Nikon V1 review (done for now)

Discussion in 'Nikon 1 Forum' started by Armanius, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    I received my Nikon V1 from Amazon today along with the 10-30, 30-110, and 10mm lenses. Even though it was a "new" camera, the V1 was clearly a return given that all the previous user info/settings were still in the V1. Whoever returned the camera forgot to push "reset." The photo identifier number was on frame 166. Boohoo to Amazon. Otherwise, the camera looked new.

    I'm going to focus just on the ergonomics/controls/quality of the camera and lenses in this first post, as I haven't really taken any photos with it yet, other than playing with it in the office.

    The V1 is pretty solid, built like a brick. Although it has no grip, it's still fairly easy to hold, because it's relatively thick. For someone with medium sized hands with long skinny fingers, the V1 is nicer to hold than the EPM1, S90, and GF3.

    The rear LCD is very very nice - bright, good color fidelity, and great resolution. I haven't been out with it under the bright sunlight yet though.

    The EVF is also nice and bright. The GH2's EVF is better though, but not by much in my opinion. On the V1, the lag between the time the LCD first blacks out and the EVF starts up bothers me. It takes about 1 second after the rear LCD blacks out before the EVF comes on. The sensor is overly sensitive too, and has about a range of 1-1.5 inches. So the view can switch to the EVF quite inadvertently, which can be annoying if you don't want it to switch to EVF.

    For an enthusiast, the user interface of the V1 is also annoying. Remember the interface of the Sony NEX when it was originally released? It's like that ... aargh. There's no direct control for ISO and metering, which are the two shooting parameters that I typically change the most. So to access ISO and metering, you have to push "menu" and then scroll through the list of options. Unlike Nikon DSLR's (and most other cameras including point and shoots like the Canon S90, Panasonic TZ5, Leica VLux 20), there's no one button press that shows all the settings that one can change, and then allows the user to change them. The only shooting parameters with dedicated direct buttons are for AEL/AFL, exposure compensation, AF mode, and self timer. All of these direct buttons are part of the jog dial. The V1 doesn't allow for customization of those direct buttons. Firmware update please?

    There's also a "F" button. But the only function the F button serves when the V1 is set for taking still photos is to change the type of shutter - mechanical, electronic or electronic (HI). There's no way to customize the F button either. Firmware update please?

    The shutter button is pretty flat and nearly flush with the top plate of the V1, requiring the use of the finger tip to press the shutter. I like to use the bottom part of my index finger right at the first bending section of the finger to press the shutter. The flat and flush button makes it more difficult (although not impossible). The installation of a soft release button would be nice. I have a couple of soft release buttons that I use with the X10/X100, but it's the screw in type. There's no hole on the V1's shutter button.

    The build of all three of the lenses that I got (10, 10-30, 30-110) are all decent. They are probably about as good as the Panasonic 14-45 (m4/3 format). They all have metal mounts. The 10 pancake fits a little too tight on the V1, and requires some force to get it on. The other two mount fairly smoothly. The zoom ring on the 30-110 starts out pretty smoothly, and then gets tight towards the long end. I am not sure if Nikon did that on purpose.

    The 10 pancake is about the same size of the Panasonic 14/2.5 thickness wise. The 10's diameter is slightly smaller though. Both lenses are super light.

    Both the 10-30 and 30-110 are collapsible lenses. When collapsed, the 10-30 is about the same size as the Olympus 14-42 (m4/3) in its collapsed form (if I remember correctly).

    The 30-110 is slightly longer than the Panasonic Leica 25/1.4 (m4/3), but smaller in diameter. However, the 30-110 is about 0.5 inches shorter than the Olympus 40-150 (m4/3) when collapsed. At full zoom, the 30-110 is about 1.5 inches shorter than the 40-150 at full zoom. So if there's any size advantage offered by the Nikon 1 system, it's in the 30-110 lens. Unlike the 40-150, the 30-110 has built-in image stabilization (although Oly m4/3 cameras don't require lenses with IS, because of the in-body IS).

    That's it for now.

    @Retow (and others with the J1/V1) - feel free to add to this thread.

    And to everyone else, please feel free to chime-in and ask questions as well.

    Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone!
     
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  2. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus S.C. Charter Member Subscribing Member

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Real Name:
    Bill Shinnick
    Armando it seems to be a bit on the quirky side - is it something you can live with at this stage? Looking forward to seeing this thread grow.
     
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  3. Ghosthunter

    Ghosthunter boo! Subscribing Member

    Sep 8, 2010
    London UK
    Real Name:
    Andy
    I sold 2 J1's yesterday and demoed the pre image taking facility and i must say i was pretty impressed as it worked really well. As said it is a very solidly built camera and ooozes quality, just don't look at the images at 100%!!!
     
