Sunday, 20 July 2014

New Nikon camera great for families, but not experts

If you’re in the market for a compact camera with swappable lenses, you have more options today than ever before. Nikon’s 1 system, in particular, provides interchangeable lenses, a simple menu system, and blisteringly fast burst shooting in a compact package.

The Nikon 1 J4 (MSRP $599.95) is the latest 1-series camera from Nikon. A refresh of last year’s J3, this camera offers a higher resolution sensor, built-in WiFi and a redesigned kit lens. It’s an interesting option for the casual crowd, with stylish looks to boot.

Especially for those stepping up from a point-and-shoot or smartphone, the J4 is a camera that meets you on your terms. Though it’s an interchangeable lens camera, it works just like your old compact, with simple controls and advanced features in a package that won’t confuse or frustrate you.

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Though manual control is a bit buried, the J4 is loaded with fun and creative modes anyone can enjoy. A perennial favorite is the slow-motion video, letting you capture clips at up to 1,200 frames per second. There are also standard 1-system options like Motion Snapshot and standard 1080/60p video if you just want something to capture moments with.

It also plays nicely with your smartphone: WiFi pairing is relatively painless to set up, but you’ll need the Android or iOS app. Once you pair the camera with your phone, you can share photos or even use your phone to control the J4 remotely — great for tough-to-reach snaps or group photos on the go.

The shots themselves are quite good, especially in bright light. Like other 1 system Nikons, the J4 shoots amazingly fast — up to 60 frames per second at full resolution. The J4 is also very quick to lock on to even moving subjects, thanks to its snappy autofocus system.

If there’s one area where the J4 feels especially limited, though, it’s in low light. The J4 has a much larger sensor than you find in most smartphones or point-and-shoots, but it’s also much smaller than almost every other interchangeable lens camera on the market. A larger sensor would require larger lenses, though, which would cut into the J4′s appeal as a go-everywhere camera.

Nikon has done quite a bit with a relatively small 1-inch sensor, there are some things that processing just can’t fix. In particular, the J4 has very high noise in comparison to most other mirror-less cameras out there. It will focus well in most lighting conditions, but your shots may look grainy.

At the end of the day, determining whether or not a camera is right for you rests on factors that can be very personal. The most important thing is making sure you get the right camera for your needs. The J4 is perfect for someone who wants an interchangeable lens camera that “just works,” but its menu system will frustrate advanced shooters used to taking more manual control.

The appeal of the J4 isn’t in its all-around performance or control, though; it’s how it treats the user. With such an easy interface, the J4 is as non-threatening as they come — all the while providing point-and-shoot users with a solid step up in image quality.

And of course, the J4 has a ton of appeal for users looking to capture action. Between fast autofocus and high-speed burst shooting and video options, the J4 is perhaps the ideal camera for a family with lots of little sugar-fueled athletes. With a kit price of right around $600 at launch, the J4 could be just the camera to get you to kiss your point-and-shoot goodbye.

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