One of the things I've struggled with over the last 6 months or so is when to take (or not take) my camera equipment with me when we're heading out on family jaunts. Sometimes the D3 or D7000 (with a high quality zoom lens and external flash) seems like just too much to take along, and so I end up missing family "snapshots" and those precious images of the kids growing up. We have a Canon S3 that has been performing the "snapshot camera" duties for the last 5 years or so, but it's getting a bit old, the image quality is not up to par, the viewfinder is "uninspiring" and I just find myself not wanting to take it along either. So, I've been looking for a compact camera that is small enough to comfortably take along (stuff in a jacket pocket or hang from a belt pouch) but still provides good enough image quality. Rebecca also reminded me that we often use the long end of the zoom on the S3 to video the kids school and church events, so having a decent telephoto capability was a must too. And speaking of video, one of my top priorities was finding a compact camera that could do double duty as a video camera. I've been watching the micro 4/3rds cameras for quite some time, and almost went for a Panasonic GH2, but that camera still wasn't small enough to be really "pocketable."
When the Nikon 1 system was announced I was intrigued, but hesitant about the image quality. Reviews like this one: http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-11666-11988
from Rob Galbraith, along with several other reviews by pro photographers that were looking for a weekend family camera, finally convinced me to take the plunge. I bought the Nikon V1, 10-30mm zoom, 30-110mm zoom and tiny little SB-N5 flash. The V1 is the larger of the two System 1 cameras, but having a viewfinder was a top priority, since I find it difficult to evaluate focus on the LCD of a camera with these old presbyopic eyes of mine. (A viewfinder gives better "eye relief," and the viewfinder in the V1 has a built in diopter adjustment).
The bottom line? I'm happy! The V1 is an awesome little video camera. The resolution and framerate options are somewhat limited compared to some of the competition on the market, but I find the 720P 60fps option just about perfect for family videos. Should I want higher resolution, the V1 can also do 1080 60i or 1080 30P. By comparison, the D7000 has great video quality, but the autofocus implementation is not up to par for video in ANY of the digital SLRs. The AF in the Nikon V1 is much better for video, and getting even better as I learn the nuances of the AF system.
(Face tracking works very
well in the V1).
One of my favorite features of the V1 is the diminutive SB-N5 flash. The ability to tilt and swivel the flash head in order to bounce the flash off the ceiling gives me much better looking images without the typical harsh shadows caused by the direct flash on almost all the other compact cameras on the market. The SB-N5 is definitely a strong selling point of the system.
Image quality is very good (I would rate it on par with the D3100) up to ISO 800, and certainly acceptable at smaller web sizes at even higher ISOs. The "look" of the images (color and tonality) is very similar to what you would expect from the D7000 or any recent Nikon dSLR. "Pixel Peepers" might be a little disappointed at ISOs higher than 400, however for the type of images I'm capturing with the camera, it meets my requirements. (For some perspective, I find it head-and-shoulders above the image quality of the D100, and I'm still selling images through my stock agent that were taken with that old 6MP "noisy" camera.) I also find that video quality is very good all the way up to ISO 3200. I suspect that it is a combination of many things, including how the video is processed and downsampled in camera, that makes the higher ISOs useable for video. The bottom line is that it provides very nice quality video even up into the higher ISOs.
This isn't intended to be a formal review, I just wanted to share my impressions of the system and let you all know that I have some experience with the system if you are curious about it yourself.
Rebecca surprised me by commenting "what a darling little camera" when she saw the V1. Certainly that type of appeal makes the camera more fun to use.