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  4. retow

    retow SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    As far a size comparison with mft is concerned, the N1 zooms should be compared with Panasonic's rather than with Oly's as the former two offer in lens VR. And when comparing the V1 with mft, again, Panasonic's built in VF bodies should be taken for size and weight comparison. Based on my experience, the Nikon in lens VR is vastly superior to Olympus in camera IS. Remember when enthusiast drivers insisted that stickshifts beat automatic gearboxes anyday. Today, stick shifts are gone in car racing, even the most accomplished drivers had to learn to trust auto. The V1 is a little bit like that. Learn to trust its metering. As far as changing iso is concerned, auto iso does a decent job. However, the option of setting min. shutter speed is something a FW should address. (I still drive a stickshift:wink:).
     
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  5. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    You have just convinced me NOT to look at the 1 Series, at least until v2 or a FW fix. The controls would drive me crazy.
     
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  6. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    Is it true that those cameras do not have live histogram?
     
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  7. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    Hi Bill! As of right now, the user interface bothers me, and I can't live with it. But I should reserve final judgment until I actually go out and use it. :)

    Very true ... I was going to mention that on the next post. No live histogram. There's a histogram for photo review, but no live one.
     
  8. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    :eek: I think Nikon really has gone too far. This is worse than even the most basic PnS cameras.
     
  9. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    Erg...Yech.
     
  10. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    Last night I was doing some shopping in preparation for the Annual Gift Exchange Holiday and was getting an eyeful of Nikon 1 ads throughout the mall. When I went in to one of the camera stores they had a working (but tethered) V1 and J1 on display for people to play with, complete with "I AM REVOLUTION" banner above. Kudos to Nikon for actually putting some marketing behind the camera unlike some other brands. They may be three years late to the revolution but people may now actually start to be aware that there was one. Incidentally if you hold up your hand and cover up the "R" the banner reads "I AM EVOLUTION", which makes more sense to existing users of CSCs.

    First impression: styling. There is none. Very simple, no frills, business-like appearance. You don't fall in love with the looks but they look built to do a job. The J1 was in white which had a glossy finish and the V1 was in black which had a fine texture to it. Due to the finish alone the J1 felt to me to have the better quality materials and finish, but the build of each camera appeared similar. And if anyone can avoid laughing when you pop the flash on the J1 for the first time then you have far more self control than I. It's actually pretty cool though and the fact that it is there at all is a good thing compared to the awkward clip-on unit supplied with the Oly E-PM1.

    In size they seem very similar to a GF3 or E-PM1. The 2.8x sensor would indicate that maybe they could have gone smaller, but it doesn't seem possible to downsize further than this without further compromising ergonomics. Handling was the first issue I had, and has given me serious pause to reconsider if I want to purchase an E-PM1 for my m4/3 kit. I actually found them too small and the lack of any grip whatsoever seemed surprising on the V1 in particular. Being thinner, I could hold the J1 in some kind of pincer-grip with my fingers, but the thicker V1 actually felt more awkward to hold and I felt it to be the more likely camera of the two for me to lose my grip and drop. I'm sure I'd feel safe enough with a neck strap or wrist strap, but I think these two cameras are one size too small for my hands.

    Operation: Confounding...at first. When I picked each camera up they were set to some kind of auto mode that appeared to render most controls and buttons inert. A minute later, and once I'd figured out what menu path changed the camera to a program mode, the buttons did what they indicated and everything was right with the world again. It seems like it would be okay once you'd set the camera how you wanted it, but it is the first time I can remember picking up a camera and being genuinely confused by it. I usually avoid reading cameras manuals, but I think it would to be worthwhile reading with these two cameras.

    The flush shutter button on the J1 gives a neat finish but I think it has practical implications. The V1 was a bit better in this regard. The other buttons and controls were in the usual cramped array on the right hand side of the camera, but any camera smaller than a DSLR suffers from the same problems. The quality of the controls felt nice, but maybe the control wheel on the back could do with just a little more resistance to prevent an inadvertent turn when you go to press it in.

    Autofocus appeared to be instantaneous with no discernible lag. I don't tend to find myself wishing for faster AF too often, but given that there is no downside to superfast AF you wouldn't turn it down when it's offered. I don't know how the latest Panasonics, Pens, or NEXes compare to the 1-series for AF speed as I haven't had the chance to try a working model of any of them.

