A Quick Hands-on of the Nikon 1 V2

Black and white models of the Nikon 1 V2 on a shelf at Yodobashi Camera, Tokyo.

I chanced upon the newly released Nikon 1 V2 at Tokyo’s Yodabashi Camera store while I was on holiday and decided to give it a quick hands-on test. One of the biggest differences between these great stores is that customers are able to play with a lot of gear without having some pesky salesman stare at you, which is a great plus.

Unfortunately, the battery/SD card door was taped shut and thus I was unable to insert my own SD card to get some sample shots.

Body/build

The actual body is pretty well-built, much like the V1. It also looks smaller than I thought it’d be. Interestingly, it does not look as fugly as the pictures portray it to be. So I guess like some people, it’s probably just not a very photogenic camera.

The grip makes the camera much nicer to hold, though it adds up to the bulk of the camera itself. There’s now a command dial and mode dial on the top of the camera, making changing settings much easier. More on that later.

The diminutive Nikon 1 V2.

Responsiveness/speed

Like the V1/J1 series, the V2 performs pretty well in terms of speed and responsiveness. The AF is just as fast as the older models and shutter lag is quite minimal.

Controls
The Nikon 1 V1 featured a rather useless “F” button, which lets you select some (rather useless) settings depending on the mode the camera is in. For example, in the camera/shooting mode, pressing the F-button lets you select between Mechanical and Electronic shutters. Why is there a need to have quick access to this, I have no idea.

Things have changed on the V2. Pressing the F-button on the V2 pops-up an overlay much like Panasonic’s Q-menu, letting you use the d-pad to select between ISO, AF mode, metering mode, white balance and picture quality. This is far more useful in my opinion.

A number of settings pop-up when the F-button is pressed on the Nikon 1 V2. You can then use the scroll wheel to select the desired setting to change.

The selection between Mechanical and Electronic shutter is now moved into the menu under an option called “Silent shooting”. A far more user-friendly naming for most people.

The much needed mode dial has also been added. While on the V1, you’d need to get into the menu to select basic stuff like changing from Aperture Priority to Manual mode, you can now set this quickly by turning the mode dial on the top of the camera.

For changing settings like aperture, there is now a rear command dial instead of the dingy little lever of the V1. Much more easier to use.

Nikon has also moved the Play, Menu, Disp and Delete buttons from around the right side of the camera over to a straight vertical line on the left. This is more in line with the Nikon DSLR’s design and I believe would make it easier for DSLR users to use the V2.

EVF

I’ve always liked the EVF of the Nikon 1 V1. It’s sufficiently high resolution at 921,000 dots and refreshes fast enough not to have lag or jerkiness. Unfortunately not so for the V2. Although at 1,440,000 dots it’s the same as the V1, panning while looking through it gives a rather jerky view. It’s as if frames were dropped. This was the case of the 2 Nikon 1 V2 bodies I tried at Yodabashi and also of the one I tried at Nikon Plaza Shinkuku which I visited a couple of days later. Major, major disappointment here.

On the plus side, the LCD/EVF switching is now much faster. Raising the camera to the eye almost instantly turns on the EVF. On the V1, the delay is much longer, about 2s compared to maybe 0.5s on the V2.

Instant Preview

One of my pet peeves when using the EVF of the Nikon 1 V1 is that it wants to show you an instant preview of the shot you’ve just taken. This immediately blocks the view finder with the image playback instead of showing you what’s in front of the lens, requiring a quick tap of the shutter button to get it back into shooting mode. It’s bloody annoying and can make you miss shots. Unfortunately, no the V1, there’s no way to turn this off.

Thankfully, Nikon provided an option to turn off the instant preview on the V2, making the camera work more like a DSLR would – always showing what’s in front of the lens. However, that also turns off the instant preview on the LCD as well, which is a bummer. Well, you win some, you lose some.

Conclusion
Overall the improvements made to the V2 over the V1 are great, only to be marred by the horrible refresh rate of the EVF. This is a deal breaker for me (and I believe for many other people as well.) I hope Nikon can fix this in a firmware upgrade in the near future.

I also hope Nikon can bring some of these improvements to the users of the V1 as well. Most of it are firmware-related and should be able to be easily implemented.

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