1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon CX

Review by Markus Stamm, published November 2011

Introduction

With the introduction of the Nikon 1 product line, Nikon finally entered the market of mirrorless system cameras. For the new system, they went with a rather small sensor size with a crop factor of 2.7, which their marketing calls the CX format. The sensor is considerably smaller than in other mirrorless cameras (except the Pentax Q), probably in attempt to keep a technological gap to Nikon's entry-level DX cameras and thus not to establish competition within the same brand.

Among the 4 lenses announced at system launch is a standard zoom lens, which is available as kit lens with both current Nikon 1 cameras, the J1 and V1. With its physical focal length of 10-30mm it offers the same field of view as a 27-81mm lens on a full frame camera.

In this review we will have a look at how the lens performs on the Nikon V1, which serves as our CX test camera.

The 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm is a collapsible zoom lens. This means it needs to extend an inner lens tube to be operational. The lens is quite compact in absolute terms, but still larger than one might expect considering the small sensor size of the Nikon 1 system. However, most of the lens' volume is used by the outer tube, the actual lens elements are a lot smaller in diameter than the size of the lens suggests.

Extending the lens when the camera is off switches it on, however retracting the lens does not automatically switch the camera off again or send it to stand-by. Apart from the zoom ring and the release button there are no other control elements on the lens. Any function except zooming (autofocus, aperture, VR) is controlled through the camera. This is also true for manual focus, there is no focus ring on the lens.

Move the cursor over the text marks below to see the lens in its retracted or extended condition
Retracted Extended

The build quality of the lens is very good. Not on the same high level as Sony NEX lenses, but no doubt better than what Nikon offer with their entry-level DX kit lenses. The lens is based on a metal mount, both tubes are made of high quality plastics, the nicely rubberized zoom ring in addition features metal elements.

As you can see in the product shots above, the lens extends quite a bit when unlocked. During zooming, the length changes slightly, the longest setting being both ends of the zoom range and the shortest around 18mm. The inner lens tube shows minor signs of wobbling when fully extended.

The 10-30mm VR is one of the very few Nikkor lenses that Nikon delivers without a hood (and no pouch either). Both, if required, need to be purchased seperately.

The lens features a silent AF drive, which is unnoticeable when recording movies. Videographers will also appreciate the stepless aperture. The AF action is quite fast, considerably faster than e.g. the Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55 VR.

Talking about VR: Nikon preferred to use their optical stabilization in the new system instead of a stabilized sensor. The VR (Vibration Reduction) works in two modes, "Normal" and "Active". The latter mode should be used to correct for larger shaking, for example when shooting from a moving vehicle or during walking. According to the manual, both modes offer panning detection.

During our field tests, we had some issues with the VR system. The amount of strongly blurred shots was a lot higher than we expected from a stabilized lens. This was especially true for exposure times in the range of roughly 1/25s to 1/80s, which is exactly the shutter range where you'd appreciate the stabilization effect the most. Setting the V1 camera to "normal" VR mode ("active" is the default set by Nikon) and electronic shutter (instead of mechanical) reduced the number of blurred shots considerably, but the ratio was still higher than what we're used to from Nikkor VR lenses on both DX and FX cameras. Since the issue occured also with the Nikkor 30-110mm VR and (to a lesser degree) the 10-100mm VR lens, we're not sure whether this is a lens or camera issue (or a combination of both).

For even slower shutter times (down to half a second), the VR system worked very well. In fact, better than in VR lenses on DSLRs. This may, however, simply be a result of the low weight and electronic shutter of the V1 camera.

Update 11/21/2011: Nikon published firmware updates for all current VR lenses today, which solves the above mentioned VR issue.

The lens is available in several colours matching the corresponding cameras.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length27-81 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/9.5-15 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction12 elements in 9 groups incl. 3 aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades7 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.2 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.8)
Dimensions57,5 mm x 42 mm (retracted)
Weight115 g
Filter size40.5 mm (non-rotating)
HoodHB-N101, barrel shaped, bayonet mount (optional)
Other featuresVibration reduction (VR), stepless aperture




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