Like any good mirrorless compact system camera these days, Nikon’s newly announced Nikon 1 J5 is cute and takes its design cues from the past. An earnest little shooter compatible with Nikon’s CX format lenses, it’s the Japanese firm’s attempt to take on the likes of Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic after the rather lacklustre Nikon 1 V1 and J1 series of the last few years.

The dilemma facing Nikon is that unlike the more successful mirrorless companies, it doesn’t want to undercut its popular proper SLRs: so the sensor in the previous Nikon 1 cameras is just half the size of Micro Four Thirds cameras and postitively minute compared to the APS-C size chip in Fuji’s X-Series, which means unfavourable comparisons when it comes to picture quality, especially in low light.

There’s no change to the physical size of the sensor for the Nikon 1 J5, which is disappointing, but it is a new 20.8Mp affair with back illumination, which means that it could redress some of those historical inadequacies. Back illumination is a different way of manufacturing image sensors that clears all the cluttering electronics from the front of a chip so that the light capturing pixel sites can do their job more efficiently. Upshot is that the sites themselves remain smaller than competitors – which is bad – but get more light, with is good.

Physically, the J5 has been given a complete rework and looks nothing like the older but more minamalistically moder J4. In fact it looks a lot like the X30 series cameras coming out of the Fujifilm stable. That means there’s no viewfinder, but the 3inch screen is articulated and can be flipped to the front for selfies.

It also retains the super high shooting speeds and a very fast hybrid AF system of previous Nikon 1s. Oh, and this one can now shoot 4K video too – a first for Nikon.

This is a camera that could finally establish Nikon in the compact mirrorless system market, but I will reserve my final verdict once until I have one in my hands.

Here are the highlights:

  • New 20.8Mp back-illuminated sensor
  • 4K movies – a first for Nikon – though only at 15fps
  • Full HD at up to 60fps
  • In-camera time-lapse movie mode in full HD
  • Super-fast hybrid AF using 171 AF points, including 105 phase-detection AF points
  • 60fps burst mode with AF fixed at first shot, or 20fps with continuous AF
  • Tilting touch-screen display with selfie mode
  • Mode dial with PASM settings
  • Wi-Fi and NFC
  • 10-30mm PD (power zoom) kit lens (27-81mm equivalent)
  • ISO 160-12,800

Black and silver versions of the Nikon 1 J5 will go on sale on the 30th of April and will set you back in the region of £429.99/US$499.95 with the 10-30mm lens. Local South African pricing is not available as yet.

Nikon 1 J5