The Nikon1 System: On Trial

Judge Gavel

In a secret, undisclosed location the Nikon1 stands trial. The buzz of the crowd, there to witness the event, falls silent as Nikon is lead to the front of the courtroom to be addressed by the judge.

Judge: Nikon 1, you stand before us today accused of “failure”; failure to deliver a great camera system, failure to live-up to the hope and promise that modern mirrorless-cameras have to offer, and failure of great product design and innovation. How do you plead?

The courtroom is so silent now you can hear a pin drop.

There’s a long delay before the soft-spoken Nikon1 eventually raises his eyes, and quietly speaks.

The Nikon1 V1
The Nikon1 V1

“Not Guilty, your honour” he says.

The crowd breaks into a raucous buzz as the judge bangs has gavol. “Order!, Order!!” he repeats.

Then, looking at Nikon1 he says “Very well. Let’s proceed.” Looking alternately between the Prosecutor and Nikon he continues “I’ve read both your opening statements and quite frankly I’ve heard enough of the rhetoric. Let’s get this session underway. Nikon1, please take the stand. Counselor, if you will, please begin.”

“Thank you, your Honour” the prosecutor responds, approaching the witness box.

Prosecutor: 1, you claim to come from an innovative camera company, yet can you please tell us your where-abouts between the fall of 2008 (when Panasonic released the G1) and the fall of 2011?

Nikon1: It’s not a ‘claim’, it’s a fact. Nikon has lead the photography industry with many innovations! The D1 was the first DSLR in 1999. The D3 set a new benchmark for low light performance in 2007. Just last month we announced the world’s first waterproof, shockproof digital camera with interchangeable lenses.  Don’t even get me started on the film days. And wait until you see what we’ve got planned in November, that’s sure to appeal to…

nikon-aw1

Bang, bang, bang.

Judge: Nikon1, please address the question.

Nikon1: Apologies your honour.  It’s true I was in development for a very long time.  But a new lens mount system is something that a company with a heritage like ours takes very seriously.  We’ve built our reputation on great metering, great auto focus, and, of course, a legacy of great lenses!  We owe it to our customers not to ‘rush’ a new mount to market, and to make sure we live up to the level of excellence we’ve established, particularly where AF, metering and lenses are concerned. Heck, we easily beat Canon to market, and look what they tried to pass-off. The crippling AF on the M-series is truly deplorable, ‘criminal’ even, and…

Judge: Enough Nikon!  It’s not Canon who is on trial here today.  Prosecutor, please proceed.

Prosecutor: So… you feel it was ‘worth the wait’ then, just so that you could deliver good ‘metering’, ‘auto focus’ and ‘lens compatibility’ to your customers?

Nikon1: Yes, absolutely.

Prosecutor:   That aside, let’s focus on the real  issue, shall we.  After spending years in development, and to much anticipation, you enter the market with a quote-unquote 1 inch type sensor?  I repeat, ‘one… inch…’.  Not an APS-C sized sensor.  Not a Micro 4/3 sized sensor.  But a one inch type which technically isn’t even an inch.  A sensor substantially smaller than that offered by Micro Four Thirds or the most common and popular sized sensor on the market, APS-C.

Nikon1: Well, actually, we never claimed that the sensor measured one inch – ‘one inch type’ is simply a name used in the industry for this type of sensor.  And technically the most popular sized sensor isn’t APS-C, but the much smaller sensor found in the iPhone and other camera phones which typically are about 4.5mm wide or about a third of the size of the one we used, which is 13mm wide.  If you’re going to compare sensor sizes it likely best to compare the total area.    We use a sensor that has an area of 116mm.  M 4/3 uses a sensor that is 225mm, APS-C is 370mm, And Full Frame is 864mm.  So based on those specifications…

Prosecutor: Let’s not get mired in numbers and technical details Nikon1.  Is it fair to say that the Nikon1 sensor is significantly smaller than the popular Micro 4/3 sensor?