    I didn't try the V1 viewfinder since I rarely use them. The eyepiece at the back did appear quite small so I don't know if it is quite up to the size of the Oly VF-2 or Panny G-series EVFs. Given that I view EVFs as being for emergency use only on a live-view camera my requirements for what makes an acceptable viewfinder are quite modest. The eye sensor on the viewfinder appears to quite trigger-happy like the one on my GH1 since an object a few inches away causes the LCD to go blank. I keep the eye sensor for the EVF on my GH1 turned off so that it doesn't blank out the LCD all the time when I've got the screen flipped up and the camera sitting against my chest, although with the fixed screen on the V1 it probably isn't a big issue.

    Image quality I have no idea about since I could only review the image on the LCD (which also seemed quite nice, BTW). Since a lot of cameras don't show any further detail beyond ~8x magnification I can't comment on absolute resolution. What I could see looked fine, however. In this situation I couldn't really test to see if my doubts over smaller-than-4/3 sensor having too much DOF were true or not. That is actually my main concern over this camera rather than it's resolution or noise control.

    The lenses (a 10mm on the J1 and a 10-30mm on the V1) were both very small, with the zoom ring on the 10-30mm being large enough and easy to operate. I didn't check how the manual focus worked since I figure I would use manual focus on this camera about as much as I would on a m4/3 camera (i.e. virtually never).

    Overall my impressions of either camera were mixed. The handling seemed awkward, the controls good quality, the interface not immediately intuitive, the operation slick and superfast. I couldn't really think of a reason to own one of these and a m4/3 camera together, and I wasn't moved to drop everything and buy into this system, certainly not given how brief the 1-series system currently is. Essentially it shares the same issue of any existing mirrorless camera system: it is a compromise system where you have to give away something to get something else. I enjoyed my brief Nikon 1 experience, but at the end of the day I don't think it is the camera for me.
     
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  11. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    Auto ISO frustrations

    It's been raining non-stop here in Houston, and the forecast is calling for more rain in the next 48 hours. In short, there will not be any outdoor photo ops with the V1 anytime soon.

    However, I took a few more indoor test photos, and my limited experience with the V1 continues to leave me frustrated. This time, my frustration is with the V1's Auto ISO intelligence, or lack thereof. The V1 allows the user to choose Auto ISO with upper limits of 400, 800, or 3200. There is no option to limit the lowest ISO or to enter a minimum shutter speed the camera should try to achieve when the V1 is set on Auto ISO. In short, the user has to trust that the V1 will choose the appropriate Auto ISO to match the focal length to yield the proper shutter speed (to keep the photos blur free).

    In a dim lighting parking garage, while using aperture priority F3.8, Auto ISO set with the upper limit of 3200, and focal length of 30mm (about 81mm EFL) the V1 chose ISO 800. The result was a shutter speed of 1/15, which is way a little slow for even steady hands. My first thought is that Nikon really trusts the image stabilization. But later on, in a slightly more dim location, using the same shooting parameters, the V1 this time chose ISO 1800. The result was once again 1/15. I zoomed in on the same scene to 55mm (149mm EFL), the aperture closed to F4.2, and the V1 also increased the ISO to 2200. The resulting shutter speed was ... want to guess? 1/15. 1/15 for a 149mm focal length!? Needless to say, 1/15 at 149mm was a little difficult to keep the camera steady even with image stabilization.

    In a brighter (but rainy) setting, with the same original shooting parameters at 30mm, the V1 chose ISO200 that resulted in 1/100 of shutter speed. That's good. I fully zoomed in at 110mm (300mm EFL) on the same subject. The aperture closed to F5.6 and the V1 chose ISO 500. The resulting shutter speed was 1/125.

    In the four out of the five situations described above, the V1 could and should have chosen higher ISO values (given the 3200 upper limit that I chose) to match the focal length that I was using, and therefore, minimize blurry images. The V1 did not. The V1 has a bias for keeping the ISO low, and apparently relies on the image stabilization on the lens. However, the same Auto ISO logic on the V1 also applies to the pancake 10mm lens (27mm EFL), which does not have IS.

    The V1's inability to choose the proper ISO becomes even more frustrating due to two things. First, when using Auto ISO, the V1's LCD/EVF displays only the upper ISO limit setting chosen. The only way to figure out what ISO the V1 decided to use is to review the photo after the photo is taken. Second, the V1 has no direct ISO control button or any type of shortcut. Consequently, if the user wants to manually control the ISO, the user has to click on menu, scroll to the shooting parameter tab, pick the tab, scroll to the ISO control option, pick the ISO control option, then scroll to the desired ISO, pick the desired ISO and then do a final button push to return to the live view shooting screen. That's 8 button/scrolling actions just to change the ISO.

