Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

Started Nov 20, 2013 | User reviews
retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
14

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
5.0
Average community score
4.0
bad for good for
Kids / pets
excellent
Action / sports
excellent
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
excellent
Low light (without flash)
good
Flash photography (social)
weak
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
Nikon 1 J3
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Tidewater Contributing Member • Posts: 825
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

After wanting a V1 since they came out, i finally stumbled onto a J3 also and I think it is a keeper. What focus settings are you using that work so well for you? In shutter priority, I keep moving the setting on the wheel by accident. Any thoughts on that. Finally what are the pros and cons vs. the V1 other than the VF.

Much has been written about the need to menu dive but I am finding it to be one or two quick button presses once I learned where to start.

Thanks for the review

VertigonA380 Senior Member • Posts: 1,133
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

Well don't I feel stupid, I read your post and went back to my camera to see if it would actually shoot at 60fps in RAW mode and it does. I just did some food photography and shot in jpeg because when I tried selected RAW at 60fps the selection greyed out. Oh well I learnt something that's for sure LOL.

Thanks for posting, enjoy your camera and I am glad you saw the Nikon light.

OP retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
1

The V1 offers support for external flash, mechanical shutter, and of course has the EVF. If money was no option I might have springed for the V2. I should quantify that I believe the Nikon 1 system is the best mirror less system on the market, not specifically the J3, but all of the 1 series bodies which are similar in technology. I haven't really explored the auto focus options, thus far the default settings from factory (including face detection) have proven worthy in most situations.

 retro76's gear list:retro76's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Nikon 1 J4
OP retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
1

The buffer is pretty amazing. I had a Canon 60D which had fantastic focus and performance, the Nikon is actually a step above in most regards and of course does not suffer from back focus. This camera continues to surprise, it's not exactly what one expects upon purchase, it's like having a fully functioning semi pro SLR in a tiny body.

 retro76's gear list:retro76's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Nikon 1 J4
peterclark55 Senior Member • Posts: 2,379
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
1

I have the same feeling that you have with the V1. Perfectly happy and a good second to my D800, Peter

Bruno Pinho New Member • Posts: 12
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

nice review!

sorry for my bad english...

Tell me more about your experience with the sony nex-3n. I'm thinking of changing my J1 for a sony nex-f3...

TKS

OP retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

The Sony 3N is a really good camera. The image quality is fantastic, but the LCD is poor and focusing is a bit slow. It's extremely small and the 16-50 kit lens is compact and sharp with nice bokeh. The trump card of the NEX is definitely IQ which is impressive, but everything else left me wanting.

 retro76's gear list:retro76's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Nikon 1 J4
coolcatdaddy Regular Member • Posts: 165
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
5

i concur with your enthusiasm.

i'm drawn to street photography.

normally i use my x100 - i mean, this is the 'perfect street camera', right?

a couple of days ago i took the v1 and 30-110 out. i realize a true street photographer would cringe at the thought.

but i got SO many more beautiful and interesting shots than i typically do. that small, lengthy zoom is outstanding for cathching folks unawares. with the x100 you have to basically chase folks down or ambush them. i don't generally have the energy or the guts for that.

the combination of small size, lengthy zoom, lightning focus, and decent size sensor makes for a very capable street tool, and that combination does not exist in any other system.

here is a 'candid portrait' i managed.

OP retro76 Regular Member • Posts: 215
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

I had the X100, absolutely beautiful camera. I couldn't live with the focal range, just not good for portraiture and the focusing was too slow for moving kids.

 retro76's gear list:retro76's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Nikon 1 J4
halai Contributing Member • Posts: 845
Any Pics???

Any pictures with the J3 you took?

 halai's gear list:halai's gear list
Nikon D700 Sony a7 III Nikon Z6 Nikon Z50 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED +10 more
VertigonA380 Senior Member • Posts: 1,133
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

Your right about the buffering even with RAW at 60fps, after a small wait all the images are there.

As for a DSLR replacement they would need auto bracketing and an in built speedlight commander in my opinion, if the V3 has this I will be upgrading. I think they added features like best shot selector and HDR mode etc to appeal to people wanting something better that a fixed lens compact.

The sad part is if they had done a better job ensuring compatibility with their existing DSLR customer base, or even if they had made a better adapter than the FT-1, they would have sold a lot more cameras, a lot quicker. I mean why not buy a small camera that is going to work right away with your existing Nikon DSLR flashes and lenses (I mean properly, not with workarounds)?

