nikon 1 = epic fail

posted in gear at September 22, 2011

I’m really struggling to understand what Nikon was thinking when they came up with this new system.  Micro 4/3 kills it based on every, and I mean every dimension.


$650 for the J1 with kit lens, $900 for the V1 with kit lens.  Compare this to the Panasonic GF3 with kit lens for $600 or Olympus EPL3 for $700.  A Panny G2 can be had for $300.


Tiny 2.7x crop sensor.  Smaller than the 2x m4/3 sensor or 1.5x Sony NEX sensor.


The Nikon 1 is no smaller than the m4/3 cameras from Panny and Oly.  The lens is no smaller.  In fact it looks bigger.  Logically, the reason to come out with a smaller sensor is to enable you to make a smaller body and lenses.  I get it.   It’s a reasonable tradeoff.  But why make a smaller 2.7 crop sensor if you’re not going to make the body and lenses any smaller?

As you can see, it’s actually a bit bigger than the smallest m4/3 cameras. (image from ePhotozone)


M4/3 beats every other system hands down.  A bunch of zooms (including pancake zooms), 14mm, 17mm, 20mm pancake primes, f1.4 normal prime, fast wide primes, fisheye, fast telephoto primes, macro lenses, and on and on.  It will be years, and I mean years, before Nikon has a comparable lens lineup.  My guess is that 5 years from now, Nikon’s lineup will not equal what m4/3 has available today.

Image Stabilization

Nikon has lens-based IS.  Which means that, should they ever come out with prime lenses (which almost never have built in IS), you’ve got no IS.  IS, by the way, is one of the more important camera innovations of the past decade or so.

Hot shoe

None.  ’nuff said.


So let’s summarize here.  The Nikon 1 system is

- more expensive than micro 4/3

- has a smaller 2.7 crop sensor = lower image quality

- has a body/lens combo that has no size advantage over micro 4/3

- has no lenses other than really slow kit lenses (f3.8-f5.6)

- has no in-body image stabilization or hot shoe

To what group does this camera appeal to?  Clearly it’s designed for casual shooters upgrading from a point-n-shoot.  But even in this category the cameras from Panny and Oly make more sense – just as small or smaller and cheaper.

Oh, but the Nikon 1 comes in PINK, so there you go………

The case for micro 4/3

The more I think about it, the more I think that micro 4/3 is clearly the system to build on for serious photographers looking for a compact interchangeable-lens system.  It hits that Goldilocks sweet-spot of making all the correct compromises.

- Sony NEX:  the 1.5 crop sensor is too big, therefore the lenses are huge.  Too big for a compact system.

- Leica X1 / Fuji X100:  Nice cameras, but no interchangeable lenses. Oh, and the X100 is vaporware…

- Pentax Q: are you kidding me?

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re a good photographer you’ll make great images with a Nikon 1.  Just like you’ll make great images with an iPhone. But why you would go out of your way to get into this system I have no idea.



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  • Mike

    There is a 'hot shoe' of sorts on the v1 but it's definitely not a standard hot shoe (and even the sample photo on nikon's product page is ghastly). On the plus side, it appears as if the flash draws it's power from the camera, not a separate battery pack which...doesn't make it any more appealing now that I think about it. (September 22, 2011 | 02:02pm)

  • Jim Martin

    I agree that I don't see the point of the Nikon 1. But I don't know if I'd call the X100 vaporware - it's not *that* hard to get one. I decided I wanted one and two days later they came into stock (Amazon). They're in and out of stock frequently enough that it doesn't take too long to get one. It is a shame Fuji hasn't worked out their supply issues yet... (September 22, 2011 | 02:12pm)

  • Jason

    As a Nikon shooter, I was very disappointed. I used to get out to shoot more, but with kids I need something more compact. Hauling around my 70-200mm f/2.8 seldom makes sense. Given that I decided to sell of my dSLR stuff for something more portable. I had hoped Nikon could keep me as a consumer, but now my mind is made up to switch to the m4/3 camp... (September 22, 2011 | 02:25pm)

  • Giovanni B.

