Nikon 1 J5 vs J4 vs S2 Comparison

April 5, 2015

Nikon 1 J5, J4 and S2 side by side

In this article Ill compare the newly announced Nikon 1 J5 versus the previous model, J4 and the Nikon 1 S2. The Sx models are the most basic models, followed by the Jx  models and finally the Vx models which are the most advanced cameras in Nikon 1 lineup. If you are thinking of buying one of Nikon’s CSC,  you’ll find this comparison review interesting and useful, and one that will make it easier for you to make up your mind.

We’ll start with an introduction section to the new J5 camera and in the next section compare the three one versus the other.

Nikon 1 J5

I personally wasn’t a big fan of Nikon 1 cameras. For me it always seems that something had to be done to convince me to buy a Nikon 1 over the competition. It might be due to the relatively smaller sensor (1″ CX) at first, but overall the competition was more convincing and I was always leaning towards their products and what Nikon has to offer.

With the Nikon 1 J5, Nikon wants to change that impression and try to convince more people to grab a Nikon 1 camera. The J5 was completely redesigned and now looks more like a conventional digital camera than a square brick.

Nikon 1 J5 and J4 side by side size comparison

Nikon 1 J5 and J4 side by side size comparison (via camerasize.com)

The J5 now looks different than the J4, which was previously resembles the look and feel of the S2, which is the cheaper model. Now, and I assume that also in the future, Nikon 1 Jx camera will have a distinctive look that will make them stands apart from the most basic entry-level models. Nikon 1 J5 now has a small grip and a leatherette cover.  It has a new control layout, including manual controls and PSAM exposure modes which now can be access directly via the mode dial, and rather from the digital menu system. There is also a programmable function button at the front that allow fast access to frequently used camera settings, one of your choice of course.

All Nikon 1 cameras were designed with performance in mind, and the J5 is not different. The J5 utilizes a new 1-inch CX-format 20.8MP Back-illuminated CMOS sensor that should backup that performance with incredibly detailed image. The new sensor lacks the anti-aliasing filter, further boosting the image details that this sensor can produce. I personally think that 20.8 megapixels for such sensor is a bit much, but will have to wait for the sample images to see whether Nikon was able to pull it out or was it a bad decision in the first place.

The J5 can shoot at a ridiculous speed of 20 fps at full resolution and with Autofocus. You buff it up and shoot at 60 fps with the AF fixed at the first frame. Accompanied with Nikon’s fast Hybrid AF system (171 contrast-detect AF and 105 phase-detect AF), the J5 is a beast for anyone who demands such performance (e.g. sports photography). Furthermore, Nikon also introduced a new Sports mode in this new camera, which offers useful preset settings to further aid you to capture the right moment when shooting fast-action events. The camera also features the world’s fastest release time lag.

Among its other features are built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for easy photo sharing,  HDR images, time-laspe recording, 1080p60 video recording, slow-motion video recording, 180° tilting touch screen display for easy self portraits (selfies), panorama images, 12-bit RAW shooting (also RAW + JPEG mode),  1/16,000 max shutter speed,  Active D-Lighting, built-in flash, EXPEED 5A processor, 4K movie recording at 15 fps (14.99 fps) and all this in a small and light camera body (265 g / 9.4 oz – with battery and card). Oh, and if you wondered, there is no EVF in the J5, bummer.

Here’s a 4K/15p sample video taken with the J5

 

The last time I checked, the J5 was being sold for $500 with the 10-30mm lens, which seems like a good offering for anyone who is main focus is on performance.  You’ll feel that performance when you start shooting with the camera, it was designed from the ground up to be super responsive. I personally hate waiting for the camera to respond and missing a shot, no more with the J5! Of course about all that, you can enjoy the on growing selection of 1 Nikkor lenses, among the finest lenses in the industry.

