Nikon V3 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon V3|
|Sensor size:||1-inch type|
|Kit Lens:||3.00x zoom
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Dimensions:||4.4 x 2.6 x 1.3 in.
(111 x 65 x 33 mm)
|Weight:||11.4 oz (324 g)|
|Full specs:||Nikon V3 specifications|
Nikon V3 Review -- Now Shooting!
Overview by William Brawley
Nikon continues to advance and improve their 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 larger, 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 RAW (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 with only 73 phase-detection AF points 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 aims for 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 ooverlying 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 significant video recording improvements. The Nikon V3 is now capable of shooting 60 frames-per-second video at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel, aka 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, aka 720p) video at up to 120fps, while the framerate gets a massive jump in speed 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, 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 their D800 and D4 cameras 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.
Alongside the new V3, Nikon is also introducing two new 1-series lenses, an updated 10-30mm VR kit lens and a long 70-300mm VR telephoto zoom lens. The 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom features a collapsible design with a built-in lens cover that's very similar to a compact camera's lens. It also now features an electronic zoom mechanism that's especially well-suited for quiet and smooth operation during video recording according to Nikon.
The built-in Vibration Reduction helps smooth out camera shake at slower shutter speeds as well as for video, and the stepper motor AF system makes for fast and quiet focusing. The lightweight 27-81mm-equivalent lens tips the scales at a featherweight 85g, and its versatile range makes it great for a variety of subjects, from landscapes and portraiture to your everyday general-purpose photography. Plus, despite being announced as the V3's kit lens, the new 10-30mm lens is fully compatible with other Nikon 1 cameras.
The second new lens should spark the interest of sports and wildlife photographers. The 1 NIKKOR VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 is a super-telephoto zoom lens with an equivalent focal length range of 189mm to a whopping 810mm. This higher-end lens features pro-grade lens amenities such as Super ED glass, Nikon's Nano Crystal Coating for reduced ghosting and flare, metal barrel construction and an optional tripod mount, as it's quite a bit larger and heavier than your typical mirrorless lens (560g, 72.6x108mm).
The Nikon 1 V3 kit comes outfitted with all these accoutrements, including the 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR PD-Zoom lens, the DF-N1000 Electronic Viewfinder and the GR-N1010 Grip, and began shipping in April 2014 for a suggested retail price of around US$1,200.
The 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-Zoom and the 1 NIKKOR VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses are also sold separately for suggested retail prices of US$300 and US$1,000, respectively.
Place your order with a trusted Imaging Resource affiliate now:
- Nikon 1 V3 Kit with 10-30mm lens, EVF & Grip: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
- 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM lens : ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
- 1 NIKKOR VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
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.
While the V3 is relatively larger than Nikon's 1 J- and S-series cameras, it's the smallest model in the 1 V-series to date, and it's drop dead gorgeous. The V3's signature rounded-end styling pays homage to classic compact rangefinder cameras of the past. The subtle retro look is enhanced by the traditional top placement of the main Mode dial and Shutter release, and the inclusion of a milled Sub-Command dial on the front. It’s reasonably light, at just 14.4 ounces with standard 10-30mm short zoom, but it feels very solid, extremely well balanced and comfortable to hold with the standard built-in mini-grip.
Does the Nikon V3 give you the enthusiast experience you've been waiting for? Read on!
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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.