    Worse than that, if you consider the sensor's size, also Sony Nex 5n/7 beats the Nikon 1. If you want you can give a look at the synoptic table of size, weight and sensor's size of all the available mirrorless camera here: Ciao (September 22, 2011 | 02:30pm)

  • Mike Padua

    I agree on every point. I think a simple fact is surfacing here: this system is targeted toward a certain market, but it is certainly not anyone that cares about the benefits of a physically large sensor. (September 22, 2011 | 02:34pm)

  • Tom Q
    Twitter: tommquinn

    Amen to that. (September 22, 2011 | 05:49pm)

  • Mark
    Twitter: sperdynamite

    I assure you that the X100 I used to shoot a wedding last weekend is not vaporware. You just have to order one and can get them used on rangefinderforum or X100 forum. (September 22, 2011 | 06:44pm)

  • admin

    @Mark: alright, alright, you got me. Try hard enough, scour a bunch of websites and you might end up getting an x100. Either spend hours watching the internets like a hawk or pay the $300+ markups on Amazon. In my book that's still unacceptably poor execution for a camera that was announced a year ago. I consider a camera to be out and available when it's in stock at B&H and Adorama at normal prices. (September 22, 2011 | 07:10pm)

  • Michael Sebastian
    Twitter: mikeseb

    You're spot-on, Laurence. Micro-4/3's is where it's at right now, and for the foreseeable future. As for the X100: nice looking, nice feeling camera, but too expensive for what it does. The fixed lens is a plus/minus deal, but contributes to the overall impression of its being overpriced for its capabilities. The thing really needs a firmware upgrade or five; its menus are chaotic and inscrutable. And its autofocus is dicey. Furthermore, I like squarer formats---645 is about as rectangular as I like, and I often find myself cropping that down to 6x7 proportions, by far my favorite format. Believe it or not, I've had 4 (!) X100's ordered via Amazon, sequentially. I got on the wait list a long time ago. I kept getting cold feet about the price, so I refused delivery on the first one; canceled shipping on the next two; and took delivery on the fourth. Crazy, I know. I wanted so much to like it, and I liked a lot of things about it. But in the end I couldn't justify spending $1200 on it when I have a perfectly fine GF1/20mm that's served me well. (September 22, 2011 | 07:45pm)

  • Stefanos

    Think like a businessman! Nikon has a significant market share in the DSLR segment that is getting hit by interchangeable lens systems from Panny and Oly. What is the solution? Create a product that competes with them through new cool features that are attractive to amateur photogs (there are no traditional PASM settings, but new cool ones), while also making sure potential DSLR buyers, as well as loyal Nikon customers, would never look twice at the Nikon 1. Nikon is not capable of destroying their existing DSLR product to create a new, better one, as Apple has done so many times. (September 23, 2011 | 01:26am)

  • Athena

    I feel like I'm missing something here. All these new interchangeable lens cameras just don't appeal to me. I mean sure, it's great to have a middle ground between a point-and-shoot and an SLR, but I feel like making a hybrid of the two is silly. If I want better quality I'm going to pick up my SLR and take my time. Aside from smaller size, the only benefit I can see from "investing" in one of these things is economic stimulation. I recall a blog post you had once that mentioned how much money you threw into getting new equipment - and I don't remember it being a positive statement. Perhaps because I'm so new to professional photography (so new, in fact, I still don't call myself a professional!) I just can't see the financial gain or edge to my business to be had from purchasing an ILC. (September 23, 2011 | 01:37am)

  • Mark Olwick

    Want to know what they were thinking? Here's an interview with the head of Nikon R&D. Amazingly deluded. He says that the camera is 4x faster than the D3 and has the same IQ as their DSLRs. Every sample I've seen says otherwise I think m4/3 has it just right. I've made 50 inch wide prints from an m4/3 camera that sold for $2000. (September 23, 2011 | 07:02am)

  • admin

    @Athena: While you can use a small interchangeable lens compact professionally, that's not really their intended use. I would say most professional photographers that buy one of these is not looking to replace their dslr, but to have a small, lightweight system that they can carry around with them for personal work. When you're just out and about with the kids or going on a hike, carrying around that dslr is a pain. (September 23, 2011 | 07:21am)

