Nikon 1 V2 Digital Camera Review$799.95
While Nikon improved the handling of their latest 1 series camera, image quality is tragically unchanged.
“I do a lot of sports photography, I need a very fast camera.” Oh, really? How about 60 frames per second? Full resolution.
“High-speed” and “compact body” aren’t features we often see together, but Nikon is relying on this compelling combination to sell its new “1” series of system cameras, which debuted in September 2011 with the J1 and the V1. The small form factor of this series appeals to both shutterbugs and soccer moms, but when those soccer moms start shooting their eponymous soccer games, they’ll find this 1-inch sensor is capable of class-leading continuous burst performance.
On the other hand, we’ve been critical of the 1 series so far, mainly due to problems with noise reduction, white balance, and handling. For the Nikon 1 V2 (MSRP $799.95 body only), a huge new hand grip has been added, however image quality has remained tragically unchanged.
Design & Usability
Physical handling of the V2 is vastly improved over the V1 and especially the J1.
We’ve been very critical of the 1 series’ handling so far, but Nikon has gone out of their way to put our complaints to rest. A huge new right hand grip has been built into the body and wrapped in a layer of rubber, making the camera much more stable than previous models.
The V2’s control scheme has been completely overhauled since the V1. Except for the rotating directional pad, all buttons and dials have been relocated to either the top panel or the left side of the LCD monitor. The two new dials on the top panel are a mixed bag: the mode dial is sturdy and satisfying, but the new command dial is loose and has poor tactility. The command dial does have a convenient secondary click, but this feature isn’t used to great effect in the menus.
To the left of the LCD you’ll find four vertically-arranged buttons for playback, menu, display, and delete. Since the menu key is so commonly used, a few problems arise. First, the need for two hands becomes much more frequent. Second, your fingers will accidentally pass by the EVF’s eye sensor more often, introducing an annoying delay. And third, while pressing the menu button—or any button in that cluster—the most natural home for your pointer finger is going to be directly on top of the soft lens release on the front panel, so you may find yourself accidentally unlocking the lens with alarming frequency.
While the V2 offers a full complement of the features we’ve come to expect from system cameras (competent video, detailed manual control, etc.), this series’ selling point continues to be speed.
Our tests confirm this little camera is capable of an amazing 60 frames per second continuous burst, and while the buffer fills after only 40 shots, this is still an incredibly impressive figure. If you need your bursts to be a little bit longer than two-thirds of a second, the V2 may also be configured for 30 fps or 15 fps bursts, as well as a mechanical shutter 5 fps continuous mode that can shoot indefinitely.
Just to be 100% clear, these are full-resolution, fine compression quality or RAW stills we’re talking about here. Even at 60 frames per second, shots incur no image quality penalty.
The V2's preoccupation with speed extends to video shooting as well. In addition to high definition 1080/30p or 720/60p, the V2 also supports high speed videography at 400 fps or, if you're willing to sacrifice image quality, 1200 fps. Though such footage is certainly noisy and pixelated, you can still shoot some pretty amazing content. Like this...
While there are certainly a few new bells and whistles, the V2 has an almost identical performance profile to its direct predecessor, the V1.
White balance also remains problematic for this series. Shooting in daylight is fine, as is the case for many cameras, but the automatic algorithm cannot handle artificial light. Color temperature errors will cause shots captured under fluorescent or incandescent light to take on an orange tint. It’s a shame really, because the V2’s color accuracy is actually quite strong. Unfortunately, indoor photographers won’t see this advantage until they take a custom white balance or shoot RAW.
Dynamic range is acceptable, but hasn’t improved over previous models, and while the kit lens manages to avoid distracting chromatic aberration, it isn’t particularly sharp either. So the primary draw of this camera, like the rest of the 1 series, continues to be speed.
Improved control but little else
You’ve got to hand it to Nikon. Like several other review outlets, we were critical of the physical design of the J1 and V1 when they debuted. These were slippery, troublesome cameras, and in certain conditions that can really rob the shooting experience of its charm. But take one look at the Nikon 1 V2, and you’ll see the company has attacked this problem head on, implementing a huge new rubberized hand grip and redesigning the control scheme entirely.
If only Nikon had paid so much attention to image quality.
We recommend the V2 only for users who spend the majority of their time shooting action, for whom a larger DSLR simply isn’t an option. The 1 series’ small footprint is no longer compelling in the ever-more crowded mirrorless market (and don’t forget the smaller, cheaper Sony RX100 either), while the sensor’s indoor and low-light performance is worse than what we expect from this price point. There are plenty of better options on the market today, including of course a used V1, which offers similar burst features and practically identical image quality.