J5 vs J4 vs S2

Now that you’ve become familiar with the K5 key features, let’s dig a bit deeper and find out how the J5 compared to two other models in the same lineup, the J4 and the S2. As of the time of writing, the S2 is being sold on amazon.com for ~$450  with the 11-27.5mm lens, the J4 for ~$250 with the 10-30mm lens and the J5 for ~$500 with the 10-30mm lens. By the way, the 10-30mm in the J5 kit is the PD-Zoom version, which is considerably smaller than the other 10-30mm (non PD-Zoom) lens. It also the more expensive one. The 10-30mm PD-Zoom costs around $300 when sold separately and the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR costs $80, just something I think you should know.

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the CX sensor has a 2.7 times crop factor. This means that for example, a 10-30mm lens is equivalent to 27-81mm when mounted on any of Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras.  The 70-300mm lens for example is equivalent to 189-810mm in 35mm format. That something you should keep in mind when deciding which lenses to buy, to make sure that the equivalent field of view of the lens fits your particular shooting style. So in general, you get a narrower field of view compared to what stated on the lens. This means that the angle is smaller compared to the non-equivalent focal length.

OK, now let’s dive into the comparison. In this section you’ll have the option to clearly see and understand the differences between those three cameras.

Nikon 1 J5Nikon 1 J4Nikon 1 S2
AnnouncedApril 2, 2015April 10, 2014May 14, 2014
The J5 is the newest model, announced about 1 year after the J4.
Build QualityPlastic (but looks like metal)Polycarbonate and Metal framePolycarbonate
Sensor20.8 megapixels (effective)
1" CX (13.2mm x 8.8 mm)
BSI CMOS
No OLPF

Dust Shield
18.4 megapixels (effective)
1" CX (13.2mm x 8.8 mm)
CMOS
No OLPF

Image sensor cleaning
18.4 megapixels (effective)
1" CX (13.2mm x 8.8 mm)
CMOS
No OLPF

Image sensor cleaning
ISO160 - 12800160 - 12800160 - 12800
The J5 utilizes a newly designed sensor that has a higher resolution than previous generations. It's interesting to see whether this leads to inferior image quality or due to improvements, to a better image quality despite the smaller pixels.
ProcessorExpeed 5AExpeed 4Expeed 4A
The new J5 features a new-gen processor, which gives the camera the performance boost it needs to support the higher frame rate capture, high frame rate video recording and its other features.
RAWYes (12-bit)Yes (12-bit)Yes (12-bit)
AF SystemHybrid
171 contrast-detect AF
105 phase-detect AF
Hybrid
171 contrast-detect AF
105 phase-detect AF
Hybrid
171 contrast-detect AF
105 phase-detect AF
All three cameras utilize the same Hybrid AF system, which is super-fast and accurate due to its hybrid configuration, which works tremendously well for fast-moving subjects and when shooting videos with continuous autofocus.
LCD3-inch
1037K-dots
Touchscreen
180 degree flip-up (for selfies)
3-inch
1037K-dots
Touchscreen
Fixed in place
3-inch
460K-dots
No touchscreen
Fixed
The J5 has the best displays among the three. It has the same resolution ahs the J4, but unlike the J4 LCD, this display can be tilted up 180 degrees for easy selfies. The S2 screen is inferior to the others with lower resolution, no touchscreen operation and it's also fixed in place like the J4.
Shutter Speed30- 1/16,000 sec30- 1/16,000 sec30- 1/16,000 sec
All three cameras offer a super-fast maximum shutter speed, promoting better fast-moving-subject captures and giving photographers more room to control the exposure, especially useful when shooting with very fast primes and you want to minimize the amount of light passed through the lens while shooting with the maximum aperture (largest opening) of the lens.
Built-in FlashYes Yes Yes
External FlashNoNoNo
Flash X sync speed1/60 sec1/60 sec1/60 sec
Burst20 fps (Continuous AF)
60 fps (AF fixed on first frame)
20 fps (Continuous AF)
60 fps (AF fixed on first frame)
20 fps (Continuous AF)
60 fps (AF fixed on first frame)
All three cameras support up to 60 fps in continuous shooting mode. The highest burst of 60 fps is with AF pinpoint at a fixed location, no continuous AF during each shot.

