Nikon 1 J5 digital camera review

“With a brand new 20.8-megapixel sensor and a sooner processor, the Nikon J5 takes an astonishing leap in high quality — we advocate it wholeheartedly.”


  • Excellent burst mode
  • Stable, high quality photographs
  • Compact, reasonably priced
  • Good ISO performer


  • Weak battery life
  • Digital stabilization, not optical
  • Single burst solely final for 20 frames

The Nikon 1 J-series of mirrorless cameras began off effectively, with the J1 incomes our Beneficial award after we reviewed it in 2011. Nikon misplaced momentum over time, nonetheless; subsequent fashions have been OK (together with the S- and V-series), however by the point the J4 arrived, it did not wow us contemplating stronger fashions from rivals.

With the brand new J5, Nikon has dramatically improved its newest mirrorless camera by including a brand new 20.8-megapixel sensor and a sooner processor. The standard soar is so nice that that is the primary Nikon 1 camera we’d advocate wholeheartedly, particularly if you wish to seize fast-moving topics.

Options and design

Nikon did a 360 on design for the most recent entry within the J collection: Whereas the J4 seems futuristic, the J5 resembles a retro rangefinder, however the exterior belies a reasonably superior 2015 digital camera. It’s compact and, with the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR equipment lens connected, we had no bother carrying it round all day.

The J5 physique measures 3.9 × 2.4 × 1.3 inches (smaller than an iPhone 5S when it comes to top and width) and weighs round 11 ounces (with battery and card). Our review pattern was black and silver, however white and brown our bodies are additionally accessible.

The important thing function on the entrance is the Nikon 1 mount. The corporate has 13 interchangeable lens choices overlaying quite a lot of focal lengths. Together with the 10-30mm lens, our equipment got here with the 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR zoom, and Nikon supplied us with a fantastic $900 32mm f/1.2 prime to play with. The Nikon 1 has a 2.7× crop issue (learn extra about that right here), so there was a pleasant general focal vary and the prime equaled a standard portrait lens. Be aware: The Nikon 1 cameras use totally different lenses than Nikon’s DSLRs, however you possibly can connect a Nikon F-mount lens by way of an adapter.

Rounding out our tour of the entrance is an AF Help lamp for focusing in low gentle, in addition to Operate and lens-release buttons and an NFC (near-field communication) tag on the grip.

Due to a brand new sensor, Nikon has dramatically improved its newest mirrorless camera.

Nikon added a handy jog dial for camera/menu changes, with a red-dot button within the heart for recording movies. Close by are stereo mics, a built-in flash, a traditional mode dial, and a shutter button/energy lever. The built-in flash is an actual plus in comparison with different mirrorless cameras that use add-ons that connect by way of the recent shoe, like Samsung’s NX500. However due to the built-in flash, the J5 doesn’t have a sizzling shoe, so there’s no method so as to add an elective mic, stronger flash, or digital viewfinder (EVF). Whether or not these equipment are vital is determined by the person; we just like the comfort of an EVF, for instance, an choice that isn’t accessible.

The again is dominated by a 3-inch touchscreen (rated 1,037K dots). It’s a superb one, and we had few points with wipeout or reflectivity as soon as we cranked up the show brightness. Given the world’s propensity for self-portraits, the LCD flips 180-degrees for selfies. With the touch-focus enabled, capturing smiling faces is sort of easy.

Nikon 1 J5 screen angleJessica Lee Star/Digital Developments

Jessica Lee Star/Digital Developments

To the suitable of the display screen are a snug thumb relaxation and the standard buttons and keys for navigation and performance. It’s somewhat tight, however urgent them with a fingernail will get you there.

On the underside is the battery compartment and MicroSD card slot. We’ve by no means been followers of tiny MicroSD playing cards for cameras (arduous to deal with, simple to lose), however because the J5 is so small, one thing needed to give. Additionally a downer: The battery is rated solely 250 pictures in comparison with 350-plus for different admittedly bigger mirrorless cameras. If you happen to plan to be away from an outlet, a helpful spare is extremely beneficial.

