Hands-on review with the new Nikon V1
Digital Photographer editor, Rosie Tanner, tries out the brand new Nikon V1 in the bustling streets of Shanghai city
We’ve been loaded up with the Nikon V1 and SB-N5 (optional extra) for a thorough test of what it can do. Not so fresh from an 11 hour flight, we were woken up with an amazing tour of Shanghai via motorbike sidecar, racing through the streets in the real thick of the traffic and chaos of the city.
This was the perfect opportunity to test out the Nikon V1′s HD video mode at full throttle, making the most of the 1080/60i shooting capabilities (1080/30p & 720/60p also available). I started off shooting with the 10mm lens, providing a perfect wide angle view of the streets ahead. Shooting and filming with this lens feels wonderfully balanced, even when recording one-handed riding pillion from the back of the bike. The HD footage is crisp, with no issues with frame lag, despite tracking the fast moving traffic. A microphone would be a welcome addition to cut wind noise and would be well worth investing in.
A stop-off at a city garden, provided chance to switch pace and capture the calm of the elder generation of Shanghai practising Tai Chi, playing chess & cards as well as catching an afternoon snooze in the afternoon sun. A gardener caught my eye watering the plants, which providing the perfect chance to switch to slow motion video (400 fps or 1200 fps). The slow capture of the water looks fantastic and installed some faith that this mode can be used to real creative effect with the right subjects. The detail is pin sharp and provides a stunning interlude to your regular speed video footage. We later discussed the benefits of having two shooting speeds for the slow motion video option and discovered that the 1200 fps can actually capture something as fast as a water balloon bursting in immaculate detail. The only downfall to this is when shooting in ambient light, as it will pick up a flicker.
It was fast becoming apparent that this is as much a camera for film makers as it is for photographers. Switching to the 30-110mm lens and I was able to shoot telephoto stills and capture the fantastic characters of Shanghai. The people here are some of the most welcoming and friendly I’ve come across on my travels and are happy to be included in photos in exchange for a warm smile or a gesture.
Our next stop was the French concession market, which was a haven of small alleyways lined with curious shops and restaurants. Full of atmosphere, it seemed like the ideal place to try out the Motion Snapshot feature, which is available on the main mode dial on the back of the camera. This mode enables you to upload to Facebook as a QuickTime movie, but it would be nice if there was an easier Share option to do this direct from the camera.
Our evening activity was a river cruise setting off from the Bund – a stunning location, where the city skyline can be viewed at its ultimate best. In order to capture to neon disco of city lights, I used the camera’s Smart Photo Selector, which takes 20 shots and saves the best five on your camera for you to choose from.
Unusually, this camera has forgone the usual bevy of scene modes in favor of the Scene Auto Selector, which picks the best scene mode for you. It feels a bit odd at first not having the choice to select these yourself, but actually the results are so reliable, that you get used to the camera doing the work for you.
In the haze of the smog, there is visible noise in the sky, but this is at ISO 3200, so it’s forgivable, especially as the foreground details remain crisp and do not fall foul of excessive image smoothing. Shooting in full manual mode and selecting ISO 800 proved that Noise control is still something Nikon excels at, with just a hint of noise in the sky. Considering all the night shots were taken handheld from a moving river boat, I think the Nikon V1 did a pretty sterling job to capture the scenery.
In just a day, the Nikon V1 has become pretty intuitive to use, although it did take some getting used to at first. You very much have to trust the camera to do the hard work for you. Many of the shooting options lie within the main menu (White Balance, ISO, Picture Control & Metering), so this is not really a camera for those who like to make fine image adjustments from shot to shot. The one thing I haven’t got used to yet is the lack of hand grip, which has been foregone for a sleek body line instead. There is a rubberised thumb pad on the back which helps a little but a more pronounced grips would have been a bonus.
Today I’m off to try out the Nikon V1′s portrait abilities… will keep you updated!
Check out DP issue 115 for our full guide to shooting Shanghai and issue 116 for our full review of the camera