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Nikon 1 J1 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £479
inc VAT

A gorgeous design and stunning videos are the highlights, but photo quality is up to scratch too. Despite some reservations, this is an excellent debut for the Nikon 1 system


13.2×8.8mm 10.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-81mm equivalent), 342g

The mode dial is a big departure from convention, with no priority or manual exposure modes. Instead, there are just four settings: Still Image, Movie, Smart Photo Selector and Motion Snapshot.

Nikon 1 J1 rear
The mode dial has no priority or manual exposure settings, just four pre-defined shooting settings.

Motion Snapshot captures what Nikon describes as a “living image”, with a two-second slow-motion 1080p video topped off with a 10-megapixel photo. These play back on the camera complete with saccharine music, although the two files appear separately on the SD card without music.

Smart Photo Selector captures 20 full-resolution images, including some before the shutter button was pressed. It then saves the best five, picking them based on focus, composition and facial expression. It also highlights its favourite of the five – judging by this evidence, its ability to pick the best images seems pretty sophisticated. The camera can repeat the trick every five seconds, making this a useful tool for capturing fleeting subjects.

The Still Image and Movie modes need no explanation, although their inclusion is odd seeing as there are separate photo and video capture buttons on the top of the camera. The record button only works when Movie mode is selected, and the shutter release button takes 1920×1080 photos in Movie mode. On the upside, it’s possible to capture photos while recording video.

Nikon 1 J1
Separate Still Image and Movie modes seem a bit odd, as there are dedicated photo and video capture buttons on top of the camera.

Nikon makes a big fuss about the J1’s performance. There’s no denying that this is a responsive sensor, as demonstrated by the 1/16,000-second minimum shutter speed. The autofocus system was extremely quick in bright light, and at least as good as Panasonic’s G-series cameras. Focusing in low light was much slower but not unacceptably so.

The headline 60fps burst speed looks amazing on paper but it only lasts for 12 frames, giving just a fifth of a second’s activity. The 10fps mode is more useful, also lasting for 12 frames but spreading them out over a more useful length of time. This 10fps mode is with continuous autofocus, although in our tests it failed to refocus in low light – presumably the contrast-detect system isn’t quick enough to adjust between shots at this speed – and wasn’t hugely reliable in bright conditions either. Even the 4.2fps continuous mode struggled to track moving subjects, but to be fair, even 4.2fps is faster than rival cameras, such as the GF3, can manage with fixed focus. Overall, continuous performance wasn’t quite as impressive as we’d been lead to believe, but it was still extremely impressive.

Otherwise, performance was good rather than exceptional, with shots every 1.4 seconds in normal use. The menus are slick and extremely quick to navigate, but they didn’t make up for the lack of labelled buttons to access ISO speed, priority mode and so on. Casual users might not miss them but a £500 camera should be able to please enthusiasts too. There’s an F button, but while its role varies depending on the selected mode, it can’t be customised. We like its use during playback, though, providing a quick means to tag photos with 5-star ratings that were recognised by Windows and Adobe Lightroom.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 10.0 megapixels
CCD size 13.2×8.8mm
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 460,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 27-81mm
Image stabilisation optical, in kit lens
Maximum image resolution 3,872×2,592
Maximum movie resolution 1920×1080
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG, RAW; QuickTime (AVC)


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 230 shots
Connectivity USB, mini HDMI
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material aluminium
Lens mount Nikon 1
Focal length multiplier 2.7x
Kit lens model name 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
Accessories USB cable, nect strap
Weight 342g
Size 61x107x77mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £479

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/16,000 seconds
Aperture range f/3.5-16 (wide), f/5.6-16 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 100 to 3200
Exposure compensation +/-3 EV
White balance auto, 6 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controls Active D Lighting, noise reduction, contrast, saturation, sharpness, brightness, hue, colour space
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 20cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, Motion Snapshot, Smart Photo Selector