Ant Smith


On buying the Nikon 1 V1

Saturday 5th May 2012 5:59pm

Three bulbs of garlic in white dish.

Garlic - daytime window light, Nikon 1 V1

There are certainly times when I decide not to lug my D2x and second lens and flashgun with me. So when I found I had a budget of up to £700 (at a push) I started toying with the idea of buying a digital compact to complement the full kit. My wife also mentioned the idea of a smaller camera to me, I think sometimes I overwhelm her with my magnificent pair of prime Nikkors. So I started considering a compact in the context of all of the other things that money could buy.

I had also previously, some twenty years ago, dabbled with a film compact - precisely because I felt the need for a small camera. I bought a Canon Powershot, and I was bitterly disappointed

So it transpired, that if I was going to do this, my expectations were to be excessively high. It's my money, why shouldn't they be?

I believe it is important to feel physically good about your equipment. Artists' brushes, musicians' instruments, photographers' cameras - in every case the equipment is a defining factor in the result. It is imperative that one can forge an emotional link with the tool of the trade.

The thing that convinced me to acquire a compact was remembering the impact that my old Leica IIIb had on me. I have a single prime lens for it, a summitar 35mm. I had always wanted to try out the famed Leica optics, to experience the so called 'bokeh' (I was not disappointed, but that's another story). With a purchase like that I was not going to compromise on quality. So I was forced to limit the camera's flexibility, if I were to remain in budget. What I found though, was that those very limits focussed my work and revealed a whole new world of exploration (that was my black and white street photography phase).

So, in my search I had two starting constraints

  • The kit has got to be lovable

  • The quality cannot be compromised, the flexibility certainly can

Since I'm a committed Nikon user in the DSLR range the new Nikon 1 series was already on my mind as a serious contender. If I were to go down that route I had to decide if I wanted a J1 or a V1. Feature wise there's not a massive difference, for a price delta of around £150. How much do I need an electronic viewfinder (EVF)? Ergonomically speaking, I feel it is vital. Now that I have the camera the visual oddity of an EVF (compared to an optical viewfinder) is not so bad, just a little disconcerting like those LED based traffic signals that flick from greed to red at a startling speed.

Other than the viewfinder though I was turned against the J1 by the fact that it is available in pink. I don't buy my cameras as fashion accessories, and I don't trust those cameras that act so. I also feel that Nikon produce a marked difference between their (quite horrible) enthusiast and (remarkable) professional ranges. The J1 I felt would be in the former bracket. Before buying (online) I popped in to Jessops to handle them both. The pop-up flash alone on the J1 was enough for me to say 'no, not now, not ever'.  Flimsy and unidirectional.

My conclusions about the J1 made me question my view of the V1. From an understanding of Nikon product ranges through the ages (well from the 1970s to date) I intellectually believed that Nikon would have positioned the V1 at users of their serious DSLR kits wanting something other than a Canon G12. I had a belief that the V1 could be a great camera.

But I was uncomfortable about making this commitment wholly on the basis of feeling. I had to consider that the Nikon 1 range was a series - and I was not at all sure that I wanted to be buying a range of kit for the compact, whose point is to be ultra-portable. So thinking about none interchangeable lens compacts I took a look at the Canon G12 and G1X. Although my first compact had been a Canon the reputation of the G series is very significant. I had used a G9 at one point, and found it to produce remarkable results.

I tortured myself over this aspect of the decision for days. Finally, it was the realisation that the Nikon had a similar zoom range (and option to add other lenses) and was of a comparable price, which made the decision. In effect, the interchangeable lens feature may not have been a priority, but it was not costing me very much either.

Finally, I placed my trust in Nikon on this one - but I was yet trepidatious about the purchase.

The cheapest online price was with what appeared to be some Skype associated trader - From them, for the budget I could acquire the V1 with both the 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses. I was within a whisker of finalising payment when I thought "I don't know where this is coming from, will I have a warranty?". Digging deeper with the help of Google I found a stream of complaints and an average customer rating of only 70% (98% is my usual minimum). I was sure if I ordered from them I would be waiting months until they were able to acquire the stock.

I decided to buy the V1 from Amazon with just the 10-30mm lens, leaving a little headroom in the budget for other bits and pieces.

I ordered late on Thursday night and it arrived early on bank holiday weekend Saturday morning. What joy.

And does it live up to the trust I placed in it? Does it excite me in the same way that my Leica IIIb did? So far (after about 10 hours), yes it does.

Fanny strikes a stately pose

Fanny strikes a stately pose - tungsten, High ISO, Nikon 1 V1