Nikon J4 review

Small, sleek and fully loaded - Nikon's newest J range camera is a pared-down version of the V3

Nikon 1 J4

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Nikon has made strides of improvement in making the overall Nikon 1 system a lot more balanced than the older, awkwardly large lens versions of 2011.

Now, body only, the J4 is barely any bigger than most compact cameras, and the new 10-30mm kit zoom lens retracts neatly into itself to give an overall sleek appearance.

The added bonus of the power zoom lens is that the camera is ready to shoot as soon you switch the camera on – something that required the push and twist of a button before. To zoom the lens in and out, you need to rotate a ring at the end of the main part of the lens barrel itself – it would have been nice if Nikon had included a switch on the camera itself as this would have meant you could use the camera one-handed if you so desire.

On the top of the camera is a mode dial, but it is only half full with icons. This means that some exposure modes – such as aperture priority – aren't directly accessible, which seems a bit of a shame (and odd considering how much free space is available on the mode dial). Instead, if you want to access aperture priority, you need to find it through the camera's Creative Mode.

Also on the mode dial is fully automatic, Best Moment Capture and Motion Snapshot, along with video record mode. Despite there being a dedicated record button (also on the top of the camera), you can't actually start recording unless in Video Mode – which is again a little frustrating.

On the back of the camera is a standard four-way navigational pad which is surrounded by a scrolling dial – the dial controls different elements depending on what shooting mode you're in. For instance, while in aperture priority, it controls aperture, but in shutter priority it controls shutter speed.

To switch between the two parameters in manual mode, you'll need to hit the right directional key, which is used as exposure compensation in semi-automatic, program and automatic modes.

Pressing the up button on the navigational pad accesses the function, or quick menu. On here you'll find a number of oft-used settings that you'll likely want to change regularly, such as sensitivity (ISO), metering and Picture Control. You can either use the directional keys to move to the setting you want to change, or simply tap the screen itself on the setting you wish to use.

Luckily, you'll probably find that you don't need to delve into the main menu all that often as it can be a little confusing. It is split into different segments, and it's not always immediately obvious which setting should be where – for instance, you'll find sensitivity in the curiously titled 'image processing' sub menu, while metering is found under the 'shooting' menu.

Not only is the touchscreen useful for quickly moving around menus and so on, you can use it to set the autofocus point, and fire off the shutter release if you prefer. If you want, you can also switch off the touchscreen functionality to control autofocus point altogether.

If you want to use physical buttons to change the AF point, you need to press the OK button in the centre of the navigation pad and then use the directional keys to scroll around to the point you need.

If you want to apply different effects to your images, you have a few different options. If you want to be able to retain the ability to shoot in raw format, you can alter Picture Control, which has a few presets such as Monochrome and Landscape. You can also alter these controls, for example by boosting contrast or saturation.

Alternatively, you can choose from a few different effects under Creative Mode, including Toy Camera and Cross Process. Your third option is to activate the Creative Palette, again from within the Creative Mode menu. Here you'll be able to use the scrolling dial to move between different creative effects previewed on screen before you shoot.

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.