Nikon 1: A Tiny Camera With Interchangeable Lenses That's Crazy Fast (or Crazy Slow)

Tiny cameras with big sensors and swappable lenses are like, a big deal. How big? Nikon just built their first brand new camera system for the first time in practically 50 years. It's the Nikon 1. And yeah, it's kind of awesome.

There's a lot going on in the Nikon 1 that makes it fantastic. It shoots video and photos simultaneously and seamless, without interrupting video—even at 1080p. A new Motion Snapshot feature combines photo and video seamlessly—snap a photo, and it shoots a second a video simultaneously at 60fps. When you hit play, it spools out 2.5 seconds of slow-motion video at 24fps. Speaking of slow-motion, it records at 1200fps at its super slowest (though the video resolution is a scrunchy 320x120). Along the same route, a new Smart Photo Select feature snaps 20 images at 30fps, then automatically surfaces the five best shots based on factors like sharpness and composition. Nikon's saying it's got the world's fastest autofocus to boot.

Vital specs for camera nerds:
• 10.1-megapixel CX format CMOS sensor (13.2mm x 8.88mm)
• All-new Nikon 1 lens mount system
• Dual-core Expeed 3 sensor, which is why it's all fast and able to do photo/video simultaneously
• A new 73-point hybrid autofocus system that combines contrast and phase-detection, switching between the two seamlessly;
• Video's 1080p/30fps; 1080i/60fps; 720p/60fps; output in h.264 format
• Slow motion video: 640 x 240/400fps; 320 x 120/1,200 fps
• ISO 100-3200 (expandable to 6400)
• 10fps bursts, but with AF locked, it can shoot at up to 60fps, which is the world's fastest continuous shooting speed, according to Nikon
• 12-bit RAW

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There are two models, both out Oct. 20: The standard J1 ($650 for the kit) and the more pro V1 ($900). With the V1, you get a 1.4-million dot electronic viewfinder, electronic shutter, stereo input, multi-accessory port (for speedlight flash and GPS) and a magnesium alloy body.

Oh, and the lenses. There's four—a 10-30mm f3.5-5.6 kit, 10mm f2.8 pancake, 30-100mm f3.8-5.6 zoom, and possibly most interesting, a power zoom 10-100mm f4.5-5.6 lens designed for quiet zooming while shooting video. (It's also the priciest, at $750.)

In case you're wondering just how serious Nikon is about this brave new world of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras—you know, besides developing their first brand new camera system in five decades—execs tonight kept talking about how it's the future of their company. While a ton of camera companies have been pushing this kind of compact, mirrorless interchangeable lens camera—-Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and Olympus—Nikon's the first of the big two to jump into the game, so this kind of camera officially has a new kind of staying power.

That said, there's a lot left to see here. How good is this camera and the stuff it shoots? The Nikon 1 sensor is markedly smaller than the Micro Four Thirds sensors in a lot of the competition, and dwarfed by the full APS-C-sized sensors in Sony's new NEX cameras. Still, I'm pretty excited about the big picture here, where every major camera company is slogging it out in a whole new category, where a lot of the old rules don't apply, fighting to make a better, smaller camera. [Nikon]