I have been using my J1 with the kit 10-30mm lens, which in my opinion is one of the best kit lenses to be supplied with any camera, of any variety, ever! I have no complaints about the image quality of the lens at all, but the one thing it isn’t, is exactly compact – despite the collapsing design.
So, I thought I’d get hold of a 10mm f/2.8 pancake to make the J1 a little more portable if I’m out and about in the city or countryside just shooting buildings and general landscape stuff rather than the more family oriented photos I normally do with my J1.
After putting the lens on and rattling off a few shots in the garden, I wasn’t instantly seeing much sharper more contrasty images that you normally associate with a prime lens, so as an interesting idea I thought I’d compare the image quality of the 10mm with the 10-30mm zoom lens.
These images are all taken at the same time – well, as close as you can get when swapping lenses! I took a series of shots with each lens and for fairness picked the best one from each lens to compare against the other. Images were all shot as JPEGs and are straight out of the camera with no processing.
You can see here that at the centre of the frame the two images are all but identical. Neither lens shows much fringing, and what is there is, again, nearly identical between lenses. Click to see larger versions.
This a crop from another image showing edge sharpness for both lenses.
This is where you can see that the 10mm prime pushes ahead in terms of sharpness, clearly giving more detail at the edge of the frame, and because the Nikon 1 camera doesn’t compensate for lens distortion in-camera, we can see that the prime has slightly less distortion then the zoom, with the building looking a little more ‘upright’ than the crop from the zoom.
Below are a couple of close up shots with both lenses at their wide open setting.
Both images again near identical at wide open, colour and contrast being near enough identical when compared side-by-side.
Again, looking at the images there is very little in it. I’d almost be tempted to say that the zoom is a bit sharper, but this could be down to the slight increase in depth of field due to the slightly smaller aperture.
Finally, an indoor comparison at higher ISO.
The edge definitely goes here to the 10-30mm zoom lens, not for outright image quality, but because the VR system allowed me to hand hold the camera down to a lower shutter speed in low light, and giving a sharper image as a result.
The 10mm prime doesn’t offer that big jump in image quality and sharpness you’d normally expect when comparing primes with zooms, but that is not to say that the 10mm prime is a bad lens, I think it speaks more about just how good the 10-30mm zoom is. As I said at the start, I think the 10-30mm Nikon 1 zoom is the best kit zoom lens available with any camera ever!
If you’re buying the 10mm expecting much better image quality you’re going to be disappointed. Sharpness is improved at the edges, and there is less distortion, so if you’re looking for the absolute best you can get out of your Nikon 1 at wide-angle with a 1 lens right now, then the 10mm is what you’d choose.
The main reason to buy this lens however is to make your Nikon 1 system much more portable, and in that respect it certainly does. I can fit a J1+10mm into my jeans pocket quite easily. The only problem comes when you want a bit more flexibility, and then you’re having to change lenses. In reality you can pretty much stick with the 10-30mm zoom and be sure you’re getting almost exactly the same image quality that you would using the prime.