Nikon 1 S2 vs J4 Mirrorless Comparison

July 16, 2014

Nikon 1 S2 and J4 side by side

In this article I will compare the Nikon 1 S2 versus the Nikon 1 J4, both are mirrorless cameras in Nikon 1 system camera’s lineup. The Nikon S2 is the cheapest and most basic of the two. There is around $150 price difference and with the S2 coming with the 11-27.5mm kit lens and the J4 coming with the 10-30mm PD-Zoom kit lens. The 11-27.5mm is a non-VR lens (not stabilized), it’s bigger and less wide than the 10-30mm. OK, let’s start our comparison and see which of the two cameras should be your next camera?

I’ll start with a short introduction to each camera and continue to the comparison section after that, where you’ll get to fully understand the differences between those two cameras.

Nikon 1 S2

Nikon 1 S2 mirrorless camera in yellowAnnounced on May 14th 2014,The Nikon 1 S2 is Nikon’s new entry-level camera, replacing the Nikon 1 S1 which was announced on January 8 ,2013. The S2 mirrorless digital camera is aimed to novice and advanced photographers alike, but mostly that for them, the S2 is their first interchangeable lens camera.

Nikon kept the S2 design flat and simple with a slightly rounded corner design. You don’t get a mode dial at the top like the J4 and it’s mostly made of plastic instead of magnesium alloy and aluminium construction. By the way, don’t confuse this Nikon 1 S2 model with the Nikon S2 rangefinder film camera from 1955 :)

The S2 stylish design makes this camera looks like a point-and-shoot, but it hides some advanced features and functionality that make it stand apart from your conventional point-and-shoot camera. The first most noticeable feature of the S3 is obviously the ability to change lenses. This is a mirrorless camera, which means that you can attach different 1 Nikkor lenses to it, each camera with its unique specs to match different shooting styles. The S2 comes with the 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 1 Nikkor retractable compact-size lens. When mounted on the S2, this lens is equivalent to 30-74mm in 35mm format. For some people it might be a bit to narrow on the wide end, but remember that you always have the option to buy a second lens that better fit your particular shooting style.

At the heart of the camera sits a 14.2 megapixel 1-inch (13.1×8.8mm) CX sensor. This sensor is significantly larger than the one found in a conventional point-and-shoot camera, usually a 1/2.3″ sensor. However, it’s significantly smaller than Micro Four Thirds and APS-C found in many other competing mirrorless cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Sony in most part. The camera has a dust-reduction system to minimize the appearance of dust sports in your images when changing lenses.

Sensor size comparison: APS-C, 1-inch and Micro Four Thirds

Sensor size comparison: APS-C, 1-inch and Micro Four Thirds

At the back of the camera you’ll find a 3-inch 460K-dots fixed LCD display, but it lacks a built-in electronic viewfinder, as expected from an entry-level camera in its price range.

One of the unique feature of the S2 is its ability to shoot at up to 60 fps in burst mode when the focus is fixed in the first frame, and 20fps with continuous AF — a speed that you won’t find even on a high-end DSLR camera. The fact is that most people don’t need it, and the are a few reasons for that. First of all, people don’t like having to delete a lot of images from the memory card, it takes a lot of space and it’s not necessary for most people. I personally fine with 6 fps for most of my needs, and I love shooting sports.  Need it or not, you have this feature and you can use it to your advantage, but as Nikon highly market its cameras with that 60fps burst speed, I think that this feature is not crucial, especially that we are talking about an entry-level mirrorless aimed for novice photographers.

That said, the S2 has a feature called “Best Moment Capture Mode”, where the camera capture ten sequential high-resolution images in one second and allows you to choose the one image that you want to keep.

Other features include: 16,000 sec. maximum shutter speed, built-in flash, 12-bit RAW file, capture stills while shooting videos, Creative Palette (artistic filters), Motion snapshot (slow motion video that ends with a high-resolution image), special effect( e.g. toy camera, miniature, cross process), advanced Hybrid AF for shooting fast moving subjects and compatibility with the WU-1a wireless mobile adapter. The camera doesn’t have a buit-in Wi-Fi antenna or GPS.

