Nikon V3 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon V3|
|Sensor size:||1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||160 - 12,800|
|Extended ISO:||160 - 12,800|
|Shutter:||30 - 1/16000|
4.4 x 2.6 x 1.3 in.
(111 x 65 x 33 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Nikon V3 specifications|
Nikon's 1-series cameras are popular with some for their compact nature, but its flagship models have had a hard time competing with larger-sensored cameras. The company aims to turn all that around with the Nikon V3, a camera that brings improved image quality, stupendously fast autofocus, and absolutely jaw-dropping speed. But the 1"-type sensor size remains: Can the V3 persuade enthusiasts to look past its limits and see its advantages?Pros
Very compact for an interchangeable-lens camera; Generous kit includes lens, high-res electronic viewfinder and accessory grip; Good image quality for the sensor size; Amazing burst performance; Lightning-fast autofocus; Intuitive touch-screen makes focusing a snapCons
Smaller sensor than most rivals limits possibilities for available-light shooting; Program mode opts for wide-open aperture most of the time; Limited dynamic range; Noisy shadows; Below-average battery life; Pricey when considering its image qualityPrice and availability
In the US market, the Nikon 1 V3 kit comes with the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR PD-Zoom lens, the DF-N1000 Electronic Viewfinder and the GR-N1010 Grip. It began shipping in April 2014 for a suggested retail price of around US$1,200.Imaging Resource rating
3.5 out of 5.0
$886.86 (22% less)
20.2 MP (9% more)
Also has viewfinder
$355.54 (205% less)
20.5 MP (10% more)
Also has viewfinder
Nikon V3 Review
Overview by William Brawley, Shooter's Reports by Jason Schneider, and Conclusion by Mike Tomkins
07/21/2014: Shooter's Report Blog Part I: At last, a Nikon 1 squarely aimed at serious enthusiasts!
08/05/2014: Of lenses, accessories and and SLR-slaying performance!
09/11/2014: Image Quality Comparison & Print Quality Analysis
09/29/2014: Conclusion added
Nikon continues to advance and improve its 1-Series mirrorless camera lineup with a new flagship model, the Nikon 1 V3. Back in 2012, the leap from the V1 to the V2 saw a radical change in the design of this camera, with the V2 opting for a more enthusiast-oriented design that included a larger, more protruding EVF and fuller, contoured handgrip -- a design more reminiscent of a DSLR than a small, pocketable mirrorless camera. With the V3, Nikon has taken an interesting modular approach with the camera, giving users the option to strip it down to a more svelte, V1-like size and shape (or Nikon J1-like, perhaps) for easier portability, while also letting photographers add on an EVF and larger grip for a more traditional shooting experience and easier handling with larger lenses.
However, the interior of the new V3 has undergone some big changes as well. Complete with a new 18.4MP CX-format (1-inch-type) CMOS sensor that lacks an optical low-pass filter -- a first for a Nikon 1 camera -- and a new EXPEED 4A image processor, the Nikon V3 should offer a big boost not only in performance but image quality as well. According to Nikon performance specs, the V3, in fact, has some impressive performance capabilities that perhaps give even the mighty DSLR a run for its money, especially in terms of AF speed and performance.
Nikon is aiming this camera not only at enthusiasts and high-end amateur DSLR shooters, but also professional photographers looking for a small backup camera. In fact, in one anecdote from Nikon, they've found that many DSLR users, particularly shooters of long telephoto lenses, are using the V-series cameras almost like digital teleconverters.
For instance, they'll be out shooting with a large lens on a tripod with their FX or DX format DSLR, but want a bit more reach out of their lens. So, they'll simply pop on a V-series camera for an increased crop factor (2.7x crop factor). With the new Nikon V3, this scenario looks all the more enticing with its increased performance, especially in burst shooting, plus improvements in focusing and image quality.
One of the big features of the Nikon V3 is speed. Thanks to the new sensor and processor combo, the V3 offers up some seriously impressive specs with regards to continuous shooting speed. Nikon states that the V3 can shoot at a blazingly-fast 20 frames per second with full-time autofocus, even when shooting in raw format (or 60 fps with focus locked). Sports and wildlife shooters should take note, as well as any other photographers looking to capture fast moving subjects. Whether you're photographing your kid's soccer game, a motorsports event or a fast-running animal, the V3 should be able to handle it, not only with enough speed to get the right moment, but to keep it in focus as well.
