Nikon 1 S2 Mirrorless Camera Review


The Bottom Line

One of the biggest advantages to the mirrorless interchangeable lens (ILC) design is that it can provide image quality that approaches a DSLR's image quality while remaining much smaller than a typical DSLR. Sometimes, though, manufacturers take the idea of a small sized camera a little too far, sacrificing usability for cutbacks in physical size.

The mirrorless Nikon 1 S2 is a good example of this good news/bad news situation.

The S2 shoots very nice images, providing the type of image quality you'd expect from a mirrorless ILC. It's not quite what you'd receive with a Nikon DSLR camera, but the image quality is very good.

Unfortunately, the Nikon 1 S2's usability factor is very poor. In an effort to keep the camera body small and easy to use, Nikon didn't give the S2 many control buttons or dials, meaning you'll need to work through a series of on-screen menus to make even the most simple change to the camera's settings. This quickly becomes a tedious process that will frustrate any intermediate photographer who likes to exhibit some control of the settings.

The good news is that the S2 performs more than adequately in fully automatic mode, meaning you don't have to make a lot of changes to the camera's settings if you don't want to, while still achieving good results. You'll just have to decide whether it's worth having a camera that costs several hundred dollars that you're basically going to use as you would an automatic point and shoot model.


  • Resolution: 14.2 megapixels
  • Optical zoom: N/A, uses interchangeable lenses
  • LCD: 3.0-inch, 460,000 pixels
  • Maximum image size: 4592 x 3072 pixels
  • Battery: Rechargeable Li-Ion
  • Dimensions: 2.4 x 4.0 x 1.2 inches
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces (camera body only)
  • Image sensor: CMOS CX (13.1mm x 8.8mm)
  • Movie mode: Full 1920x1080 HD (60fps)


  • Good image quality overall
  • RAW photo format is available
  • Camera works quickly in continuous shot mode
  • Shutter lag and shot to shot delays are minimal
  • Popup flash will open automatically in Auto mode
  • Colorful camera body options


  • Camera's button design and on-screen menu structure are poorly designed
  • No image stabilization option
  • Image quality can't quite match DSLR image quality
  • Camera is almost too thin to be held comfortably
  • Makes use of microSD memory cards

Image Quality

 The Nikon 1 S2's image quality is good compared to other cameras with a similar price point, although it can't quite match the image quality of a DSLR camera, thanks in part to its CX-sized image sensor. Still, you'll be able to easily make medium-sized prints with the S2's photographs, which are well exposed and sharply focused in nearly all types of lighting conditions. 

The S2's flash photo quality is good, and you can adjust the intensity of the popup flash unit included with this camera. 

In fact, the overall image quality is one of the better features of this camera. Either RAW or JPEG photo formats are available, but you cannot record in both formats at the same time, as you can with some cameras. Good image quality can help a camera overcome a number of other flaws, depending on how you plan to use the camera, and the Nikon 1 S2 fits this description well.


The S2's performance levels equate to another positive aspect of this model, as it works fast in many different shooting situations. You'll rarely miss a spontaneous photo with this camera, as shutter lag is not noticeable in the S2. Shot-to-shot delays are minimal too.

Nikon gave the S2 some very impressive continuous-shoot modes, whereby you can record up to 30 photos in five seconds at full resolution, or you can shoot up to 10 photos in a fraction of a second. 

The camera's battery performance is pretty good, allowing for up to 300 shots per charge. 


While the Nikon 1 S2 is a colorful camera that looks nice, it's also missing a couple of design features that would give the camera greater flexibility.

For example, there's no hot shoe, which would allow you to add an external flash unit. And there's no touchscreen LCD, which would make this model easier to use for the beginners at whom the Nikon 1 S2 is aimed.

The S2's design as it relates to its operation is poor. This camera body doesn't have enough buttons on it, or even a mode dial, any of which would make the camera easier to use for intermediate photographers. Beginners who want to just use the S2 almost as a point and shoot model won't notice this design flaw because they'll rarely be making changes to the camera's settings. 

You'll have to make use of the camera's on-screen menus to change its settings, and these menus are poorly designed as well. It requires working through at least a few screens even to make the most simplistic changes to the Nikon 1 S2's settings. And if you want to make more dramatic changes, you'll spend time working through several screens. It just takes too much time to make changes to the camera's settings, especially when basic changes could easily be handled through the inclusion of a few dedicated buttons or dials.

The Nikon 1 S2's design looks almost more like a toy camera than a powerful interchangeable lens camera, and unfortunately, some aspects of the camera's operation also will remind you more of a toy. The S2's simplistic design means it's nearly impossible to make changes to the camera's settings in an easy-to-understand manner. This design flaw really makes it tough to highly recommend the Nikon 1 S2, even though it's an extremely thin camera that creates high-quality photos.

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