Last year's Nikon 1 J1 promised some professional features for the amateur photographer looking to move on up and man was it a huge disappointment. The Nikon J2 is a virtually identical camera packed with even more gimmicky features for amateurs with some money to burn.
As Nikon's first affordable, compact, interchangeable-lens camera, the J1 fell flat when compared to the competition. It had a smaller 1-inch sensor than its rival micro four thirds offerings from Panasonic and Olympus not to mention the excellent APS-C NEX cameras from Sony. Smaller sensor means crappier image quality. The camera's functionality was basically designed for a someone who had no idea what they were doing. Yes, you could swap out the lenses, and its design was beautiful, but in the end it amounted to nothing more than a £355 dressed-up-point-and-shoot.
The new Nikon 1 J2 adds a new "creative mode" that makes the camera feel more like a point-and-shoot than before. In short, a new position on the camera's mode dial grants you access to automatic settings for handling some of photography's trickier shooting conditions: Nights or situations where the your subject is backlit. Oh and some artsy effects to boot.
Which is all well and good except these features are already available on point-and-shoot cameras that handle far better than the J2. Consider cameras like the ultra-tiny Canon s100 or the powerful Sony RX100 with its 1-inch sensor that's comparable to the J2's. Yes, those are only point-and-shoot cameras, but why are manual functions easier to use than those on the J2?
Cheaper compact system cameras like the J2 are clearly designed for amateurs who want to step up their game but don't want to deal with the hassles of a DSLR. But you're supposed to get some of that bigger camera power, and Nikon's just handing people a flashy camera that looks like a powerful tool, but treats you like an idiot.
The one positive note is the camera's hardware. The screen's resolution has been doubled to 921,000-dots. Nikon's also introduced a super-slim 11-27.5mm lens to the Nikon 1 system. Yes, that's an odd combination of focal-lengths for a camera. Nikon designed it that way so it could be as slim as possible.
There's nothing wrong with building cameras for amateurs who want more, but the Nikon J2—like the J1 before it—will be a miss. How do we know? Because from the sensor to the image processor, to the clumsy handling, nothing relevant about the camera has been given even the slightest boost. Not everyone will be a pro photographer, but the J2 won't even give people the opportunity to learn how. But at £500, at least the J2 is cheaper. It'll be available in September.