Nikon 1 maligned and misunderstood

In September 2016 it will be 5 years since Nikon launched the Nikon 1 system and it still remains much maligned and misunderstood.

Right up front, let’s get some of the negatives about the Nikon 1 system that people tend to complain about on the table.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100 f/4-5.6mm @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-180
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100 f/4-5.6mm @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-180

Sensor performance
All we have to do is look at independent testing done by DxOMark to confirm that the performance of the Aptina 1″ CX sensors used in many Nikon 1 models lag far behind other formats such as M4/3, APC-S and full frame.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-160, 275mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-160, 275mm

For example, the dynamic range in my Nikon 1 V2’s (launched in September 2012) is rated at 10.8 EV which is the same as a Nikon D50 or Canon EOS 350D could do back in 2005.

Colour depth with my V2 is rated at 20.2 bits, putting it 0.2 bits behind a Nikon D70 of 2004 vintage.

And, with low light performance rated at ISO-403 my V2 scores about 50 ISO points better than a Nikon D2H built back in 2003. Far from stellar sensor performance to be sure.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-160, shot with extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-160, shot with extension tubes

Changing to new BSI sensor technology with the Nikon 1 J5 has improved CX sensor performance. Dynamic range is now 12EV which is the same as a Nikon D300, a Nikon D3S, a Canon EOS 760D, or a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV.

Colour depth with the J5 has improved to 22.1 bits which is the same as a Nikon D300, Nikon D80, or a Canon EOS 600D.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, 1/250, ISO-200
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, 1/250, ISO-200

Low light performance of the BSI sensor in the J5 is rated at ISO-479 which puts it at the same level as a Nikon D2X circa 2004. ย So, some improvement with sensor performance, but still far below what the best of modern APS-C and full frame sensors can deliver.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO-160

I purposely compared Nikon 1 CX sensor ratings against larger format sensors to illustrate how many camera buyers look at the Nikon 1 system, i.e. through the eyes of a DSLR user.

Physics being as they are it is totally unrealistic to expect a small 1″ CX sensor to deliver the same kind of performance found in the most current APS-C and full frame sensors.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

Quite frankly if a camera buyer absolutely needs the best in dynamic range, colour depth and excellent low light performance, they should buy a full frame camera. For them buying any camera with a 1″ sensor would be a mistake.

Complaining about the dynamic range, colour depth or low light performance of any camera that uses a 1″ sensor is like complaining that an elephant has a trunk and large ears. It is simply stating the obvious, and for which there is no solution.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

Limited lens selection
The Nikon 1 system currently offers users a total of 13 lenses. Two are Nikon 1 AW specific, three primes (10 mm 18.5 mm and 32 mm), and a total of 8 zoom lenses with some duplications, or near duplications, of focal length. These include the 10-100 mm PD and 10-100 non-PD zooms, the 10-30 mm PD and 10-30 non-PD zooms, as well as the 11-27.5 mm non-VR zoom. Other zooms include 6.7-13 mm, 30-110 mm, and the 70-300 mm.

NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 800, 1/160, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 800, 1/160, f/5.6

Of course folks who own Nikkor F-Mount lenses can use many of them on Nikon 1 bodies by using an FT-1 adapter. There are some limitations with auto-focusing but many F-Mount lenses do work quite well. The 2.7 X crop factor is a consideration and many of the folks that I know that use F-Mount lenses with Nikon 1 bodies do so to get additional reach. That’s how I started my journey with Nikon 1 gear.

NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 23.6mm, ISO 160, 1.3, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 23.6mm, ISO 160, 1.3, f/5.6

No doubt photographers who prefer shooting with prime lenses will be disappointed with the Nikon 1 selection of native lenses. Their needs will be likely be best served with either M4/3 or full frame formats where a broader selection of prime lenses exist.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 97.2mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/5.3
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 97.2mm, ISO 800, 1/60, f/5.3

Incompatibility with standard Nikon flashes
Sticking a large flash on a diminutive camera body has always struck me as an odd thing to want to do. It seems to defeat the entire purpose of designing a small, interchangeable lens camera system. At any rate the Nikon DL series now provides a solution for Nikon DSLR owners who would like to use their flash units on smaller camera bodies.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 non-PD, 20mm, efov 54mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-450
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 non-PD, 20mm, efov 54mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-450