    Cameras like the Pentax K5, Fuji X10 and X100 all allow some user input to guide the camera's Auto ISO logic. Some other cameras like the GH2/GF2 do not provide for user input. But the GH2/GF2 both match the ISO chosen to the corresponding focal length. At 40mm (80mm EFL), the GF2 chooses an ISO that results in 1/80 shutter speed. At 80mm, the GF2 chooses an ISO that results in 1/160.

    Nikon, if you are listening/reading, a firmware update would be really nice. In regards to my Auto ISO related gripes, I'd like to see: (1) customization of the buttons so that there is a direct or shortcut button to ISO control; (2) display the ISO chosen by the camera when using Auto ISO; and (3) either allow user input of shutter speeds to be achieved when using Auto ISO and/or change the logic of the V1 to choose ISO's to yield shutter speeds appropriate for the focal length used.

    Merry Christmas folks!!!
     
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  12. thanks

    Thanks for the review and your thoughts. I will keep reading as you update us on your thoughts.

    I personally played around with one at the store yesterday and I will add a few thoughts of my own. I can not judge actual image quality, so I will leave that to those who own one.

    1- Size, feel. I know the trend is to try and make the smallest possible camera. However for me the Nikon 1 is just too small, especially considering the exterior slick plastic. I almost dropped it a few times in fifteen minutes. It is just not comfortable to me. There needs to be some grippy type of material on the front. I had a hard time finding a comfortable shooting grip. I tried, but nothing felt comfortable. I noticed online that there seems to be a bit more grip on the all black model, but I have yet to see on at the stores.

    The plus is the size. If you get the non-viewfinder/flash model with the smallest lens, you really have a pocketable camera with some power behind it.

    However, no matter what the images may be, this camera looks like a toy. I can only image the looks if you were to show up to shoot a wedding with this guy.

    2- Usability. As with many of these new compact cameras, buttons are at a premium and the camera is heavily menu driven, there is going to be a learning curve here. DSLR users will be frustrated. Point and shoot users should be o.k. Further updates hopefully will improve the menus just as they have with my NEX.

    The non-adjustable screen is something I would miss from my current camera. The next generation really needs one.

    The compact lens on display is very compact and fluid. No issues zooming around, very quick and the auto focus seemed very quick and accurate. All seemed well matched.

    3- Options. I give Nikon credit for having a nice set of lenses and accessories ready to go. I would so be getting the flash and viewfinder model.

    4- Price. I can not get over the $700 base price. No matter the advantages of this camera it still felt and looks like a toy and I can not find anything to justify the price.

    Overall the Nikon 1 seems like a great fun camera, great for times when you don't want to haul around a bigger one. However I just could not find anything outstanding that would make me buy it, especially at the current price.
     
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  13. retow

    retow SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    For shots like these, AF speed, silent shutter and reliable metering help. Things the N1s are outstanding at. A GRD in snap mode would be an alternative. But other than that…..?
     
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  14. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    Thoughts on the EVF and image review

    Weather here in Houston still hasn't allowed much photography outdoors and in good light. However, I did get the chance to take more photos with the V1 in less than ideal indoor poor lighting situations. I won't post any of those photos, because they simply just don't look all that great. But then, my desire to test out the V1 was definitely not due to its ability (or lack thereof) to produce great image quality at low light. In using the V1 a little bit more these past 48 horus, here are some additional thoughts.

    The EVF is very good. It is nice and bright. It is crystal clear. Size wise, it appears to be a little bit smaller than the GH2's EVF. The EVF of the V1 takes a second or so to activate after the proximity sensor switches the view from the rear LCD to the EVF. As noted before, I find that to be annoying, because in that one second, I can easily lose the photo that I am attempting to capture.

    Another annoyance that I encountered is how the EVF (or LCD) blacks out immediately after I take a photo and goes into image review. There is no way to turn off image review. So if I want to take another photo immediately after the first one, I will again lose a second or so.

    When the EVF/LCD blacks out and shows the image that I just took, the image is displayed with a black border around it. So while the image filled the entire EVF/LCD when I had it framed and took the photo, all of a sudden it looks smaller on the EVF/LCD. When using the EVF, the shrinkage of the photo creates this weird effect ... It's almost as if the image takes a little skip (skip as in jump) on the EVF. I can't quite describe it, but it's another annoyance to me. Not sure if other V1 users even noticed that.

    The V1's auto WB does an excellent job, and I have not had to manually change WB in most situations.

    The EVF and LCD do a very good job of providing the correct WB and exposure preview (unlike the GH2). 99% of the time, what I see on the EVF/LCD is pretty much what I will get in terms of color accuracy and exposure.

