Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless Camera Review

Nikon 1 J5 review
Nikon

The Bottom Line

My Nikon 1 J5 review shows a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (ILC) that may give you some very nice features at the same time that it will frustrate you considerably. 

The J5 is fun to use, and it offers a good set of special effect features that will appeal to those going from a point and shoot camera to their first interchangeable lens model. It's a good-looking camera that's extremely thin, which also will appeal to those seeking a first intermediate-level camera.

But there are also quite a few aspects of the Nikon 1 J5 that are, unfortunately, annoying. The lack of control buttons forces you to make most settings changes through the LCD screen, and Nikon didn't do a great job of making this camera's navigational aspects easy or fast to use. The camera is also sluggish to respond to commands, which is incredibly frustrating after a while.

When you factor all of those things together, it yields a very average intermediate-level camera for my liking. Some photographers will find that the J5's benefits greatly outweigh its drawbacks, and they'll appreciate this model quite a bit. Others will become frustrated with this camera to the point that they won't enjoy using it. So before you purchase this mirrorless ILC, make sure you understand its drawbacks and benefits to see how they match up with your needs.

Specifications

  • Resolution: 20.8 megapixels
  • Optical zoom: N/A, uses interchangeable lenses
  • LCD: 3.0-inch, 1,037,000 pixels, touchscreen
  • Maximum image size: 5568 x 3712 pixels
  • Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Weight: 8.2 ounces (without battery and memory card)
  • Image sensor: CX CMOS, 13.2 x 8.8 mm
  • Movie mode: HD 1080p 60 fps or 4K 15 fps

Pros

  • Up to 20 frames per second performance at full resolution
  • Upgrade to 20.8MP of resolution from previous model
  • Touchscreen LCD can tilt up to 180 degrees
  • Large variety of movie recording modes, including 4K resolution
  • New camera body design includes slightly raised areas for better grip

Cons

  • Image quality could be slightly better
  • Operating the camera is a bit more awkward than it should be, because of poor design interface and lack of control buttons
  • MicroSD memory cards are too easy to lose
  • Zoom lens operational mechanism is awkward to use
  • 4K video limited to 15 frames per second, limiting its usability

Image Quality

With a 1-inch CX-format image sensor and 20.8MP of resolution, I expected top-notch image quality from the Nikon 1 J5. And while its images are very good, when attempting to make extremely large prints I found that the results were just a little soft. Now this slight sharpness issue may have been related to the average-quality kit lens that shipped with the J5, and you may have better results with a different lens.

Low light performance is solid with the Nikon 1 J5. You'll be limited to using the camera's popup flash unit for your low light photos, because there's no hot shoe for adding an external flash, or you can increase the ISO setting.

I liked the variety of movie recording modes Nikon included with the J5, including a 4K resolution option. However, because you can only record 4K movies at 15 frames per second, this option isn't as useful as it cold be.

Performance

The burst mode speeds of the Nikon 1 J5 are very impressive, working at up to 20 frames per second. Actually, you can shoot at speeds up to 60 frames per second, but you're limited to recording only 20 images at a time, so you'll only be able to record for one-third of a second in this mode.

For those migrating from a beginner-level, fully automatic camera to the J5, the inclusion of a host of automatic and manual control settings will be helpful in your growth as a photographer. You can make use of the automatic controls until you learn more about photography, migrating to the manual controls at your own pace.

You'll want to turn off image review after photos are recorded, as the shot to shot delays are up to 5 seconds when you're using image review.

These performance quirks are common in the point and shoot camera world, but photographers shouldn't have to suffer through such performance issues in the J5's price range.

Design

 

The LCD screen Nikon included with the J5 is of a high quality. It includes touchscreen capability, which is great for the portion of the camera market at which it's aimed. And you can tilt the screen at almost 180 degrees, which is great for shooting selfies.

There are quite a few design quirks with the mirrorless J5. Using the zoom ring on the kit lens is extremely awkward, and the manual focus controls are not easy to use. The Nikon 1 J5 only can use microSD memory cards, which is a hassle, as they're too easy to lose.

I also really disliked the on-screen control option, called the Feature grid, that Nikon included with this camera. It takes far too many button presses and screen touches to make even the most basic changes to the settings.

The Nikon 1 J5 is a nice looking little camera that does a decent job with image quality. As long as you don't expect to make large prints, and you can live with several operational quirks, the J5 is worth a look, especially if you liked the previous Nikon 1 J-series cameras, as the J5 is a good upgrade to those models.