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Nikon 1 V2 - Still Speedy, Better Handling

By Michael Low & Alvin Soon - 14 Dec 2012

Image Performance

Image Performance

Nikon's 1 series mirrorless system cameras come with a smaller sensor compared to its peers; the helpful Wikipedia graphic below shows you by how much (it's the Nikon CX). While the CX sensor is larger than sensors found in advanced compact cameras like the 1/1.7" sensor found in the Panasonic LUMIX LX7, it's smaller than the ones found in the Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Olympus E-M5 and APS-C mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX.

Further more, sensor technology has evolved to the point where we now have a compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, with a large sensor that's the same size as the ones found in the 1 series, measuring 13.2 x 8.8mm. It's not too far off a prediction that we'll see even more advanced compact cameras catching up to the CX sensor's size in the next couple of years. The drive for bigger sensors isn't just about compensation (nudge, nudge) but - all things being equal - larger image sensors give you better image quality all around.

Image source: Wikipedia

The Nikon 1 V2 captured a score of 2200 LPH (horizontal and vertical) on our resolution chart, which is higher than the V1's 1400-1600 LPH (horizontal and vertical) and means it's capturing more image detail. Not unexpected, seeing that the V2 has a 14MP sensor compared to the V1's 10MP. But ISO performance is where the V2 falls short. At lower ISO settings, you can already see noise in the picture, which starts to become obvious if you zoom in at ISO 800.

The V2 does an admirable job of keeping grain as fine as possible, reducing the damage to fine detail. ISO 1600 seems to be the peak balance you can strike between noise and detail, while ISO 3200 is noticeably noisier. We'd keep out of using ISO 6400, as the picture becomes too muddy for us.

ISO 160, cropped image. ISO 200, cropped image.
ISO 400, cropped image. ISO 800, cropped image.
ISO 1600, cropped image. ISO 3200, cropped image.
ISO 6400, cropped image.  

The Nikon 1 V2 as a Sports Camera

The Nikon 1 V2, like the V1, has an insanely high frame-rate: 15 frames per second with AF-C (Auto-focus Continuous). 30 and 60 fps speeds are also possible, but only with AF-S (Auto-focus Single). There are limitations though, at 15 fps, the maximum number of images you can shot in a single burst is about 45, while at 30 and 60 fps the maximum is about 40 (which means that you'll never really be able to squeeze off 60 shots in a second). Still, 15 fps with AF-C is no slouch, the flagship Nikon D4 shoots 10 fps with AF-C, and no other competing mirrorless camera comes close.

Add to that, the Nikon CX system has an odd but far-out 2.7x crop factor. Coupled with the 1 Nikkor 30-110mm lens that means we have a reach of 81-297mm in a really tiny package, compared to a DSLR rocking the same focal length.

So we had to wonder: How would the Nikon 1 V2 hold up as a sports camera? The answer: It depends, but generally speaking, not really.

First, the positive: The Nikon 1 V2, as well as the rest of the 1 series, has the best auto-focus system among mirrorless cameras today. It's fast, accurate and nails the subject pretty much in almost every image shot. That rings true even when shooting in bursts with AF-C, something other mirrorless cameras still struggle to do. There do tend to be missed shots in-between a series where focus is off, but that can happen even to the highest-end DSLR cameras.

In good light, the V2 manages to track and keep focus on moving subjects more often than not

In low-light however, the V2's AF tends to hesitate, making your shots always a half-second late. This is one reason why it doesn't function well as a sports camera. Another reason is that, no matter how many bursts you shoot, the camera always displays a black screen after and takes a second or so to recover, probably writing to and from the buffer and the memory card. This will always cost you a couple of seconds' worth of shooting time - in which case, if something cool happens in front of you, your camera isn't ready to shoot with.

In low-light, the V2 tends to hesitate before locking on the first shot, but then gets the subject right most of the time afterwards

To be fair, professional sports photography is not something the V2 was probably built for - definitely the high frame-rate capture comes in handy for some fast action, but not quite the purpose of sports photography. If a future V3 can overcome these two problems - hesitating in low-light and the black-out after every shot - then perhaps it'll be an attractive alternative for the sports photography enthusiast looking for a super-quick camera with a super-zoom lens in a super-small package. There's so much potential, but the V2 is not quite there yet.

If you like the idea of firing multiple shots but don't want to go through the hassle of selecting them, like the V1 the V2 comes with the Smart Photo Selector mode. Like the V1, we wish we could review this properly, but (from the V1 review): "because the camera automatically deletes the fifteen out of the twenty shots that it thinks aren't as good, we don't have a way to compare the camera's final five selects against the fifteen rejects and benchmark its taste. Because of that, we stayed out of this mode and shot normally for the purpose of proper imaging evaluation for our article. So while we didn't want the camera to decide the 'keepers' for us, we can definitely see the benefits for casual shooters who don't want to review hundreds of photos after a shoot."

One last strike against using the V2 as a sporting camera is the lack of fast lenses, the 30-110mm we mentioned has a maximum aperture range of f/3.8-5.6. At this moment, there are no fast telephoto lenses for the 1 series, forcing the V2 to reach into high ISO settings when shooting in low-light, which is not a good idea with its low tolerance for noise. You can mount some Nikkor DSLR lenses onto the V2 with the optional FT1 mount adapter, but then you lose the advantage of size, and not all auto-functions are supported.