Introduction, Design and Handling
Advancing the Nikon 1 Series
We first covered news of the Nikon 1 J4 in our sneak peek here, but we’ve since had a chance to have the retail set in our labs for a proper review, and we do believe the J4 is a worthy upgrade if you’ve been on the J3 or J2.
The Nikon 1 system is fairly mature by now, and with the J4 the focus remains on making key shooting situations easier via the use of presets. With eight filter options like HDR, Creative Palette, Panorama, and Soft focus available under the Creative mode, and Nikon’s own helper functions like Best Moment Capture and Smart Photo Selector (more about how these work in our interview with Nikon), it’s obvious Nikon is trying to bridge the gap between cameras with interchangeable lenses and simple point-and-shoot compacts with this one.
At 100 x 60 x 29mm, the J4 is about the same size as the J3 (which measures 101 x 61 x 29mm), but is surprisingly heavier at 232g with battery and memory card (compared to 201g for the predecessor). The J4 also gains built-in Wi-Fi support and a higher-resolution 1.04-million dot 3-inch monitor with touchscreen capabilities, which compensates for the J4’s minimalistic approach to controls.
Design and Key Features
In terms of body design, the J4 is decidedly futuristic, sporting a brushed-metal finish and a more boxy shape compared to the J3. A dedicated record button is placed next to the shutter button, letting you start recording movie with just a press, and we really like that it’s a nice solid ridged button that pops up enough for you to reach by feel.
Also new, is the 10-30 f/3.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM kit lens that comes with the bundle. This features an integrated lens cover, and Nikon’s power drive zoom, which essentially is a zoom-by-wire system, meant to facilitate smooth zooming while recording movies. We must say that we really like the integrated cover, as it cuts down on loose items to be mindful of, and more importantly, reduces the number of steps it takes to start shooting - just turn on the camera and you’re good to go.
Other cameras we tried like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 and the Samsung NX Mini require you to remove your lens cap, turn on your camera, and then turn the zoom barrel to unlock the lens before you can start taking pictures, so being able to cut that down to one step is definitely refreshing.
In terms of handling, the J4 fits nicely into the hand and is one of the smaller cameras out there in its class. We think the touchscreen really adds to its usability as it’s simply a lot easier to tap options on-screen than to go through multiple button presses - especially when it comes to menus that need navigation! A small plastic ridge on the right of the camera acts as a nice thumb grip, and the metallic finish gives the camera a nice, modern feel.
Also different from the J3, is the fact that the J4 now has wireless networking built-in, allowing you to take control of the camera using your smart device via the free Nikon app (available for Android and iOS). This also gives you the ability to transfer images to your smartphone or tablet, trigger the shutter remotely, and to save a copy on both the camera and smart device. In this case, the image saved to your device will be a low-res copy, whereas the one on the J4 will be full quality.
Something unique here is the fact that the Nikon app gives you options for setting battery warning levels - for both the smart device and the J4. This helps you prevent the instance where you connect the camera to your smart phone only for it to die on you after five shots for example, but it can be a little annoying if you have the trigger level set too high and don't realize it.