It's not just the new processor that gives the V3 a boost in performance; Nikon's hybrid autofocus system received the upgrade treatment as well, allowing it to keep up with the camera's massive 20 fps speed. The updated AF system now has a total of 105 phase-detection points on the image sensor with nearly 100% frame coverage, plus 171 contrast-detection areas. By way of contrast, the Nikon V2 featured only 73 phase-detection AF points and 135 contrast-detection AF areas.
Like prior Nikon 1 V-series models, the Nikon V3 has a dual-shutter design. By default it uses a focal-plane mechanical shutter that's limited to 1/4,000s, but if you enable the electronic shutter, you can achieve shutter speeds up to 1/16,000s! Similar to DSLRs, the V3 allows shutter speeds down to 30 seconds, as well as a Bulb mode. Flash x-sync is at 1/250 second using the mechanical shutter.
The Nikon 1 series cameras in the past have gotten a bit of bum rap in terms of image quality. Even in our tests with competing cameras, these cameras have never really won any awards in the image quality department. Nikon is aiming to change that with the V3. Thanks to its new sensor and processor, the V3 promises better color reproduction and increased detail. The ISO sensitivity range also gets a boost on the high end, now going all the way to ISO 12,800 with an additional four-frame multi-shot noise reduction option at ISO 6,400 and 12,800.
As we mentioned above, the V3 does away with the traditional optical low-pass filter overlying the imaging sensor, which should allow it to produce sharper, more finely detailed photos. However, as we've seen with other cameras such as the Nikon D800E -- the first mainstream DSLR to offer an OLPF-free sensor -- the removal of this low-pass filter increases the chance of moiré and other aliasing artifacts.
Camera manufacturers, Nikon included, are getting more savvy with their image processing algorithms, though. Modern hardware and software can go some way to reduce the effects of moiré and other such artifacts that are more prevalent in cameras without a low-pass filter. In a recent interview with a Nikon executive at the CP+ tradeshow in Japan, they specifically mentioned that the EXPEED 4-class processor -- which features inside the Nikon V3 -- has improved moiré reduction capabilities compared to earlier revisions.
One of the other big upgrades to the V3 is a significant improvement to video recording. The Nikon V3 is now capable of shooting 60 frames-per-second video at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; 1080p) resolution, like we've seen on other EXPEED 4-based cameras. Plus, fans of slow-motion video will enjoy HD (1,280 x 720 pixel; 720p) video at up to 120fps, while the framerate gets a massive jump when shooting at lower resolutions -- we're talking 1,200fps at 416x144 resolution!
The V3 also features other video niceties like full-time autofocus with smooth focus pulling for a more professional, cinematic look, and easy touch-to-focus abilities with the new tilting touchscreen. (More on the display in a moment).
The V3 also has a new Movie e-VR image stabilization system, which works similar to video editing software to subtly crop around the edges of the frame for a more stabilized image. However, unlike with software where you'd typically lose image resolution, you still keep the full 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. And since the 1-series doesn't skip lines or columns when reading the sensor for video -- it reads 100% of the pixels within the 16:9 window and resamples to 1,920 x 1,080 after readout -- we expect e-VR to be very smooth.
Additionally, thanks to the extra processing horsepower of the EXPEED 4A processor, the V3 is capable of simultaneous video recording and full-resolution still image capture without interrupting the video recording process. And, although not strictly a video recording mode, fans of timelapse video will be happy to hear that Nikon has brought over the built-in interval timer from their high-end DSLRs to the V3 for easier timelapse shooting without the need for extra equipment.
Mini-DSLR? The Nikon V3 with DF-N1000 Electronic Viewfinder and the GR-N1010 Grip
As mentioned, the Nikon V3 has unique styling with a modular design that allows photographers to customize the camera to fit their needs and usage. The base model appears more reminiscent of the original V1, with a simpler, rectangular shape and no large, protruding built-in EVF. But even without the accessory grip, the V3 still maintains a handful of manual controls, including Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes on the Mode dial, front and rear control dials for settings like aperture and shutter speed, and two customizable function buttons. The rear thumb dial in the top right corner also functions as a pushable button.