The legacy of Nikon 1 V3 design mistakes
Folks who dislike the Nikon 1 system love to bring up the Nikon 1 V3 as an example of what is wrong with it. And who can blame them? To say that some of the design choices Nikon made with the V3 were quirky is being kind. The detachable EVF and grip, use of micro-SD cards, and a lack of battery commonality with other models were all decisions that disappointed, and even angered, some existing Nikon 1 users. Toss in a 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD zoom lens that cannot use filters into the package and further frustration ensues.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, 1/3200, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, 1/3200, ISO-400

For as much as I love using the Nikon 1 system I took a pass on the V3 as I viewed it as an expensive, jumbled concept that just didn’t fit my business needs. On the other hand I think the Nikon 1 J5 was a big step in the right direction – except for sticking with micro-SD cards!

article 100 image 1

A myriad of miscellaneous shortcomings
The list of other ‘shortcomings’ of the Nikon 1 system cited by non-users and by some Nikon 1 owners is lengthy. From what I’ve observed the majority of these ‘shortcomings’ seem to have a common thread. That being to add far more complexity to a Nikon 1 body to somehow transform it into a complicated, fully-functioned, professional grade DSLR-like camera at a fraction of the price and size/weight. I suppose we all live withย our fantasies.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250

What was the stated purpose of the Nikon 1 system when it was launched?
Since I didn’t pay any attention to the Nikon 1 system when it was first launched I thought it would be instructive for me to go back and read the original Nikon press release.

After reading the launch release one passage really struck a chord with me as it perfectly summarized my experience with the Nikon 1 system: “The Nikon 1 system is a completely original concept, engineered specifically to strike the ultimate balance of performance, intuitive simplicity and portability to chronicle life like never before.”

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @173mm, efov 466mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @173mm, efov 466mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800

Finding the right system for your needs
Obviously the Nikon 1 system doesn’t fit everyone’s needs. I’ve used FX, DX and M4/3 gear and my true love is Nikon 1.

I love the auto-focus performance of my Nikon 1 V2 – its fast, accurate and dependable. Being able to move a single AF point to exactly where I want it anywhere on the frame without having to focus and recompose an image is like a touch of magic.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-800
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-800

I love the still image frame rate options that my Nikon 1 cameras give me. Depending on the body I choose to use I can shoot single frames, 5 fps/10 fps/15 fps/20 fps with AF-C, and also 30 fps and 60 fps with the first frame locking focus. And, a Nikon 1 body does that at full image resolution. This helps to unleash all kinds of image capturing potential and creativity.

I love the predictability and stability of my Nikon 1 RAW files and how they respond in post.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-4500
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-4500

I love the fact that I can put three 1 Nikon lenses in my bag (6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6, 10-100 mm f/4-5.6, 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6) and have an equivalent field of view of 18 mm-810 mm. This allows me to roam around for hours on end and capture the world around me with a minimum of fuss.

Throw in some extension tubes and the 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 lens and another macro-like world also opens up for me. I have never felt ‘deprived’ due to the selection of 1 Nikon lenses available.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD, 10mm, f/5.6, -0.7 step, 1/200, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD, 10mm, f/5.6, -0.7 step, 1/200, ISO-160

I love that I don’t have to get lost in a huge complicated menu to find the settings I want to use. My Nikon 1 V2’s never get in the way of my creativity…they enable it with their simplicity.

I love the diminutive size and weight of the Nikon 1 system and how it allows me to shoot hand-held at very slow shutter speeds when necessary.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/6, ISO-500
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/6, ISO-500

I think many folks who malign the Nikon 1 system have never even held one in their hands and/or shot with it. The disappointment some Nikon 1 owners express stems from them misunderstanding that the system was never designed to be a complicated, fully-functioned DSLR-like experience.

NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.3mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.3mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/5.6

Where is the Nikon 1 system going?
The beauty of the Nikon 1 system lies in its simplicity, portability and unique performance characteristics. It was never conceived as a Goliath of a camera system, but rather as a Mighty Mouse.ย I hope Nikon remembers that…fixes the design quirks with the V3… and gives us an updated V-series model to “strike an ultimate balance of performance, intuitive simplicity and portability…

If they do, I’ll be in love for a long time to come.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the Nikon 1 system, you may want to have a look at our eBook, The Little Camera That Could. It illustrates the capability of the Nikon 1 system through hundreds of original photographs. There is also commentary and tips about the Nikon 1 system.


