Nikon V2 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon 1 i Initial Test
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon V2
Resolution: 14.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
Kit Lens: 3.00x zoom
10-30mm
(27-81mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 160-6400
Shutter: 30-1/16000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.2 x 3.2 x 1.8 in.
(108 x 82 x 46 mm)
Weight: 16.1 oz (457 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $900
Availability: 11/2012
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon V2 specifications
14.20
Megapixels
Nikon 1 1 inch
size sensor
image of Nikon V2
Front side of Nikon V2 digital camera Back side of Nikon V2 digital camera Top side of Nikon V2 digital camera Left side of Nikon V2 digital camera Right side of Nikon V2 digital camera

Nikon 1 V2 Hands-on Preview

by Shawn Barnett
Posted 10/24/2012

Departing radically from the Nikon 1 V1's original design, the V2 goes all out to leave the rather bland looks of the V1 behind while maintaining the family resemblance, with broad curves and a bulky industrial look. The end result is rather odd at first glance, with a big grip and a rectangular EVF and built-in flash hump on top. The Nikon 1 V2 also integrates more enthusiast-friendly features, like a more inclusive Mode dial and a Command dial as well, for quicker adjustments.

Where the rubber meets the road, though, is its imaging capabilities, which include a new 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that captures still images at 15 frames per second with full autofocus tracking, thanks to the sensor's built-in phase-detect autofocus system. The Nikon V2 also captures Full HD movies at 60i or 30p. The Nikon 1 system's CX sensor is smaller than even Micro Four Thirds cameras, allowing for smaller lens designs, though the bodies are about the same size as competing mirrorless cameras.

Availability starts in late November 2012, shipping with a 10-30mm kit lens for about US$900. A two-lens kit includes the 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses for $1150, and body-only the Nikon V2 will be US$800.

Weighing in at 9.8 ounces (278g) body only, the Nikon V2 weighs a little less than the 10.4 ounces (294g) of its predecessor. Made of magnesium alloy, the Nikon V2 is also a little less wide, taller, and less deep overall, measuring 4.2 x 3.2 x 1.8 inches (107.8 x 81.6 x 45.9mm), compared to the V1's 4.4 x 3.0 x 1.7 inches (113 x 76 x 43.5mm).

I can only think they were trying to evoke the big block on the Nikon F Photomic with the unusual pop-up flash design, but all I can think of is the overhanging nose of an elephant seal. The grip is substantial for the size, looking similar to the grip on the NEX-5 in shape. An AF-assist lamp shines out from just left of the Nikon 1 logo, and an infrared port is just barely visible between the grip and lens. Stereo mics flank the EVF/Flash housing, and the flash window is visible beneath the Nikon logo. The Lens release button is pushed over quite a bit compared to the V1's position.

The pop-up flash has a guide number of 20.6 feet (6.3m) at ISO 160, with sufficient coverage for the 10mm pancake or zoom lens (approximately 27mm equivalent).

A far cry from the brick-like shape of the V1, Nikon's redesign of the V2 was quite aggressive. The Nikon V2's thickness gives way to make room for the fingers, slimming down quite a bit in the process. The Power switch rings the Shutter button, and a Movie Record button sits in a good place behind that. Enthusiasts will be happy to see those four letters on the physical Mode dial -- P S A M -- allowing them quick access to the common automatic, semi-automatic, and manual modes photographers prefer. Right of that is the new Command dial for making quick adjustments to exposure, contrast, brightness, or background blur.

A black cover on top of the EVF/Flash housing conceals the Nikon 1 accessory port, compatible with the old accessory flash as well as the new SB-N7 Speedlight, both optional accessories (more on that below).

Rear controls are simple, just a reshuffle of what was available on the Nikon V1. The four buttons that used to surround the Multi-controller now line the left of the LCD. The Command dial on the top deck replaces the former zoom toggle, and a slight thumb grip rises toward the right.

The F button works in concert with the Command dial to allow fast changes to white balance, focus mode, ISO, metering mode, etc. Called Direct Setting Control, the new mode can be adjusted while you're looking through the electronic viewfinder or on the rear LCD.

The 3-inch TFT LCD sports 921,000 dots, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, matching that of the Nikon 1 V2's CX sensor. The electronic viewfinder uses a color TFT LCD that displays 1,440,000 dots. Dioptric adjustment is made with the dial on the left of the housing. An infrared proximity sensor sits just right of the EVF, allowing automatic switching between viewfinder and LCD mode.

