Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR
Lab Test Results
February 14, 2012
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 1 series of camera was released in October of 2011, marking the company's entry into mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. The camera uses a new proprietary lens mount, and three lenses were released at the camera's launch: the Nikon 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR is the largest. Combined with the CX sensor of the 1 series camera, which produces a 2.7x ''crop factor'', the 10-100mm lens offers a 27-270mm equivalent field of view.
This lens isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, however the minimum aperture size remains the same. The following table reflects the changes as you zoom:
|Min. aperture||ƒ/16 at all focal lengths|
The Nikon 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom VR takes 72mm filters, ships with the HB-N102 petal-shaped lens hood, and is available now for around $750.
The Nikon 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 produced some excellent results for sharpness, more at the wider end of its focal range than at telephoto. At 10mm and ƒ/4.5, images produced are very sharp indeed, and there's only a marginal gain by stopping down to ƒ/5.6, where images produced are sharp from corner to corner. Stopping down further introduces diffraction limiting, but the results aren't really apparent until ƒ/16, where there is some very light softness across the frame.
In the mid-range, the story is not much different, except at this focal length the maximum aperture is ƒ/5.6. At this focal length / aperture setting images are still very sharp, at least as sharp as what is found at 10mm and ƒ/4.5; stopping down to ƒ/8 produces the sharpest images here.
At 100mm there is a slight impact on overall image sharpness; images are moderately sharp, with a sweeter spot in the center and just lightly soft corners. Stopping down to ƒ/8 produces a very slight improvement, but by ƒ/11 it's lost with the impact of diffraction limiting.
Chromatic aberration was a little more prominent than we would have liked to see, though it is mostly found in the corners. It takes the form of magenta-green fringing around areas of high contrast.
The only focal length that sees any corner shading is 10mm; no amount of stopping down will completely remove it, but its maximum impact shows up at ƒ/4.5, where the extreme corners are just over a half-stop darker than the center. As the lens is stopped down this dissipates slightly, until it nears a quarter-stop differential by ƒ/16. At other focal lengths it's really the widest aperture which show any corner shading at all, and those settings it's only around a third of a stop.
As one might expect from a lens with such a range of focal lengths, distortion is a bit of a factor, and in this particular case, it's fairly substantial. At the wide end (10mm) the lens produces strong barrel distortion in the corners (a full +1%). As the lens is zoomed in, this barrel distortion transforms to pincushion distortion, which is equally strong, by 50mm (just shy of -1%) and straight through to 100mm. It stands to reason that around 30mm there is a point of parity, but it's also worth noting that there is a general barrel distortion throughout the image.
The Nikon 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 focuses very fast and near-silently, taking less than a second to focus from infinity to close-focus. Point to point focusing is a bit faster - more so at the wider angle than at telephoto. It's worth noting at this point that there is no manual focusing ring - it's possible to focus manually, but that's done via a camera control.
Magnification is only 0.12x, and minimum close-focusing distance is 30cm (around a foot): combined with the impressive distortion, this isn't the best choice for macro work.
Build Quality and Handling
The Nikon 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom VR is quite large when compared with either the V1 and J1 camera bodies, making for a front-heavy package in practical use (the J1 weighs 10 ounces, while the 10-100mm lens weighs around 18 ounces). Finished in a fashionable black matte, the only controls on this lens are the power drive zoom switch and the retractable lens lock switch. When the camera is turned on, the lens extends by 1 1/4'' inches and is then ready to use. When the lens lock switch is set to LOCK, the lens will not retract when the camera is turned off: This way it is ready for immediate use after turning on the next time. The lens has three speeds of power zoom depending on how far you push the power drive switch.
The design of the lens is fairly impressive: The lens has 21 elements in 14 groups including 2 Aspheric elements, 3 ED ("extra low dispersion") elements and one HRI ("high refractive index") element. The lens also features seven rounded diaphragm blades to make up the aperture.
When using a tripod you may want to purchase the optional TA-N100 tripod mounting spacer to raise the camera to get enough clearance to mount this lens due to its large size. The HB-N102 lens hood is petal-shaped, connects via a bayonet mount and can be reversed for easy storage. The interior of the hood is smooth, and the hood itself adds around 1 1/2'' to the overall length of the lens.
For the image stabilization testing, it's worth noting that the testing was done with the Nikon J1, which must be held out in front of you for shooting since it has no viewfinder. If the V1 had been available, we could have used it's viewfinder as a third point of contact, for even steadier shots.
The Nikon J1 has a Normal and Active mode for VR: we used the Normal setting in our VR testing, which compensates for motion in the left-right axis but not up and down. We did test the Active mode, which compensates for movement left to right, as well as up and down. Holding it still for our tests, we sometimes got slightly better IS results and sometimes we did not. For extreme movement the Active mode may be better but we have no way to reproduce that kind of movement for the hundreds of shots needed for IS testing.
At the time of writing, no other third party manufacturers produce lenses to fit Nikon's V1 and J1 camera, so you're left with Nikon's other offerings.
Nikon 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 -
We haven't yet tested the V1 / J1 kit lens, and it doesn't have nearly the same telephoto capacity as the 10-100mm.
Nikon 30-110mm ƒ/3.8-5.6 ~$250
The telephoto zoom lens option for the V1 / J1 offers slightly more reach than the 10-100mm, and in a much smaller package.
Nikon 16-85mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 VR ~$650
With the Nikon FT1 adapter, regular Nikkor lenses can be used with the V1 or J1. Using the adapter with the 16-85mm lens would produce an equivalent field of view of 43-229mm, or a fairly useful all-around travel zoom.
The Nikon 10-100mm offers the usual trade-off of convenience and concession: you get an impressive range of focal lengths in one lens, but in this case, the problem isn't with the optical quality (it's actually really good), but in the size of the lens itself. The J1 we tested the lens on is a small camera, somewhat overwhelmed with the size of the 10-100mm, and defies the purpose of a small camera you can take anywhere. You can certainly take it anywhere with the 10-100mm lens, and you'll be rewarded with excellent photographs, but you'll probably take it in two pieces and put it together when you need it.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
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