerably less noise reduction than is performed when noise reduction is turned on. With the J5 offering auto ISO up to ISO 6400, it's unfortunate that there isn't a middle ground noise reduction setting that would reduce noise to a lesser extent, but also keep more fine details in the images for those times when you need to shoot at high ISOs. There are also two noise reduction options available at ISO 6400 and 12,800 that stack four JPEG images taken at shutter speeds above 1/30s to reduce noise. If shutter speeds are below 1/30s, the J5 takes only one image, which is a bit odd because I'm much more likely to be using ISO 6400 or 12800 when light is very low and I need a slow shutter speed. You can't freeze action with this noise reduction mode either because it takes successive images and combines them.

Nikon J5 Noise Reduction ISO Comparison (Click images for full-res)
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image
ISO 6400NR (stacked)
ISO 6400 (NR On)
Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image Nikon J5 Field Test -- Noise Reduction Image
ISO 12800NR (stacked)
ISO 12800 (NR On)

The J5 doesn't have a hot shoe, but its built-in flash provides a good amount of power for its small size. The flash is rated with a guide number of 20.7 feet (6.3 meters) at ISO 160. The flash can be used automatically via the TTL option or its power can be manually controlled to provide 1/32 power or full power. There's also +/- 3 stops of flash exposure compensation available. While the power of the flash is impressive, it is limited by a disappointing maximum flash sync of 1/60s.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
119mm equivalent (44.2mm), f/7.1, 1/60s, ISO 160, fill flash
This image has been resized. Click for original image.

Fast Capture Rates Held Back by Small Buffer

The Nikon J5 utilizes a new Nikon EXPEED 5A image processor and delivers impressive high-speed performance. With fixed autofocus, the J5 can record up to 20 full-resolution images at 60fps. With continuous autofocus, the J5's burst rate tops-out at 20fps. The speed is very impressive, but the 20-image buffer size is disappointing, and it takes a while for the J5 to process a burst -- ranging from around 20 to 40 seconds depending on the file quality. When shooting RAW images at 60fps, you're only able to record 20 images (a third of a second of shooting time), and it takes over 30 seconds to clear the buffer. The impressive speed seems less impressive when you're waiting that long for the camera to process less than half a second's worth of action.

Nikon J5 Field Test -- 60fps Burst Capture GIF
77mm equivalent (28.5mm), f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 1100, 60fps Continuous Shooting, 20 frames
Images modified slightly. Click for full-size image from burst.

Utilizing an electronic shutter, the J5 is able to capture images with shutter speeds up to 1/16000s. This could prove extremely useful when shooting in bright light with one of Nikon's large aperture 1-series prime lenses. The camera is also speedy when changing modes and settings. Besides the processing of burst images, the J5 feels quick and nimble overall during most kinds of shooting.

Good Video Performance and Many Features

The J5's video features are impressive, headlined by the ability to record 4K video. Unfortunately, 4K video can only be recorded at 15fps. 15fps may work okay for some applications, but it's generally too choppy to be particularly useful or pleasing to view. I much prefer the J5's 1080/60p video recording option, as it strikes a good balance between sharpness and smoothness.

Nikon J5 Sample Video #1 (4K)
3840 x 2160, 15fps
Download Original (89.9MB MOV File)

There are also slow-motion video recording options, albeit at fairly low resolutions. 720p video can be recorded at 120fps, 800 x 294 resolution video can be recorded at 400fps, and 400 x 144 resolution video can be recorded at 1200fps. All three of these options come with a 3-second clip length limit. Like with 4K video, you're making compromises, although in this case the compromise is higher frame rates for a lower resolution. And like with 4K video, it's a neat option to have but it doesn't deliver great overall results.

Nikon J5 Sample Video #2 (120fps Slow Motion)
1280 x 720, 120fps
Download Original (18.4MB MOV File)

For those who enjoy time-lapse movies, the J5 has a built-in time-lapse feature. It's easy to use and the final video records at 1080/30p. It's as simple as choosing the mode in the Advanced Movie menu and pressing record. 25 minutes of recording in this mode results in about 10 seconds of time-lapse footage. It's a simple and fun way to get time-lapse footage without taking the images and compiling them yourself.

Nikon J5 Sample Video #3: Time-Lapse
1920 x 1080, 30fps
Download Original (14.4MB MOV File)

By default, the J5 utilizes the AF-F autofocus mode when recording video, which works quite well. Autofocus performance when recording video didn't seem to be as fast and accurate as it is when shooting still images, but the performance is still good. By tapping the display during movie recording, focus can also be quickly shifted manually. Exposure changes are also handled well by the J5. Fully-manual controls are also available, if desired. I really like that the J5 has a separate button on the top of the camera to begin and end movie recordings. This allows for you to capture full-resolution stills using the regular shutter release while recording video, except for when recording 4K, slow-motion, or time-lapse videos. There is a dedicated Advanced movie mode available as well which offers P, S, A, and M exposure mode options, in addition to a dedicated set of shooting menu options relevant to video recording. The built-in stereo mic performs okay, but it is very sensitive to wind noise, even with the wind cut option turned on.

Nikon J5 Sample Video #4 (1080/60p)
1920 x 1080, 60fps
Download Original (117.7MB MOV File)

Overall, the J5's video performance is good. The feature list is long, but features like 4K video and slow-motion video are held back by performance issues. In my opinion, the J5 provides the best quality when recording standard 1080p video at 60fps.

Nikon WMU Application

Connecting the J5 to my iPhone was simple, although it would be even simpler on NFC-enabled devices now that the J5 has NFC capabilities unlike the J4. Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility application offers very limited control over the camera. You can trigger the shutter release, set the self-timer, and adjust exposure compensation, with exposure compensation being handled via a brightness slider rather than a scale of EVs. Unfortunately, there is no touch-to-focus, no manual adjustment of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, or Picture Controls available in the mobile app. In addition to remotely capturing photos, you can download images to your mobile device from the camera. For many, this might be the only wireless feature they need, and that feature works well.

Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility App Screenshots
Nikon J5 Field Test -- WMU Screenshot Nikon J5 Field Test -- WMU Screenshot

Nikon J5 Field Test Summary

The J5 Provides Flexibility and Impressive Performance in a Small Package

Nikon J5 Field Test -- Gallery Image
27mm equivalent (10mm), f/8, 1/8s, ISO 160
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

What I like:

  • The camera body is small but easy to grip and use
  • The new image sensor captures high-quality images
  • 10-30mm and 30-110mm kit lenses work well
  • Autofocus performance is fast and accurate in a wide variety of situations

What I dislike:

  • Lack of viewfinder and hot shoe is disappointing
  • Impressive continuous shooting speeds are held back by small buffer
  • 4K video recording is capped at 15fps

The Nikon J5 is not just impressive for its small size or for its low price, but it is an impressive camera overall. The sensor is capable of capturing high-quality images in a wide array of conditions. The Nikon 1 series of lenses continues to grow and with access to many Nikon DSLR lenses via the FT1 adapter, the J5 is a camera that ought to be in consideration by anyone looking for a small, versatile camera that can deliver great images in many different situations and with varying levels of user control.

 



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