The Dragon Departs
I have intentionally ignored all reviews of the Nikon V1 so that I could give an unbiased opinion of this camera. Of course, I rented it from Lens Rentals. It arrived on Friday, January 20th, 2012. It came with;
1 – Nikon V1 body (crop factor 2.7)
1 – Nikkor 10 – 30 mm zoom (27mm – 81mm 35mm equiv)
1 – Battery
1 – Charger
0 – SD card
All photos, for the next 6 days, will be taken with this camera. I plan to put it through its paces.
The first thing that I noticed about the camera is the size. It fits into my palm easily. The body, by itself weighs in around 294 grams. Pretty lightweight. Add the lens, which adds another 113 g, and you have a total weight equivalent to the Canon G12. By the time you add the battery, it weighs just a tad more.
Fly by wire.
Another thing that I noticed, is that this camera is almost completely, fly-by-wire. That is, there are few mechanical controls on the outside of the camera save for 3 buttons on the top: On/Off, shutter release, and video camera record button.
On the back you’ll find the mode selector, having 4 modes: Movie, Still pictures, Smart still pictures, and …. Also, there are a few other buttons alloying you to change Auto focus mode, lock exposure and focus, show the menu, delete a photos, and change what information shows on the rear display.
Any changes to mode, Aperture, Shutter, Program, or Manual, have to be done through the menus. Fortunately, the menus are only one level deep and everything is easy to find. The first thing that I did was turn off the sound and the AF assist light. The menus are very intuitive and familiar, so it was easy to do.
The camera has a choice of 3 shutter modes: Mechanical, Electronic, and Electronic (hi), offering shutter speeds up to 60 fps. However, switching to the ‘hi’ mode puts the camera automatically into auto mode and it cannot be changed. You have to let the camera make all of the decisions.
The format is 3:2 in standard camera mode and 16:9 in movie mode. There is no option to change this.
The camera can be shot from 100 – 6400 ISO. Auto ISO can be grouped. There are a few ranges to selected from 100-400, 100-800, and 100-1600; however, you may select your own range, giving a bottom and a top number that the camera may operate within.
I’m actually starting to get used to looking at the back of cameras, but still like a viewfinder. When I looked through the viewfinder of the VI, I felt right at home. Glass! Nice. Then I noticed something, there was electronic info around the edges and on the screen there was a focus reticle. Huh? Nope. Not glass, and Electronic Viewfinder, or EVF. Wow! It is impressive. Very clear and looks almost like glass.
Nikon borrowed a trick from “The Mind of Minolta”, too. The EVF only comes on when you put your eye to the viewfinder and the LCD on the back of the camera turns off. My Minolta DiMage A1 had this handy feature. I used it a lot. I rarely looked at the monitor on the back of the camera.
After experimenting with white balance, I can see that the viewfinder shows what your exposure will look like, as well. It’s a very nice display. In panning quickly from side to side, I can see that it has a very slight lag if you pan quickly, but it’s nothing that would stop me from using the camera.
Yesterday, I shot 1500+ shots with this camera. I was excited to try out the electronic shutter to see how it worked. In a word, it works very well. It’s amazing to see a camera peel of 30 frames per second; however, it would tend to ‘freeze’ periodically when, I suspect, the buffer filled up. So, as a not-so-serious sports camera, it would work well. It’d be great for doing any kind of well-lit sports; however, with the kit lens, the 10 – 30 mm, f/3.5 – f/5.6, it is a little slow for inside work. I had to adjust my expectations and instead of getting crisp still shots, I had to accept some motion, or in some case, use the motion and low shutter speeds to my advantage by panning and following the action or allowing it to flow, such as the lead photograph: The Dragon Departs.
As mentioned, the sensor is very small and it is crammed with 12 million pixels, so anything above about 200 starts to get noisy; however, for the sake of argument, all of the photos here were taken at ISO 3200. I didn’t try 6400 yet. I’ll save that for night shots and get back to you on it. You can even see the noise in this photo of Matt (upside down) and Mike. It is noticeable, BUT, it beats the heck out of missing the shot.
Certainly, the V1 is no replacement for the D300, and I most certainly missed my D300 during this event, but I’m glad that I had the V1 with me. I wouldn’t have been able to get these shots with the M9, or if I did, they would be few and far between. The S90 would have had much luck either, I don’t think. Again, hit and miss, but with a choice between 10, 30, or 60 fps, I was assured to get some keepers.