Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nikon Releases Two New ILC Cameras – The J1 and V1

On Wednesday September 21, 2011 at the stroke of midnight New York Time, Nikon fulfilled their promise made months ago for an ILC (interchangeable lens camera). However, the promise was fulfilled with not one, but two new "Advanced" ILCs. The Nikon J1 and V1 cameras (new Nikon 1 series):

Nikon J1 with CX sensor and "1" Nikkor 30–110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR Lens 

Nikon V1 with CX sensor and "1" Nikkor 10–30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Lens 

The Nikon J1 and V1 have a new 10-megapixel CMOS sensor size called CX, which measures 13.2 mm x 8.8 mm. This new sensor is smaller than the DX and FX sensor sizes found in Nikon's DSLR camera line, but significantly larger than the COOLPIX point-and-shoot cameras. Here is a size comparison of the various sensor sizes. (Graphic created by Chief Editor Tom Boné):

  • CX: 13.2 x 8.8 mm
  • DX: 23.6 x 15.8 mm
  • FX: 36.0 x 23.9 mm

These sizes are rounded off to the nearest millimeter (mm). Clearly, the CX sensor is a small one. Let's hope Nikon has included all sorts of noise reduction capability in EXPEED 3! Shouldn't be too much of a problem with the two cameras wisely limited to 10 megapixels. Here is a look at the imaging sensor with no lens attached:

CX CMOS sensor: 13.2 x 8.8 mm in size and new Nikon 1 lens mount

The CX sensor has a factor of 2.7x the FX format. In comparison DX line has a factor of 1.5x. Therefore, the CX size imaging sensor is little bigger than half the size of a DX sensor.

Supports Nikkor F-Mount Lenses

Nikon is releasing an adapter called the FT1 Mount Adapter that allows you to use your favorite F-mount Nikkor lenses on the new cameras. Evidently, the adapter allows using both newer and older F-Mount lenses on the new J1 and V1 cameras. Here is Nikon's words on the matter: "When the F-mount adapter is mounted on a camera, F-mount interchangeable NIKKOR lenses, manufactured by Nikon for more than half a century, can be used with the Nikon1 J1 and V1."

Newer Nikkor lenses, and most likely aftermarket lenses, should be supported by the camera. Nikon makes a comment about the connectivity of older AF-S Nikkor CPU lenses, as follows: "Autofocus may not perform as expected in some situations or with some lenses. Restrictions apply to mounting and functionality with some lenses."

Basic Camera Information

The list price of the cameras will be as follows:

  • US$649.95 – Nikon J1 camera with Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.8–5.6 VR kit lens 
  • US$899.95 – Nikon V1 camera with Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.8–5.6 VR kit lens

There will be a dual-lens kit available at additional cost. Shipping date estimated as October 2011.

The camera has a new EXPEED 3 image-processing engine for increased performance and speed.

The autofocus is based on a hybrid system using both focal plane phase detection and contrast detection AF. According to Nikon's research the two cameras have the "world's fastest autofocusing" among ILC cameras as of September 21, 2011. That's a bold statement! When the camera detects movement it uses phase-detection AF for faster focusing and subject tracking. For non-moving and low-light subjects the camera uses the slower but highly accurate contrast-detect AF.

The camera has a 10 frames per second image shooting rate when using subject tracking. Amazingly, when not using subject tracking, the camera increases its continuous high-speed frame rate to 60 frames per second. This is not describing movie mode, this is still image shooting. Clearly, the camera has an electronic shutter to achieve amazing still image frame rates like 60 fps. There are some limitations, though, in the maximum number of images shot at the same time. The V1 allows up to 30 images in the camera's buffer per image shooting burst, while the J1 is limited to 12 images per burst. Use fast memory cards with these two cameras! They'll need to flush those camera buffers to the memory card as soon as possible with such fast frame rates.

The number of AF points in the phase-detection autofocus system is even higher than in the pro and semi-pro DX and FX cameras, with 73 AF points in the ILC cameras compared to 51 AF points in the DSLRs. In the contrast-detection AF system the camera uses 135-area contrast AF.

