Gear Review: Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless Camera

In Gear Reviewby Patrick

In the search for an upgrade for my wife’s point and shoot camera, a friend recommended the Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless camera. After looking at the specs on this camera, I decided to go with it and surprise her. At first she was not crazy about the interchangeable lenses, but that faded quickly when she began playing with it. The kit lens that comes with the camera is the
1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM and is more than adequate for what she wants to use the camera for. With a 20.8 megapixel sensor and faster EXPEED 5A processor it is really an ideal camera for capturing fast moving subjects, yet perfect for portraits and capturing life’s moments.

Features and Design

The camera is compact and even with the 10-30 lens attached, you will have no problem carrying it around all day. The J5 body measures 3.9 × 2.4 × 1.3 inches (smaller than an iPhone 6 in terms of height and width) and weighs around 11 ounces with battery and card.

Nikon 1 J5 front

The key feature on the front is the Nikon 1 mount. The company has 13 interchangeable lens options covering a variety of focal lengths. Nikon added a convenient jog dial for camera/menu adjustments, with a red-dot button in the center for recording videos. Nearby are stereo mics, a built-in flash, a classic mode dial, and a shutter button/power lever.

The back is dominated by a 3-inch touchscreen and it’s a good one. The LCD flips 180-degrees for selfies and with the touch-focus enabled, capturing smiling faces is quite simple. To the right of the screen are a comfortable thumb rest and the usual buttons and keys for navigation and function. On the bottom is the battery compartment and MicroSD card slot. I am not a big fan of the Micro SD seeing as they are fragile and easy to lose, but since the J5 is so small, something had to give. One recommendation is that if this is going to be your primary camera, the battery life really only gives you about 250 shots on a charge so a backup may be a good idea.

Nikon J5 back

Specs and Performance

A new 20.8MP backside-illuminated (BSI) chip combined with a faster Expeed 5A processor. The backside illumination sensors offer improved performance in low light. Here is the rundown for specs:

  • 20.8MP CX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 5A Image Processor
  • 3.0″ 1,037k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • UHD 2160p/15 and Full HD 1080p/60 Video
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • Hybrid AF with 105 Phase-Detection Areas
  • Up to 60 fps Shooting, 20 fps with AF-C
  • ISO 12800 and High ISO Noise Reduction
  • Sports Mode and In-Camera Time Lapse
  • The main mode dial offers Smart Auto, PASM, Best Moment Capture, Motion Snapshot, Advanced Movie, and Creative (special effects including HDR, as well as five scene modes), plus Sports to shoot 10 fps on the fly. The touchscreen is quite handy too: Tap “F” on the back and you can change a variety of parameters just by tapping the screen. The Function button on the front is set for ISO as a default.

    Nikon 1 J5 top

    The J5 has an ISO range of 160-12,800, a bit less than other mirrorless cameras that hit 25,600. That said, the BSI chip worked well up to ISO 3,200, and even 6,400 is usable at small sizes like thumbnails, however, the 6400 ISO does soften the image. For a small camera with a small chip, it’s a good ISO performer. The AF system consists of 171 focus areas with the 105 in the center using phase detection, the remainder being contrast detect. I did not have any issues locking focus with faster moving subjects.

    The 1 J5 features built-in snapbridge Wi-Fi connectivity to enable seamless transfer of imagery as well as remote shooting capabilities. Once the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app has been installed on an Android or iOS mobile device, you can use that device to browse the contents of the memory card, select images, and seamlessly transfer files between devices for immediate sharing online. Additionally, the mobile device can remotely trigger the shutter and display a live view image from the camera to enable working from a distance. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported to provide a quick and simple tap-to-connect method for linking your mobile devices with the camera. Here are the specs on the Wi-Fi:

    • Standards: IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
    • Operating frequency: 2412-2462 MHz (channels 1-11)
    • Range (line of site): Approximately 32.8′ / 10m (with no interference)
    • Data rate: 54 Mbps (maximum logical rate according to IEEE standard)
    • Security: Authentication – Open system, WPA2-PSK

    Video

    The good: The J5 shoots 4K video at 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. The bad: It can only record 4K at 15 frames per second (fps), which is far below the normal 24, 25, 30, and 60 fps that other cameras (and even some high-end Android phones) can do. You’re not confined to recording at slow frame rates, though. The J5 still does 1080p full HD video recording at 30 and 60 fps, and slow-motion video at 720p resolution at 120 fps. Here is a sample that my wife shot while hand holding in low light conditions:

    Overall Impressions

    This is a good foray into the Mirrorless market for Nikon. I am pleased, and so is my wife, with the performance thus far. IMHO here are pros and cons. If you’re looking for a small travel camera, definitely keep this one in mind. For $500 that includes a decent 10-30mm VR 3x zoom, this is a really good deal. Stills are solid, and that 20-fps burst mode is impressive.

    Pros

    Outstanding burst mode
    Solid, quality images
    Compact, affordable
    Good ISO performer

    Cons

    Weak battery life
    Electronic stabilization, not optical
    Single burst only last for 20 frames

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