What’s included

We examined a two-lens equipment that features a 10-30mm and 30-110mm lens ($750). Nikon additionally provides two one-lens kits: one with the 10-30mm lens ($500) and one other with the 10-100mm f/4-5.6 VR all-in-one zoom ($1,050). These are MSRPs, so positively store round. The carton additionally incorporates a chargeable battery with plug-in charger, strap, USB cable, 140-page person’s guide, and different paperwork.


Nikon provides a normal one-year guarantee (to be free from defects in materials and workmanship).

Specs, efficiency, and use

It’s no secret that we have been underwhelmed by the J4 — simply learn the review. The difficulty isn’t that it was a very unhealthy camera. It merely paled compared to actually sturdy mirrorless merchandise from Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Samsung. It appeared Nikon cared extra about its DSLRs (and they’re nice), and the Nikon 1 cameras appeared like afterthoughts. (The exception being the AW1, a really one-of-a-kind camera.)

The J5 is a turnaround. It isn’t only a rehash of the earlier mannequin, however a camera that appears, feels, and performs otherwise – higher. And beginning at $500, it’s an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) equipment we’d be completely satisfied to advocate to first-time ILC patrons or anyone who desires a compact camera.

One of many key enhancements is a brand new 20.8MP backside-illuminated (BSI) chip mixed with a sooner Expeed 5A processor. BSI sensors provide improved efficiency in low gentle. Notice the Nikon 1 makes use of a lot smaller sensors (13.2 × 8.8mm) versus 24 × 16mm APS-C chips of many rivals, and this is without doubt one of the causes we have been disenchanted by earlier Nikon 1 fashions.

Nikon engineers knew they needed to make a transfer to stay within the mirrorless race, therefore the improved sensor. And by including the brand new processor together with hybrid autofocusing, the engineers created a camera that may seize quick motion at 20 frames per second – sooner than any DSLR, Nikon claims. We took that pronouncement with two grains of salt after we heard it however after seeing the outcomes, we have been floored. The J5 actually does it, protecting the topic in focus throughout a burst.

Nikon claims the J5’s burst mode is quicker than a DSLR – it’s true.

However as with all good issues, there’s a caveat: The camera grabs 20 photographs, after which stops to save lots of information to the cardboard; it actually stops on the finish of the burst and also you’ll have to attend 10 seconds or so earlier than you possibly can shoot once more. We discovered this a bit annoying however after we noticed the outcomes, it lessens the sting. By comparability, the Nikon D7200 DSLR shoots a slower 6 frames per second, but it surely takes 100-plus JPEGs earlier than slowing down.

That mentioned, the J5 is fairly wonderful.

We captured a younger boy racing towards first base and all 20 pictures have been in focus for probably the most half. This makes the J5 good for younger households with frenetic children (are there some other form?) or for photographers seeking to seize quick motion.

We used the J5 over the course of a number of weeks capturing all kinds of nonetheless and transferring topics. The outcomes have been actually good with very practical colours, particularly in the event you get to make use of a chief lens like we did. Granted they don’t have the richness and depth of APS-C photographs when seen at 50 % or full dimension, however most individuals, significantly the J5’s meant person, received’t try this. We have been particularly happy with photographs taken outdoor and, because of the BSI imager, inside pictures have been additionally good.

Nikon 1 J5

Les Shu/Digital Developments

Total, the J5 is a breeze to function. Given the small dimension, there aren’t a zillion buttons and levers — it’s extra point-and-shoot than DSLR, in a way. The primary mode dial provides Good Auto, PASM, Greatest Second Seize, Movement Snapshot, Superior Film, and Artistic (particular results together with HDR, in addition to 5 scene modes), plus Sports activities to shoot 10 fps on the fly. The touchscreen is sort of helpful too: Faucet “F” on the again and you may change quite a lot of parameters simply by tapping the display screen. The Operate button on the entrance is ready for ISO as a default.