Sensor and Processor. The CX high speed CMOS sensor measures 13.2 x 8.8mm, outputs a 14.2-megapixel image, and has 73 phase-detect autofocus points built in, employing the same AF system used in previous Nikon 1 cameras. ISO ranges from 160 to 6,400.

The Nikon V2's new EXPEED 3A image processor is said to have improved image-signal processing, speed that allows the camera to track focus while capturing "approximately 15 frames per second," for a burst of up to 45 frames. The Nikon V2 can also shoot at 30 or 60fps for up to 40 frames, but of course without autofocus.

Special modes. An improved Smart Photo Selector mode captures up to 20 shots with each press of the shutter button, with the camera automatically sorting through them to pick the top five, weeding out shots with blink or blur, for example. The new mode puts the camera's top pick at the top of the stack, and you can choose to just save the one image if you like.

Live Image Control allows you to adjust aspects of how a photo is captured before the shutter is pressed. Effects of aspects like aperture, shutter speed, and D-Lighting can be previewed on the LCD before capture.

Slow View Mode is a unique setting that buffers up to 40 frames over a 1.3-second period. Imaging caching begins when the user half-presses the shutter button, and the view is slowed down to 5x slower than normal speed. The user can then better pick the best moment. The mode essentially slows down time so you can capture the image you want.

Enhanced Motion Snapshot Mode is also improved with four and 10 second options. A peculiar mode that captures a still image with a little bit of video before and after the image, Nikon decided to add the enhancements after user feed back. Earlier Nikon 1 cameras shot one second of 60p video around the snapshot and played it back at 24 frames per second, resulting in a 2.5 second playback. Because users said they wanted more time, the new mode captures 1.6 seconds, which turns into four seconds of playback at 24fps. Users can also select when to shoot the still; by default it's snapped at the 60% mark in the video stream, but can now be set to the end of the video.

To combine the images, users had to use Nikon View software on a PC, but now the special NMS (Nikon Motion Snapshot) files can be prepared on the camera itself. The longer 10-second option captures the image at the end and combines them into a single MOV file. Background music can be selected before capture, but also changed afterward.

HDR mode allows combination of two consecutive shots into one high-dynamic-range image.

Movie modes include 1080 60i and 1080 30p, and allow capture of full-resolution still images without interrupting the movie. 1080 movies are limited to 20 minutes, while 720p movies can go as long as 29 minutes. Movie mode also supports Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure modes. 400 and 1,200 frame-per-second slow-motion movies are also on offer, as is an external stereo microphone jack, compatible with the ME-1 stereo microphone.

Nikon V1 and SB-N7 flash

New Accessories. Using AAA batteries instead of the Nikon V2's internal battery, the new SB-N7 flash has a head that tilts up 120 degrees for bounce flash, and has a guide number of 59 feet (18m) at ISO 100. The flash comes with a wide-angle flash adapter that snaps onto the front. The SB-N7 flash is expected to ship in January 2013 for US$160.

Also compatible with the WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter introduced with the Nikon D600, the Nikon V2 gains the ability to transfer stills and movies to smart devices like Android and iOS cell phones and tablets. Such users also gain the ability to remote-control the Nikon V2 via WiFi, complete with live view on the device itself.

Availability of the Nikon V2 starts in late November 2012, shipping with a 10-30mm kit lens for about US$900. A two-lens kit includes the 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses for $1150, and body-only the Nikon V2 will be US$800. Both the camera body and the flash are available in white and black.

 

Nikon V2 Hands-on Photos

Dave and Roger got some hands-on time with the Nikon V2 at PhotoPlus 2012, and we've posted a few shots here. Click on each to see a larger version.

The Nikon V2 has some new bulges and protuberances vs. the V1, but the overall camera is still impressively small. This shot shows the new built-in flash: No need to carry a separate Speedlight.

We're working on getting a V2 vs V1 side by side shot, but here's the V2 against the J2, showing its relatively small size.

The new V2 sports a command dial with full PASM capability available directly, and a new command dial (under the shooter's thumb), that can be pressed inward to make menu selections. A nice touch, this makes navigating menus very quick and intuitive.

The Nikon V2 is tiny, but the new grip is pretty comfortable, even for people with relatively large hands. As with most small grips, the hand position that works is with your fingers laying alongside it, facing downward.

Although the Nikon V2 has an internal flash, there's still an accessory port available for mounting an external Speedlight, or other accessories like the GP-N100 GPS unit. You can see the cover for it at the bottom of this photo, behind the pop-up flash.

Because of the smaller 11Wh EN-EL21 battery, the Nikon V2's battery life is 310 shots, vs 350 for the V1's 14Wh EN-EL15 battery. Still quite respectable, but battery life is one of those things you can never have too much of.

