Nikon V3 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Very compact for an enthusiast-friendly interchangeable-lens camera
  • Still fits in lots of physical controls
  • Generous kit includes lens, electronic viewfinder and accessory grip
  • Very high-res viewfinder
  • Intuitive, touchscreen LCD monitor
  • Good image quality for a 1"-type sensor (especially if you're happy to work from raw files)
  • Compact power-zoom kit lens
  • Lightning fast autofocus
  • Very fast single-shot cycle times
  • Amazing burst performance (up to 60fps at full resolution with focus locked, 20fps with continuous AF)
  • Very generous 40-frame buffer
  • Accepts F-mount lenses with optional adapter
  • Full HD video capture with external mic accessory available
  • 4x slow-motion possible at HD resolution
  • Built-in flash
  • Smaller sensor than most rivals means less potential for high ISO shooting
  • Program mode emphasizes wide-open aperture over all other variables
  • Program shift function takes some getting used to
  • Default processing produces slightly soft in-camera JPEGs
  • Mediocre dynamic range with noisy shadows
  • Soft corners from kit lens
  • Below-average battery life
  • Uses tiny microSD cards rather than full-sized SD cards
  • Sluggish startup
  • Buffer clearing can be lengthy with raw and raw+JPEG files
  • Pricey for the image quality (but you do get outstanding autofocus and burst speed, as well as an electronic viewfinder and grip)

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.

Bearing its sensor size in mind -- it's the same size as that used by the popular Sony RX100 compact camera line, as well as the Samsung NX Mini and the recently-launched Canon G7X -- we think the Nikon V3 can definitely hold its own now, especially if you're willing to shoot in raw mode to extract the best results. Shooting at defaults settings in JPEG mode still yields somewhat soft results, though, and that's compounded by a Program exposure mode that seems to emphasize a wide-open aperture over all other variables -- even if stopping down would probably have given better results. Shooting in priority mode is definitely advisable with this camera.

The comparison to larger-sensored cameras still doesn't play as favorably for the V3, unfortunately, but that's not really surprising -- Nikon is subject to the same rules of physics as are its rivals, after all. And this little camera certainly shows clear advantages over its APS-C and full-frame rivals in the size and performance departments, so it's really a matter of what's most important to you as the photographer: A camera providing the maximum possible image quality, or a camera that gets the shot others would've missed by dint of being left on a shelf at home, or unable to keep up with the action. Considered that way, there's quite an argument to be made for the Nikon V3.

At the end of the day, though, this still strikes us as a niche camera, albeit one that's noticeably better than its predecessors in experienced hands. If you're a sports shooter who needs really fast shooting and autofocus, you should definitely consider the Nikon V3. And if you want a small camera without having to skimp on features, it could also prove a smart buy. What it isn't is a mass-market camera: Price and complexity will keep it out of the hands of consumers, while many enthusiasts and pros will still find it hard to resist the image quality of a larger sensor.

While we don't think it quite merits a Dave's Pick, we do feel the Nikon V3 is a camera worthy of careful consideration. Think back over your photo shoots, and ask yourself how many times you've been without your DSLR or mirrorless camera when you needed them most, or found yourself cursing their inability to keep up. If the answer is "too often", perhaps its time to consider whether image quality should really the be-all and end-all for you, or whether it's just one part of a much bigger puzzle. If the answer is the latter, it may be time to revisit the Nikon 1-series, and compared to its siblings, the Nikon V3 has much to recommend it.

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