Nikon 1 S1 review

Nikon's simplest CSC put to the test

Nikon 1 S1 review
The Nikon 1 S1 comes in black, white, khaki, red and pink

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Nikon enjoyed great commercial success with the Nikon 1 J1 and 1 J2. Since the Nikon 1 J3 has seen some high-end improvements made to it (such as the inclusion of a mode dial and higher resolution screen), it seems Nikon is still keen to have an entry-level cheaper model in its lineup.

The Nikon 1 S1 has the simplest specifications of any of the Nikon 1 cameras, including the lowest resolution sensor and lowest resolution LCD screen. That said, it's still not quite the smallest, with that honour being taken by the 1 J3.

What we have here is something that the average smartphone or compact camera user can pick up and start using straight away without having to follow complicated instructions, for £479.99/US$499.95.

The fact that it is capable of shooting in fully manual modes and has interchangeable lenses should enable this kind of user to explore photography further if they want to down the line.

However, Nikon has made some slightly strange decisions in the handling of the Nikon 1 S1, specifically in terms of not being able to shoot raw and JPEG files together. It's got the potential for an inexperienced user to accidentally shoot in raw format and be baffled by the resulting files.

It's also a shame that Nikon has chosen once again not to incorporate a touchscreen. Although it probably does help to keep the cost of the Nikon 1 S1 down, those smartphone users stepping up for the first time would no doubt appreciate being able to navigate through menus and image previews with a touch-sensitive device.

Putting that aside, image quality - especially in favourable conditions - is very good. The bundled 11-27.5mm kit lens is also a decent performer, though compact camera users may desire a longer zoom ratio.

We liked

The best thing about the Nikon 1 S1 is its (JPEG) image quality, which is arguably the most important thing. Photographs from it are bright, colourful and vibrant without being over the top. Despite its small size and relatively low resolution, it's also capable of producing plenty of fine detail.

We disliked

Although this camera is aimed primarily at beginners, anybody with a desire to make changes to settings will find the Nikon 1 S1 ever so slightly frustrating. A touchscreen would have elevated this up from an average or basic compact system camera to something with a bit more appeal.

Final verdict

Despite the fact that it's small, the Nikon 1 S1's image quality is excellent and certainly worthy of consideration for first time CSC owners. If you're an existing Nikon user, you might want to think about this either as a backup for a DSLR or a companion to a smaller compact camera.

However, despite its relatively cheap price, we can't help but think that there are other cameras on the market that also serve the beginner market at this point but are easier to use, feature larger sensors and have a better (proprietary) lens range. Take a look at the excellent Olympus PEN Mini, for example, or the Sony NEX-3N.

It will be interesting to see if Nikon's commercial success with the J series also translates to the S series.

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.