Yesterday Nikon Corporation announced the third iteration of their Nikon 1 Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, unsurprisingly titled the Nikon 1 V3. It’s got a lot of people talking, but not all about the right things in my opinion.
There is a lot of negative comment about certain aspects of the camera, which I do see as justifiably stupid moves by Nikon, but then again on the positive side, if the specs and claims that Nikon make are to be believed, then they are going to be able to make one helluva serious mirrorless camera when they finally decide to take the segment seriously.
OK, so the first thing that’s got everybody shaking their heads in disbelief (that we can file under “the Bad”) is the use of micro SD cards as the media choice. This is definitely not a smart move for a couple of reasons. Micro SD cards are tiny. Really tiny. Losing them in the field is a very real possibility if you have to change them often and considering that the most common sizes found in the market are 8GB, you may need to carry a few of them, especially if you’re going to be using the claimed 20 or 60 frames per second shooting rate that the camera boasts. At that rate a 5 second burst is going to provide you with 100 or 300 images at 18MP each. Lots of storage will be needed.
The other problem with micro SD cards is that while they are cheap, they don’t offer very fast write speeds, so the chances of actually getting through a 5 second or longer burst seems a little unlikely with your standard cellphone issue micro SD card. I can’t find any information on the Nikon site relating to buffer size for the V3, so I do hope for the sake of Nikon that they have included a really big one in the camera, otherwise the high frame rate is going to be totally useless.
More fodder for “the Bad” folder is that the V3 doesn’t support Nikon’s excellent Creative Lighting System (CLS), which means that it can’t control remotely positioned speedlights. I can understand this because I believe CLS depends on a whole lot of information that is usually read off sensors found in the DSLR mirrorbox, so with a mirrorless design the engineers at Nikon would probably have to incorporate it onto the sensor, which already has a whole bunch of things going on, considering the number of AF points, both CDAF and PDAF. Then again the person buying a V3 isn’t likely to begin using CLS seriously, are they? Might as well get a DSLR if you’re getting that creative with lighting.
In “the Good” folder we have some staggering numbers claims from Nikon. Up to 60 frames per second when using fixed focus and 20 when using auto focus tracking? That is very fast. Another claim, which if true, is that it can track moving subjects faster than any DSLR can, using 105 phase detect points on the sensor. So if you put the FT-1 adapter on the V3 you can use any of Nikon’s lenses with crop factors of 2.7x. This is very good news for those who shoot birds (especially those in flight), because with this small camera and (say) a 70-300mm VR lens you will get a field of view range equivalent to 810mm. Twitchers will love it.
Also in the Good folder (for me) is the modular design that allows you to add a grip and EVF, as well as the fact that Nikon are using a touch screen, tilting rear LCD. This design allows the camera to be used in a variety of situations, as those of us already using the technology in other cameras can attest to.
It has wifi too, which is good. It may not be the best implementation of wifi, but it's there and it's good to see that Nikon are offering the technology instead of ignoring it completely.
However, in the Ugly folder we have the price consideration. The basic kit Nikon are punting includes the 10-30mm kit lens, the grip and the EVF for $1200. That’s the US street price, so given Nikon’s global pricing trends those of us in far flung corners of the world, we are going to probably be paying in the region of $1500 to $2000 for the basic kit. That… with a dramatic Horatio Cain / Jeremy Clarkson pause for effect… is complete madness. It puts the camera into the price turf of the likes of the Olympus E-M10, the many various Fujifilm products and other far more desirable mirrorless offerings. I can’t see photography enthusiasts or the soccer Mom buying into the system at that price. Not with the poor native lens options available. Nobody involved in photography is going to recommend getting one when there are so many other, better options available. The FT-1 adapter will add $271 to the price if you’re wanting to use your other Nikkor lenses on this camera.
But all of this is conjecture based on my not having ever seen or used the camera. Yet. I do think that this particular release is a step in the right direction for Nikon though because it shows the industry that they do have the chops to put some serious technology into a mirrorless camera. If they ever start re-thinking the kind of sensor and mount that they could marry this advanced technology to then they will definitely begin making a march into the fast growing mirrorless realm. Right now though the V3 seems to me to be more like a little dog with a big bark. Does it bite? We’ll have to wait and see.