In some ways, the S2 looks like a large-sensor point-and-shoot ported to an ILC. When you buy the S2, remember that you always have the option to upgrade to a better Nikon 1 camera in the future and keep your lenses, as those will be compatible with other Nikon 1 cameras.

All in all, a camera that focus on the features that casual photographer care about most: compact size, style, ease-of-use, lightweight (190 grams), high image quality and low price and the S2 has it all and even more!

Here are a few videos demonstrating some of the advanced image control features available on the S2.

Creative Palette:

Live Image Control:

Great features for beginners and those who want to quickly and easily apply certain type of effect in-camera.

Nikon 1 J4

Nikon 1 J4 mirrorless camera, orange versionMoving on to the Nikon J4, a more advanced camera that sits above the S1 and S2 in Nikon 1 camera’s lineup.  The J4 sits below the Nikon V3 and offers a wider range of controls and features that enthusiast photographers need. It has a more squarish/flat design compared to the rounded one of the S2. Although neither are robust in terms of external physical controls, the J4 feature a Mode dial at the top which allows you to choose the appropriate shooting mode, which includes: Motion Snapshot mode, Best moment capture mode, Auto mode, Creative mode and advanced movie mode.

The Nikon J4 is built with magnesium alloy and aluminum therefore it’s more durable than the S2 which is mostly plastic.  The camera is not weather sealed, neither the S2.

The camera was built fast performance and marketed as such. At the heart of the camera is a 1-inch 18.4-megapixel CX CMOS sensor Nikon’s latest Expeed 4A image processing engine. In my Nikon J4 vs J3 comparison I’ve noticed a vast improvement in the high ISO performance in favor of the J4, and I was surprised to see such a good performance from a 1-inch sensor. That said, the high ISO performance was inferior to the Micro Four Thirds and APS-C, but good high ISO performance regardless.

At the back of the camera you have a 3-inch 1037K-dots fixed touchscreen display, an upgrade from the J3 that has a non touch-sensitive display and slightly lower resolution (921K-dots). Unfortunately, the Nikon J4 lacks a built-in electronic viewfinder and there is no optional EVF accessory that you can attach to the camera.  Even the V3 lacks a built-in viewfinder, but you can attach an external EVF to the accessory port. I think that most people who debate between the S2 and J4 shouldn’t really care about that. On the other hand, I think that it’s unfortunate that even Nikon’s flagship mirrorless camera lacks this feature, as the competition certainly focus in bringing this feature even to its mid-range offering (e.g. Sony Alpha a6000,  Sony NEX-6) and even more fortunate considering the V3 high price.

More on the positive side, the Nikon 1 J4 features the same advanced Hybrid AF as the V3 with 105 phase detection points and 171 contrast detection points that are well spread across the frame and provides super-fast subject tracking AF performance for both stills and videos. This makes the J4 a great choice for fast-action shooters, also considering the 1/16,000 sec shutter speed and 20 fps burst speed with AF tracking.

Other features include a built-in Wi-Fi (sharing and remote control), Best moment capture mode and Creative Palette (same as the S2, see videos in the S2 overview section), take photos while filming videos, motion snapshot, Live Image Control, creative video modes, and a wide range of video frame rate option, including 1080p60 and three slow-motion video options (144p1200, 720p120, 288p400).

The J4 is a much cheaper alternative to the V3, but of course we are here to see how good is the V3 compared to the S2.  If you search for a fast-performing compact mirrorless camera for a good price, you’ll love what the J4 has to offer.

Nikon J4 vs S2 Comparison

OK, we got to the comparison section. it’s time to dig deeper into the specs in order to comprehend the differences between those two cameras. The S2 is cheaper and certainly a very capable mirrorless camera, but does it mean that it’s a better choice for your specific shooting habits. In order to decide which camera to buy, you need to carefully examine the differences between the two cameras, and I did it for you, so you can have that information and make a smarter buying decision.

