The mirrorless interchangeable lens camera market is a young one, at only three years old since the first Micro Four Thirds camera was launched. Since then, it's seen a multitude of entrants coming in to try and take the market which exists somewhere between compact and DSLR cameras. Panasonic and Olympus champion the Micro Four Thirds standard, Sony has its NEX system, Samsung the NX system, Pentax the Q, and even Fujifilm wants to get in the mirrorless game in 2012.
Noticeable by their absence were the two biggest giants in the camera industry; Canon and Nikon. While Canon has kept mum on any plans for a mirrorless camera system, Nikon became quite forthright late in the year about their plans to release a mirrorless camera system.
The Nikon 1 mirrorless system was finally announced to the public on September 21st, with two new cameras on offer: The Nikon 1 J1, and the higher-end model we're reviewing today; the Nikon 1 V1.
The Nikon V1 is so new and different it's hard to wrap our mind around it. At first glance, it's another mirror-less interchangeable lens camera in a sea of those cameras, albeit Nikon's long-anticipated first entry into the category. The sensor size is roughly twice as small as those found in entry-level APS-C DSLR cameras and smaller than those found in Micro Four Thirds cameras, even though it's larger than any sensor found in a compact camera.
Together with the smaller sensor, Nikon has added all sorts of interesting and unheard of features into the V1. It shoots at a rate of 60 frames per second in AF-S mode (the speed is 60fps, but the maximum number of shots you can get in one burst is 30, so you're effectively shooting and getting up to a maximum of 30 frames per half-second at one time). Up to 10fps if you're shooting in the more reliable AF-A mode (to put that into perspective, Nikon's top of the line D3s DSLR shoots up to 9fps).
It has a groundbreaking hybrid AF system, which combines phase-detection and contrast-detect AF for quick and accurate autofocus, and a staggering 73 AF area points (the Olympus Micro Four Thirds flagship E-P3 has 35). Motion Snapshot mode captures a still image and a movie vignette which will play back in slow motion, and Smart Photo Selector mode takes advantage of the V1's fast speeds by firing a burst of 20 shots at a rate of 30fps, then selecting only the best five images to save.
It's a heady buffet of abilities to choose from when you have the V1 in your hands, and that's what Nikon is betting you'll think too when considering the V1; it's not just about the sensor anymore, it's about what else a camera can do.