Friday, 6 June 2014

Nikon 1 J4: Nikon"s new mirrorless camera

Nikon’s latest 1-series mirrorless camera arrives in the form of the J4.

In some countries, it comes in four colours (black, white, silver and orange). But in Singapore, the J4 is available only in black or white.

As tall as an Apple iPhone 4 and just 28.5mm thick, the J4 is one of the smallest and lightest cameras in its class. Its body weighs only 232g. Even a toddler can hold it in one hand without any problem.

The anodised aluminium body feels sturdy and solid. Unlike its curvy predecessors, the J4 looks more angular and stripped down.

While such a minimalist design looks great, it lacks a contoured grip in front and has only a tiny thumb rest at the back.

Because the camera is so small, my ring finger and pinky must be positioned under the camera. This can get quite uncomfortable when you hold the camera for a long time.

On top, you will find the power button, shutter release, dedicated video button and Mode dial. At the back, there is a small command dial. Overall, button layout is logical.

But if you need to change settings more frequently, you will find the handling rather mixed. This camera was designed with the PhD (push here, dummy) user in mind.

The Mode dial lacks the usual defaults – Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual modes. Instead, it has Motion Snapshot, Best Moment Capture, Auto, Creative and Advanced Movie modes.

To access the standard shooting modes, you go into one of the above modes (but not Advanced Movies) and change from Auto Scene Selector to the desired shooting modes.

This is just counter-intuitive.

On the other hand, the J4 does have some fun video options, including Fast Motion, which speeds up shooting by four times to show the frantic pace of life, or Jump Cut, which records a one-second sequence every other second.

I love the fact that the 10-30mm kit lens has an auto lens cap that opens when the camera is powered up and closes on shutdown. No more missing lens caps.

Operation-wise, the J4 is quite quick. It starts up in less than 2sec and shuts down in just 1sec. Autofocusing (AF) is almost instantaneous in bright sunlight, thanks to its 276-area dual hybrid AF. Even in dim lighting, the J4 takes only 1sec to secure a focus with the aid of AF assist light.

Using a microSD card with a writing speed of 30MB per second, the J4 is able to shoot 21 RAW images in 1.1sec.

Image quality is average, probably because of the small (1-inch) image sensor. While images are sharp in the centre, they soften at the edges, even when shot in f/5.6.

Noise artefacts surface at ISO 800 and loss of details are evident at ISO 1,600. Avoid using higher speeds.

While the video modes are fun, the videos recorded tend to look a little grainy. On the plus side, it hardly picks up wind audio or the sound of the lens zooming.

Battery life is average for a mirrorless camera. It manages 300 still images on a full charge.

At press time, the local pricing was not available. As the J3 was priced at $699 with a 10-30mm kit lens, the J4 should be in the same range.

For those who love to change settings, avoid this camera. But for those who prefer to let the camera do all the work, the Nikon 1 J4 is meant for you.


Nikon 1 J4: Nikon"s new mirrorless camera

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