Nikon’s 1 J series of interchangeable-lens cameras has always been sort of an odd duck. Not a bad duck, just an odd one.
They’re smaller than most mirrorless cameras, their continuous-shooting speeds are incredibly peppy, and they have crazy-fast autofocus systems. However, their physical controls are kept to a minimum for such a capable camera, they use MicroSD cards due to their small size, and the 1-inch-type sensor—the same size as the sensor found in Sony’s RX series of pocket cameras—is small for an interchangeable-lens camera.
So all the J series cameras so far have had split personalities. The compact platform is made for easy, casual shooting, but it’s priced to compete with large-sensored, control-heavy mirrorless cameras.
With the latest iteration, Nikon has broken that pattern. At first glance, the Nikon 1 J5 looks like it has the right balance of size, controls, and price.
It also rocks a great new look. The 20-megapixel J5 has a nice little handgrip and a textured front panel which give it a subdued throwback aesthetic. More physical controls are in the mix, including a mode dial that gives you quick access to manual shooting modes, and a Function button on the front to help you jump directly to your presets. The 3-inch touchscreen on the back of the camera is adjustable and can flip up to face forward, meaning that Nikon has acknowledged the selfie craze.
The new J5 also retains the series’ strengths. It’s still small, roughly matching the size and weight of its predecessor. It still shoots incredibly fast, with a continuous-shooting mode that rattles off 20 shots per second with autofocus enabled or 60 shots per second without it. It comes packed with Wi-Fi features, NFC pairing, and a video mode that does 1080p at 60fps and 4K at 15fps. But yes, it still has that MicroSD card slot.
If you add all that up, you basically have a swappable-lens version of the Sony RX100 Mark 2—without the RX series’ wide aperture, but at a comparable price. Slated to ship at the end of April, the Nikon 1 J5 will cost $500 with a pedestrian 10-30mm/F3.5-F5.6 kit lens (27-81mm in 35mm equivalent, due to the J series’ whopping 2.7X crop factor). If you want to match the RX series’ wide-aperture prowess, there’s a 50mm equivalent F1.8 lens available separately for $190.