I must admit that the introduction of the Nikon 1 J5 has excited me far more than did the launch of the J4 or V3 models.
Was it the camera’s capability to shoot 4K video?
Nope – let’s get that off the table right up front. At 15 fps the J5’s 4K video is more about marketing than being a practical feature. As expected, the J5’s 4K video does not capture smooth motion at such a slow frame rate. Even for static scenes if there is motion in the background such as small undulations on the surface of a lake the video looks choppy.
The fact that the J5 can take 4K video at all is a good sign for the future of the Nikon 1 system…let’s hope for expanded capability in this regard in the not too distant future.
The big thing that has got me excited about the Nikon 1 J5 is the new 20.8 MP BSI sensor. One of the biggest knocks against the Nikon 1 format has always been the small sensor size, and more specifically its somewhat underwhelming dynamic range and colour depth performance.
As can be expected small sensors also suffer from noise far more readily than do larger sensors which has been a concern of many photographers. The low light performance has not been greatly improved with the J5, but this isn’t much of a concern to me. I regularly shoot my Nikon 1 V2’s at ISO-3200 without any hesitation as I know that the right noise reduction software can clean up the files very well and I have no concern about shooting the J5 at this ISO level.
After spending some time with the Nikon 1 J5 and shooting several thousand images with it I can say without hesitation that I am quite pleased with the performance of the new 20.8 MP BSI CX sensor. There is a very noticeable improvement over the Aptina sensor used in my Nikon 1 V2’s. As I go through this hands-on review of the Nikon 1 J5 I’ll provide links to some of the earlier articles that I posted on the J5.
The first thing that is readily apparent when holding the Nikon 1 J5 is its small size and weight. At 8.3 ounces (231 grams) and measuring 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (98.3 x 59.7 x 31.5 mm) the camera is very portable. While I’m not a huge fan of the 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD zoom lens because it will not accept any filters, it is quite small creating a ‘take anywhere’ camera. My wife really liked the simplicity of use of the the 10-30 mm PD lens and prefers it over the non-PD version. The 10-30 mm PD zoom is a decent enough kit lens and whether you end up liking it or not will be a personal choice.
For people looking for a small, capable, interchangeable lens camera for travel the Nikon 1 J5 could be a great solution. Adding the Nikon 1 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR zoom lens and the 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 VR zoom lens creates an easy-to-transport system with an equivalent field of view of 18 mm to 297 mm.
If a photographer was willing to give up some wide angle capability adding just the Nikon 1 30-110 mm lens provides an equivalent field-of-view capability of 27 mm to 297 mm at just over 1 pound (491 g) of total weight for the J5 camera body and the 2 zoom lenses.
The Nikon 1 J5 features a tilt rear screen which can be viewed from underneath the camera which would be very useful for shooting up high over the heads of people in crowd situations.
For the selfie crowd or for those folks who record themselves on video the screen can be positioned with a frontal view.
Unfortunately Nikon continued with its use of micro-SD cards which are inserted next to the battery. This position does help to reduce the chance of losing the card. I suppose the Smartphone crowd is accustomed to using micro-SD cards, whereas the majority of photographers would prefer if the J5 used a standard SD card.
The lack of battery commonality continues with the J5 which is another sticking point with many folks who preferred the original approach Nikon used with the V1.
External controls do not match those available on most DSLRs but they are reasonable for most casual photographers. There is a PSAM dial on the top of the body and separate buttons for shutter release and movie recording , as well as a shutter speed control dial. There is a programmable function button on the front of the body. I set this for ISO control which came in very handy.
The back panel has controls for exposure compensation, aperture, WIFI, frame rate, flash, and an image review to name a few. I used the camera primarily in manual mode with auto-ISO. While not providing all of the external controls found on most DSLRs I found that I didn’t have to go into the menu very often with the J5. I imagine many J5 owners will use auto WB and find that the amount of external controls will be sufficient for most of their needs.