Nikon1: No,  No it’s not fair to say that.  In my opinion the difference between a typical ‘compact camera sensor’ and the Nikon1 sensor is significant.  However, the difference between the Nikon1 sensor and the Mirco 4/3 sensor is in fact LESS significant than, say, the difference between an APS-C and Full Frame sensor for example,

camera-sensor-sizes

Prosecutor: OK, let me phrase the question in a different way then.  When it comes to sensor size, ‘bigger is better’.  Would you at least agree with that?

Nikon1: Better for what?

Prosecutor, turning to the judge with an exasperated look: “Your Honour…”

Judge: We’re not dealing with generalities or cliches here counselor.  I think Nikon has a right to ask you to be more specific.  Please clarify your question and proceed.

Prosecutor, turning to Nikon: All right.  We all know that small sensor compact cameras, and now camera phones, offer… shall we say… ‘adequate’ performance for snap-shooters and amateur photographers.  But pro’s use larger sensor DSLRs for the performance and image quality they require.  Would you agree that a larger sensor is better at providing the necessary performance and image quality that photo enthusiasts and semi-pro’s require?

Nikon 1:  No, No I would not.

Prosecutor: I beg your pardon?

Nikon1: No, sir, I would not agree with that statement.  Today, not all pro’s use full frame (or larger) cameras.  Nor is a larger sensor always better.

Prosecutor: Would you say that in general, larger sensors provide better dynamic range, and ISO performance?

Nikon1: Yes, in general, I would agree with that.

Prosecutor: And yet you’re saying that smaller is be better.  Could you please elaborate.

Nikon1: Well, I didn’t say that smaller is better.  Or that bigger is better.  Just like with a large SUV or a small sports car – one isn’t necessarily better than the other.  It depends on the purpose and other performance factors and features.  It’s really about the ‘right tool for the right job’. Dynamic range and ISO performance are only 2 characteristics of a camera.  Obviously, there are many factors to consider.  With the advances found in today’s cameras many already offer great ISO performance.  Often, ISO isn’t the most limiting factor for many people in getting the most from their camera.

Prosecutor: I see.   And would you care to tell us what the “limiting factors” are (camera-wise) for most enthusiasts?

Nikon1:  It really depends on each individual’s photography needs, but for many It’s speed.  Speed and portability.

Prosecutor (rolling his eyes): Speed and portability?

Nikon1: That’s right.  Many photographers are leaving their larger, heavier cameras and lenses at home because they’re too burdensome to take, or it simply ‘isn’t fun’ bringing them. They can be too intrusive, and take you ‘out of the moment’.  And as for speed, many of the systems today just don’t have sufficient AF speed and frame rates to capture our fast-moving, action packed lives. Life doesn’t always ‘stand still and pose for you’. I would definitely say speed and size are 2 big limiting factors  in many cameras for many people today.

Prosecutor: Be-that-as-it-may, let’s talk about price…

Bang, Bang, Bang

Judge (with a slightly dis-interested sigh): That’s it – I’ve heard enough

Prosecutor: Your honour?

Judge: I’m dismissing this case.

Prosecutor: But your honour!!

Judge: Enough counselor! Both of you are wasting the court’s time here. Ultimately the worth of the Nikon1 will be judged by those who use it. The success of the product line will be judged by market sales over time.  The image quality will be judged by those who view them. There is no ‘overriding decision’ here. This is a personal choice decision. I hate to tell you counselor, but no crime has been committed here – no law has been broken.  Case dismissed!

BANG!

The Evidence File  – Guess the sensor: Nikon1, APS-C, or Full Frame. Grab a pencil – there are 25 images (answers at bottom – no peaking!)

P.S. yes, I know it’s not a ‘valid’ test- different lenses, setting, and post processing techniques were used.  the images are small screen shares and not prints, etc. – It’s just for fun.

