Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR
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Lab Test Results
October 1, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR is the new kit lens for the 1-series of camera, introduced in March of 2014. The lens features a power drive zoom and is smaller than the current 10-30mm lens. As well, it does not have a lens cap, but has a built-in lens cover like many point and shoot cameras.
The lens was designed to fit the Nikon CX mount, offering the equivalent of a 27-81mm field of view, thanks to the 1-series sensor's crop factor of 2.7x. This lens isn't a "constant" lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, however the minimum aperture remains at f/16. The following table reflects the change in aperture available for the lens:
Because the new lens features a built-in lens cap, this precludes the use of filters. As well, a lens hood is not available. The lens is available now for around $300, or as part of a Nikon V3 kit.
The Nikon 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom VR offers exceptional sharpness, even when used at its widest apertures. There are just traces of corner softness which are ameliorated as the lens is stopped down. Optimal sharpness is obtained at the ƒ/8 aperture, where images are essentially tack-sharp across the frame.
Diffraction limiting for this lens sets in at ƒ/11, but it's not really noticeable until the lens is stopped down to its smallest aperture of ƒ/16. It's worth noting that the lens can't be stopped down to ƒ/22 - probably owing to its miniscule size.
CA is nicely controlled by this lens, especially when the lens is zoomed out from 10mm. According to our tests there is some prominent chromatic aberration at the 10mm setting when the lens is fully stopped down towards ƒ/16, but this is exhibiting as a loss of detail rather than color separation; I'm assuming we have some in-camera processing to thank for that.
We do note some corner shading in testing this lens, but it's not excessive; the worst performance shows as corners that are over 3/4 EV darker than the center. At any other setting, even just stopped down one stop, there's practically no corner shading. However, it never really goes away; there is always at least a corner-to-center differential of 1/4 EV.
Somewhat surprisingly there is some very prominent distortion present in images shot with this lens. Most mirrorless bodies incorporate some form of post-processing to compensate for distortion, but we're not seeing that here. Below the 16mm focal length we note some impressive barrel distortion in the corners - almost +1% - and after the 20mm mark, this turns into pincushion distortion, about -0.8%.
The Nikon 10-30mm PD-Zoom ƒ/3.5-5.6 focuses very quickly and near-silently, taking less than a second to focus from infinity to close-focus. Point to point focusing is a bit faster. 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 0.21x, and minimum close-focusing distance is 20cm (around eight inches), providing mediocre performance for macro work.
Build Quality and Handling
The Nikon 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom VR is a small zoom lens, mating very nicely with our V3 test body and providing a stable, if small and light, shooting platform. The lens is available (in some regions) in a variety of colors.
For a kit lens, the design is fairly substantial: 9 elements in 7 groups, including 1 ED and 4 aspherical elements. The lens also features seven rounded diaphragm blades to make up the aperture.
The zoom ring is the only control on the lens, and it's actually an electronic coupling to the lens; turning the ring one way tells the lens to zoom in, and turning it the other tells it to zoom out. The lens responds to the amount of turning you apply to the ring: turn it a little, and it zooms slowly; turn it a lot, and it will zoom as fast as possible. It's also noteworthy that the zoom operation is nearly silent, which is great for movie making.
There is no manual focusing ring on this lens. Manual focusing is possible, if cumbersome: you have to control manual focusing from the camera. You do this by pushing the AF button to get to the focus menu, then select MF, then you can zoom to the focal length you want, then push the OK button, and finally you can use the scroll wheel on the back of the camera to adjust focus. A focus distance indicator is on the LCD to help you. The focus adjustment is pretty coarse.
Nikon has assumed that shooters of this camera system may not be interested in filters, so they have done away with a filter ring in favor of an automatic lens cap solution. Turning on the camera automatically opens the built-in lens cap and extends the lens. Turning off the camera retracts the lens and closes the built-in lens cap.
The lens features Vibration Reduction (VR). In our testing we found that this system works very well, offering around three stops of hand-holding improvement.
While the AW series lens (11-27.5mm) is technically in the same lens mount, we haven't included it as an alternative because the only feature benefit is the all-weather capability, which wouldn't carry over onto a camera that isn't the AW1.
Nikon 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 1 Nikkor VR ~$-
The previous kit lens, it was also as sharp as the current lens, but doesn't offer the power zoom or automatic lens cap functionality. However, it offered slightly better results for corner shading and distortion.
It's nice to see kit lenses which punch above their weight level, and it's certainly what we're seeing in this case. The lens is definitely not for the photographer purist - manual focusing is a cumbersome experience, and there is no ability to attach filters. If those features aren't important to you, then you're in for a treat.
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.
Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR User Reviews
2 out of 10 points and not recommended by Unexplored Ruins (2 reviews)Built-in coverno filter thread, extremely noisy AF, high distortion
Only got to try someone else's.reviewed November 7th, 2015
This is the kit lens that ships with newer "1" models. The pin-cushion distortion is very pronounced on the long end compared to the original 10-30mm manual zoom. The image looks like I'm looking at a dog bone.
It's heavily dependent on in-camera distortion correction found only on later model bodies that ship with this lens.
The PD features motorized zoom hence "power drive". the barrel ring issues directions electronically to zoom. Auto-focus is very loud. Don't even think about using it for any serious videos. You will hear the motor click so loudly in audio that it sounds like you're running your finger nails over your keyboard.
It's not so bad that you couldn't use the bundled lens, but I definitely would not go buy one separately. If you have no plans on using other lenses, you might as well get a compact camera with a non removable lens.
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by jamesdike (8 reviews)lightweight, compactshort range
The lens is very lightweight and so easy to carry around. But the focal range is really too short with a too large aperture variation. 30mm at 5.6 tend to make this lens useless for indoor photography. I returned it although when there's enough light, the sharpness is there and the image quality is stellar.reviewed June 10th, 2015 (purchased for $290)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by Jonas (8 reviews)Clear and sharp and small
My copy of this lens is sharper (especially at the wide angle settings) than my example of the original standard zoom for the Nikon 1 cameras. Very portable but no lens wood here. Manufacturer gives great image samples here and here.reviewed February 5th, 2015 (purchased for $289)