The Nikon V2's LCD is the gorgeous 921K-dot we've seen on many Nikon models now. The menu system is now animated, aiming for more of a smooth scrolling effect. Personally, we prefer the quicker response of abrupt jumps between entries.

Here's another comparison shot of the V2 and J2 together. Other than the viewfinder bulge on the V2, the body sizes are quite similar.


Nikon V2 Overview Video

Steve Heiner, Senior Technical Manager from Nikon, walked us through some of the main features on the Nikon V2, ranging from the EVF to the Menu system. Click on the Play button below to check it out!


 


Nikon V2 -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Nikon V2 with the Nikon V1, Olympus E-PL5 and Sony RX100 II.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with the best lenses available to us. For the V2, we tried the sharp Nikkor 1 18.5mm f/1.8 thinking our 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens was a bit soft, but the prime unfortunately did very little to improve sharpness and detail. We therefore decided to stick with the same 10-30mm lens we used for our V1 shots.

Nikon V2 versus Nikon V1 at Base ISO

Nikon V2 at ISO 160
Nikon V1 at ISO 100

Jumping in resolution by roughly 4 megapixels as compared to its predecessor, the V2 at first glance appears to have better image quality than the V1. And yet the fine detail is missing in areas that we would otherwise expect. Examples include the mosaic tiles and the pink fabric swatch, both of which are quite soft for base ISO. Do keep in mind that base ISO has increased from 100 to 160, which combined with smaller photosites puts the V2 at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of noise at base ISO.


Nikon V2 versus Olympus E-PL5 at Base ISO

Nikon V2 at ISO 160
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

Nikon cameras tend to handle our tricky red fabric swatch with aplomb as compared to most other manufacturers, as the V2 certainly does, but the E-PL5 produces far superior results in all other areas yielding much greater sharpness and detail. The E-PL5's Four Thirds sensor has roughly twice the surface area of the V2's 1"-type sensor, and combined with aggressive default sharpening accounts in large part to the discrepancy in these results, especially in the first two crops.


Nikon V2 versus Sony RX100 II at Base ISO

Nikon V2 at ISO 160
Sony RX100 II at ISO 160

These two cameras have roughly the same sensor size, but the RX100 II has backlit technology and roughly 6 more megapixels resolution. Despite the Sony's smaller photosites, the result is better and sharper image quality in all but the difficult red swatch, similar in many regards to the comparison results with the E-PL5.

 

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Nikon V2 versus Nikon V1 at ISO 1600

Nikon V2 at ISO 1600
Nikon V1 at ISO 1600

We were hoping for a much larger jump in image quality as compared to the V1, but it's just not there. Even though the crops appear zoomed in due to the increase in resolution, many of the areas are actually less detailed, most notably the fabric swatches. The V2's sensor is noisier, so the processor has to work harder to keep that noise in check.


Nikon V2 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Nikon V2 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Aggressive default noise reduction yields some splotchiness in some areas of the E-PL5 crops, but even with these issues the image quality is still far superior to the V2 images, which are basically just mushy across the board and without much detail to speak of.


Nikon V2 versus Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600

Nikon V2 at ISO 1600
Sony RX100 II at ISO 1600

The RX100 II manages to wring more fine detail from the image while leaving less noise in its wake, making it the current king of the fixed-lens compact cameras. Even with the same sized sensor and smaller pixels, it simply out-paces the V2 here.



Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Nikon V2 versus Nikon V1 at ISO 3200

Nikon V2 at ISO 3200
Nikon V1 at ISO 3200

Noise in the shadows behind the bottle crop is controlled just a bit better from the V2, but the next two crops appear softer and more processed looking than the V1 crops, again causing us to scratch our heads wondering why image quality has generally declined in this next generation model.


Nikon V2 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Nikon V2 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Once again, default processing artifacts are evident in the E-PL5 crops, but as with the image comparisons at ISO 1600, the overall results from the E-PL5 are still far superior, and in a camera that retails for $300 less than the V2.


Nikon V2 versus Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200

Nikon V2 at ISO 3200
Sony RX100 II at ISO 3200

Smooth is the term that comes to mind for describing the RX100 II images here. The default processing is not too aggressive, and the resulting images have an even-handed appearance. As we've now said a few times, the V2 images are simultaneously both soft and noisy in comparison, not a good combination.


Because the V2's image quality hasn't improved over the V1 and in fact has taken a step back in some regards, we've decided to halt our testing of the Nikon V2.

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