Nikon 1 V2: An Interchangeable-Lens Camera For Clueless Photographers (And No One Else)

The Nikon 1 V2 is a total overhaul of its predecessor. The hope is that the higher-resolution sensor, bigger body, and amateur-friendly features will turn a legion of aspiring beginners into lens-swapping, accessory-toting photographers. We think? Otherwise this camera makes no sense.

When Nikon waded into the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera market last year with its first two Nikon 1 cameras, it gambled, to the chagrin of snooty Nikon fans everywhere, on a smaller sensor size. The system's 13.2mm x 8.8mm CX format image sensors are tiny. The micro four thirds and APS-C sensors on the camera's competitors are two and three times larger respectively. No matter what fancy tricks Nikon tries to pull with image processing, this huge sensor size disparity puts the Nikon 1 cameras at a huge disadvantage in terms of image quality. On specs these cameras are a lost cause.

The only possible explanation for these specs is that rather than maximize potential image quality, Nikon is out to maximize the experience of taking pictures. In short, it wants to make people feel like pros even if they're not.

Nikon 1 V2: An Interchangeable-Lens Camera For Clueless Photographers (And No One Else)

Let's start with the camera's body, which has been redesigned to look and feel more like a DSLR. The Nikon 1 V2 has a big textured grip that gives the body a heftier, more professional feel than last year's V1, which had a slim body like a point-and-shoot camera. The mode dial has also been moved from a weird position on the back to its conventional spot by the shutter release. As before, there's a high-resolution electronic viewfinder.

As for its guts, the most noticeable change is the V2's new 14.2 megapixel sensor, compared to the 10.1-megapixel sensor on the V1. More pixels, means smaller pixels, and while this could hurt the sensor's ability to capture light, Nikon claims that the sensor is even better than before: It's good up to a maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400 (compared to 3200 before). But again, theory says this camera's image quality will be smoked by the competition. And history isn't on the V2's side : In our Battlemodo of interchangeable-lens compact cameras, the Nikon 1 camera came in last place.

But the V2 isn't for pixel nerds, it's for people who don't know one image sensor from the next, which is why it's loaded with all sorts of feature shooting modes. Last year's Nikon 1s brought Motion Snapshot, which was captures very short, super-slow motion clips. Not for the pros, maybe, but still pretty cool. Now we get "Best Moment Capture Mode," which might as well be called, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing mode." The feature literally slows down what's going on in front of you so that you can select the best frame from a burst in real-time.

Now, there's nothing wrong with designing a camera for amateurs, and indeed, we find that some of our favorite mirrorless cameras under $1000 can be a little tough to use owing to their small size. But clueless photographers with money to burn seems like a narrow set to build a camera for. Maybe an easy-to-use, unsophisticated feature camera is just what people want for $900 (bundled with a 10-30mm lens). If so, these folks will have it when the Nikon 1 V2 is available late November. We're actually really interested to know whether the camera's user-friendly perks can outweigh the deficiencies if its guts. [Nikon]