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Nikon 1 J3 Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Nikon 1 J3 compact system camera which Nikon claims has the world's shortest release time lag and the world's fastest continuous shooting.

|  Nikon 1 J3 in Mirrorless Cameras
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Nikon 1 J3 Silver (4)

The Nikon 1 J3 was launched in January 2013 alongside the S1 and is a compact mirrorless system with an extremely small body, fast continuous shooting and short release time lag. It is available with the 10-30mm lens in silver, red, white, black and beige for £485.

Nikon 1 J3 Silver (5)

Nikon 1 J3 Features

The Nikon 1 J3 has a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor which offers fast and accurate AF and ISO up to 6400. It can also shoot at up to 15 fps with autofocus and 60 fps with fixed focus on one spot.

The J3 offers some of the unique features you'll on find on Nikon 1 cameras. Live Image Control lets you view the effects of changes to exposure settings in real time and Slow View takes up to 20 continuous shots and shows them in slow motion, you can then choose the exact moment you want to take a shot. Smart Photo Selector will take a number of pictures and will save the best 5 based on an algorithm, using information such as blinking in portraits to determine the best ones. Motion Snapshot takes a slow-motion movie just before you press the shutter. There is the Creative Mode as well as PSAM shooting. You can also shoot panoramas using a sweeping method.

Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD and you're able to shoot full resolution 3:2 images during recording. There is an Advanced Movie Mode for smooth autofocus transitions and you can also use PSAM controls to set the shutter speed and aperture, as well as record slow motion videos.
If you already own any Nikkor lenses you can purchase the FT1 mount adapter to use these on the J3, if they are AF-S Nikkor lenses you can still use autofocus, other lenses are manual focus only. To transfer images to a smartphone or tablet there is the Wireless Mobile Adapter WU-1b which can also be purchased separately. There is also a GR-N2100 Grip and WP-N2 Waterproof Case.

Nikon 1 J3 Silver (6)

Key Features

  • 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Nikon 1 lens mount
  • e-VR (electronic Vibration Reduction)
  • 3 inch 921k dot LCD monitor
  • Advanced hybrid AF (autofocus) system
  • Smart photo selector
  • Motion Snapshot
  • Live Image Control
  • Creative Mode
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • ISO 160 - 6400
  • 60 fps full resolution continuous shooting
  • Easy Panorama Mode
  • Available in silver, red, white, black and beige
Nikon 1 J3 Silver (7)

Nikon 1 J3 Handling

The Nikon 1 J3 has a very compact aluminium body. It's not small enough to carry in your pocket, but a small camera bag, such as the Manfrotto Amica 10 would do fine. The 10-30mm has a rubberised loop around the lens barrel to aid grip and the lens can be compacted when not in use. There is a button to release and lock it, when released the camera will switch on, when compacted back, it switches off.

The J3 has a menu button on the top, alongside the on / off button, shutter release and movie record button. On the rear are playback, menu and delete buttons as well as a rotating wheel for cycling through the menus. The rotating wheel can also be used as a d-pad giving access to the self-timer, continuous shooting, flash, exposure compensation and function which gives access to different settings depending on which mode you are using. On the left hand side of the camera is a button to release the pop-up flash.

The 3 inch screen has a decent 921k resolution and is bright and clear to view in varying light. The J3 has well laid out menus that are easy to navigate, although instead of utilising the menu button, the PSAM modes are accessed by using creative mode via the function button.

Battery life is rated at 220 shots according to CIPA test results, this is quite short so you may want to consider purchasing a spare. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response   0.05 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.1 secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.2 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.45 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   1.3 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   1.4 secs
Continuous Shooting - 5 fps (JPEG / RAW)   5.5 / 5.3 fps
Continuous Shooting - 15 fps (JPEG / RAW)   15 / 14.4 fps
Continuous Shooting - 30 fps (JPEG / RAW)   28.3 / 30 fps
Continuous Shooting - 60 fps (JPEG / RAW)   67.2 / 65 fps

Continuous shooting speeds are very similar whether shooting in JPEG or RAW, with all of the modes shooting in full resolution.

Nikon 1 J3 Silver (1)

Nikon 1 J3 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Nikon 1 J3 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The Nikon 1 J3 takes well exposed images with decent colour reproduction. Portrait shots have excellent skin tones and are free of red-eye when using the flash.

Nikon 1 J3 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Images have a good amount of detail when shooting at both ends of the lens, there is a little softening in the corners, with a good control over purple fringing in contrasting areas. When using the lens at its longest length it's possible to take impressive macro shots.

Nikon 1 J3 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low between ISO 160 and 800. At ISO 1600 noise causes significant softening of the images and are even softer at ISO 3200. At ISO 6400 detail suffers and a poor image is produced.

Nikon 1 J3 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - There is a slight colour cast when using the AWB (auto white balance) under the incandescent lighting, with the incandescent preset performing slightly better. Under the fluorescent lights, the AWB performs really well, there's a magenta cast when using the fluorescent preset.

