Nikon 1 J5 review

A retro design and a rethought mode dial widens the appeal of Nikon's J-series CSC

Nikon 1 J5

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By revamping the design of the J range to give it a classy, retro look, and including more and improved dials, Nikon has widened the appeal of its mid-range compact system camera.

It's easy to like this camera, and especially if you're firmly in the Nikon camp, you may see this as a great walk around camera as an alternative to a standard compact camera. The fact that you can use your existing F-mount lenses (via an adapter) is an appealing prospect if you have a large collection, but with a 2.7x crop factor to consider, you may not find this useful very often.

JPEG images direct from the camera are great, and while they don't quite stand up to those from CSCs with larger sensors when you examine them at 100%, the overall impression is great. The increase in pixel count doesn't appear to have had a negative impression on image quality, and even those taken at high sensitivities in low light conditions are good.

Although there are extra dials and options on this body when compared with the J4, if like even more control, you'll probably want to consider the V3 instead. The same is true if you like to work with a viewfinder.

That said, the camera's screen is excellent, offering plenty of flexibility both in terms of the fact that it's hinged so it can face forwards and downwards, and because its touch sensitivity allows you to control certain aspects of the camera shooting.

There are some great specifications which are unique to the Nikon 1 series which should be appreciated both by those looking for an alternative to a compact camera, but also for those with a little more experience. Things like Best Moment Capture and the range of digital filters add a little fun into the mix, too.

We liked

Nikon's engineers have done a cracking job with the redesign of the J5. Its retro look and feel, coupled with an improvement to some of the dials and controls, give it a more serious and classy look, as well as improving the usability and functionality of the camera. Those who are Nikon fans may finally have a Nikon 1 camera to get excited about.

We disliked

Despite the fact that the J5 has the latest image processing engine, operational speeds could be better. Shot to shot times are a little slow, which can be frustrating at times, and it's worth considering that despite an advertised 60fps shooting speed, the camera's buffer can only hold 20 frames before you need to wait for that to clear, making it a little less impressive than it sounds.

Final Verdict

Nikon has once again produced a very capable camera for its compact system camera range. Lots of people criticise the Nikon 1 system for having a much smaller sensor than most of the other compact system cameras on the market. However, this makes it a much smaller camera, so it's a bit of a trade off.

It's also perhaps not surprising to see Nikon shying away from creating a direct alternative to a DSLR, as it probably doesn't want to cannibalise its own market. However, the J series remains a very real alternative to something else – a compact camera. And, if you happen to be a Nikon user already, switching to the J5 will feel very familiar.

If you're not so loyal to the Nikon brand, or perhaps are looking for something to be your only camera, the Panasonic GM5 remains king of the small format compact system cameras, so make sure to check that out too.

Amy Davies

Amy has been writing about cameras, photography and associated tech since 2009. Amy was once part of the photography testing team for Future Publishing working across TechRadar, Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N Photo and Photography Week. For her photography, she has won awards and has been exhibited. She often partakes in unusual projects - including one intense year where she used a different camera every single day. Amy is currently the Features Editor at Amateur Photographer magazine, and in her increasingly little spare time works across a number of high-profile publications including Wired, Stuff, Digital Camera World, Expert Reviews, and just a little off-tangent, PetsRadar.