My First Mirrorless Camera: Nikon J2
The J2 is an entry level mirrorless camera, with an interchangeable lens system. It was also my first mirrorless camera. Shortly after the J2 and I became acquainted is when I began taking my photography more seriously.
When I initially purchased the camera, it not only came from my interest in photography as an art form, from a need to be able to better preserve memories. As we all know, many moments are once in a lifetime, memories fade, and details can become murky. I knew I needed something stronger than my smartphone (which didn't have a camera even close to the smartphones of today) to better preserve our memories.
The Nikon1 J2 was released in 2012, as the second edition of the Nikon1's J series cameras. The camera release came with a reasonable $5-$600 price tag, while boasting a high speed mirrorless build. The lightweight body and seemingly miniaturised lenses are easy to transport with you anywhere. If you lean towards the side of minimalism when you're packing, the entry level J series is a perfect fit.
The kit I purchased included a 10mm-30mm standard zoom lens. I loved that lens, and still use it (along with the same J2) from time to time. The lens angle is great for day to day shooting, and the camera is borderline pocket size with such a stubby lens.
Fast forward a few thousand pictures later, I'm starting to get a little bit bored of the 10-30, and feel ready to take the next step. My skills are a little bit more honed than they were when I started with this camera, and I have to make a choice on my next lens; macro or telephoto. Both lenses were appealing, and both had similar prices. I've always been fascinated with macro photography, but ultimately, I went with the zoom lens. I choose the telephoto lens over the macro lens for a few reasons. Number one being it's more versatile; I wanted to try my hand at portraiture and needed a lens that could provide a better bokeh, and really make the subject stand out. While a macro lens would have been a lot of fun, I would have only had use for it in a handful of scenarios, albeit creative ones.
The camera was feature rich, including an artificial tilt-shift and colour isolation. Some digital cameras, or even smartphones come with a feature like colour isolation baked in, but it isn't always the most accurate.
The palatable kit price of the J2 came with a few compromises as well; it lacked a viewfinder and the sensor was quite small, at 1 inch, it's smaller than a four thirds. Although the interchangeable lenses, which also carried a very reasonable price, allowed for a lot of freedom in terms of style and accessories, the sensor size itself meant the camera would have poorer performance in many other aspects, most noticeably in my opinion, low light performance.
The J2 was only 10.1 MP, which seems weak compared to today's cameras, boasting a seeming standard of at least 24 MP, and prevailing much higher as well. Many smartphones today are 12 MP or more. That being said, if I was offered a J2 and a 12 MP smartphone to go shooting, I'll take the J2 every time. The proprietary lens system, high speed mirrorless sensor, and considerably stronger processor is going to result in more control, and data being recorded more reliably.
In the end, the compromises were more than worth it. The highly customizable entry level camera allowed me the freedom to really find my own personal style by experimenting with various settings on a feature rich camera with interchangeable lenses. I still take it out every now and then, the camera is so incredibly small and lightweight. I don't need to commit to a particular lens before heading out because I have the space to bring a few, without being weighed down.
The simplicity of the proprietary Nikon1 lenses is something that intrigued me from the beginning. Nikon has kept up with their Nikon1 series too; the J2 has evolved into the J5, and they've continued to add lenses to the Nikon1 collection. This is great news for us early adopters of the series, as all our lenses are compatible with the newer cameras in the series as well.
Although you won't be able to enlarge the photos you take with the J2 much past a small poster, if you're looking to get your feet wet and give photography a try, the camera still holds strong and is perfect for personal projects or family events.
After a few years of near everyday use, I ended up learning a lot from my J2, and would recommend it to any beginner looking to try their hand at photography. The J2 can be a great option, and you can probably pick a used one up for a pretty decent price. It won't break the bank, but will still give you features you need to get your feet wet.