Nikon 1 J2 review
13.2x8.8mm 10.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-81mm equivalent), 395g
In an age of me-too electronic gadgets, it's great to find some genuine diversity among compact system cameras (CSCs). The Sony NEX range leads the pack for low noise, Olympus and Panasonic offer fast performance and the biggest choice of lenses, while Samsung NX cameras excel for image detail and Wi-Fi functions.
The Nikon 1 system's niche is harder to define. As with last year's Nikon J1, the J2 scores highly for style and it keeps the controls simple to avoid intimidating casual users, but these are hardly unique traits. Meanwhile, Nikon makes a big deal about these cameras' performance, but its 1.4-second shot-to-shot time is nothing special.
Its continuous mode is more unusual, though, shooting at up to 60fps, and there are various tricks to get the most from this speedy performance. Even more unusual is that Nikon puts these performance-enhanced shooting modes centre stage by including them on the mode dial at the expense of traditional exposure modes and scene presets. These are available, along with ISO speed, white balance and all the other controls we'd expect, but only via tedious menu trawling.
The Smart Photo Selector mode takes 20 photos in quick succession and saves what it thinks are the best five, based on facial expression, composition and focus. It's even able to start buffering photos while the shutter button is half pressed, reducing the likelihood of missing a crucial moment. It's hard to gauge how successfully it judges these criteria without seeing the shots it rejects, but regardless, it's a great idea that works well in practice. Simply having five shots to choose from greatly increases the chances of a winning photo. It's worth noting that the camera uses fast shutter and ISO speeds to allow it to capture frames at a fast rate. This can lead to noisier images than when shooting in Auto mode, although on the upside it also minimises the chances of motion blur.
Smart Photo Selector tends to push the ISO speed up – as a result these skin tones are a little mottled but it's not too objectionable - click to enlarge
Motion Snapshot captures a two-second 1080p slow-motion video followed by an 8-megapixel photo. These play back in the camera with saccharine music in what Nikon describes as a "living image". However, the files themselves are silent and there's no obvious way to share living images. Longer slow motion video clips are available via the Movie mode, recorded at 400fps or 1200fps for 1/13- or 1/40-speed playback, but they stop recording after five seconds and the resolution is disappointingly low.
The main video mode is more successful, recording at 1080p for up to 20 minutes. Picture and sound quality were both superb, autofocus was responsive and completely silent, and priority and manual exposure modes are available.