Nikon 1 J3 review

Whilst some may grumble that a compact system camera (CSC) with a smaller sensor than a digital SLR at an identical cost will never be a true match quality wise, Nikon’s two year old ‘1’ series, a reference to the one-inch chip at its heart, has already claimed top spot for UK CSC sales. Perhaps that’s why a J3 model has appeared less than six months after the J2. The appeal remains portability – the J3 is one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras around. Its sleek, minimalist design and lightweight yet solid-feel aluminium chassis doesn’t hurt either.

This new model, despite being an entry-level option, matches the top of the range Nikon 1 V2 for 14.2 megapixel resolution, an improvement on the J2’s 10.1MP, though the actual sensor dimensions are naturally the same in all three cameras. We had the J3 package to play with includes the 10-30mm standard zoom; the combined dimensions of which can still be squeezed into the pocket of a winter coat. Though there are only a handful of directly compatible ‘1’ system lenses available so far, users have the chance to fit 60+ lenses existing lenses meant for Nikon’s DSLRs if buying an optional FT1 mount adapter for £230.

As well as four million more pixels than the J2, we also get a marginally improved ISO6400 maximum light sensitivity setting on the J3 (up from ISO3200), a few less millimetres and a few less grams when it comes to size and weight, plus up to 15 frames per second continuous capture – handy for action shots. Not massive improvements by any stretch, and in fact ones that, save for the 15fps burst option, feel a little underpowered next to the likes of Canon’s EOS M, Sony’s NEX series or Samsung’s NX range, which all feature larger APS-C sized sensors as found in DSLRs proper. It will be interesting to see how Nikon’s new Coolpix ‘A’ fixed lens compact – its first with an APS-C chip – compares to both these competitors and the J3.

As the stands the picture quality of all three of rivals quoted is also better, no two ways about it. At times the J3’s images are indistinguishable from a fixed lens pocket snapper costing around £200. This doesn’t stop it looking cool or being fun to use however, and we enjoyed the fact that the camera can be activated or deactivated with a twist of the lens barrel to save time and provide a greater chance of getting the shot. Inexplicably though, creative modes such as Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter priority and Manual are hidden away within menus rather than being given space on the shooting mode dial.

A third entry-level ‘J’ model in under two years sees Nikon try to capitalise on its late entry into the CSC market as well as claimed UK sales lead  

OUR VERDICT

Whilst this is a camera that purports to be all about convenience, it’s at its most convenient if all you really want to do is point and shoot.

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