Nikon 1 V1-Good Enough to be the A Cam?

Next time you're in Barnes & Noble, saunter (or sashay, your choice) over to the magazine rack and pick up a copy of the Feb '14 issue of RoadRUNNER Magazine. My Vermont dual purpose story, "One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if by KLR" is in there, and it's one of the first real tests of the Nikon V1 as my A camera. It's been on several trip now as my B cam, and it's done well enough. Well enough to be given a chance as the A cam. The B cam on this trip was that venerable Panasonic GH2 with the versatile 12-35 F2.8. And the C cam was the tiny Pentax Q. It's hard to leave the Q behind because it's so tiny, and with the fisheye and the Q mounted on a monopod I can get some neat POV shots.

So how'd the Nikon 1 V1 do? Let's take a look...

The shot on the left is the Panasonic GH2. Sharp as expected with the 12-35, if a touch too contrasty out of the camera. I've lifted the shadows a touch, but was careful not to push the brittle files too much.

The shot on the right is the Nikon V1. This is what I got the camera for - pint-size action shots. The 10 megapickle file holds up pretty nicely here. It ain't full frame, but I can't hang a full frame cam around my neck while I ride. And this is one place where the GH2 fails miserably, tracking subjects.

This page is all Nikon V1. I'm pleasantly surprised by the main shot - about 297mm EQ with an image stabilized lens that'll fit in a jacket pocket. The bikes are pretty sharp, about as sharp as small subjects in a 10 megapickle shot will be. I shoot the V1 with low contrast and flat colors, and adjust in post. Seems to work well, although I still sometimes forget and get disappointed at the flat, low contrast shots LOL.

The smaller shot is indoors in dim light with the slow 10-27mm kit zoom. Any dimmer and I think that I might have missed the shot. This is one situation where I'd like a fast zoom and might be willing to suffer the size increase.

Nikon V1 on the left, Panasonic GH2 on the right. The V1 shines with moving subjects in good light. The GH2 is good, but not yards better than the V1 despite the much larger sensor. If anything, I'd say that the V1 files are more malleable and less contrasty. Put another way, the GH2 would have been sold long ago if but for the fact that the video capabilities are still quite good.

Nikon V1 again. The right shot is quite nice except that it's a touch front-focused. I blame that a little on myself but also a little on the camera. In a shot like this when you are trying to track moving subjects with a long lens, the inability to turn off instant review really throws a wrench in the process. Otherwise, the V1 can fill a page pretty nicely, and I think that the extra megapickles of the V2 will do better still.

Finally, the V1 above with the Pentax Q below. The Q, of course, continues to surprise, yielding shots that have others asking, "How'd you do that?"

So what's the verdict on the V1? Is it good enough to be the A cam? Should I just get a second one and sell the rest? Well...not quite. It is good. Very good. Good enough that I've recommended it to two other motojournalists and a hockey mom. And if I was using it for personal photos, I might just sell the rest. But the sensor needs another generation or two of iterative improvements before I leave the Pentaxes at home. Now I'll admit that there may be some rationalizing going on there since I just bought the Pentax K-3, and if I had no choice but take the V1, I know that I could get the shots I needed. And that's not faint praise.

More photos from the trip can be found on my Flickr.


  1. Excellent piece. I'm going to link to this on my blog.

  2. Thanks for taking the time and posting.


  3. Thanks for posting, John. You've probably heard this before, but the GH3 solves most (not all) of the GH2's challenges with contrast and autofocus speed. Better video than the GH2 as well. No, it's not as small as the V1 or the Q, but lighter and smaller than most DSLRs. You can probably get enough for the GH2 to make it an almost even exchange....

    Best of the New Year!