Nikon 1 S2Nikon 1 J4
AnnouncedMay 14, 2014April 10, 2014
Camera TypeRangefinder-style mirrorlessRangefinder-style mirrorless
Build QualityPlasticMagnesium alloy and aluminum
Weather SealingNoNo
Sensor14.2 MP (effective)
1-inch (13.1 x 8.8mm) CX

2.7x crop factor

No low-pass filter

2.85 microns pixel size
18.4 MP (effective)
1-inch (13.1 x 8.8mm) CX

2.7x crop factor

No low-pass filter

2.52 microns pixel size
Image ProcessorExpeed 4AExpeed 4A
Both cameras utilize the same latest generation Expeed 4A image processor which offers improved performance and noise reduction algorithms.

Also both camera were designed without an optical low-pass filter (AA filter), which means that the are more prone to moiré patterns in favor of slightly higher sharper and more details image.

The Nikon J4 has a 26% resolution advantage over the S2. The J4 also has smaller pixels due to its higher resolution on a relatively same sensor size (there is a slight different in the width, 0.1mm). It's interesting to see if there is any difference in terms of high ISO, as both sensors are of the same generation -- we'll look at it in the next section.
ISO200 - 12800160 - 12800
High ISO ComparisonComparing the difference from S2 and J4 sample images on photography blog website, I've noticed that the S2 high ISO images are slightly cleaner in both RAW and JPEG. Considering the fact that the S2 is the cheaper model, I can only assume that the difference comes from the pixel size difference. Again, not a big difference, but it's certainly visible when viewing the images at 100% scale.

Overall the high ISO performance is very good, but not at the same league compared to what you get with large sensors, like Micro Four Thirds and especially APS-C based mirrorless, like the Sony Alpha a6000 for example.
RAW12-bit NEF12-bit NEF
Shutter Speed30 - 16,000 sec30 - 16,000 sec
Built-in FlashYes, pop-upYes, pop-up
Active D-LightingYes (on/off)Yes (on/off)
Autofocus SystemHybrid AF

135 contrast-detection AF points
73 phase-detection AF points
Hybrid AF

171 contrast-detection AF points
105 phase-detection AF points
The Nikon 1 J4 boasts more AF points which should give it an advantage when shooting fast moving subjects and when the camera needs to track a moving subject that moves within the frame. Both cameras enjoy a super-fast AF performance and make these two cameras excellent for fast-action photography.
AF Assist IlluminatorYesYes
Exposure Compensation–3-+3EV, in steps of 1/3EV–3-+3EV, in steps of 1/3EV
Flash Compensation-3 to +1 EV in steps of 1/3 EV-3 to +1 EV in steps of 1/3 EV
Non touch-sensitive
A big difference here. The J4 features a much higher resolution display, although fixed as the S2, it has a touch-sensitive screen, which allows you to control the camera with touch, rather than only using the physical buttons.

The J4 screen is super responsive and you can use it to set the focus position, apply various image effects with a ring-like motion, change ISO speed, etc. If you are used to shoot with your mobile phone, you'll feel right at home with the J4.

You probably think that this feature is probably more suitable for the S2 as the most basic camera and newbies will love to have a touch-sensitive display. We need to understand that this will obviously result in a more expensive camera, and I assume this is the reason for that.
Flash X Sync Speed1/60 sec1/60 sec
Continuous Shootingup to 60 fps (with fixed focus on the first frame)

20 fps with AF tracking
up to 60 fps (with fixed focus on the first frame)

20 fps with AF tracking
One of the features that makes the Nikon 1 cameras so interesting. Not everyone might take advantage of it, but if you are into fast-action photography, you'll love this super-fast burst, which is faster than what you get with a high-end DSLR.

So what is it for? -- shooting car racing, surfers at the sea, running kids, flying birds in the sky and flying macro subjects, sports games and so on.
Eye-Level ViewfinderNot availableNot available
Unfortunately non of the Nikon 1 cameras as of the time of writing have a built-in viewfinder. The V3 is compatible with an optional EVF. I think that many people can leave with it, for others it might be a deal breaker. I hope that Nikon will improve on this in the future, at least in its mid-range and flagship models.