The Nikon V3 body itself is very solidly built with an all-metal magnesium construction -- it's certainly not your run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot camera. The camera feels very high quality with comfortable ergonomics, with or without the grip, and the buttons and dials feel nice. In the slimmed-down configuration without the extra attachments, the V3 is ready to function as an everyday, go anywhere camera with a small form-factor, making it easy to slip into a bag or large pocket. Combined with the new collapsible 10-30mm VR kit lens, full manual exposure controls and a built-in pop-up flash, the V3 is quite the svelte little camera with plenty of bells and whistles.
The DF-N1000 Electronic Viewfinder features a rounded design like the D800 and a 2,359k-dot LCD screen.
The detachable GR-N1010 Grip adds not only a more substantial handgrip, but also additional buttons and dials.
However, for those photographers who want a more traditional DSLR shooting experience with a viewfinder, need the extra grip and balance when using larger lenses (such as full-size Nikon DSLR lenses with the 1-series adapter), or simply have larger hands and want a bit beefier camera, Nikon offer an electronic viewfinder and handgrip, either separately or as part of a kit.
The additional grip and EVF are both very solid feeling, and the grip feels excellent in the hand. The fully-kitted version of the V3 definitely feels like a mini-DSLR, which follows along very nicely with Nikon's intended user base for this camera. Seasoned pros and enthusiast DSLR shooters will feel right at home with this souped-up kit.
The EVF features a similar rounded-eyecup design like those of Nikon's D800 and D4 DSLRs, and houses a high-resolution 2,359k-dot LCD screen. The new three-inch 1,037k-dot touchscreen LCD has a tilting design (170 degrees upwards or 87 degrees downwards) for easier shooting at low or high angles. Photographers can use the touchscreen for touch-to-focus in both stills and video recording, and as a trigger for the shutter button -- just tap where you want to focus and the V3 will snap a photo.
Adding on the handgrip attachment not only improves the ergonomics of the camera, but also provides a third customizable function button, its own shutter release button and an additional sub-command dial. Sadly, it does not add any battery capacity.
In another first for a Nikon 1-series camera, the new V3 features built-in Wi-Fi for easy sharing and remote shooting capabilities using a connected smart device, whether iOS or Android. The Nikon V3 also supports an optional ML-L3 infrared remote control, while wired connectivity includes USB 2.0 and Type-D Micro HDMI high-definition video output.
Besides being used for the included EVF attachment, the Nikon 1 Accessory Shoe on the top of the camera can also be used for Nikon 1 external flashes and the Nikon ME-1 external microphone via the AS-N1000 Multi Accessory Port Adapter.
Battery and Storage
Images and movies are stored on MicroSD, MicroSDHC or MicroSDXC cards, rather than the full-sized SD cards used by most cameras. Both 12-bit compressed .NEF raw and JPEG file formats are provided for stills, and movies are encoded using H.264/MPEG-4 AVC and stored in .MOV format.
The Nikon V3 derives its power from an EN-EL20a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which is CIPA-rated for 310 shots on a charge. An MH-29 battery charger is included in the product bundle, and an optional EH-5b AC Adapter and EP-5C Power Supply Connector are also available.
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Nikon V3 Shooter's Report Part I
At last, a Nikon 1 squarely aimed at serious enthusiasts!
The Nikon V3 represents the third generation of Nikon 1-series mirrorless compact system cameras, all based on the 13.2 x 8.8mm, 3:2 aspect ratio CX format, which yields a 2.7x focal length crop. The fact that CX-format CMOS sensors are smaller than their APS-C or Micro Four Thirds rivals has enabled Nikon to deliver an enticing series of beautifully-designed, compact interchangeable-lens cameras with fetchingly petite lenses.
While previous Nikon 1-series cameras such as the Nikon V2 attracted a substantial, broad-spectrum audience, really serious shooters and pros demurred, gravitating toward larger-format compact system cameras offered by Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. Now, Nikon has decided to take the bull by the horns and give serious shooters a Nikon 1-series camera truly worthy of their techno-lust and picture-taking needs. The result is the Nikon 1 V3, which I believe could well become the first Nikon 1 cult camera.
Does the Nikon V3 give you the enthusiast experience you've been waiting for? Read on!
