Nikon has announced a new camera system which heads down a path already well-trodden by the likes of Sony and Olympus. The company has launched its 1 system with a couple of pocket-sized mirrorless cameras and four interchangeable lenses. Both cameras feature brand new hybrid autofocus technology, super-fast continuous shooting, intuitively placed, redesigned camera controls and full high definition movie recording.

Nikon J1

The first of Nikon's new 1 system cameras is the J1. The combination of 73-point focal plane phase detection autofocus (AF) system and 135 point contrast detection - with the camera being able to automatically switch between phase detection and contrast detect AF to best suit the scene - is claimed to be the world's fastest autofocus. That nimble autofocus action is powered by Nikon's EXPEED 3 image processing engine incorporating a dual-core image processor, which also offers low noise processing performance and optimum Lithium-ion battery efficiency.

The processing engine works alongside the new Nikon CX format (13.2 x 8.8mm) 10.1 megapixel High-Speed AF CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100-3200 (that can be extended to ISO6400) that's said to give a picture angle of about 2.7x lens focal length.

The J1 is capable of 10 frames per second (fps) burst shooting with adaptive AF active, but with the autofocus locked down the J1 can snap images at up to 60 fps - which takes the crown for the world's fastest continuous shooting speed. A user can also allow the camera to choose the best frame from images shot and recorded in the camera's pre-cache based on factors like exposure, focus and advanced facial recognition by activating the Smart Photo Selector mode. If the camera's choice isn't to your liking, you can select a favorite from five of the best frames from the feature's image store.

Nikon has turned its back on the familiar DSLR-like PASM shooting modes in favor of a Mode Dial featuring common functions. A Command Dial is used for common camera settings, presenting relevant menus determined by the mode set by the user to help keep interface distractions and menus to a minimum. Image preview and feature menus are presented on a 3.0-inch 460,000 dot resolution LCD monitor and the new camera is capable of full 1080p HD movie recording at 30 frames per second or 60 fps at 1080i resolution with stereo audio. Super slow motion speeds of 400 and 1200 fps are also offered and noise reduction is applied to movie files. Simultaneous HD movie recording and image capture is also possible.

A new Motion Snapshot mode interjects slow motion video action and plays the show back to a built-in audio soundtrack. Users can also create a flip-book-like moving images from multiple images using the included Short Movie Creator.

The aluminum body helps keep the unit to a body-only weight of 8.3 ounces (234 g) and the 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (106 x 61 x 29.8 mm) J1 also has a built-in pop up flash, a high-speed electronic shutter and is SD/SDHC/SDXC media card compatible. There's USB 2.0 and HDMI-out ports and the battery life is said to be good for around 230 images.

Nikon has produced some color-matched lenses to go with the J1, which will be available in white, pink, red, silver and black.

Nikon V1

The enthusiast-level V1 incorporates most of the features announced for the J1 but features Nikon's new Multi-Accessory Port instead of the pop-up flash, which is ready and waiting for the new SB-N5 compact speedlight or the GP-N100 GPS module. The V1 also gets a 1.4 million dot high resolution electronic viewfinder that automatically activates when the camera is brought up to the user's eye - and gives the camera the title of world's smallest and lightest camera (4.4 x 3 x 1.7-inch/113 x 76 x 43.5mm - body only weight of 10.4 ounces/294g) with interchangeable lens capability and an electronic viewfinder.

The V1 also has a magnesium alloy body, high-speed electronic shutter and high performance mechanical shutter for expanded shooting options, a stereo microphone input, 921,000 Dot LCD display with brightness adjustment and a 350 shot battery life.

Four new lenses have been announced for the 1 system (with a FT-1 F-mount adaptor following shortly). There's a versatile 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 lens (81-297mm equivalent), a 1 NIKKOR 10 mm f/2.8 pancake lens (27 mm equivalent), the company's first powered zoom lens in the shape of the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 (27-270mm equivalent) power zoom lens and the standard kit lens - the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (27-81mm 35mm equivalent).

Both cameras will be available in the U.S. from October 20 - the J1 kit (including the 10-30mm lens) is priced at US$649.95 while the V1 kit (with the same color-matched standard zoom lens) will cost US$899.95.

By comparison, Sony's latest NEX addition - the NEX-7 - comes with more than double the megapixel count, has a wider ISO range, and sports a 2 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder - but is a little more expensive than either of Nikon's new offerings. Closer in price but still managing to squeeze in a 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C size) and AMOLED display is Samsung's NX100 mirrorless camera.