Standard shooting speeds for the cameras are 5 fps (60 fps with electronic shutter and fixed AF).

Similar to the DSLR line, the ILCs will support all three light metering modes, as follows:
  • Matrix
  • Center-weighted
  • Spot
The camera has a built-in dust reduction system. For new ILC users the cameras offer an Auto Scene Selector mode, which automatically optimizes camera settings for the subject. This is designed for those unsure of how to adjust camera settings themselves. The cameras also have a menu system with reduced complexity.

Standard ISO sensitivity will run from 100 to 3200 ISO, with a Hi 1 setting equivalent to 6400 ISO.

The cameras have four shooting modes, as follows:

Still image
The camera takes a single image with each press of the shutter-release button.

Motion Snapshot  
With each press of the shutter-release button, the camera records a single still image and about 1 second of high-res movie footage from before and after the shutter-release button was pressed. (Huh?) This will allow action shooters to capture the peak of the action by capturing frames over a one-second interval. I know it sounds a little weird to say that the camera records frames before the shutter-release button is pressed since that would seem to require some measure of time traveling capability. However, Nikon states this in their literature, and I quote: "In Motion Snapshot mode, simply pressing the shutter-release button records a still image and about a second of high-resolution movie footage beginning before and ending after the time the shutter-release button was pressed." Evidently, how it works is this: the camera starts recording frames when the shutter-release button is pressed part way down for AF operation. The camera does AF then records frames in a queue—dumping excess images from the front of the queue—until the shutter-release button is pressed. Then, it trims the series of images to a one-second interval surrounding the shutter-release event. Movies shot in this mode are played back in slow motion at 0.4x of normal playback speed. There are four recording themes connected to this shooting mode: Beauty, Waves, Relaxation, and Tenderness. Total movie/still image display can last up to 10 seconds if the shutter-release button is held down that long. When playing back movies the camera shows about 2.5 seconds of video, displays the still frame, then plays the remainder of the short movie—about 7.5 seconds maximum. Each 10-second movie/still set is recorded to the memory card as a package.

Smart Photo Selector
Similar to Motion Snapshot, the camera records frames as soon as you press the shutter-release half way down, after AF. When you press the shutter-release button, the camera examines the images currently in the camera buffer and selects five of the best images surrounding the shutter-release. It then writes these five images to the memory card. This is the equivalent of shooting a five-frame burst. If you do not agree with the camera on which are the best five shots, you can select your favorites from the candidate images and delete the rest.

The movie mode supports 1920 x 1080/60i High-Definition video. That is 1080i HD. The camera comes with special "Short Movie Creator" software allowing you to assemble creative movie segments up to 30 minutes in length. This includes the styles and background music.

Camera Colors

The J1 series of cameras come in five colors. The lenses can be purchased with colors matching the camera body. Here are the colors:

Nikon J1 series cameras in five various colors

The V1 series cameras are only available in two basic colors, as follows:

Nikon V1 series cameras in two colors

Rear Monitor

The J1 camera has a 3.0-inch TFT LCD monitor on back with about 460K-dot resolution. The V1 series has a similar 3.0-inch TFT LCD monitor, except the resolution is doubled at 921K-dots. The monitors use an air-gapless structure with a protective glass covering. They have increased visibility outdoors, allowing image and movie display in brighter light.

Internal Electronic Viewfinder for V1 Only

The J1 camera uses the rear monitor for all image and movie taking and viewing. The V1 allows you to use the rear monitor or a built in viewfinder containing a 1440K-dot EVF. The viewfinder is high definition and bright, with 100% frame coverage through the lens. It has a unique color filtering system that guards against the rainbow artifacts seen on other lesser ILC/EVIL cameras when a subject is moving. This is Nikon, after all! I guess this viewfinder moves the V1 squarely into the EVIL (electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens) camera category.

RAW and JPEG Modes

The cameras support both RAW (NEF) and JPEG shooting, with Active D-Lighting when needed to protect highlight and shadow detail in the JPEG images.

