Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

Started Nov 20, 2013 | User reviews thread
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retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

A few years back if someone wrote that the Nikon 1 represents one of the best mirrorless camera's on the market I probably would have laughed:  I mean a 1 inch sensor ?  Small bodies with minimalist looks ?  No retro styling ?  Well times have changed and I have been fortunate (or stupid depending on your perspective) enough over the last few years to have owned quite a few bodies (the Olympus OMD EM5, The Sony NEX 3N, Fuji X100 to name a few).  I have tried and tried, but nothing gave me enough satisfaction to ditch my DSLR.  There was simply too many compromises with the smaller form factor.  The one camera I never intended on trying, turned out to be the best of lot, it's funny how things work out isn't it ?

I didn't actually purchase the J3 as a camera I intended to keep.  I purchased the J3 simply because Target had mislabeled the box with a J1 clearance price of $200.  My plan was simply to re-sale the camera for profit and purchase something else (was actually considering buying a Full Frame body). I figured while I had the J3, I might as well try it out.   Well that was over a month ago and I can tell you that I no longer have any interest in purchasing a Full Frame camera or any other camera for that matter.  I'm in Love.  I'm actually happy.

I don't see the need to go into every detail, but here it is:  The camera is beautiful.  Minimal looks, clean elegant design.  I have it in white and find the color very appealing.  It's fresh.   The controls while being minimal don't get in the way and this is very important because IMHO the smaller the body the less buttons and dials I want access to  (this may sound counterintuitive to some, but to me on a tiny body that's more accidents waiting to happen and more squinting of the eyes trying to find things in the dark).   And that's where the menu system comes in.  It's very iconic, easy to read, simple to navigate.  I am a tech geek so I will take a menu over a dial any day of the week.  The LCD on the back is one of Nikon's best yet.  I have used the same LCDs on other bodies (the D5200/D7000) and found the color accuracy to be a bit poor (mostly due to color shifts).  Nikon nailed the white point and tone curve on this LCD so what you see is actually what you get for a change.

The performance of this camera is definitely one of it's best selling points. It's fast.  How fast ?  Fast enough that I don't need the incredible focusing speed of my pro SLR anymore.  It's good enough for moving kids, enough said as there is nothing more challenging that trying to capture pictures of your children.  15 fps with autofocus -  Wow.  60 fps - Amazing.   And thats with  RAW + JPEG.  Even the focus algorithms are mind blowing.  I hardly ever trust the camera to decide focus.  This is the first camera I trust to decide focus, ever !  Completely silent shutter (not a sound, not even from pushing the button).  Speaking of the electric shutter - 1/16000 of a second - I can finally shoot wide-open in high noon sun, never could do that even with my best Canon and Nikon bodies and fast primes.

Image Quality.  This is where I expected there to be a compromise.  I mean it's a 1 inch sensor, it's smaller than micro 4/3rds, it must be worse ?  I honestly and whole heatedly believe the image quality is better than micro 4/3rds and as "good" as most SLRs.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the sensor and image processing is delivering things that just don't seem physically possible given the size.  First and foremost the dynamic range is pretty damn good.  Combined with stunningly accurate metering, the camera never blows highlights or block shadows.  If I need the extra headroom, it's very easy to pull back a stop in Aperture without any color breakdown.  A word about metering, let me tell you this is the best meter I have ever used.   It actually handles  challenging situations such as strong backlight or deep shadows.  Everytime I put this camera in a difficult situation it nails the exposure.  White Balance.  The White balance is just about right too: not warm like my Canon bodies, but not blue/green like some recent Nikon SLRs - it's clinical under most situations (save for incandescent) which is exactly what I want.  Color accuracy - spot on.  What you see is what you get.  It's extremely (stunningly) accurate.  Nice greens and blues, colors that other systems either get wrong or exaggerate.  Overall the camera produces a near perfect rendition of a given scene.  The sensor produces very fine lines of resolution and the per pixel detail is clean.  There is a bit of noise on this sensor, but it doesn't bother me, even though I am chronic pixel peeper.  I think it's because the noise doesn't get in the way (hard to describe).  I find image quality to be quite good all the way up to ISO 3200, which is pretty amazing as just a few years ago my APS-C SLRs couldn't do as well up to that point.  In good light images look exactly like those produced from more expensive bodies I use with pro lenses.

Cons (Just a few)

The built in flash is weak - too weak to really be useful.

The VR on the kit lens doesn't seem to add much value.  I haven't found it helping to hand hold in lower light situations.

No touch screen.  It's not a deal breaker, but touch focus would be cool.  The good news is Nikon's focus get's things right 90% of the time anyways.

I have to give this camera 5 stars.  Honestly I have used a boat load of cameras over the years and this is the first that I actually felt like writing about, it's that good and it's a real shame it is so easily overlooked.

 retro76's gear list:retro76's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Nikon 1 J4
Nikon 1 J3
14 megapixels • 3 screen • 1″ sensor
Announced: Jan 8, 2013
retro76's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
Studio / still life
= community average
Nikon 1 J3
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