Last month we got to spend a short time with Nikon's latest 1-System camera: the V3. This camera is arguably the most enthusiast-oriented Nikon mirrorless yet, with an advanced autofocus system, twin control dials, super-fast continuous shooting (with AF), Raw support, and 1080/60p video. The V3 also supports an optional 2.36 million dot EVF as well as a grip that not only gives you something more substantial to hold on to, but also an additional shutter release, custom button, and control dial.

A sleeker look, but goodbye EVF (sort of)

The Nikon 1 V2 was a rather awkward-looking camera, with an angular body and pronounced 'hump' on the top for the built-in EVF. The V3 has a much more traditional rangefinder-style design and is not as tall as the V2 - but it's larger in every other dimension (and heavier, too) The reason it's not as tall is obvious: there's no longer a built-in EVF (but see below for more). 

Build quality is solid, and the camera is easy to hold, and for those who want a more substantial grip, you can screw on the optional one shown later in the article.

In a move that will please enthusiasts (for the most part), the V3 now has three control dials (plus one more if you're using the grip). There's one on the front of the camera, another on the top, and a third around the four-way controller on the back of the camera.

You can just catch the rear dial on the top plate in this photo, as well as the third dial that surrounds the four-way controller.

Something that enthusiasts may not appreciate is that none of the dials can directly control exposure compensation, even in full manual mode.

The V3 has a pair of customizable buttons (Fn1 and Fn2) - and, if you have the battery grip, you get a third.

As with other Nikon 1-Series cameras, the V3 does not have a standard hot shoe. Instead, it has Nikon's proprietary accessory port, to which you can attach a flash (there are two to choose from) or stereo microphone. The camera does have a built-in flash, with a guide number of 5 meters at ISO 100.

While the V2 had a fixed LCD, the V3 has a tilting, 3" touchscreen with 1.04 million dots. As you'd expect, you can use the touchscreen to focus and take photos, and flip through photos in playback mode. The buttons on the left of the display tilt as well, as does the hidden infrared port for an optional wireless remote.

One other design-related thing to note is that the V3 now uses microSD cards instead of the traditional SD cards used by the V2. It's not really clear why they're using them, as there's plenty of room on the camera for a 'full size' SD card.

New sensor, new AF system

The V3 uses a new 18.4 megapixel CX-format (1"-type) CMOS sensor - up from 14.2MP on the V2. The sensor has no anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter, which promises higher resolution. But there's more to the new sensor than higher resolution. Both sensors have Hybrid Autofocus, which combines contrast and phase detection. The V3 has a large advantage over its predecessor, not only having more contrast detect areas (171 vs. 135), but more phase detect points as well (105 vs. 73).

All of those phase detect areas provide nearly 100% frame coverage, which gives the camera a lot more area in which to work with when it comes to subject tracking. The only camera that comes close to matching the V3's hybrid AF system is Sony's Alpha 6000.

Improvements in image processing now allow the V3 to shoot sequentially at 20 frames per second, with continuous autofocus. That's a number not even professional SLRs can match. (We'll see how accurate the AF system is when we spend more time with the V3.)

The new sensor allows 60p video recording, up from 60i on the V2. Recording time is limited to 10 minutes at the highest quality setting, though. There are a number of high speed modes as well, with the ability to shoot 720p video at 120 fps being the most notable. 

Another unique movie function is Jump Cut, which captures video every other second. The V3 always has 20 full resolution stills in its buffer, and automatically throws out the bad ones, so when you press the shutter release, the camera will save what it considers the best shots.

Optional extras

The DF-N1000 electronic viewfinder is bundled with the camera in the U.S., and optional in other markets

If you're missing the built-in EVF from the V2, fret not: Nikon will be offering one, which attaches to the camera's accessory shoe. The viewfinder has 2.36 million dots and covers 100% of the frame. An eye sensor will switch between the LCD and EVF automatically.

The GR-N1010 grip alone V3 with grip and EVF

Another accessory is the GR-N1010 grip, which gives you something much more substantial to hold onto, plus another shutter release button, customizable button number three, and another control dial.

Both of these accessories will be included in the U.S., but are optional in other regions. The handgrip will cost around €179, while the DF-N1000 EVF will set you back around €349.

New kit lens

The Nikon 1 V3 comes with a power zoom (PD-Zoom in Nikon-speak) version of the 10-30mm F3.5-5.6 lens that's been around since the beginning of the 1-System. The difference is that the ring around the PD-Zoom version serves as the zoom controller, moving the lens through its 27-81mm (equiv.) focal range. 

A closer look at the new 10-30mm PD-Zoom lens

If you want to buy the 10-30 PD-Zoom by itself, you can pick one up for $299.95.

Overall

The Nikon 1 V1 and V2 are two cameras that are not frequently discussed among camera enthusiasts. Nikon is hoping to change that, and the V3's state-of-the-art autofocus system and incredibly fast continuous shooting modes may catch the eye of those looking for a second camera to sit alongside something higher-end. 

We didn't have much time to spend with the V3, but it seems like a pretty solid offering. We like the external controls and customizable buttons, and the performance is top-notch. (Since we haven't been able to shoot with the V3 yet, we can't comment on photo quality.) The V3 also has the requisite 1080/60p movie mode and Wi-Fi features found on other mirrorless cameras.

One concern we have - at least here in the U.S. - is the price. Nikon USA is bundling the camera with the 10-30mm PD-Zoom lens, EVF, and grip, with a price tag of $1200. In Europe, Nikon is selling the body only for €849, a 10-30mm kit for €949, and the full outfit for €1249. UK buyers can choose from the last two options, for £799 and £1049, respectively.

Considering that you can buy a Sony a6000 with a 16-50mm power zoom lens, built-in EVF, and similar Hybrid AF system for $400/£390/€450 less, the V3 doesn't seem like a great value. Despite that, we look forward to putting the V3 through its paces, and seeing if that burst mode lives up to the hype.