Nikon V1: Mini camera excites Nikon DSLR fans

Posted on by Mike Evans

Nikon’s new CX range of mirror-less cameras, the J1 and V1, have caused a stir over the past couple of days. Last year I dallied for a time with an Olympus E-P2 micro four thirds camera. I loved the size and weight, although I hated the retro looks. But the biggest drawback, in my opinion, was the lack of an in-built electronic viewfinder.

Nikon V1 with 10-30mm zoom lens. Note the viewfinder bulge on the top of the body. I like the look of the beast, but I’m not sure about that ugly figure 1. It would be better removed.I hate composing pictures on the rear screen, which is universally necessary with most small cameras these days. For one thing, accurate viewing is difficult in strong sunlight. More important is the increased risk of camera shake when holding the device away from the face. With a traditional viewfinder, such as is found on all bigger SLRs, the camera is steadied as it is held against the face. It just feels more natural.

This problem is solved with the Nikon V1 which has a very neat built-in electronic viewfinder sitting under a little bump on the top of the housing. (The lighter, entry-level J1 relies on using the rear screen for composing pictures). Since this is a through-the-lens camera what you see is what you get, with 100 percent coverage. While Olympus do supply an impressive flash-shoe mounted electronic viewfinder as an accessory, it is bulky, very retro and makes the camera far less handleable.

The new 10mm f/2.8 pancake lens is equivalent to a 27mm lens in traditional 35mm photographyThe Nikon V1 (not to be confused with Hitler’s first attempt at a cruise missile which rained down on London between June and October 1944) is a very attractive little camera and I’ve already placed it on my shopping list.

Nikon’s new range of diminutive CX lenses, which are proportionally ideal for the J1 and V1, include a tiny 10mm f/2.8 pancake which is equivalent to 27mm in 35mm film camera terms. On my Olympus micro four thirds I used a Panasonic 20mm (40mm equivalent) f/2.0 which was a wonderful general purpose lens. The rest of the current bunch of 1 Nikkor lenses comprise a basic 10-30mm (27-81mm) zoom, a 30-110mm (81-297mm) zoom and a full-range (though larger and heavier) zoom of 10-100mm (27-270mm).

There is a full range of accessories, including the usual cases but also a mini Speedlight flash and a small GPS unit for adding location data to your shots.

Adaptor to allow full-size Nikkor lenses to be used on the V1, including tripod mount for use with long opticsThe V1 will be in demand by Nikon DSLR fans, not just because of the SLR-like viewfinder but mainly for the ability to use the full arsenal of Nikkor autofocus lenses. There’s the small matter of an adaptor, which will be expensive, but access to full-size lenses is incredibly useful.

I believe the V1 will work well with Nikon’s excellent prime (non-zoom) lenses because they are relatively small and light in weight. Two examples would be the 35mm f/1.8 DX and the 50mm f/1.4 DX. On a Nikon DX body with a crop factor of 1.5, these are equivalent about 53mm (a good “standard” lens) and a short-telephoto of 80mm.

On the V1, which has a crop factor of 2.7 (and assuming this factor is preserved by the adaptor since there has been no confirmation) these two prime lenses would become short telephotos of 94mm and 135mm, both great for portrait photography, with the 50mm f/1.4 excelling in low-light conditions. The crop factor is so large on these diminutive Nikons that there are endless opportunities for redefining the range of Nikkor lenses. Imagine the joy of seeing a massive professional 400 mm telephoto hanging off a V1 which will look like a credit card in comparison. But that 400mm will become a stonking 1080 mm when used with the V1. A tripod is recommended.

Because of this interchangeability of lenses, many keen Nikon photographers will find a corner of their camera bag for a little V1 body. At the moment, the lightest Nikon DSLR on which you can use most of your later autofocus lenses is the D3100. The body weighs 505g compared with the V1’s body weight of 294g.  Roll on the V1 which should land in London in late October, right on the Führer’s schedule.

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