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Nikon's new mirrorless camera is the company's most appealing yet

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The easiest 1 series camera to imagine people buying

Nikon has announced the J5, the latest entry in its idiosyncratic 1 series of mirrorless cameras. And, from the looks of things, it might be the most broadly appealing offering in the line to date — Nikon has added some sensible features and design tweaks while giving the package a more reasonable price.

A grip, a mode dial, and a selfie-enabling screen

Unlike other J-series 1 cameras, which often required a lot of menu-diving to access basic settings, the J5 has a traditional PASM dial to select exposure modes; a secondary command dial helps make adjustments. The screen is now tiltable for the first time, and flexes through a full 180 degrees for those all-important high-res selfies. The J5 has a fairly substantial grip, unlike its boxy predecessors, and Nikon has adopted the now-ubiquitous silver and black retro color scheme (all-black and silver/white options will also be available).

The 1-inch sensor (2.7x crop factor) has been upgraded to 20.8 megapixels from the J4’s 18.4, the autofocus system has 171 contrast-detect and 105 phase-detect points, and the camera features a new Expeed 5A processor that allows for 20 fps still shooting with continuous focus, or 60 fps with single focus. The J5 can also shoot 4K video, albeit only at 15 fps. Fast performance and solid image processing have always been a hallmark of the 1 cameras, for all their other faults, and the J5 should continue this.

nikon 1 j5

But of course, the 1-inch sensor still remains far behind just about every mirrorless competitor, meaning the J5 shouldn’t be the camera of choice for anyone concerned with shallow depth of field, strong low-light performance, or the ability to mount lenses from other systems. And despite the lack of interchangeable lenses, Sony’s RX100 line of compact cameras remain great buys, with the same size and resolution sensor in smaller bodies with tiny collapsible zoom lenses that are faster than anything Nikon offers for the 1 series.

Nikon is pricing the J5 aggressively, though: the basic kit with a 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 lens will cost $499.95, while a double-lens kit adding a 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom will be $749.95. A $1,049.95 kit with a 10-100mm f/4-5.6 offers more flexibility in a single lens. No release date is available yet beyond "soon."

"I think we had bigger expectations."

"It has, although it's certainly not up to our total expectations," Nikon senior technical manager Steve Heiner tells The Verge when asked whether the 1 series has performed well. "I think we had bigger expectations. The problem is that we introduced this into a market where there were competitors." Heiner says that Nikon "doubled the market just by entering it" in 2011, and believes the series has greater potential. "I think in the long term we're going to continue to build out the Nikon 1 Nikkor lens line, and the more options that we make available will make these bodies and others offerings more and more attractive. So it is doing well. It could do better."

Although there are certainly stronger mirrorless offerings out there for enthusiasts from the likes of Fujifilm, Olympus, and Sony, the J5 might be worth a look if you prioritize speed, size, and simplicity in an interchangeable lens camera rather than pro-level image quality — not to mention affordability. It isn’t enough to convince that Nikon is taking the mirrorless market altogether seriously, but it’s by far the easiest 1 series camera to imagine people buying.

Additional reporting by Jake Kastrenakes.

nikon 1 j5

Verge Video from CES 2015: Hands-on with Nikon's first touchscreen DSLR