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Nikon 1 J3 Review

The market isn’t short on compact systems, so how does the Nikon 1 J3 fare?

Nikon 1Key features: • 15 fps continuous shooting with autofocus • Best Moment Capture feature • 14.2-megapixel Nikon CX CMOS sensor • 10-30mm kit lens included

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Price: £439/$599

With almost all the world’s camera manufacturers pumping significant R&D into producing compact system cameras in recent years, there is now a plethora of models on the market. Nikon is a very big name in the imaging industry with a reputation for high-quality cameras, but this is based upon its DSLRs, which are the tool of choice for many professional photographers. It’s probably fair to say that Nikon doesn’t have quite the same reputation when it comes to compact cameras, so how does the new 1 J3 shape up?

The manufacturer seems proud of the ultra-compact size of the 1 J3 (it’s a very diminutive 101 x 60.5 x 28.8 mm) and sees it as a selling point, but these things are very subjective. If you’ve got relatively big hands, the Nikon 1 J3 feels small and fiddly – there’s no hand grip at all and nowhere to rest your thumb other than on the rear LCD screen.

It’s hard to imagine professional photographers used to using DSLRs and rangefinders looking twice at the Nikon 1 J3, thanks to the lack of traditional dials and buttons. It doesn’t really have the sort of ‘camera look’ to it that photographers tend to favour and, like the Samsung Galaxy Camera, the Nikon 1 J3 is hampered by the need to return to the menu and suffer the frustration of scrolling through options to do basic things.

Image quality is, unfortunately, not at the upper end of what’s available on the market. With CSCs increasingly rivalling DSLRs for professional-looking images, the Nikon 1 J3 is rather average.

To our eyes, the results looked a little too much like compact camera images for comfort, lacking the impact that we’ve come to almost expect these days, although it’s important to note that this could be at least partly the fault of the 10-30mm kit lens that we were using for our tests. That said, low noise and reliable high ISO performance is also on the list of expectations for most cameras now and here the Nikon 1 J3 is again not quite up to the mark.

It’s a shame, because the Nikon 1 J3 is not without its pluses, notably the Slow View mode, the Smart Photo Selector and the Best Moment Capture, which are great features designed to help novice photographers get top drawer images in difficult circumstances. Overall though, the Nikon 1 J3 is a camera that frustrates as much, if not more, than it delights.

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Pros A small and lightweight camera that’s available in a range of colours

Cons It’s not a camera for those who want a true photography experience