Nikon 1 V3 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Fast and effective continuous AF
- DSLR-like ergonomics with twin command dials (more so with grip)
- Small size, even with grip and EVF attached
- EVF makes composing in bright light easy
- Two customizable function buttons (third if using grip)
- Useful tilting, touchscreen LCD
- Silent shooting mode can make V3 a very discreet camera
- Shooting at maximum aperture is easier with 1/16000 sec shutter speed
- Creative effects (panorama, slow motion video, etc) work well
- Easy to use built-in Wi-Fi to transfer images to smartphone
- FT-1 adapter allows use of DSLR lenses (with 2.7x crop factor)
Conclusion - Cons
- Visible shadow noise at low ISOs (in Raw and JPEG)
- Low Raw file processing latitude
- Non-customizable command dials (can't set direct exposure compensation control)
- LCD is tough to see in bright sunlight
- Touchscreen can sometimes be unresponsive
- LCD preview images sometimes have greenish/cool tint
- Proprietary hot shoe only accepts 1-system accessories
- Buffer write times can be long if shooting Raw+JPEG
- Some creative and video modes are inaccessible when buffer is clearing
- No in-camera Raw conversion
- Uses microSD cards (easy to lose)
- 1-system has limited lens selection
- No exposure controls with remote control app
- High price tag (US buyers can only buy kit with EVF and grip)
The Nikon 1 V3 is an interesting camera because there is no clear, direct competitor. Its mirrorless AF performance is only rivaled by the Sony a6000, which has an APS-C sensor. As a small form factor interchangeable lens system, there are number of cameras to consider - a notable one being the Micro Four Thirds mount Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1. And in the 1"-type sensor battle you have the well regarded Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1000 III and the point-and-shoot oriented Samsung NX Mini. But nothing else offers the same balance of size, autofocus, and interchangeable lenses.
AF and continuous shooting speed have been the defining feature of the 1-series line. Nikon's J- and S-series cameras are clearly aimed at the 'soccer mom' crowd, while V-series has been steadily evolving for enthusiast users. The twin dials, customizable function buttons, and 18MP 1"-type sensor with no AA filter, should be enough to make some advanced shooters give the V3 serious consideration.
In hand, the V3 feels well-built thanks to its all-metal body. The mode dial with full PASM options, twin command dials, and function buttons are easy to access and use (though it takes some getting used to the compactness of the controls). The attachable EVF and grip really improve how the V3 handles. The 3" 1.04 million dot touchscreen LCD is hard to see in bright daylight (and tends to have a greenish/cool tint) so the EVF becomes a very useful add-on. Meanwhile the grip adds a third customizable function button and shutter button with command dial. These both help make the V3 feel like a mini-DSLR. The electronic shutter in the V3 can also make operating the V3 completely silent. Couple this with its compact-like size (without accessories attached) and the V3 is a very discreet shooting tool.
If you're the type of shooter who uses one of the PASM priority modes, the V3 can be fast and efficient to use with most adjustments directly available via the command dials or customizable function buttons. We were disappointed we couldn't directly set exposure compensation changes to one of the command dials - a feature found on Nikon DSLRs. Otherwise there are no surprises in navigating the menu system to change other settings such as AF or flash mode - it's easy to figure out.
The shot-to-shot speed is incredibly quick. AF acquisition time through to shutter release is nearly instantaneous. Continuous AF at up to 20 fps works as billed. In fact, it works so well, it's one of the few mirrorless cameras we'd confidently recommend for shooting action such as sports, wildlife or fast moving kids.
On the other hand, if you're the type of shooter who likes to use some of the Auto modes, the V3 can make the picture taking process simpler but it'll come at the cost of some operational speed. For example, using the point-and-shoot 'Live Image Control' mode directs you to a menu system that mimics the shooting parameter changes that most enthusiasts would do with dials and numbers in one of the PASM modes. It might be useful for users who are intimidated by aperture and shutter speed settings, but they're probably then better served by one of the cheaper 1-series cameras.
For all the things there is to like about the V3, image quality is where things start to become unclear. As we've mentioned through this review, expectations play a significant factor in judging the V3. At $1,199.95 for the US kit that includes the EVF and grip, you start to expect more from the 1" sensor when larger sensor cameras with better lens options are available for less money (Sony a6000, Olympus OM-D E-M10). Fujifilm's X-E2 with very good 18-55mm lens can be had for nearly the same price.
Compared to most other compacts and smartphones the V3's image quality will be very good. However, due to the limitations of the V3's sensor size, it's just not going to keep with its larger APS-C and Four Thirds rivals. Using good lenses such as the $899.95 Nikkor 1 32mm F1.2 helps, but when compared across to other 1"-type cameras such as the Sony RX100 III (which is also smaller and cheaper), you see how much more the V3 should be able to offer.
Even at base ISO of 160 you'll see visible shadow noise and noise reduction smearing detail in JPEGs (there's no way to completely turn off noise reduction at low ISOs). Of particular concern is chroma noise we found at low ISOs. At higher ISOs, the amount of noise reduction being applied means there is a loss of saturation along with detail. Of course working with the Raw files allow you to recover detail and balance-out the noise to your liking, but even here, we found a fair amount of chroma and luminance noise. This leaves you with very little Raw processing latitude, especially in shadows.
The final word
In the end we wanted and expected more because there is so much potential. Where the V3 fails to meet the expectations that its lofty price brings is in image quality. For people coming from a smaller sensor camera like a smartphone or other compact, the V3's 1" sensor will be a big improvement. But users choosing between this, APS-C and Four Thirds will find the V3 disappointing - there is visible noise at low ISOs, meaning Raw files have little processing latitude. And, especially at $1,199.95, there are better sensors (see Sony RX100 III, Sony a6000, Panasonic GM1, etc.) available for less money.
Some of the other minor criticisms, such as non-customizable command dials, can be easily overlooked but again, at its list price, we think Nikon should have included more aspects commonly found in its DSLRs when making such a DSLR-like camera.
How well you'll like the V3 will likely depend on what kind of shooter you are and how much you're willing to pay for what the V3 uniquely offers. For users who place a strong value on using small, light cameras, the V3 will be high on the list for its continuous AF at high frame rates (20 fps) and DSLR-like handling. The extra 'reach' of the V3's 2.7x crop factor should be of interest for wildlife and sports shooters looking to reduce the weight of their bag. The FT-1 mount adapter also allows use of certain Nikkor F-mount DSLR lenses. Street photographers will also find the V3's silent operation, lightning fast AF acquisition, and unobtrusive design (looks like a point-and-shoot) a compelling option for work in sensitive situations.
Considering the V3's price tag, someone upgrading from a point-and-shoot, or enthusiasts looking for an all-purpose tool should look at the alternatives since there are many other cheaper cameras with good handling, less low ISO noise (and larger sensor), and broader lens selection in a relatively portable size.
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Nikon 1 V3
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Nikon 1 V3 is one of the few mirrorless cameras we'd recommend for shooting sports or quickly moving kids. It brings high autofocus performance, interchangeable-lens versatility, and DSLR-like handling in a portable size. However, when factoring in price, there are many other good, less expensive alternatives with better image quality and all-around value.
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