Don’t leave this camera home on Saturday night

Nikon 1 J2The camera market is loaded with small, pocketable cameras, but what differentiates one from another? With the Nikon 1 J12, I was impressed by the number of creative choices available to the photographer as well as its nighttime performance. Everyone expects a camera to shoot great photos in the daylight, but when the sun goes down, so does the chance of getting a great photo.

I put the Nikon 1 J2 through what I call a torture test of sorts – trying to shoot a dark airplane landing in a pitch black sky and then maintaining focus as it flew directly overhead and landed some distance away. Watch the video to see just how incredibly it did.

Surviving that ordeal, I decided to have one more crack at the J2’s nighttime talents and took it for a walk in the park. The Metroparks in full moonlight would be able to give me a chance to see what it could do with about as contrasty a sky as possible.

Crossing a river ford, I was able to handhold the camera for a great shot of the moon and its reflection in a slowly flowing river. Interestingly, I shot this in RAW (NEF) format and what I saw in the viewfinder was a good estimation of an 18% grey exposure – lightening all the trees to grey. When I loaded it into Lightroom, the dense blacks I recalled were there, just as I expected. With a few tweaks in LR4, here are the results.

Moonlit stream

For this shot of the waterfall, the only illumination was the moon and I used no tripod. I was more than happy with the results. Noise was nothing to complain about. The ISO 3200 at the top end of the range is very usable. You’ll also appreciate this in those dimly lit high school gymnasiums or stadiums if you are trying to stop motion during a sports event.

Night shot of waterfall and bridge

This camera is just loaded with creative choices – so many that you may have trouble deciding what to use next. There’s a snapshot motion mode that takes a quick 1-2 second video followed by a still frame. You end up with a tiny MOV file that could easily be emailed like this one below.

Another way of making sure you capture just the right moment or expression is the Smart Photo Selector Mode. When you press the shutter, the cameras takes a series of five quick shots and selects the best one.  In case you disagree, the other four are still there and you can pick an alternate if you like. Think about trying to catch just the perfect shot when someone’s blowing out a candle…now you’ve got five chances instead of one. See the five shots below of a flag blowing in the breeze.

Five consecutive shots with one shutter press

Five consecutive shots with one shutter press

Five not enough? You can set it for burst mode and it will rip off about 20 shots faster than you can think about it. At 60 frames per second, not much is going to escape the Nikon 1 J2. Many cameras get such high photo rates by cutting the frame size. Not this one – you get full resolution 3872×2592 pixel photos. Pretty impressive.

The camera has so many more creative modes that you need to sit down for an afternoon and just play. The camera comes with a good instruction manual but there’s more to the camera than the printed manual. If you want to use manual mode, you’ll need to check the manual on CD that’s also included with your purchase. This camera has a lot to learn and a lot to like.

With interchangeable lenses, tons of controls and super-fast shooting, this camera belongs in any serious shooter’s bag. Check out more details and samples on the Nikon 1 J2 Website or check out these deals now at B&H Photo (an affiliate site.)