Pano | 1/640 sec | f/4.5 | 10.0 mm | ISO 160
Pano | 1/640 sec | f/4.5 | 10.0 mm | ISO 160

Panorama mode - Panorama's are automatically stitched together by the camera. Both detail and stitching is good.

Nikon 1 J3 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are some special effects within the creative mode, there are examples above.

Smart Photo Selector (SPS): Flash is not available, so ideally you would need good light for this, although the camera will increase the ISO setting when needed. The camera takes 30 photos at 30fps and then presents the 5 best photos, with one of the photos highlighted as the best overall, all 5 photos are saved to the memory card as JPEG or RAW if selected.

The Motion Snapshot or "Living Picture" as Nikon like to call it, takes 1 photo, and 1 slow motion video - (1 second long) and then when played back on the camera it plays the video then shows the photo with one of four pieces of music (chosen pre-shooting). The files are saved on the memory card as an 12 megapixel JPEG (4608x2592), and as a separate 1080/24fps MOV video file, both files have the same name, both starting with NMS and the JPEG ending in .JPEG, and the video file ending in .MOV. An example video can be seen here. Flash is not available.

Video Video is recorded at 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p and 720/30p, with stereo sound, video sound options are: auto sensitivity, high, medium, low and off with the option of wind noise reduction on or off. Below is a video recorded in 1080/60i. Video quality is good, you'll find a video recorded using the zoom on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page.

Slow motion options are: 400fps (640x240) or 1200fps (320x240) the later mode needs better than indoor lighting. Both of the slow motion video modes can only record 5 seconds, and examples of all of these video modes are available on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page: High speed 400fpsHigh speed 1200fps.

Value For Money

The Nikon 1 J3 is available with the 10-30mm kit lens for around £530. Other entry-level mirrorless cameras to consider include the Samsung NX1000 with 20-50mm lens at £260, Sony NEX-3N with 16-50mm lens at £325, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 with 14-42mm lens at £479, Pentax Q10 with 5-15mm lens at £377, Olympus E-PM2 with 14-42mm lens at £404 and Canon EOS M with 18-55mm lens at £398.

There are now nine Nikon 1 lenses available:
  • 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.0-5.6
  • 1 Nikkor VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2
  • 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8
  • 1 Nikkor 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 1 Nikkor 10mm f/2.8
  • 1 Nikkor VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom
  • 1 Nikkor VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6
You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Nikon 1 J3 Verdict

The Nikon 1 J3 is smaller and lighter than the J2 available in five different colours, with the small sensor size allowing for smaller lens. The sensor has been increased to 14.2 megapixels and achieves an amazing 60fps shooting, high speed video and full HD recording. The high speed sensor allows for a couple of features unique to the Nikon 1 series;"Motion snapshot", a combination of video and a photo, as well as Smart Photo Selector that chooses the best 5 photos from 30 taken at 30fps.

Continuous shooting is excellent: 60fps at full resolution is generally unheard of except in high end video. Although it seems a shame that there is not the option to use the high speed shooting for other things, such as auto exposure bracketing. The camera features hybrid AF, with contrast and phase detection built into the sensor, and provides fast focusing. Image quality is very good, with great colour and detail, and noise performance is good up to ISO 1600.

The Nikon 1 J3 has a solid metal body and is one of the more compact mirrorless camera systems available, thanks to the small kits lenses available being very compact thanks to the pancake design and collapsible zooms.

  The Nikon 1 J3 is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, yet still offers high performance.  

Nikon 1 J3 Pros

High speed shooting at 60fps
High resolution screen
Compact, stylish camera and lenses
Hybrid AF - Contrast and Phase Detection
Impressive image quality
Camera switches on when you unlock collapsible lenses
High speed video - 400/1200fps
Image resolution increased to 14.2 megapixels

Nikon 1 J3 Cons

Camera body doesn't have any rubber grip
1200fps video quality isn't great
PSAM modes not easily selectable from mode dial
Shortish battery life


Nikon 1 J3 Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels14.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3072
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeNo Data
Sensor Size (width)13.2mm
Sensor Size (height)8.8mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • A
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
  • TTL
ISO sensitivity100 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Underwater
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting60fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS60
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Wi-FiNo Data
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeOne rechargeable Li-ion EN-EL20 battery
Battery Life (CIPA rating)220shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsBF-N1000 body cap, EN-EL20 rechargeable Li-ion battery (with terminal cover), MH-27 battery charger, AN-N1000 strap, UC-E19 USB cable, ViewNX 2/Short Movie Creator CD, User's Manual, Reference Manual CD

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Photographs taken using the Nikon 1 J3

At The Going Down Of The SunGolden GroundThe LineNatural CanonballReady 4 Take OffBee meGrumpy GrouperClowning AroundRoger Daltry of The Who at the SECC, Glasgow

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