    EDIT: Today, I encountered situations that the EVF/LCD are not giving me the correct exposure preview. In lower light situations, the EVF/LCD brigthen up the live view giving the perception that I have the photo properly exposed. Once the photo is taken, the image review shows that the photo was underxposed.
     
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  15. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    Continuous AF, 5 FPS, metering

    Finally got some good weather in Houston and went to the skate park to test the V1's AF tracking prowess along with the famed high speed shooting. I used the 30-110mm lens, and set the camera on auto ISO with 3200 limit, and shutter priority at 1/400.

    But first, let me compliment the V1 on its metering capacities. I set the camera on "matrix" metering. I was facing the sun, because it was the best position to capture the skaters going past me as I sat on an elevated position. But that meant that I had strong lightsource on the background, and I was fully expecting the skaters in my photos to look pretty dark. I was amazingly surprised at how well the V1 handled the metering, and most of the photos of the skaters ended up fairly well exposed.

    For continuous shooting, the V1 offers 5, 10, 30 and 60 frames per second at full size JPG files (although at 60 FPS, the buffer fills up in 0.5 seconds). In the 5 FPS mode, the user can choose between mechanical and electronic shutter. The electronic shutter has a top shutter speed of 1/16,000!!! At 5 FPS, the user has full control of all shooting parameters such as ISO and aperture while also using continous AF. At 10 FPS, the camera controls all shooting parameters while still able to utilize the continous AF. At 30 and 60 FPS, focus is locked on the first photo.

    I mistakenly chose 5 FPS with the electronic shutter, thinking that I was choosing the 10 FPS mode. The good thing is that the V1 still performed admirably, and 5 FPS was plenty for the photos I was taking. The skaters weren't going very fast or unpredictably. So for this purpose, the 5 FPS and the V1's continuous auto focus worked quite well. I suspect that the big DOF from the V1's smaller sensor (when compared to other mirrorless cameras and APS-C DSLRs) makes the V1's auto focusing job a whole lot easier.

    The biggest difficulty that I encountered was trying to keep the subject inside the EVF as I tracked the subject. The EVF blacks out between each frame and then shows an image that may or may not be a live image between each black out. I read somewhere that the V1 does a better job of allowing subject tracking at 10 FPS, but unfortunately, I mistakenly had the camera on 5 FPS (while thinking I had it set on 10 FPS). So I'll test out the 10 FPS tomorrow or Friday (if I get a chance). I also didn't use the AF tracking mode that the V1 has. So I'll give that a run next time as well.

    For today though, I was pleased with the performance of the V1. When I pixel peep the photos at 100%, the V1 photos are more of a point and shoot quality than DSLR. I also had my Pentax K-5 with the Pentax FA35/2 lens. The K-5's continuous AF and 7 FPS did as good of a job as the V1, but provided better quality photos. I suppose that's to be expected from an APS-C camera vs. the V1's 2.7X cropped sensor.

    The following photos are three sequences of photos that I took with the V1 in JPG-fine. I downsized the photos to 1024 pixels via LR3.6, and did not process the photo in any other manner.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  16. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
  17. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    On this third sequence, I zoomed in on the skater's face and attempted to track his face. I didn't do a very good job as I lost his face somewhere in the sequence!

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  18. retow

    retow SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    How would you compare the V1's IQ with the X10 (you still have the Fuji?), not from a pixel peeping perspective but more an overall impression.
     
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  19. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    @Retow - Other than the skateboarding photos, I haven't had the chance to take enough photos with the V1 under decent lighting conditions to fully come to a conclusion regarding the V1's IQ. For indoor low light photography, the V1 is not "it." But neither is the X10. At the end of the day, there's nothing like a big sensor for low light stuff.

    The X10 does have the advantage of a much faster lens, which allows me to use ISO 800 instead of 3200 in the V1. And that's definitely helpful. But more thoughts on the V1 later when I get a chance to take a few more photos. :)
     
  20. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    These things are everywhere! There was another working J1 demo model in a shop I went to this morning, this time fitted with the 30-110mm telephoto zoom. There was a V1 as well but it was just a mock-up. The only thing different that I noticed compared to my first encounter was that the AF speed slows quite noticeably at the long end compared to the 10mm prime and 10-30mm zoom. The AF on these two would lock almost instantaneously, whereas the J1 + 30-110 felt to be slower than the Panasonic GF1 + 45-200mm. The store was fairly brightly lit (aren't they all?) and I was using high-contrast targets to test the AF. I assume the J1 and V1 share the same AF system (correct me if I'm wrong).
     
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