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49 thoughts on “Nikon 1 maligned and misunderstood”

  1. Hello ! Writing a comment from 2019๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿ‘‹. Thanks again. Your articles are precious through years. I just wanted to say that I bought the 10-100mm pd zoom. I was sure it was nothing but quite good. My mistake !!! Great pics ! Certainly the best VR II I’ve seen. You can take 1 or 2 seconds exposure pics with no blur. I don’t understand WHY Nikon killed this system. Details, low light performance better with this lens at f/4,5 or f/5 than the f/3,5 kit Lens pd zoom. I see THIS LENS AND THIS SYSTEM as Nikon engineers glory hours. Of course full frame can easily give good pictures, quite easy in fact. But THIS, the quality, the engineering, the details in the pics, the vibration reduction in nikon 1 expensive lens, it’s incredible !!!! Thanks for making know and believe in testing this system

    1. (and yes… I know the D700, and I know the 70-200 f/2,8. I even know the Z6+70-200 f/2,8. But this video lens + Nikon 1 J5 it’s incredible. I don’t even know HOW they achieved this. They must have work in secret with Leica’s guys to conceive Nikon 1 J5 and 10-100mm Lens, it’s sure.

    2. Hi Anderson,

      The size of the sensor in the Nikon 1 system turned a lot of people off and many folks criticized it without ever even trying it. As you comment points out… Nikon 1 gear can create quite good images. I suspect that the sales of Nikon 1 simply could not sustain the product line and as the camera market contracted Nikon decided to pull the plug on it. Those of us who own Nikon 1 equipment can continue to enjoy it unique capabilities.


      1. I guess so. I must admit that on the paper it’s weak. And also, without trying you can just say that a lens going from 10 to 100mm with average aperture Can not produce good pictures, at least if you compare with ordinary big cameras lenses, that’s suite normal. But this system has something unique, a wonderful engineering, superior to what existed around (except for the size, I talk of conception). I can not understand how at 100mm you can get still pictures above 1 second… Taking photographs become less complicated in difficult positions for example. That’s wonderful.

        1. Hi Anderson,

          Ease of use, flexibility and the small size were all factors that endeared the Nikon 1 system to owners. The Nikon 1 J5 took image quality up a notch with its 20.8 MP BSI sensor. Perhaps if that sensor would have been used in earlier models, Nikon 1 would still be with us today.


  2. Hi Thomas,

    For a number of reasons I needed a light/small alternative to my D610. After reading your blog and seeing your photos I decided on the J5 with the mini zoom + the 30-110. I love it; thanks. But also you lead me to Dx0 OpticsPro which I also love – the PRIME noise removal is very good and I’ll be using it as my D610 raw processor as well. Let’s hope Nikon continue with this lovely but of kit. I was almost ready to press the button on a Canon G5x then I came across your blog – staying all Nikon appeals to me. I have no idea why I didn’t even look at the N1 before that… Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for your comment Colin! It’s great to hear that your J5 with the 10-30 and 30-110 zoom lenses, as well as DxO OpticsPro, are working out very well for you! I get quite a few emails, calls and comments from folks with similar experiences.

  3. I have not looked at all the comments on all articles yet on your site so I am sorry if some one has commented on this. I was looking for a macro lens that would work with the Nikon ft-1 adapter with my Nikon 1 bodies. I have a Tamron 60mm f/2 macro lens that I could potentially use (it works fine on my dx bodies), but I cannot find any one who has tried it with the adapter on a Nikon 1 body. I, for example, talked to a Nikon rep at a camera store and he said that he uses a Nikon 40mm f/2.8 micro with the adapter on his J5. He was not sure if the Tamron would work. I would be happy if you or some one on your site has tried this combo. Cheers.

    1. Hi Robert,

      I haven’t had that much experience using the FT-1 with Nikon 1 bodies. I sold my D800 and all of my FX glass in July of 2015 and also sold my FT-1 adapter as I had no use for it. Using third party lenses with a Nikon 1 body and FT-1 adapter is a bit of a ‘hit or miss’ situation. Sometimes they work…other times not. I have heard that many Nikon 1 owners have had success with the Nikkor 40mm and 85mm macro lenses. I used to own a Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro and tried using it with my V2s. While the combination did work the auto-focus hunted like crazy and the 105mm was a bit too heavy for a V2 in my experience. Either the 40mm or 85mm are likely better choices.