  • Tsais

    Nikon's sensor is 116sqmm, less than 1/3 the size of the Nex APS-C at 368sqmm, and barely over half of M43's 255sqmm. So, the declared Lifestyler target audience can say goodbye to taking good shots at their lifestyle parties, unless they restrict their activities to middle-of-the-day outdoor locations. The M43 sensor already has considerably worse low light performance than APS-C in every test I've seen. So cutting that in half again, and not even making their cameras and lenses smaller seems ridiculous. I was waiting for Nikon to come out with these before buying something... now they're cheesing out on sensors... I obviously wasted my time waiting for Nikon to do something that can take better pictures than Nex and Co... Apparently, it can take pictures FASTER... how wonderful, I can take incredible numbers of crappy shots very quickly... (September 24, 2011 | 03:10am)

  • Karl Östegaard

    Everything is about making money and that is sad... (September 25, 2011 | 03:24am)

  • Victor

    I've never owned a Nikon but this one is causing me to take a second look. I shoot youth sports and events and the Nikon 1 has appeal to me in this arena. The slow motion video, motion stills, fast autofocus, AF-s AF compatability, 2.7 crop all point to good things on this side of the fence. I can see alot of these things trickling up over time. My work is about getting parents what they can't or won't get themselves and this could be the new edge. I can see skateboarders loving the slow motion video on their facebook pages, all I got to do is figure out the sales mechanism. @Karl Nothing sad to me about making money. The more I can make the more I can do for my family and those around me. (September 26, 2011 | 11:06am)

  • More Nikon versus Micro Four Thirds articles! « b r e a k m e l o d y

    [...] Laurence Kim (Click here) says the Nikon is an epic fail: “My guess is that 5 years from now, Nikon’s lineup will not equal what m4/3 has available today.” [...] (September 26, 2011 | 02:39pm)

  • Brian

    EPIC FAIL... Nuff said. Sales will be dismal. People who buy ILCamers normally read some sort of a review and it wont' be pretty. (September 26, 2011 | 03:53pm)

  • Matt

    TSAIS, 116 sqmm is NOT just over half of m4/3rds' 255 sqmm, it is less than half. Rest of comment all valid, though. I've been waiting on m4/3rds to see whan Nikon does (I have D700 & several lenses & flashes) and am deeply disappointed. I figured that at least they'd have a hot shoe and support the flash investment I have, but that doesn't even look to be the case without some goofy adapter. I am not in panic to get camera, but am biding time on Fuji X100 successor (please oh please do an interchangeable lens version!) The key is big sensors in small cameras, and Nikon has picked a goofy spot on that tradeoff. (September 27, 2011 | 08:31am)

  • yves

    Let's see: Reasonably compact, integrated viewfinder, fast AF ... the pen series is not there yet after 3 generations... Panasonic has also in lens stabilisation...and the models with integrated EVF have that mini dslr design that not everyone likes. most m43 still use an ancient 12mp sensor that is not excellent in high iso, , so let's see what this sensor is capable of before we bury this system. I agree lens roadmap will be critical to convince enthusiasts... I am nikon DSLR user but also a m43 user with GF1/20mm/14mm and adapted manual lenses, I just don't see the point of bashing a system that brings something different to the table. it reminds me of what was widely said of m43 when it was announced. (September 28, 2011 | 07:27am)

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  • NL

    Sony sure is blowing it with their big lenses. It's not all that hard to make a little lens. My twenty-year-old Contax T2 has a superb 35mm lens -- on full frame! -- with autofocus that is way smaller than anything from Olympus or Sony. Someone at Zeiss didn't get the memo. (October 15, 2011 | 04:12pm)

  • MIke Ferron

    Though I understand your thinking your judgement of the camera was premature. The V1 is getting rave reviews by pros and amateurs alike. The build is super, it's fast as hell and it gets most everything right out of camera with little PP. BTW DXO rates the sensor right up there with the best M43 cameras so bigger is not always better. Would I buy it make poster size prints? No but as a travel camera it can't be beat IMO. (November 03, 2011 | 08:51pm)

  • Yash

    These MILC cameras don't make any sense to me. They have small bodies but large lenses which defeat the purpose of having a compact camera that fits in your pocket, Sure the NEX cameras are small, but the lenses are huge. This begs the question, why not just buy a DSLR if you don't mind a big lens? The pro who already has a DSLR and looking for a compact camera will go for something like a Canon S series or G series camera, or similar models from Nikon or Olympus. The target audience for the J1 is your average consumer (moms and pops) who want better image quality and more control than the basic point and shoot, but are not ready or do not want the bulk of a DSLR. These consumers will buy such cams, but for the most part, stick with the kit lens and will almost never bother with other lenses. If you want a true compact camera with image quality on par with the J1, why not buy a cheaper Canon S/G series or even a Fuji X10 instead? Sure you can't change lenses, but the target audience who buy the J1 won't bother with additional lenses anyways so what's the point? (November 06, 2011 | 08:15pm)

