Nikon 1 J3: Performance

March 14, 2013 by Andy Stanton Reads (49,412)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 6
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Nikon’s website mentions the J3’s “extraordinary speed.”  While I found the camera to be reliably quick, it’s no quicker than other cameras in its class and many high quality point and shoots.  Its startup time is from 1-2 seconds — good but not great. It is quick to respond to menu selections, which is a good thing as using the J3 requires reference to the menu to change virtually every setting.

The J3 uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that has a CIPA rating of 220 shots.  I found that number to be reasonably accurate.  Battery life will be less depending on how often you consult the menu or shoot movies.

Shooting Performance
The J3 required about 1-2 seconds between shots, without the flash, and another second when the flash was used — a good showing.  I found the camera’s hybrid autofocus to be quick and reliable.  Nikon claims the camera automatically selects between two types of autofocus to capture sharp images. For sports and other fast action scenes, phase-detection autofocus is used with 73 points.  When shooting in low light the camera uses contrast-detection autofocus, with 135 points of coverage. These are very impressive numbers and the camera’s focusing is in fact reliable, though it occasionally fails to lock focus in low light.

The J3 has impressive continuous shooting ability.  It can shoot at full resolution at 5 frames per second with the flash enabled and at 15 frames per second with continuous autofocus and up to 60 frames per second with fixed-point autofocus with the flash disabled.

Lens Performance
The J3 and all three lenses produced sharp, largely distortion-free images with good color.  Chromatic aberration was present in some high contrast shots, such as tree branches against a blue sky, but was not noticeable in normal use.  Images were sharp throughout the frame, even in the corners.  Barrel distortion was not a problem, even when using the 10mm pancake lens, nor was pincushion distortion. 

Video Quality
The J3 produces HD video of very high quality.  The 1080i video taken below at 60 frames per second is sharp and smooth, with realistic colors and good sound (yes the white water was roaring).  Zooming during a video is possible but, as the video illustrates, it’s hard to zoom smoothly when turning the small lens of the J3.

Image Quality
Image quality is excellent, with sharp definition, good dynamic range and strong colors. While the camera can shoot in RAW, chances are most J3 owners will be very content with the fine quality of the camera’s JPEG images. I’ve always found the white balance in Nikon’s cameras to be very realistic and the J3 is no exception. The auto white balance setting, which I used, worked well. Other white balance settings are incandescent, fluorescent, direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, underwater and manual.

The J3 has a wide ISO range, with possible settings from 160 through 6400. Although the J3’s sensor is not as large as that of most DSLRs its high ISO ability is similar. As demonstrated below, images from 160 ISO through 1600 ISO look almost identical, with little graininess and strong colors. At 3200 there’s an increase in graininess and the image takes on a greenish hue. Grain increases at 6400 ISO but the image is still usable for small prints.

160 ISO                                                           200 ISO

400 ISO                                                           800 ISO

1600 ISO                                                          3200 ISO

6400 ISO

The J3’s pop-up flash comes in several modes:  auto, auto with red-eye reduction, fill-flash, fill-flash with slow sync (which uses a slow shutter speed), red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync, rear curtain sync (flash fires before the shutter closes), rear curtain with slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction and off. When used with the VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, the camera’s flash range is from  approximately 2 – 23 feet (.6 to 7 meters) at minimum zoom and 2 – 13.8 feet (.6 to 4.2 meters) at maximum zoom.

Additional Sample Images

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