The Nikon 1 J3, introduced last week at the annual CES tradeshow in Las Vegas, is the third iteration of Nikon’s “J” entry-level mirrorless system camera. It has Nikon’s new EXPEED 3A processor and a new 14.1-megapixel sensor that was introduced in September with the Nikon 1 V2. Although the Nikon 1 mirrorless camera system hasn’t really been accepted by serious photographers, I was really impressed with the original J1 when I reviewed it in late 2011 (Nikon 1 J1 review). Nikon’s smaller 1-inch CX-format sensor can’t compete with APS-C and Four Thirds sensor mirrorless cameras but the image quality was better than I expected. However, when it comes to speed and auto focus performance, the Nikon 1 cameras absolutely destroy the competition. As a mountain biker, skier and sports photographer who appreciates small light cameras that are easy to carry on the trail, I have more respect for the Nikon 1 cameras than photographers who only care about image quality. After all, if it’s not in focus or the timing is wrong, it’s a throwaway, no matter how good the image quality is. And this is just as true for photos of your kids and pets in action as it is for serious sports photography.
Nikon 1 J3 Key Features & Specs:
- 14.2 megapixel High-Speed AF CX-format CMOS sensor
- New EXPEED 3A image processing
- 1080p full HD video with 30/60/400 and 1200 FPS options and built-in stereo sound
- Super-quick hybrid auto focus for stills and video
- New – Creative mode on mode dial for easy access to P,A,S,M and scene modes
- New – Advanced Movie Mode offers P,A,S,M control
- Simultaneous still and video capture
- 3-inch 921k-dot LCD display
- ISO 160-6400
- Pop-up flash with bounce
- 15 FPS continuous AF burst and 60 FPS with focus locked
- JPEG, NEF RAW, NEF RAW + JPEG
- Enhanced Motion Snapshot mode
- New Best Moment Capture Mode
The new Nikon J3 fits into the Nikon 1 line between the flagship V2 and the J2, which was basically a warmed over version of the original J1. Accessing manual shooting modes was awkward with the J1, so last summer Nikon introduced the J2 and added a Creative mode (accesses P,A,S,M and scene modes) to the mode dial and gave it a higher resolution LCD screen. The new J3 is smaller (Nikon claims it’s now the smallest compact system camera on the market), the mode dial has been moved to the top of the camera, it has a higher-resolution 14.1-megapixel sensor and faster EXPEED 3A image processing. The original Nikon 1 cameras were plenty fast – they could shoot full-resolution bursts as fast as 60 frames per second with the focus locked, and 10 frames per second using continuous auto focus. With the improved EXPEED 3A processing, the J3 can blast away at an incredible 15 frames per second using continuous auto focus. Not even the best, most expensive professional digital SLR can match that speed.
Even more impressive than the speed, the Nikon 1 hybrid auto focus works great! Nikon was the first company to embed phase detect AF pixels on the sensor to improve auto focus. Many companies have followed in their footsteps in the past year but no one else has even come close to the performance of the original J1 and V1. I was amazed at how well the continuous auto focus worked for both stills and video. When I reviewed the J1, I was able to successfully use continuous auto focus to get sharp photos and video while shooting a high-speed cyclocross race. Check my Nikon 1 J1 Pro Review to see sample photos and video. There isn’t another mirrorless camera system on the market I would try that with.
Along with the J3, Nikon also announced a new entry-level S1 interchangeable lens mirrorless camera (Nikon 1 S1 intro), a J3-compatible underwater housing (rated to 130 feet/40m), and two new 1 Nikkor lenses – a VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 (18-35mm equivalent) and a VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 (27-270mm equivalent). For outdoor sports folks like myself, I’d recommend getting the J3 with the new 10-100mm VR zoom. That combo will make for a perfect all-purpose compact mountain bike / backpack / travel camera. Check out the hands-on intro video below to see the J3 with the new 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm zoom lens:
The Nikon 1 J3 will sell for US $599.95 with the 10-30mm kit lens. It will be available in February of 2013 in black, white, silver, burgundy and beige. The new 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm and VR 6.7-13mm zoom lenses will sell for $549.95 and $499.95, respectively. The WP-N2 underwater housing is priced at $749.95.
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