This is one feature that attracts many photographers to try Nikon 1 cameras. A really admirable and useful feature.
Video4K/15p
1080p60/30
720p60/30

Slow-motion: 1280 x 720/120 fps
Slow-motion: 800 x 296/400 fps
Slow-motion: 400 x 144/1200 fps

Stereo
1080p60/30
720p60/30
1080p24 (motion snapshot)

Slow-motion: 1280 x 720/120 fps
Slow-motion: 768 x 288/400 fps
Slow-motion: 416 x 144/1200 fps

4 seconds 24fps (fast-motion, jump-cut)

Stereo
1080p60/30
720p60/30
1080p24 (motion snapshot)

Slow-motion: 1280 x 720/120 fps
Slow-motion: 768 x 288/400 fps
Slow-motion: 416 x 144/1200 fps

4 seconds 24fps (fast-motion, jump-cut)

Stereo
All three cameras support 1080p60/30 movie recording framerate, including super-fast slow-motion recording. The J5 now adds 4K/15p to the mix, which is nice for shooting landscaped or slow moving subjects.

Overall, great selection of video modes which allow photographers to be more creative and come home with more unique video captures, preserving those memories for years to come.
Microphone JackNoNoNo
Headphone PortNoNoNo
ViewfinderNoNoNo
None of these cameras have a built-in viewfinder.
WirelessWi-Fi / NFCWi-Fivia WU-1a
The J5 has the most advanced wireless configurationm supporting WiFi and NFC - providing quicker and easy setup for non-techie people. The S2 lacks built-in wireless, but you can use the WU-1a wireless mobile adapter for that (~$60, sold separately)
Battery Life250 shots300 shots300 shots
The J5 has a shorter battery life, which is quite disappointing.
Dimensions98 x 60 x 32 mm (3.86 x 2.36 x 1.26″)100 x 60 x 29 mm (3.92 x 2.36 x 1.12″)101 x 61 x 29 mm (3.98 x 2.4 x 1.14″)
All three are relatively small cameras, now with the J5 its even smaller, but not by that much.
Timelapse RecordingYesYesYes
Built-in GPSNoNoNo

Conclusions

The Nikon 1 J5 looks different than its predecessor, carrying a retro-style advanced look and improved ergonomics, which should appeal to advanced shooters. It gained new sensor, new processor, selfie-friendly LCD, 4K/15 video recording, shorter shutter time lag, new self-portrait mode, NFC, seven new effects, more creative effects available for video recording and all this in an even smaller body (not by that much though).  For those additions you’ll have the pay $250 more if you buy the 10-30mm PD-Zoom kit.

No drastic changes in terms of performance, so you might ask yourself whether those updates really worth the extra price. I think that at the end of the day it will come to image quality. I want to see how good the new sensor performs at high ISO compared to the J4 and than I can make up my mind.  Overall, the J4 is still an excellent offer and now is being sold for even less. If you find the J5 features appealing and like the new camera design, the J5 is certainly worth a look. The price is reasonable, don’t get me wrong, just with mirrorless cameras, you sometimes might prefer buying a cheaper body and pay more for a better/extra lens. This might be the case with the J5 and J4.

The S2 is obviously behind in terms of features, but its aimed for beginners and newcomers, and I think if performance is what you are after, you’ll love the S2, but it does lack a mode dial, has no built-in Wi-Fi and overall I think that there are too many tradeoffs. It sometimes better to invest more for a camera that will serve you for years to come. I think that the S2 does suffer from rough competition for its price range.

My recommendation is to focus on the J4 and J5, both are excellent super high-performing mirrorless cameras, which won’t limit your creativity and provide you with the tools to become a better photographer.

Buy the Nikon 1 J5 from B&H Photo Video

Buy the Nikon 1 J4 from B&H Photo Video



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