Entry-Level Mirrorless Camera Roundup (2013)
Nikon 1 J3
14.2MP CMOS Sensor | 15 fps Burst Shooting | Hybrid AF System
What we like:
- Compact size
- Fast 15 fps burst rate
- Good JPEG results in good light
What we don't:
- Poor images at high ISO
- Confusing menu system
- Unusual exposure choices by camera in auto mode
The Nikon 1 J3 is positioned as the more advanced model of Nikon's entry-level mirrorless cameras. It offers a 14.2MP 1"-type CMOS sensor, putting it ahead of its 1 S1 sibling in terms of sensor resolution. Like the S1 it offers burst shooting up to 15 fps and a fast hybrid AF focus system with good continuous focus for moving subjects. Its image-stabilized 10-30mm kit lens offers a fairly standard 27-81mm equivalent range.
"Offers a big image quality hike, compared to conventional compacts."
Image quality in good light is just what you'd want from a consumer camera. Color is pretty good, sharpness is adequate and noise at low ISOs is kept at bay (though there's more loss of detail from noise suppression at low ISOs than we'd like to see). At the top end of the ISO range (ISO 6400, relatively low for its class) lots of noise and watercolor-like noise suppression is present in JPEGs. Perhaps because of this, the camera will avoid using the highest ISO setting in favor of shutter speeds too slow to guarantee images will be free of blur. Exposure settings aren't easy to access, so the J3 is best approached as an auto-only camera - but one that offers a big image quality hike, compared to conventional compacts.
The 1 J3 will turn in good results in abundant light outdoors, and will do acceptably well in slightly worse conditions like a well-lit room. Image quality in dim light is very poor, and the camera tends to make some confusing choices in full auto in low light that will inevitably result in blurring if you or your subject is moving at all. The J3 is at its best shooting in good light in full auto mode, and its fast-focusing and 15 fps burst mode lend themselves to catching a little action as well as family snaps.