      Rather than use an FT-1 with a Nikkor macro lens I’ve been using extension tubes with the 1 Nikon 30-110mm. I love this combination as it so very light and flexible. I have been doing some experimentation with that combination and adding a close-up lens which does deliver 1:1 or better magnification. I’ll have an article out on this probably next week some time.


  4. Hi Tom, my compliment for this article…your words are right! I am Italian and I have a Nikon D810, Nikon CoolpixP900, Olympus om d em 1 and a fantastic Nikon 1 V3 + FT1 mounts and lenses like Sigma Contemporary 150-600, nikon sf-s 300mm f4 and sigma macro 105mm f2,8…the result is always that…nikon D810 and the other bodies remain at home…always with me the nikon 1 V3…in my opinion there is no camera with the same versatility…ok it is not a vantage for grandangula point of view… depends on what kind of shots you wanna do…regarding my choice…I love bird watching and macro photography….nikon 1 V3 is absolutely the right choice…with sigma contemporary 150-600 + tc1,4x it works really god, autofocus really fast (but limited in the central point)..with a lens like this I have obtained a photo to the moon really incredible..impossible for me to obtain the same with the full frame….and macros…really nice…2,7 crop is fantastic…and regarding the concept of crop…a lot of people say that v3 sensor is only a crop of a full frame as result in photos…I am disagree..coz I have tested comparing with the same lens used on V3 and D810…and cropping the D810 until obtaining the same point of view of the V3..the result is that the resolution of the V3 is really much higher…I am sad coz Nkon 1 V4 seem to never be announced…and nikon 1 seems to have no future…I am agree with you…photographers should test the nikon 1 before judging…

    See you soon and nice photos!

    1. Hi Lore80,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences with your camera gear! There are many Nikon 1 users that are hoping for a V4. Although nothing seems to be on the immediate horizon, I remain hopeful. I was interested in learning that you are having success with the Sigma Contemporary with the V3. I could never get my Tamron 150-600 to work with any of my V2s. I imagine the ‘reach’ is amazing.

      1. Hi Tom, just before buying the sigma i checked in internet and i read that 150-600 did not work on ft1 while sigma was ok. And asking to sigma now you can send your nikon 1 and ft1 for modifying last sigma lens like the 105 macro f2.8 hsm in order to let the lens beeing compatible with nikon1….unfortunatly this is not possible with old lense like sigma 180mm hsm f3.5…that i have and my v3 does not find autofocus…regarding the 150-600 + 1,4x it is really i am waiting for the next moon for using the nikon1 with afocal configuration assembled on an old mto 1100mm and baader hyperzoom ocular….i was curious to find the nikon1 70-300mm vr but the price…is incredible…

        1. Hi Lore80,
          Thanks for the follow up comment regarding the success you’ve had with Sigma lenses and how Sigma can help make some of their lenses compatible. I’m sure many Nikon 1 owners who use the FT-1 adapter will find this of special interest.

  5. Hi Thomas…what a pleasant surprise to find this article of yours . I only have a Nikon1V1 and love it . The images that come out of it are quite different than what comes out of other iterations of the Nikon1 system…I quite like it . I like to use mine to shoot rugby…and with the 70 to 300 I can cover the entire pitch from just standing in a single spot…and in a pinch I have even used it to photograph ice hockey in some pretty dimly lit ice rinks…I used the 18.5 mm wide open…and getting some nice results…but what is really amazing is your artistry using this system…whether there are further developments in this system does not really matter to me…though it would be nice…this system is a classic…and your stellar work shows what can be achieved with it. Thank you so much for this

    1. Hi Kenneth,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Nikon 1 system and specifically your V1. I’ve never shot with a V1, but like you, I have noticed that different models do produce different results…it also seems to vary depending on the 1 Nikon lens used with a particular body. For example, during our recent trip to New Zealand my wife was using a V2 with the 10-30 PD zoom (she’s only started trying her hand at photography the past couple of months). The 10-30 PD hasn’t been one of my favourite lenses but I was quite surprised with how well that lens performed on a V2…and it gave me a new respect for that particular lens. I ended up asking her if I could use some of images from Wai-O-Tapu in a dedicated article to which she agreed.

      I’ve been shooting with a pair of J5s a lot lately and it has taken some time for me to learn how to adjust how I treat those files in post…and I’m not sure I’ve really got it yet.

      Thank you for your most generous words about my work – they are appreciated.


