Image Quality

The Nikon 1 V3 uses a new 18.4 megapixel CX-format (1"-type) CMOS sensor that has no anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter. The specifications make it sound like the V3 has the goods for top notch image quality compared to its predecessors. But as we mentioned in our shooting experience section, price and how you approach handling the camera play a significant part in image quality expectations.

JPEG Image Quality

If you're a user stepping up from a smartphone or another small sensor compact, you'll probably find the V3's image quality to be very impressive with very usable images all the way through ISO 6400 - this is mostly due to the much larger, 1" sensor.

On the other hand, if you're already a Four Thirds, APS-C or full-frame shooter, the limitations of a smaller sensor will be obvious - the V3 starts to fall behind when comparing it to peers around the same price point. Even at base ISO of 160, you'll see visible shadow noise and JPEG noise reduction smearing fine detail. Also surprisingly, there's also a fair amount of color noise in the V3's JPEG files.

Out of camera JPEG
ISO 160, 1/800, 32mm F1.2 lens

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw 8.5,
Luminance NR +10, Chroma NR +15
100% Crops 100% Crops

As you can see in the example above, working with the Raw file enables you to bring out some more fine detail in the eyebrows. We were also able to balance out the chroma noise found in the hair, which is a concern since it's so prevalent in an ISO 160 image.

Out of camera JPEG
ISO 6400, 1/640, 10-30mm 3.5-5.6 lens

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw 8.5,
Luminance NR +30, Chroma NR +20
100% Crop 100% Crop

At ISO 6400, as expected JPEG noise reduction smears out fine detail. Backing off noise reduction using the Raw file allows you to get back some detail - see vertical lines in the escalator stairs, though there's significant loss of saturation, even when this much noise is left in the image. For our taste, we found the JPEG noise reduction aggressive at base ISO and wanted to turn off noise reduction completely, but the V3 gives no such option.

Raw Image Quality

As many advanced users already know shooting in Raw mode will give you greater control over color temperature, white balance, noise reduction, and the ability to reveal shadow details that can be lost in JPEGs.

JPEG - F8, ISO 200, 1/800

Raw - ACR 8.5 with tweaks
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It's not unreasonable to expect to be able to pull more detail out of the shadows when working with Raw files. In Adobe Camera Raw 8.5, we pushed this V3 Raw file to Shadows +100, Blacks +50, and didn't add any noise reduction. This is an extreme pull, but it gives you a good idea of the processing latitude before noise becomes a problem. As you can see above, at ISO 200, although there is more detail to be found in the Raw file, there is a lot of chroma and luminance noise, leaving you with very little to work with in the shadows. From an artistic point of view, we prefer the stark shadows from the original JPEG.


The V3's built-in pop-up flash has a guide number of approximately 6.3/20.7 (m/ft at ISO 160) with a sync speed of 1/250 sec. Flash compensation is available in -3 to +1 EV increments of 1/3 EV. The camera also comes with flash modes often found on DSLRs such as fill-flash with slow sync, rear curtain sync, and rear curtain with slow sync. It's nice a small flash is built-in for emergency fill light, but we still wish the V3's hot shoe would accept Speedlights or other manual flash triggers to better integrate with Nikon's Creative Lighting System.

The pop-up hinge of the V3's flash also allows you to point the flash unit upward using your figure to bounce the light if needed. This was shot straight on with -1.0 flash compensation using the 32mm F1.2 lens.

Overall Image Quality

In general image quality the V3's colors are snappy with a decent amount of detail. Matrix metering and white balance are up to the standard you'd expect from one of a Nikon's DSLRs - accurate colors and natural skin tones.

The V3's image is a lot better than a smartphone, but when comparing it to peers such as the RX100 III, it still falls short. For less money, there are larger sensor options that deliver better images in a body that is still relatively small (Sony a6000). The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III, one of the V3's competitors in terms of sensor size, is cheaper and smaller with less shadow noise at all ISOs. While you can shoot Raw, the V3 files give you very little processing latitude.

To really get the most out of the 1" sensor, you need to use better lenses than the kit 10-30mm 3.5-5.6 power zoom. At this point in time, the lens selection is still limited and can be quite expensive - the 32mm F1.2 is $899.95. In the end, we wish the V3 had a better sensor. We couldn't help but feel disappointed by the V3's image quality because there is so much potential when considering the rest of package (AF speed and handling). At the V3's price it's hard not to expect more.