The Nikon 1 V1 was knocked for being too simplistic in the way it handled. While it was supposed to be the 1 series' 'pro' model, it handled far too much like the entry-level J1, too automatic and not enough manual. The V2 looks like it was designed with that feedback in mind, introducing a Mode dial with PSAM modes and a control dial.
Also, that protruding front grip. Let's face it; it doesn't make the V2 look any better and gives it a chunky look. The old saying is "form follows function", but we wish Nikon hadn't taken the principle quite so literally when designing the V2. The grip certainly does make the V2 much more comfortable to hold than the V1, but in all our time with the V2 there was never one moment when we looked at the camera and thought "that looks nice."
It's not all bad - the paint job on our white model is quite pleasant. After a couple of weeks of use, our V2 is still clean and free of nicks. Its construction feels solid and dense (just like the V1).
The V2 tries to absolve the sins of the father by building in more manual controls, and it helps - to a degree. Whereas the V1 hid the PSAM (Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual) modes inside the on-screen menu, the V2 has built them into the Mode dial, which has been re-positioned to a much more convenient spot on the top plate.
On the top right is a control dial, which functions much like the ones found on DSLR cameras. Together, these two controls make getting into manual modes and controlling them much easier than it was on the V1. While in full Manual mode, the control dial gives you shutter speed, while the back control wheel handles aperture. Perfect.
But Nikon doesn't quite go the full length. An F (Function) button sits in-between the Mode and control dial, and pressing it goes into a list of common settings like ISO, AF and metering modes. But the icons representing these commands are scattered all over the screen in what looks like a random arrangement. Like, totally random - Picture Mode and White Balance sit on top, AF Area is represented by a small icon under AF Drive, Metering Mode sits by itself in a lonely bottom right corner and ISO lets it all hang out in the middle bottom of the screen.
It forces you to look all over the screen, searching for that one icon, when ideally you want to look at your scene as much as possible and controls as little as possible. Nikon, there's really nothing wrong with having all your icons in a row - less confusion, more clarity. Better yet, why not just adopt the solution you've already found in your DSLR cameras; a consolidated Quick menu with all your settings put together. Just a thought.
Three things stand out to us about the menu. It's the same as it ever was on the 1 series' cameras, a simplified design which you'll either love or hate (the minimalist in this reviewer likes it). The second is how needlessly complicated changing frame-rates is; you can't switch between the different frame-rates using the overlay menu which appears when you tap left on the d-pad. Instead, you need to dive into the menu and select which frame-rate you want, 5, 15, 30 or 60fps, and that option will then appear as the only one on the overlay menu. It's just restricting in a way that doesn't need to be.
The last is perhaps a bug: AF-C (auto-focus continuous) doesn't work with frame-rates above 15fps. At 30 and 60fps, the camera can only shoot with AF-S (auto-focus single). But the display doesn't change to reflect that, which is misleading and a real bummer if you were shooting a moving subject and didn't read the manual.
One more thing: The Power switch is a curious control which flips around the shutter release. You flip the switch around, it turns the camera on (or off) and then swings back to the default starting position. It works just fine, but it's loose and too easily triggered by accident. There were times when we opened our bags to find that the V2 had turned on from moving the bag around. It would have been nice to have it behave like Nikon's DLSR cameras, which flips to On/Off and stays there, instead of swinging back to default.
Overall, the changes made to the V2 make it easier to access manual controls than before, with a grip that feels more comfortable and secure. But from our usage, the digital controls need a little more work to really bring out the best in the camera's usability as noted above.