The J5 has an ISO vary of 160-12,800, a bit lower than different mirrorless cameras that hit 25,600. That mentioned, the BSI chip labored effectively as much as ISO 3,200, and even 6,400 is usable at small sizes. We advise avoiding the 6,400 NR choice because it softens photographs method an excessive amount of. For a small camera with a small chip, it’s a superb ISO performer.

One other optimistic is the Hybrid Autofocus system. The system consists of 171 focus areas with the 105 within the heart utilizing part detection, the rest being distinction detect. What’s vital for readers to know is that we not often had any points locking focus. Additionally serving to to seize quick motion is a high shutter velocity of 1/16,000th of a second (digital not mechanical).

A definite destructive was battery life. The battery is rated 250 pictures however our real-world take a look at discovered it to be a bit much less. This isn’t an issue in the event you can cost it someplace throughout the day. If you happen to purchase this camera, nonetheless, a spare energy pack is a worthwhile funding, for round $40.

Film time

Together with 5,568 × 3,712-pixel stills, the J5 takes Full HD 1080/60p movies. Nikon additionally dipped its toes into the 4K waters by including 3,840 × 2,160-pixel H.264 .MOV movies at 15 fps. This isn’t in the identical league because the 4K-capable cameras from Samsung and Panasonic, but it surely’s a begin. We must always anticipate greater high quality within the years forward from Nikon and different corporations as 4K turns into mainstream. Within the meantime, it offers the chance to experiment.

Total the flicks have been merely OK. The camera didn’t deal with focusing as correct as with stills. One other concern was a whole lot of shake because the J5 makes use of solely digital picture stabilization relatively than the optical IS constructed into the lenses. It’s a disappointment however you possibly can’t have all the things for $500. A gradual hand and good gentle will yield acceptable outcomes.

The J5 has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. We had no points connecting the camera utilizing the Nikon Wi-fi Cellular Utility app (WMU) to a Samsung Galaxy S5 utilizing each choices. As soon as paired you possibly can ship photographs between units, then use your smartphone to share photographs by way of e-mail or social community du jour. The app provides rudimentary distant management if the camera is mounted to a tripod, utilizing the cellphone as a viewfinder and controller; publicity compensation is the one setting you possibly can change apart from snapping the shutter. It might be very nice if extra camera corporations embraced wi-fi relatively than treating it as a mandatory evil — they may take cues from Samsung, Sony, and even GoPro.


The DT Accent Pack

Up your sport and get probably the most out of your gear with the next extras, hand-picked by our editors:

Nikon 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 ($900)
An ideal prime lens just like the 1 Nikkor 32mm would make a pleasant addition to this equipment.

Nikon EN-EL24 battery ($40)
As a result of the J5’s battery has much less cost than we want, we advocate packing a spare.

SanDisk Excessive Professional 16GB MicroSD card ($25)
To assist with efficiency, use a high-speed, high-capacity reminiscence card. Be aware that the J5 makes use of MicroSD playing cards – 16GB minimal, however extra is best.

Lastly, Nikon has a correct mirrorless camera that may go in opposition to competing entry-level mirrorless fashions. As we talked about, the Nikon 1 cameras aren’t unhealthy, it’s simply the competitors was getting stronger – quick.

There are few reservations, however the professionals outweigh the cons, and we loved our time with it. If you happen to’re on the lookout for a small journey camera, positively hold this one in thoughts. For $500 that features a respectable 10-30mm VR 3x zoom, this can be a actually whole lot. Stills are strong, and that 20-fps burst mode is spectacular.


  • Excellent burst mode
  • Stable, high quality photographs
  • Compact, reasonably priced
  • Good ISO performer


  • Weak battery life
  • Digital stabilization, not optical
  • Single burst solely final for 20 frames

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