Four New CX Nikon 1 Lenses

Released with the two ILC cameras are several new "1 Nikkor" lenses and a new Speedlight SB-N5. The cameras are part of a system or family, as shown in our next picture:

The Nikon 1 Series Family of ILC cameras, lenses, and Speedlight

The four new CX lenses released for the new ILC line include three compact and lightweight kit lenses and a power-drive zoom lens. Nikon has added the new Nikon 1 mount in the tradition of the F Mount that goes back over 50 years. The new mount is developed specifically for the Nikon 1 series of cameras and lenses. Following is a look at the new lenses along with their names and focal lengths:

Following are the basic specifications on the new Nikon 1 lenses:

1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8
  • A slim, wide-angle fixed focal length (prime) lens with a focal length of 10 mm 
  • Angle of view equivalent to 27 mm in 35mm [135] format
  • Maximum length of 22mm extending from from of camera
  • Metal mount and exterior

1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
  • A 3x standard zoom lens that covers the 10–30-mm range of focal lengths
  • Angle of view equivalent to 27–81mm in 35mm [135] format
  • Vibration Reduction equipped (VR)

1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6
  • A 3.7x telephoto zoom lens that covers the 30–110-mm range of focal lengths 
  • Angle of view equivalent to 81–297mm in 35mm [135] format
  • Vibration Reduction equipped (VR)

1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM
  • A high-power zoom lens that covers the 10–100mm range of focal lengths 
  • Angle of view equivalent to 27–270mm in 35mm [135] format)
  • 10x power drive zoom lens 
  • Auto extends with a power drive zoom switch
  • Metal mount and exterior
  • Vibration Reduction equipped (VR)

Speedlight Flash and GPS Units

The J1 has a built-in flash, while the V1 uses the new Nikon SB-N5 Speedlight flash unit. The V1 can also use the new GP-N100 GPS unit. Both the flash and GPS are shown below:

Nikon SB-N5 Speedlight flash unit and GP-N100 GPS unit
The SB-N5 Speedlight has the following specifications:

  • Guide number: 8.5/27.9 (ISO 100, m/ft), 12/39.4 (ISO 200, m/ft)
  • Bounce: 90° up, 180° left and right
  • Flash shooting distance range: 0.6m-20m (depends on the ISO setting)
  • Effective range: 0.6m to 20m/2 ft to 66 ft (varies with ISO sensitivity, bounce angle, and aperture)
  • Modes: i-TTL, manual
  • Flash modes supported: Fill flash (front-curtain sync), front-curtain with slow sync, rear-curtain sync, and rear-curtain with slow sync, flash compensation
  • Flash duration: 1/4000s when fired at full power
  • Size: approx. 50 x 70.5 x 40.5 mm (W x H x D) 
  • Weight: 70 g

The GP-N100 GPS unit has the following specifications:

  • Records, Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, and Time of Day (UTC)
  • Acquisition times: Cold start : Approx. 40s, Hot start : Approx. 3s
  • Data format: NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association) 0183 version 3.1
  • Geodesics: WGS84
  • GPS accuracy: Horizontal : 10m/33 ft RMS
  • Interface: USB
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): Approx. 42.0 x 26.8 x 30.5mm/1.7 x 1.1 x 1.2 in.
  • Weight: Approx. 21g/0.7 oz
  • Supports: Assisted GPS (A-GPS or aGPS)
  • Power is supplied from the camera

Links to Information

Nikon J1 Camera

Nikon V1 Camera

1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 Lens

1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 lens:

1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 lens:

1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM lens:

Speedlight SB-N5

GPS Unit GP-N100

Mount adapter FT1

Video on YouTube

Overview Page on


Nikon promised and delivered on a new ILC/EVIL camera system for 2011. The cameras have new technology and promise to deliver superior results. An ILC camera is a great addition to a photographer's arsenal, for those times when only a small, high-quality camera and lenses will do. The new J1 and V1 are parts of a camera system that allows you to invest in quality for the long term. With the new Nikon 1 mount, the future holds much promise for new lenses, while still allowing us to use our F-Mount Nikkors. The best of both worlds. Thank you, Nikon!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Mastering The Nikon DSLR books at:

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