Night shots

Image 1
Image 1
Image 2
Image 2
Image 3
Image 3
Image 4
Image 4
Image 5
Image 5
Image 6
Image 6

Continious Studio Light

Image 7
Image 7
Image 8
Image 8
Image 9
Image 9
Image 10
Image 10
Image 11
Image 11
Image 12
Image 12
Image 13
Image 13

Action Shots

Image 14
Image 14
Image 15
Image 15

Subject Isolation / DoF / Bokeh

Image 16
Image 16
Image 17
Image 17
Image 18
Image 18

Misc Images

Image 19
Image 19
Image 20
Image 20
Image 21
Image 21
Image 22
Image 22
Image 23
Image 23
Image 24
Image 24
Image 25
Image 25

Scroll down for answers

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Answers (N1=Nikon1, APS=Sony NEX APS-C, FF=Nikon D700 Full Frame

1.N1  2.FF  3.APS  4.N1  5.N1  6.N1  7.N1  8.APS  9.N1  10.FF

11.FF 12.FF  13.FF  14.N1  15.FF  16.N1  17.N1  18.FF  19.FF  20.N1

22.N1 22.N1  23.FF  24.FF  25.N1

14 thoughts on “The Nikon1 System: On Trial

  1. Fun, i am a newcomer do photography and that said most of what i do is Digiscoping so i use the camera in a somewhat unconventional manner. The N1 has given me lot and lots of hours of fun and a better insight into photography in a broader sense. I am getting the impression now that the grass is somehow always greener on the other side with cameras and the differences are more based in personal usage and requirements.

  2. Lovely article and a great way to put it over.

    I own a V1 and the new Oly EM1 and assortment of lenses. I love my little nikon. Film like colourful files with amazing autofocus. You concentrate more on the moment than taking photos….and often this makes the captured image better.

    1. Thanks Jet.

      Image #16 was taken using one of my favourite Nikkor lenses – the 50mm f1.4G f-mount, using the FT-1 adapter. The adapter which allows you to use almost all of your existing Nikkor lenses (without any light loss or image degradation) is really pretty amazing, and the AF remains very snappy with AF-S lenses.

      EVEN IF I only had a Nikon1 system (and not a D700) I’d STILL consider this 50mm f1.4 and FT-1 adapter – it works so nicely on the V1 and I love the results!

      The FT-1 adapter opens up a whole other world of shooting when you look at all the other lenses you can use, and factor in the 2.7x crop factor

      (image exif: 1/250th, F1.6, ISO100, +4/3EV,

      Image #17 was taken with that lens as well (it actually fits well on the camera and still fits in my jacket pocket, so it’s a combo I use frequently). 1/3200, f1.4, ISO100

      Here’s a shot (somewhat similar to #16) using the 32mm f1.2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/mars_observer/9694250742/ (also a very, very nice lens!)

      I haven’t had a chance to shoot as much as I’d like with the 32mm f1.2 but hope to do so soon. I’m also planning to do more posts in future (with lots of images) featuring specific camera/lens combos (such as the Nikon1+32mm, Nikon1+50mm, SonyA7+35mm, Nex6+24mm, etc., etc.) and will be sure to include the full exif info.

  3. The only way I could tell a difference was subject matter, really – the non-N1 people shots were more “pro” subject matter, if that makes sense; more of the thing that one is used to seeing the big cameras and the rigs and such with. Otherwise, the quality is nearly identical.

    I have a J3 that I’m learning the ins and outs of, and sometimes I have issues with how it focuses on things like Christmas lights, but that may be as much the kit lenses as anything – I have no other lenses to compare with, so I really don’t know. But I’ve taken some very good moon shots with the 30-110 so I’m inclined to say the lenses have some trouble focusing the pin-light quality of the holiday lights. I’ve also noticed that focusing just below infinity gets better shots than focusing at infinity.

    All-in-all, though, I’m quite happy with the photos I’m getting out of the J3. I do want to get an FT-1 and some other lenses to try out with it for a broader scope of possibilities, but $$$!!! In the meantime, I’m challenging myself to take great photos with an “inferior” camera and equipment (people also seem very down on conversion filters, but I’ve gotten great shots with macro filters on my J3, and will be getting tele and wide angle converters soon to play with).

  4. It’s a fun camera, that’s for sure! I do find the 18.5mm and 32mm faster to focus than the 30-110. There’s talk/rumour that Nikon may offer a 70-300mm lens for the one system – that would be interesting!!

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