The days of walking around with a big bulky DSLR may be coming to an end. Bigger does not mean better anymore. Don’t be surprised if the next time you hire a professional photographer and one of their cameras is a small, lightweight, compact mirrorless camera. These new systems rival the quality of the bigger, bulkier systems and are quietly (literally) stealing the show.
The technology behind these new systems is simple. The mirror that has been used in SLR and DSLR systems that allow users to see Through The Lens (TTL) has been eliminated. More important however, is the fact the the sensor size is similar to those of the larger DSLRs NOT the smaller sensor sizes of a compact point & shoot. This is important because the larger the sensor size, the better the quality which is even more important than the number of megapixels. The Nikon 1 system is an exception to this in that its sensor is smaller than a DSLR but still larger than a compact point & shoot.
According to Digital Photography Review, the Nikon 1 “uses a sensor two-thirds smaller than most DSLRs or Mirrorless cameras. This is still four times the size of the sensors in mainstream compact cameras, but does mean the low light image quality and control over depth-of-field isn’t on the same level as most of its peers.” In testing the depth-of-field control with the Nikon V1, the images below show that the camera has a range of apertures from f/3.8-f/16, (much larger than the compact Nikon P6000 which has an f-stop range from f/5.9-f/7.7 with the zoom fully extended) and does exhibit distinct changes in the depth-of-field when shot at the maximum focal length of 110mm and at f/5.6 versus f/16 respectively.
Even shooting in almost total darkness, the Nikon V1 handles the low-light situation beautifully as shown below. The image below was shot at ASA 400 as a JPEG file with image quality set to FINE and the size set to LARGE. Also, the camera’s Long Exposure NR setting was set to ON.
The Nikon 1 system has been in my camera bag now for several weeks and I am quite impressed with all it can do. The two versions available are the J1 and the V1. They both have an effective megapixel size of 10.1 and can shoot in JPEG or RAW. With the shutter set on Electronic (Hi), it can record images at an amazing rate of 60 frames per second. Other shutter settings give rates of 5, 10 and 30 frames per second. The interchangeable lenses are unique in that they retract and lock keeping them compact and small when not in use. There is even a 10mm f/2.8 prime lens available- the equivalent of a 27mm wide angle lens in 35mm format.
The main differences between the J1 and V1, besides price, are the J1 has a built-in flash, does not have Image sensor cleaning and is available in assorted colors. The V1 has a digital viewfinder that automatically turns off the LCD display as you bring your eye up to the viewfinder (a nice touch), does not have a built-in flash but there is an optional flash accessory available for purchase, and does have Image sensor cleaning.
One caveat needs to be made if you are considering purchasing a mirrorless camera system. The sensor is no longer up and out of the way when you change your lenses. It is directly behind the lens and therefore prone to more environmental debris, accidental scrapes and marring. More caution needs to be exercised when changing lenses than ever before. Do not attempt to clean a sensor yourself. This should only be done by a professional.