  6. Wonderful artilce, Tom! It states my feelings exactly. I have two V2s, one black, one white. ๐Ÿ™‚ I got the white one from B&H for a great price, $349! And that was brand new! I would imagine the V2s are getting harder to find, especially new ones. I also have the V1, that I call my mini Leica. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also got a super buy on a V3, which I like , except for the tiny Micro-SD and the need to remove the grip to replace the battery. I was waiting to get the V4 too, but am fearful that won’t appear.

    Nikon could have done great things with the Nikon 1 series. It’s a precision system. I have a DSLR system too, and it will continue to serve me for some of my photography. But the Nikon 1 system is so much fun to use, and I use it constantly. You are definitely correct in saying too many misread the Nikon system and cameras especially. Unfortunately, this included reviewers who didn’t really give it a fair shake. Let’s hope more come to realize how good it is.

    Vern Rogers

    1. Hi Vern,

      I agree that many reviewers took a DSLR-type view of the Nikon 1 system and really missed the whole idea behind it. That was a shame as it put many people off the system without ever even holding a Nikon 1 camera.

      As far as finding a new V2 in Canada…I haven’t seen one anywhere for a year or more.


  7. Thomas,
    I always find your posts to be very interesting and informative. I read them here and over at Photograpy Life.
    If I want to get into the Nikon 1 system, do I look for a used V2 or go with the newer version So?

    1. Hi Ron,

      If you want a camera with a viewfinder then the V2 or V3 would be your best choices. There’s very little difference in image quality between the two cameras in terms of dynamic range, colour depth or low light performance. The V3 is just a tad sharper since it doesn’t have a low-pass filter on the sensor. Ergonomics are better with the V3 in terms of being closest to a DSLR-like experience – assuming the camera has the EVF and grip of course. AF performance on the V2 is a hair faster, especially in lower light. It likely would come down to what you can find on the used market and at what price. Both cameras are quite hard to find on the used market (at least in Canada).

      I think many current Nikon 1 owners are fearing the worst and are snapping up used V-series cameras quickly. Most of what I see for sale these days are older S and J series. If you can do without an EVF the Nikon 1 J5 has the best image quality of any Nikon 1 camera due to its 20.8MP BSI sensor. Personally I don’t like shooting with cameras unless they have an EVF…but I finally broke down earlier today and ordered a J5 for my business. The improvement in image quality was just too hard to resist. I plan on making the J5 my primary camera for landscape, flower and insect photography.


  8. Outstanding post Tom. I share your thoughts almost word for word. And may I add how much I admire your beautiful photography. As for me, despite having a number of other capable cameras I almost always throw a diminutive Nikon 1 in my bag for that daytime shot that may present itself. Keep up your outstanding work.

  9. Over the years, I have collected a suite of cameras because experience has taught me that no one camera will do all. I just went travelling in Australia to visit family in southern states and to do some touring along what is called the Great Ocean Road. I knew I would have multiple trips on airlines, trains, buses etc. so I took a choice of cameras that would suit the purpose. I took a Sigma DPM3 (finicky but small and can’t be beat for quality landscape shots – not even by my full frame Nikon D700 – I now have a 36″ by 24″ landscape shot from that trip hanging above a bed) and my Sony RX100 III (also a 1″ sensor but all the IQ I will ever need) as my general purpose, fit in pocket camera. This pair did everything I wanted to do on the trip and was a small and light package for the amount of travel I went through. On ANZAC day this year in Australia (a bright and sunny day), I visited my daughter’s family that included 3 young and active grandchildren in a park. I took my V1 and the 10-100mm lens ( for those quick snapshots in bright conditions). It took some absolutely great photos that none of my other cameras could have taken, but I have always hated that instant review that pops up after taking a photo on the V1. I also recently attended the indoor birthday parties of two other grandchildren (only car travel was involved). In this low light type work I took my venerable and heavy Nikon D700 and a prime lens. It did a great job in that poor light. Recently (arrives in the mail today), I was able to pick up a a new V3 with EVF and 10-30mm lens selling here in Australia in a retail outlet for the equivalent of $335 US dollars. I jumped at the chance. Hopefully it will handle more like my larger Nikon D700 and will also do away with that horrible instant image replay of the V1. This weekend I will take it to a grandchild’s (yes I have a quite a few) soccer match and take along my Nikon dx 55-300mm lens to use on a monopod to catch the action (can’t justify the expense of the the cx 70-300 lens for the few times I use this range. I am not a birder). I have to admit that I have no dislike of a modular system like the V3. In fact, I prefer it. I carry a Voightlander eyepiece to fit on top of my Sigma to frame photos and I used to use a Panasonic LX7 (I think that was what it was called) that had a separate EVF. I don’t see a problem carrying a separate EVF or not depending on circumstances. People who complain about this I suspect have never used one. The moral to this story, no one camera would suit all my purposes. If I had to choose only one it would be the Sony RX100 III but I would lose so many photo opportunities if I did this. The Nikon 1 V series fits a niche that my other cameras can’t meet, but of course it is not a camera that can do everything, but neither can any of the others.