Most people will be just fine shooting with the rear LCD, although it's outdoor visibility to be average, another thing that I expect Nikon to improve in future models.
Video Recording1080p60

Slow-motion videos:

Stereo sound

Slow-motion videos:

Stereo sound
Both cameras can shoot Full HD videos at 60p and 30p and both can record slow-motion movie clips, with the J4 offering a second higher-res frame rate option and slightly higher resolution for 400 fps and 1200 fps slow-mo recordings.

The slow-mo videos look really good in my opinion, and you can really do some creative stuff with it, what photography is all about, and I am sure that those of you who love shooting videos will love to experiment with it.
Mic InputNoNo
Dimensions101 x 61 x 29 mm (3.98 x 2.4 x 1.14″)100 x 60 x 29 mm (3.92 x 2.36 x 1.12″)
(with battery and card)
230g (8.1 oz)232g (8.2 oz)
Battery Life (CIPA)270 shots

EN-EL22 battery
300 shots

EN-EL22 battery
Optional GripNoNo
Time-lapse RecordingNoNo
Built-in GPSNoNo
Wirelesswith the optional Wireless Mobile Adapter WU-1a Built-in Wi-Fi

Before we continue to the conclusion section, let’s watch some sample videos first..

Nikon 1 J4 sample video showing the Slow motion video recording, 4-second movie and Motion snapshot (official video by Nikon)

J4 sample video shot in 60p by ePhotoZine

and some more J4 super slow motion coolness! :)



So which camera should you buy? — well, the Nikon 1 S2  is cheaper, but will give you the same image quality and even slightly better high ISO performance. It’s small, lightweight and stylish. That said, if you pay more for the Nikon 1 J4 you’ll enjoy a better subject tracking AF performance, higher-resolution touchscreen display, built-in Wi-Fi for easy sharing via a mobile device,  top mode-dial, more slow-mo video recording options with higher resolution, better battery life and better build-quality. The Nikon 1 J4 also comes with the VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom image stabilized lens, which is very compact and has excellent image quality and good macro capability. The S2 comes with the 11.27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens which lacks the vibration reduction mechanism and it’s less wide and has less reach at the tele-end than the 10-30mm. Comparing the prices of the lens without the body, the 11-27.5mm costs around $190 and the 10-30mm PD Zoom costs around $300 (prices as of the time of writing, 7.16.2014). Of course you have the option to buy the 10-30mm separately, but if I bought the S2 Kit I wouldn’t do that, but rather spend the money on a lens with a different focal length, maybe a fast prime or a telephoto-zoom lens. So what you need to know that with the J4 Kit you also get a better and more versatile lens.

Whether those feature worth the extra $150, I personally think so. Not everyone will be convinced by the differences, others will find the J4 to be a better camera for their particular shooting style and needs and go with it instead of the S2. The S2 is in no doubt the most basic Nikon 1 camera you can buy among the new cameras (J4, S2, AW1 and V3). I think that the touchscreen, the better kit lens and build quality will be among  those feature that might convinced some photographers to get the J4 instead of the S2. If you are on a tight budget, I think that the S2 is an excellent choice, compact, stylish, lightweight and take great pictures, some people don’t need more than that.

Also keep in mind that you have the option to upgrade to a better model in the future and keep your lenses. By the way, talking about lenses, if you buy the S2, you can spend the extra money on a second lens, one reason why some people prefer going with a cheaper model. Having a second lens that has different optical characteristics opens up much more creative possibilities for the photographer, where the camera body might not give you an extra advantage.

Here’s an image of the S2 and J4 with their kit lenses (via

Nikon 1 J4 and S2 with kit lenses, top view

Want my opinion? — If I had to choose between the two, I would have chosen the Nikon 1 J4. But hey, that’s just me, you might decide otherwise.

If you enjoy reading this article, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and LIKE us.Thanks for reading and see ya on the next comparison article.


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