Nikon V3 Shooter's Report Part II
Of lenses, accessories and and SLR-slaying performance!
In the first part of my Shooter's Report, I presented an overall picture of the Nikon 1 V3, the most technically advanced camera in the Nikon 1 series. It's the first model in the attractively compact system camera line that I believe is clearly targeted at serious shooters and professionals. In the second and final installment, I'll take a closer look at some of the elements that define its unique character, and which help it pair nicely with the extensive Nikon DSLR system, thereby extending its range and capabilities.
Focus on lenses
The standard short zoom in the Nikon 1 V3 kit is the Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.4-5.6 PD-Zoom, which has a 27-81mm equivalent focal length range. I found image quality to be excellent over its entire focal length and aperture range. It has Nikon's VR image stabilization built in, and also features a Power-Drive mechanism, which quickly and quietly controls zoom by simply turning the textured zoom ring
Want to know more about the Nikon V3's accessory options? Continue at the link below!
Nikon V3 Image Quality
Does it offer a big improvement over the Nikon V2 and its competitors?
We were really eager to see how the Nikon V3's image quality stacked up, and if the new flagship Nikon 1-Series mirrorless camera improved significantly over the previous model, the V2. One of the common complaints about the Nikon V2 was its sub-par image quality performance, particularly at higher ISOs. Has Nikon finally cracked the code with the V3?
Read our Nikon V3 Image Quality Comparison page for match-ups between the Nikon V2, Canon G1X II, Olympus E-PL7, Panasonic GM1 and Sony RX100 III. We chose to include a variety of sensor sizes in this comparison to show what you could expect as ISO rises, as all models listed here are in roughly the same general price bracket.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). Your own results with RAW conversions may of course vary somewhat. All interchangeable lens cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses except for the Nikon V2, as we did not currently have a 1-series prime lens in our test lab, so note that the quality will be slightly lower given that it was shot with a kit lens and not a reference prime.
Check out how the new flagship 1-Series stacks up against the competition.
Nikon V3 Print Quality
How is the V3's picture quality performance in the real world?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
Nikon V3 Conclusion
Has the Nikon 1-series camera you've been waiting for arrived?
Nikon's 1-series camera line has long divided photographers. Some tell us that you love them -- especially those of you in more size-conscious Asian and European markets -- and you gravitate towards the 1-series for these cameras; compact body size and great performance. Others of you are put off by their smaller-than-average sensor size, though, concerned by the 1-series cameras' lesser potential for available-light shooting, and their higher noise levels when compared side-by-side with APS-C or full-frame cameras.
Image quality is probably of greater concern for more experienced photographers, and so its in its flagship 1-series cameras where Nikon has faced its biggest marketing challenge. Great performance can do only so much to persuade enthusiasts and pros to consider the 1-system; Nikon has really needed to up its game in the image quality department as well. It has definitely done that with the Nikon V3.
And now, we answer the big question: Is it time you gave the Nikon 1-series another look?
In the Box
In the US market, the Nikon V3 retail box ships with the following items:
- Nikon 1 V3 camera body
- Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
- BF-N1000 body cap
- Front and rear lens caps
- EN-EL20a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack
- MH-29 external battery charger
- GR-N1010 camera grip
- DF-N1000 electronic viewfinder
- AN-N1000 neck strap
- UC-E20 Micro USB cable
- BS-N4000 multi accessory port cover
- ViewNX 2 / Short Movie Creator software CD
- Reference manual CD
- User's manual
- Warranty card
- Extra EN-EL20a lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack or two for extended outings
- Large capacity MicroSDHC / MicroSDXC memory card. Given the high resolution and large file sizes of the Nikon V3, 32GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. If you plan to capture high-definition movie clips, shoot image bursts, or shoot in raw format, Nikon recommends you look for cards with markings indicating Class 6 or higher. (Smaller numbers are slower cards.)
- More lenses! ;-)
- ME-1 stereo microphone if you plan on shooting a lot of movies
- External flash strobe (the SB-N5 or SB-N7 pair nicely in terms of size)
- GP-N100 GPS unit (if you want to geotag your photos)
- ML-L3 wireless remote control (for remote release if you don't have a compatible Android or iOS phone with Wi-Fi)
- Medium-sized camera bag (or a small one if you're only planning on using one or two lenses).
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.