While the V1 stood out for its rather unusual design—which was actually quite nice in a minimalist kind of way—Nikon seems to have moved back to a more traditional and functional build for the V2. For starters, Nikon has done away with the smooth, slippery and not so practical finish seen in the first V camera, giving the V2 a nice big grip handle with a pleasant rubber finish that's easy to keep hold of. The camera's interface has changed a bit too. The rocker switch and dial on the back of the camera have gone, and you now get an exposure mode selection dial, a settings thumb-wheel and a set of buttons running down the left-hand side of the screen. It's all standard fare, but it's no doubt more accessible and easier to get your head around.
The Fn button offers fast access to various settings (ISO, white balance, exposure metering, AF mode and shutter speed in certain modes). Note that there's no Programme Shift function in P mode, so the camera chooses your speed and aperture settings pair and there's no way of adjusting them. There's a settings wheel over the four-way arrows, which are in turn used to adjust various settings (exposure correction, flash, drive mode, etc.). Again, it's a tried and tested set-up. What's a little unusual here, though, is the fact that the flash hot-shoe isn't compatible with Nikon's range of SLR flashes—a decision that we find hard to justify.
The V2 has a decent screen with good levels of precision. The onscreen image is smooth in all conditions, including low light, and colour fidelity is quite good too. The viewfinder is a little tight but it's nice enough to use. However, it soon overexposes bright, light parts of a scene. It's a bit of a shame that the screen has no tilt or swivel functions and that there are no touchscreen controls. There's no sign of Wi-Fi either for transferring photos to a smartphone.
One particularly handy function is the "Slow View" mode. Here, half-pressing the shutter-release slows down the onscreen image to help you shoot at the perfect moment. It's great for shooting fast-moving scenes at just the right moment. However, we're still just as dubious about the "Motion Snapshot" function, which is back again in the V2 (a kind of animated mix of photos, video and sound). A panorama mode would no doubt have been more useful.
One interesting feature of the V2 is that it can switch from a noisy mechanical shutter to a very quiet electronic shutter for discreet shooting. Note too that in electronic shutter mode, the shutter speed is upped to 1/16,000 ths.
The V2 has a USB 2 connection—we're still waiting to see the first compacts with USB 3—as well as a mini-HDMI out and a mic socket. There's no sign of a sound level meter or a headphones socket for monitoring. The battery and memory card are housed in a compartment on the underside of the camera, and the battery life of around 300 photos is just about OK.
In the end, the V2 is a bulky but well-rounded camera. Although its sensor is practically twice as small as those typically used in micro four-thirds cameras, when loaded with a lens, the V2 is still a beefy piece of kit. In fact, it's too big to fit into a jacket pocket.
The V2 is pretty quick to start up, whether you switch it on by turning the lens or using the switch around the shutter-release. As with the V1, Nikon has used a hybrid autofocus system in this camera. Depending on light levels and how much a subject is moving, the camera switches between a contrast detection system (for low light) and a phase detection system using specially dedicated pixels. The latter is particularly useful for fast-moving subjects. And the effect is more than convincing, making the V2 one of the speediest mirrorless cameras of the moment. In low light, the V2 is a little more hesitant but it's still perfectly usable. It easily outdoes Canon's EOS M and has nothing to envy of the best micro four-thirds models (Olympus EM-5, Panasonic GH3).
When it comes to photo-to-photo turnaround, the V2 isn't the fastest camera out there. However, this snapper has some pretty impressive burst modes. These even manage to beat the best SLRs of the moment, with continuous shooting at up to 60 fps (see inset). Plus, at 15 fps—which is already faster than most current pro-level SLRs—the V2 still has an operational autofocus and shoots in full resolution. Wow!
Seeing as Nikon can't change the size of the sensor in its V series (1" or 8.8 x 13.2 mm), the only possible means of improvement are changing the technology and the resolution. The V2 has therefore ditched the V1's 10-Megapixel sensor for a 14-Megapixel version. Will it be able to maintain good picture quality in spite of the increased pixel density?
Well, yes actually. Digital noise is kept in check well up to 800 ISO with a discreet level of granularity and a nice level of detail in shots. Above that smoothing kicks in, gradually blurring shots and wiping out detail, but the V2 takes shots that are still usable up to 1600 ISO or even 3200 ISO. That's a good performance. Micro four-thirds cameras like the Panasonic GF5 and Olympus E-PL5 do slightly better, and the V2 is no match for the kind of picture quality you get with APS-C sensors (Sony NEX-5N, Canon EOS M). However, for a sensor of this size, the V2 can certainly hold its head high.
The 10-30 mm kit lens supplied does a decent enough job at all focal lengths. Sharpness levels aren't exceptional and, as is often the way, the edges of the frame aren't as sharp as the middle. It would have been nice to see Nikon supply a kit lens that gives slightly more consistent results over the frame.
The Nikon V2 has a great video mode, offering 1080 HD video at 30 fps and 720 HD video at 60 fps (it seems that the V2 doesn't comply with PAL-standard 25/50 fps framerates and there's no 24 fps movie mode either). The autofocus does its job well and you can snap full-resolution still shots while filming. Better still are the impressive slow-motion movie modes, at 400 fps in 640 x 240 pixels or even 1200 fps in 320 x 120 pixels.
- Picture quality up to 1600 ISO
- Nice design and handling
- Precise EVF
- Impressive burst modes (15-60 fps)
- Good video mode
- Electronic shutter mode for quiet shooting
- Built-in flash
- No touchscreen or swivel screen
- No Wi-Fi
- No manual focusing ring
- No headphones out
- No electronic level
- Quite bulky for a mirrorless camera
- No programme shift function
With the V2, Nikon has reworked its high-end mirrorless camera, giving it a more classic design but also making it more accessible. Plus, it has loads of interesting functions (burst modes, video, autofocus). The V2 is a bit on the bulky side, but it's a good mid-way model between a compact and an SLR.