Nikon 1 J2 review
13.2x8.8mm 10.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-81mm equivalent), 395g
The J2 fared well in our image quality tests, too, with flattering colours and well-judged automatic exposures. It's good to see that the Auto ISO mode no longer limits itself to ISO 800 as it did on the J1, reducing the chances of camera shake in low light.
We're also happy to see that Nikon has resisted the temptation to raise the resolution. The sensors in Nikon 1 cameras are smaller than those used in most CSCs, but Nikon uses a relatively modest 10-megapixel resolution to achieve a satisfying balance of detail and noise levels. This helped it to produce smooth colours that were closer to an SLR's output than those from a conventional compact camera. However, it was no match for Sony NEX cameras, which use SLR-size sensors for significantly sharper details and lower noise.
Image quality holds up well at fast ISO speeds – there's barely any smearing of fine details in this ISO 800 shot - click to enlarge
The 60fps top speed is little more than a gimmick as it only lasts for 12 frames – that's just a fifth of a second. However, dropping to 10fps spreads these shots over a second, and also allows the camera to update the autofocus between each shot. Dropping the speed further to 4.4fps meant it could keep shooting for 28 shots before slowing. However, the autofocus was much more successful at tracking moving subjects when they were moving closer to the camera rather than moving away.
Virtually all of the above is exactly as it was on the J1, and the new features in the J2 are relatively minor. The screen resolution has more than doubled to 921,000 dots – a welcome improvement, but the J1's screen wasn't a concern. Also new is a Creative mode on the mode dial, but in practice it doesn't make traditional photographic controls any quicker to access than they were on the J1. Automatic panorama stitching is now included but the resulting images are a meagre 2 megapixels.
The choice of lenses has grown since last year but still only stands at six. That's less than most other CSC systems – Sony NEX has 10 and Micro Four Thirds has 35. There's no macro lens in the line-up, for example, although the kit lens had a decent stab at macro photography. It's also worth noting that the relatively small sensor won't give the same shallow depth-of-field effects when used with wide-aperture lenses that you get from cameras with larger sensors.
The 30-110mm lens is just the thing for trips to the zoo, and is extremely compact for a telephoto zoom lens - click to enlarge
On the other hand, the smaller sensor helps Nikon keep its lenses small and light. It's not so apparent with the 3x zoom kit lens, but the 30-110mm telephoto lens (giving an 84-297mm effective focal length range) is much more petite than similar lenses for rival systems. We suspect that typical J2 users are unlikely to want to amass a big collection of lenses, but it's worth considering the dual-lens kit.
The most significant change is the price. The J2 costs £100 less than the J1 did at its launch, making it one of the most keenly priced CSCs currently available, especially if you take advantage of the £50 cashback offer, available until 21 January 2013.
If the J2 does have a niche, it's as a stylish point-and-shoot camera for people who want CSC quality but don't want manual controls or high prices. That makes a lot of sense, and the J2 meets those requirements admirably. However, so too does the J1, which is currently available for just £272 from Amazon, or as a dual-lens kit for £349 from Jessops. The £50 cashback offer also applies to the J1, making it an incredible bargain.
We won't mark the J2 down on account of end-of-line deals, though. Ultimately, we prefer the Sony NEX-F3 with its superior image quality, tilting screen and more accessible controls, but the J2 is a little smaller, a lot more stylish and a solid choice for casual users who demand high quality.