Nikon 1 V2 pictures and hands-on

Take one look at the Nikon 1 V2 and it's clear that it's far more than a simple refresh of the original V1 model.

The original, which we thought had an "uninspiring design", also lacked the external controls that more demanding photographers might expect - something that seemed at odds with the price and interchangeable lens camera type.

READ: Nikon V1 review

Not so with the Nikon 1 V2. This latest model adds an external control dial, a built-in pop-up flash, a grip to get a good hand on the product and is the first Nikon 1 to benefit from second-generation technologies.

All that is a step in the right direction, yet somehow Nikon's managed to make the V2 look a bit like a bridge camera from about five years ago. It's all boxy lines and angles and, while it's small, its exterior aesthetic still doesn't get us excited.

The features, on the other hand, are far more of a draw. There's a mixed target audience: the advanced user who wants full control, as well as the developing photographer or point-and-shoot snapper. It's for the whole family, a message that the Nikon 1 advertising campaign seems to hit home with great success.

The existing Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector modes - to shoot an "animated" still and to auto-select the best shots from a burst of frames, respectively - remain in place, now with an added Slow View mode that captures 40 shots and replays them in slow motion like a slideshow.

The burst mode is further enhanced, now capable of 15 frames per second with - wait for it - continuous autofocus. That's the fastest in the world. It sounds a bit like a toy machinegun in use (though is using an electronic shutter with sound effects to show off its super speed) as it whirrs through the frames. Nikon also claims that there's no camera with better shutter lag response too. A couple of "world bests" under the belt sure can't be a bad thing.

The inclusion of a proper mode dial makes a big difference in use too. No more menu digging to shift between aperture priority and shutter priority modes, for example, something that the V2's younger brother, the J2, had tried to address - unsuccessfully, we might add - via its rear function button.

READ: Nikon J2 review

There are improvements elsewhere too. The autofocus system - which was already decent - is now faster. Not by loads, mind, but it worked very well in both the dim room and overcast outdoor conditions in which we used the camera; you know those typically drab British autumnal conditions.

The multi-area autofocus mode is quick to snap into place, while the face priority mode (which can be switched off from within the menus) is equally fast to identify multiple human faces from all sorts of angles.

A single-point autofocus option is also available, which covers the majority of the screen's breadth except for the most extreme edges, and can be adjusted in size terms too. The speed is equally as responsive and we find the added control of the focus position preferable, though something like the "pinpoint" autofocus system found in Panasonic's G-series models would make it even more exceptional.

READ: Panasonic Lumix GH3 initial review

As per its predecessor, the V2 also includes a built-in electronic viewfinder. It's the same size and 1440k-dot resolution as before, though the camera's redesign and addition of an external pop-up flash means it looks slightly larger from a design rather than magnification point of view.

The viewfinder panel itself does suffer from some ghosting lag in preview when moving it around, but it's fairly minimal and otherwise on par with similar compact system models in this department.

READ: Compact system cameras: Which mirrorless system is right for me?

Image quality is still one unanswered question though. The latest 1-inch CX sensor spreads 14.2-megapixels of resolution over its surface and the latest Expeed 3A processing engine can deliver shots from ISO 100-6400.

We fired off a number of shots, but were unable to take them home with us as this particular V2 is a pre-production model.

The increase in resolution over its predecessor leaves us in two minds: on the one hand the predecessor's quality wasn't able to match up to the likes of Micro Four Thirds, and adding more pixels is unlikely to solve that; on the other the Sony Cyber-shot RX100's 20-megapixel resolution (over the same surface area) was rather impressive.

READ: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 review

Context is the key though: a £800 compact system camera ought to outshine a £500 high-end compact camera, so we'll have to wait and see just how capable the V2 is and whether it's that much needed push forward.

The final version of the Nikon 1 V2 will be available in the shops from 22 November 2012, priced at £800 with the 10-30mm lens. If you fancy doing the double then the 10-30mm and 30-100mm twin lens package will be priced at £970.

It's still not a budget offering when considering the competition, and with Canon's EOS M just around the corner in advance of Christmas, we look forward to seeing what happens when these two big brands go head to head.



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