    1. Hi Glenn,
      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us! As you comment illustrates so well no single camera can do everything and the key is to use whatever gear we have to take advantage of its unique capabilities.

  10. Brilliant article Thomas. I think you have summed up the Nikon1 cameras perfectly!

    I still love and regularly use mine.

  11. What people think about the Nikon 1 system – I don’t care.
    The Nikon 1 is missing some important elements like a flash commander and fast speed flash.
    However compared to my D800 there are so much other thing this Nikon 1 system can do that D800 can’t.
    I have the V1 and the V3 with most af the 1 Nikkor lenses and I like and enjoy it all.
    It’s the person behind the camera that makes the difference.
    I only use my D800 for macro photos. All my pro Nikkor lenses are in my dry cabinet most of the time. Too bad because I like the D800. However the Nikon 1 is always in the bag.
    The Nikon 1 is so versatile and with the 1N 70-300mm and the 32mm it’s fantastic.
    A D800 can’t shoot 20fps and the Nikon 1 has some low light problems. I keep both of them.

    1. Hi Steen,
      It sounds like you and I had similar experiences. For as much as I thought the D800 was a wonderful camera I found that I was using it less and less over time. I eventually sold it last summer along with all of my FX Nikkor glass and my Tamron 150-600 as I just couldn’t justify keeping a bunch of capital tied up in equipment I wasn’t using that much any more.

      1. Yes I have a fortune in those dry cabinets, but I use the gear now and then. I also like to put on the real glass on the V1 or V3.
        I hope Nikon will continue to support this system.
        What I see from some pro photographers when they use the system is so great.
        Walking around with this tiny gear makes you almost invisible in the streets.
        Thanks for your site Thomas – I enjoy it.

  12. I would love to get a worthy V4 body with EVF. I bike and hike alot and would love to use the Nikon 1 for traveling. I love the small size, low weight and portability so it could fit in my bicycle bags. But being outside I would need a good EVF with a good grip. Don’t want the camera to slip off the hands do we?
    I have an old Nikon D70 dslr, and it’s hard to lug that around in my bike or around my neck..

    1. Hi Chun,
      Your thoughts echo those of many other folks who enjoy using the Nikon 1 system for travel. I used to take DSLR’s when I travelled. The first time that I left them at home and only took my Nikon 1 gear was on a trip to Greece in 2014 and I’m glad I did. The system performed quite well and it was so much easier having smaller, lighter gear.

      1. My plan was to incrementally upgrade my cameras instead of making a big jump to dslr. I had the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS ( 1/2.3″) compact camera. So the next step is the 1-inch camera like the Nikon 1. I just find the dslr way too big to carry all the time. Perhaps just use the dslr for certain tasks such as walking around ( when I’m not riding nor hiking ) and for protraits, it’s nice to have that bokeh. The 1-inch cameras are for traveling (landscapes), cycling and hiking ( more landscapes and wildlife), and street photography.

        1. Hi Chun,
          You can still achieve good image separation by planning the distance between your main subject and the background. Down the road you may also want to look at M4/3 as well as DSLRs.

        2. I had the same idea when I started using Nikon 1 gear. It was a step up from small sensors, but not a DSLR. Well, I eventually “upgraded” to an APS-size mirrorless, but I still use the Nikon 1s much, much more. I was very underwhelmed by how much better, if at all, the APS sensor was for low light. I can achieve clean high-ISO results with Nikon 1 using image stacking anyway. I suppose the larger sensor and shallow DOF will be better for portraits, but that isn’t something I do right now.

  13. Hi Thomas

    I too am very hopeful we see an updated N1 series. I recently threw in for a 70-300 lens for my older J3 – which I havn’t replaced because it’s also used frequently for underwater shots and the updated housing for a newer model always has me second guessing a purchase. However, I am looking at getting one of the V series for above ground photography. The lens was bought prior to the release of the latest D-series cameras and I am feeling rather resentful that there may be no further updates to the line of cameras for me to use my expensive new lens on. I don’t know what my options are, though – are the N1 lenses able to be used on larger sensor cameras at all? I’m fairly new to photography as a hobby but worrying my lens was a poor investment long term.