Like I have said before they need a stronger and smarter head of Product Development, maybe a pro photographer in tune with the overall customer base, as opposed to some immature nut who can't think about anything more than the next "gimmick mode" on the camera.

Look at how many cameras and lenses there are in the Nikon 1 system and some of the stupid overlaps......like for example why make a 10-30mm VR lens and then an 11-27mm non VR? Why not just make a dam good 10-20mm low light lens? Why make a 30-110mm lens and then a 10-100mm unit? Why not just make a dam good 20-100mm unit?

That way they wouldn't have to spend money making the 10mm, 18.5, 32mm etc. Sure I love primes too and maybe a couple amongst the selection is ok, but where is the dedicated macro or the 100-300 F4 telephoto? Why not a time lapse mode, that's an easy addition which was overlooked too.

Having said all that I still enjoy using the V2.

myzel Senior Member • Posts: 2,075
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
3

VertigonA380 wrote:

… I just did some food photography and shot in jpeg because when I tried selected RAW at 60fps the selection greyed out. …

60fps and food photography? What food are you photographing that requires 60fps? Is it still alive and running around on the plate? I'm confused.

 myzel's gear list:myzel's gear list
Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2
VertigonA380 Senior Member • Posts: 1,133
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
1

Let me explain it to you....I had to drop the strawberries from a height high enough to create a significant splash. At 15fps the end shot would have the strawberries deep in the milk or just touching the surface. Even with an extra 45 frames there would only be 1 or 2 good splash shots to chose from. I basically hit the shutter when I dropped the strawberries, if perhaps I had tried to time them mid air (drop height was ~ 40cm) then maybe at 15fps I would have got a good splash shot. Problem is with every attempt you have to clean the strawberries, blow them dry, clean up the mess and top up the milk, why do that when the camera has 60fps built into it? I'm not sure if you saw my post with the preceding images but it's here in this forum. Out of all the frames this was the best by far and still far from perfect:

The other 99% of the frames were useless or left a lot to be desired.

RayUK Senior Member • Posts: 1,050
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

I have been waiting for the price of the V2 to come down a bit more. I had a J1 for a while, but missed a viewfinder and didn't take to the menu driven system. The auto mode kept selecting far too slow a shutter speed.

Your enthusiasm for the J3 has me intrigued though. Do you not miss a v/f, especially in bright light? And do you think the J3's controls have improved greatly on the J1?

Ray

 RayUK's gear list:RayUK's gear list
Canon EOS R5
myzel Senior Member • Posts: 2,075
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes
1

VertigonA380 wrote:

Let me explain it to you....I had to drop the strawberries from a height high enough to create a significant splash. …

OK, that explains a lot. Hadn't thought of that type of food photography. Very cool. And I agree 60 fps would have helped a lot to get a nice splash.

 myzel's gear list:myzel's gear list
Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikon 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2
VertigonA380 Senior Member • Posts: 1,133
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

No problem. Even I was surprised and surprised at how high I had to wind the ISO up to, to get the strawberries and the splash to look sharp enough.

Veducci Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? NO...........
1

Maybe the best mirrorless for the "price". I`m talking the J1 and V1 here.

I`m enjoying my bargain priced J1 , 2 lens kit but  I wouldn`t have paid much more.

I think  the V1 series is going to be short lived.

 Veducci's gear list:Veducci's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd Fujifilm X-T30 Fujifilm 50-230mm II Fujifilm 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ
Veducci Senior Member • Posts: 1,218
Correction...........

Veducci wrote:

Maybe the best mirrorless for the "price". I`m talking the J1 and V1 here.

I`m enjoying my bargain priced J1 , 2 lens kit but I wouldn`t have paid much more.

I think the V1 series is going to be short lived.

I think the Nikon "1" series are going to be short lived.

 Veducci's gear list:Veducci's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd Fujifilm X-T30 Fujifilm 50-230mm II Fujifilm 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ
cdocam New Member • Posts: 4
Re: Best Mirrorless Camera on the Market ? Yes

This is my very 1st post in this forum. I recently purchased a 1 J1 with 10-30mm kit. I went from almost buying the Pentax mx-1, to lusting after the Sony nex-3n.but did not like the panning jitter in video mode from the Sony; I received the Nikon a few days ago, took some sample photos with it and used a Sony hxv-20 to download the images. Then I wrapped the Nikon in Christmas wrap and put it away as a present at Christmas.

I like the fast focus, silent shutter of the 1 J1. Also like the fact that no one really likes this camera

Thank you for this review

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