First things first – I don’t exactly do gear reviews. There are obviously much better sources for reviews out there than this tiny, little blog. Additionally, the cameras that generally interest me are rarely the high-end systems with serious drool factor that will pull in lots of page hits. I don’t care to pixel peep, more often than not I do not want clinically sharp images corner to corner, and I do not shoot video with my SLR – that’s just me.
With that being said, bit on my camera philosophy is in order. I prefer the right tool for the right job so consequentially I have a lot of tools, everything from compacts to geared view cameras. A few years back a typical photo outing would require a serious Tenba backpack with all the goodies for very specific needs. It wasn’t too long ago I abandoned the more gear philosophy – which is part of another article I’m writing on Gear Acquisition Syndrome – but in terms what works better for me, my kit is now ridiculously simple. When traveling I now carry a very compact kit comprised of a Leica M2 and a flexible compact digital. For everyday use I have a small messenger bag which holds a compact camera and a few other day-to-day items. My current compact, a G12, has grown a little old so I began looking for a replacement.
In a prior post I provided my thoughts on the Canon EOS-M announcement and expanded upon a few of my requirements. I have been a loyal Canon guy for a number of years. My previous compact was a G12 which traveled the world with me and took some amazing photos. Amazing? Impossible is what many say. Yet, the images did win judged awards and displayed in exhibitions for whatever that might be worth. Around Thanksgiving Steve Huff enlightened me on a B&H Photo year-end sale on the Nikon 1 V1. A kit that originally sold for ~ $900 USD could be picked up for ~$400 USD, even less depending on the kit selection. The G15 replacement for my G12 would cost a bit more so I thought I would give it a shot knowing I could return the V1 and opt for the known & “safe bet” of the G15 if things did not work out.
I like things to have some heft. My M2 is not light, nor is my 503CW. Heck, I cannot stand ultra-light hockey sticks. The Nikon 1 V1 is a chunk, roughly 1/2 a pound more than the G12 – which does not sound like much but you can tell the difference. The kit I ordered came with the 10-30mm VR zoom and 10mm pancake lenses (2.7 crop factor). Whereas the Sony RX100 only allows you to charge with through the camera, the Nikon came with (what should be in my mind) a standard external charger. Added bonus is ability to swap out the AC adapter plug for a longer charging cable OR country-specific plugs. This last part is a very nice to have for travellers.
A few points about camera operation before I wrap this up. The Autofocus is fast, very fast. Because I prefer small cameras that I can take anywhere, I had the Nikon 1 at a minor league hockey game. The AF tracked players perfectly and the high FPS allowed for indoor action shoots I did not expect. Not a fan of menu-based exposure compensation but the metering so far has been very accurate resulting in little need for compensation. For concert venues the bag checking anti-camera security folk have, so far, just waved me right in. This is my first camera with an electronic viewfinder, and was honestly my main concern (see EOS-M Opinion below). I will say the operation is acceptable, in low light the refresh does not drop to a motion-sickness inducing crawl. However, I have prescription polarized sunglasses and the viewfinder does not work well in that situation. Depending on camera orientation the EVF is either blotchy or dark. My M2’s viewfinder is rimmed with metal, and I’m used to kicking up my sunglasses to avoid scratches but this could be a problem for a lot of people. Your mileage may vary. Finally, the aspect ratio is 3:2 vs 4:3 typically seen on compacts. Some people think this is a big deal (it is not) and a 4:3 image is automatically discounted as not a “serious image” regardless of compositional structure and subject merit. So if you found yourself forcing 3:2 images out of a 4:3 native body at either a resolution or workflow penalty, rejoice.
I know this camera received some very harsh reviews from the experts, and that’s fine, but so far the Nikon 1 V1 is meeting my specific needs very, very well. When compared to the blow-out price, which I think is still going, it’s an amazing deal. After I wrap up my Gear Acquisition article I will post a bit more about image quality of this camera.
OoF Structure (10mm pancake)