    1. Hello Ell,
      The 1 Nikon lenses can only be used on Nikon 1 bodies. An option for you would be to buy a good used V-Series body like a V2. I purchased a used V2 with a low shutter count and the camera has performed without any issues at all. A used V3 is also a possibility but will likely cost you more. I’m in the minority but I still believe that Nikon will be introducing a V4/V5. The earthquakes in Japan may delay that product as it has the DL series. I originally thought we would see a new V-series in the fall of 2016. I’m now thinking it may be in the spring of 2017. I wouldn’t give up hope yet…and in the interim perhaps look for a good, used or refurbished V2 or V3.

  14. I jumped in with the V1 and the two zooms when it was first launched. It made so much sense to me. However I had too many frustrations with it and sold it off. Got a Sony RX100 and subsequently a RX10 instead for my compact system and was quite happy with those.

    Now that the lens offerings have expanded and the bodies have been improved, I once again looked at the Nikon 1 system as a means of addressing the major shortcoming in my collection of cameras – long telephoto. After much research, especially including your excellent website, I got a J5 with the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD zoom at a great price to see if I’d like it. The J5’s pictures are fantastic. I actually like the compact PD zoom as I don’t need to remove/store a lens cap. Its AF speed and accuracy is amazing.

    So the next step in my plan was to get the telephoto lens I wanted: the 70-300CX. Fabulous lens and wonderful results on the J5, but as predicted it’s a little difficult to track moving objects in daylight with the rear screen at long telephoto distances. So I found a bargain used V3 kit. And also scored some good deals on a 10-100 non PD, a 6.7-13 and an 18.5/1.8 lens. I actually like the modular design of the V3 with the exception of having to remove the grip to swap batteries. The 10-100 is my primary lens, but the 10-30 non-PD is a great choice if I won’t be using filters and want a quick and compact camera.

    Now I’m torn however. If I could simply transplant the J5’s sensor into the V3 I’d be as happy as could be. I so love the V3’s EVF, grip, larger buffer and faster write times. On the other hand, I find the V3’s sensor to be lacking compared to the J5 as well as the 1″ Sony offerings (not to mention my larger sensored cameras). To me, the V3 falls just short of what I want in image quality, whereas the J5 and the Sony 1″ sensors just meet my minimum standard. What to do? For now I use most of the lenses on the J5 and leave the 70-300 affixed to the V3. Less lens swapping that way too. However, I do really hope Nikon brings out a successor to the V4.

    1. Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for sharing your Nikon 1 journey! You face the same struggle as many other Nikon 1 owners…the new 20.8MP BSI sensor in the J5 is a significant improvement over the Aptina sensors used in previous Nikon 1 models…but the lack of an EVF is problematic. Sounds like you have a great selection of Nikon 1 lenses, including my three favourite ones (6.7-13, 10-100 non-PD and 70-300).

      I’m likely in the minority but I still believe that a V4/V5 will be forthcoming. At a minimum I’d love to see the same sensor from the J5 used in it. I would actually prefer a 16MP BSI sensor in a future V4/V5 as it would likely provide better performance than the 20.8 sensor in the J5 in terms of colour depth, dynamic range and low light performance.


  15. Tom, you and your work with the Nikon 1 system are an inspiration. I now own a V2 and V3, with most of the lenses, and this easily-carried setup takes care of 80%-90% of what I need to shoot. For the rest, I have a rather complete (and now underused) set of Nikon DSLRs and lenses.

    If you want to glance at what I’ve done with the system, I have some samples at

    Even if Nikon has discontinued development of the N1 system, I have no regrets about buying into the system. I’ve shot many rewarding photos in the last five years with it, and will continue to do so for years to come.

    You and your great photos prove yet again the adage that it’s not the lens, and not the camera behind the lens, but the eyes behind the lens and camera that create great photographs. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Don,
      Thanks very much for your positive comment – much appreciated! And, thanks for sharing the link to your work. I see that you have some interest in mechanical things – something we have in common as well as our appreciation for the Nikon 1 system.