  • admin

    @yash: m4/3 has some really fine pancake lenses. (November 06, 2011 | 08:32pm)

  • Yash

    @ Laurence Kim - True, but they tend to cost as much, if not more than the camera body itself! (November 08, 2011 | 06:20pm)

  • admin

    @yash: i have a dslr, m4/3, and a canon g11. the m4/3 gets me 90% of the quality of my dslr in a package not much bigger than my g11. that's why i use it for 90% of my personal work. it makes the perfect compromise between image quality and size/weight. (November 09, 2011 | 07:39am)

  • Yash

    @ Laurence Kim - You may want to give the Fuji x10 a go. I managed to get a hold of one a couple days ago and all I can say is WOW! The image quality and noise performance out of the 2/3" is simply amazing. I don't think my DSLR will be happy about it and my S90 has since been sold. Have a look at this comparison between the x10 and GH2 at ISO 1600. I would love to hear your thoughts. :) (November 10, 2011 | 06:29am)

  • John Gordon

    Can someone make a suggestion for me and help me purchase the right christmas gift. I was really interested in the nikon 1 for my fiancee' , she loves taking pics of our 1year old and of family get together 's . We don't have a photography background. I know she wanted the nikon1 mainly because she wants a camera that can take pic after pic really quick. the problem is I don't wana spend 650$ if the nikon 1 is not worth it. can some1 please help mr. no nothing about cameras. my Price range is 300.00-600.00 for a camera that you think will blow the nikon 1 outa the water. (December 12, 2011 | 05:29am)

  • Chris

    I agree with yash, the x10 is surprisingly good with regards to noise performance... managed to play around with one as I work in a soul less camera retailer in the UK.. I own both the Samsung NX10 and NX100 (there was a few good deals that made sense to get both for the lenses!) and have been pleased with the results. I bought them as a portable alternative to my Nikon DSLR and have found that I use them much more often than my poor old Nikon.. do have to agree with you about the J1 and V1, I was expecting much more than what Nikon delivered, seems a kind of pointless system. As for the Pentax Q... again pointless, but a great rich mans toy camera! Plus, their tiny lenses look great :) (December 19, 2011 | 10:59am)

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  • Athena

    I came back to brush up on all you've taught me over the years through your blogs! Wow! A year later and I know what you're talking about. I dragged my camera bag, three lenses, and a tripod to the park to take photos of my kids splashing around and it was a PAIN. I'm thinking about taking a look at one of these ILCs now! (September 05, 2012 | 07:56pm)

  • Terry King

    I have been a Nikon shooter but started experimenting with m4/3 a year or so ago. So when Nikon unveiled the Nikon 1 system I opted to upgrade the Lumix GX1. Why? It has some great prime lenses and is highly portable. To results are astounding, pin sharp images and great depth of field. Although my best results are with primes. (October 16, 2012 | 02:40pm)

  • dan

    I get it that Nikon must compete and come out with innovative products, yet what the hell were they thinking? Micro 4/3 has industry support - a variety of offerings, lenses, and support from several big industry names. The only possible target market for this is the neophyte big box retailer shopper that doesn't price compare or competitively shot. My bet? The Nikon 1 won't be around in a year or two. (November 27, 2012 | 04:22pm)

  • Gary

    I like my V1 -- and I have a leica m8, a nikon d3 and d700, canon s95 and Oly ep-1 . The V1 has fast focus, intuitive menu system and controls, focuses during video, is small, light, an excellent viewfinder, very good battery life, nice lenses so far, and cam take simultaneous video and high res photos. Plus, with the ft-1 adapter, my 70-200 crops down to a 10 Mpx 540/2.8 lens . Current prices are a steal at $350. (December 12, 2012 | 10:46pm)

  • peter42y

    Congratulations. The V1 camera was a complete disaster. Nikon did scrap the project. Finito. No more V cameras. You were right. (February 15, 2014 | 01:31pm)