The V1 is a 10.1mp mirrorless camera introduced by Nikon Corporation in 2011 as part of their new mirrorless “CX” format.
No doubt this was an attempt by Nikon to give their loyal customers a mirrorless system to answer the challenges of the rising popularity of mirrorless cameras, fueled primarily by Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony.
The V1, J1, and subsequent models while initially “trashed” by critics for having a sensor even smaller than micro 4/3’s, have now achieved a cult-like following from those who have used the cameras.
The cameras and lenses have been praised for their “film-like” color and rendering, as well as very fast AF, which was not a hallmark of mirrorless systems until the past couple of years.
I enjoy using the V1 as a quick go-to camera that I can rely upon. It will not replace the image quality of a full-frame DSLR, but it does have a certain ‘look’ that I like.
It does have a kind of “film-like” look to the images that a lot of people say, which I think comes from the ‘grain’ or ‘noise’ like a 35mm scan, and the camera produces very nice colors. Sometimes, especially in indoor or low light shots, the camera will produce an almost cartoonish look, almost like using a high pass filter in Photoshop. This doesn’t happen all the time, so don’t worry about it. Just an observation.
The build feels good in the hands, apparently the camera has some magnesium alloy parts to give it strength while keeping the weight down.
The camera can slip out of hand very easily and I would recommend the accessory grip, either from Nikon or one of the third party manufacturers.
The controls are well laid out and the menu will be familiar to Nikon digital users. One ‘flaw’ I see is that the mode dial/wheel moves out of place easily. It could move from camera mode to video mode just from taking it out of your camera bag, as has happened to me, so you want to keep an eye on that.
I have used three native lenses with the V1. The 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, the 10mm f/2.8 Pancake, and the 18.5mm f/1.8 ‘normal’ lens. These lenses translate to around 27-81mm for the zoom, 27mm for the pancake, and 50mm for the 18.5mm lens. There is an awesome 32mm f/1.2 that is equivalent to an 86mm short telephoto. This lens I have not tried, but the photos that I have seen look awesome. Unfortunately, it’s a pricey lens (almost $900) and that’s more than I’d want to spend for this system.
All the three lenses I have used are excellent performers. However, if you are a bokeh fan, short of that $900 32mm f/1.2, the well priced 18.5mm f/1.8 (At or below $200 USD) is the only one capable of giving you decent bokeh on your 1 System camera.
I have also used “alternative” lenses on it such as the 42mm f/1.2 Olympus Pen lens, and CCTV lenses and have had mixed results. Critical focus is a little harder with these lenses due to the V1’s 2.7x crop factor and the lack of focus peaking. The camera does offer image magnification though that is limited in its usefulness for me. Nikon does offer their own adapter called the FT-1 for using Nikkor lenses while maintaining AF. Though curious, I have not gotten one simply because most of my Nikkors are manual focus, and my AF Nikkors will simply become telephotos on the V1’s small sensor.
The V1 can also do Full HD 1080p video. My home videos look good, but honestly I have not played with the video that much. I’m not really a video guy, though I was really into video about 10 years ago. I was also into laserdiscs, minidiscs, Mini DV, etc…ten years too early before the really good stuff came out! 🙂
But back to the V1, I would recommend this camera as a good family camera or second or third camera. It also makes a very nice street camera as there is ample depth of field from the small sensor so most of your images in daylight should be sharp. Because of the 2.7x crop factor, a lot of nature/animal photographers have taken to it as well. This is a pretty versatile and underestimated system.
Though it won’t replace the image quality from a full-frame sensor, there are many things you can do with the 1 System cameras. Family snaps, street, vacation camera, nature/telephoto work all can be handled well. And their small sizes will ensure that you’d more likely bring the camera along as opposed to your 35mm full-frame system.
The V1 was introduced with the J1, which is virtually the same camera without the EVF, but has the one advantage of having a built-in flash. I have not even touched upon the latest generation, which I think is up to the V3 now.
Whether the V1 will remain a viable part of the Nikon system or a technical ‘blip’ in ten years remains to be seen. However for the cult of Nikon 1 users, all these cameras, and the V1 being the first flagship of the system is destined to become a Camera Legend.
Right now the best selection V1 cameras can be found on AMAZON. They’ve also got good deals on the 18.5mm Nikkor right now. Everyone and their mothers buy from Amazon and you can never go wrong with them. Even when I’m not buying cameras from them, I end up buying adapters and SD cards at great prices. Even if you’re not buying cameras, lenses, or cards, if you buy anything from Amazon and click on the link above it will help me continue building the contents of this site for you. Many thanks.
PROS: Good to excellent image quality; Small, light, easy to carry around; good EVF; Fast AF; Rich colors
CONS: Limited lens selection; 2.7x crop factor turns most manual lenses into telephotos; image noise at high ISOs; mode dial moves out of place easily; not easy to create bokeh with small sensor