  16. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you for your valuable analysis: “Nikon 1 Maligned and Misunderstood.” In addition to your critique your portfolio taken with the Nikon V2 backs up everything you had to say in your article and puts to rest any complaints about the Nikon 1 system. I wish you had a direct line to Nikon 1’s R&D so developers could benefit from your feedback. Any chance of that?

    Two more questions: what do you think of the new DL cameras, particularly the 18-50 and 24-85? Do you see any advantages of using them in your own bag instead of or side by side with the Nikon 1 system?

    With admiration, David

    1. Hi David,

      I don’t think there is any possibility of me being directly involved with any R&D folks at Nikon. I’m just one guy ‘out in the wildnerness’ who writes a photography blog.

      I think the new DL cameras could be the answer for many folks who want the frame speed and AF performance of a Nikon 1 camera coupled with 4K video, faster aperture zoom lenses (albeit a fixed zoom not interchangeable) and the ability to use standard Nikon flashes. As far as my business goes I really don’t have any interest in any of the DL models as I could not cost justify the investment. I don’t use flashes in my business, nor do any of my clients need 4K video capability. I already own the three 1 Nikon primes so the faster aperture zoom lenses are not something I need either.


  17. Nikon 1 accurately is indeed very much misunderstood and quite hated. Really odd considering most of those who just scorned the system really never used it.

    I for one saw the advantages of the v2 instantly. Really enjoyed the compact size of the system and really enjoyed it especially in my travel.

    I was one of the even more who dropped some pretty good money on the v3. Didn’t pay sticker, but found a good used deal and a coupon off a purchase at eBay and wound up with a little used system, for a good price.

    I love the flexibility of the v3 system and it was hated even among the N1 faithful, again with most not ever really having used it. I really liked the fact that without the grip and the evf I could make a very small system with the 10-30 attached that worked well for trips to Disney and other spots I didn’t want to lug a DSLR.

    However – a sadly must admit that now I am using my D7100 more and more. For taking pics of my kid’s in on the stage (usually band and orchestra) the N1 IQ left me wanting. DXO had the Prime Elite NR that worked wonders but at the end of the day my wifes comment of “Your old “”big camera”” takes so much better pictures” had me realizing the N1 IQ was an issue, even with my wife, just looking at basic prints.

    While I loved that old “grain” film like image – she did not. And let me tell you the N1 takes some film shots like no other can, I truly liked that!

    So the v3 is gone now the v2 and 10-30 are all that remain. It will be replaced with the DL 24-85 with MUCH faster glass and will remain my primary TRAVEL system. I am fearful the last N1 true body is the J5.

    I have some supremely excellent fast glass for the DX beast (70-200 F2.8) that manages indoor shots wonderfully. DXO still works it magic on the D7100 image (also far from perfect) but much different than the v3 was.

    I still love ripping off a 20 FPS series with the N1 watching the freaky good AF (FAR FAR better than my DSLR) and N1 and maybe the DL always has a place with me as one of my tools.


    1. Hi Mike,
      Without question taking images of people in lower light is one of the hardest things for any Nikon 1 camera to do competently. I’m not surprised that you have returned to your D7100, with your wife being much happier with the results! As photographers we should use the best tool available for the job at hand! Moving over to a DL 24-85 will be a better fit for the type of shooting you do, especially in lower light conditions. There’s no doubt that a DSLR like your D7100 is a better choice for all round performance in a range of shooting conditions than would a Nikon 1 camera. Always a pleasure to exchange perspectives with you!

      1. Taking images of people in lower light is surprisingly the main use of my J5 + 18.5mm 1.8. Small sensor with large depth of field, reliable AF, good IQ wide open. In really dim light I’m using built-in flash to bounce off the ceiling. It woks so well I’ve ordered 32mm 1.2. Same J5 with the kit lens or 6.7-13mm is my travel camera.
        For stage performances and indoor sports Nikon 1 is missing fast zooms. There could be f/1.8 zooms, like Sigma for DX, but with better range and faster focusing. Modern sensor in V2 – style body, with IBIS, plus f/1.8 zooms and f/1.0-f/1.2 primes, exposure stacking a la Pixel and DxO camera, with deep buffer and UHS-III card slot(s).
        Something like E-M1 Mk2, but smaller and simpler, AND with better AF-C.

        1. Hi Audrey,
          Thanks for sharing your experiences and adding to the discussion! Using the J5 built-in flash and bouncing it would be very helpful for indoor images of people. I agree that Nikon 1 is missing a fast zoom (with a longer focal length) for stage and indoor sports.

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