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First Impressions: Nikon J3 and S1

by Chris Gampat on 01/09/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (17 of 17)ISO 16001-40 sec at f - 2.8

The Nikon J series of cameras, believe it or not, sell very well here in the US. They’re small, portable, simple to use, and they’re stylish. Our News Editor Peter Walkowiak owns one, and playing with the new J3 and S1 was an experience that was really quite intriguing. This is a fast refresh to the J series with some minor updates; and the new S1 is positioned as a brand new entry level J series camera.

At CES 2013, we were able to play with the new cameras at Nikon’s booth. From what we’ve seen so far, we’re actually extremely impressed.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Nikon J3 and S1 taken from the B&H Photo listings.

J3

Lens Mount Nikon 1 Mount
Camera Format Nikon CX (2.7x Crop Factor)
Pixels Actual: 15.1 Megapixel
Effective: 14.2 Megapixel
Max Resolution 4608 x 3072 @ 3:2
Other Resolutions 3456 x 2304 @ 3:2
2304 x 1536 @ 3:2
4800 x 920 @ 40:7
1536 x 4800 @ 8:25
9600 x 920 @ 80:7
1536 x 9600 @ 4:25
1280 x 856 @ 3:2
4608 x 2592 @ 16:9
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 13.2 x 8.8 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, MOV
Audio: AAC
Bit Depth 12-bit
Dust Reduction System Y
Memory Card Type SD
SDHC
SDXC
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes, NTSC
Resolution 1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 30 fps
1280 x 720: 60 fps, 30 fps
640 x 240: 400 fps
320 x 120: 1200 fps
Aspect Ratio 3:2, 16:9
Audio Recording With Video, Stereo
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Single-servo AF (S), Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M) , Focus Lock AF Area Mode
Autofocus Points 135
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type LCD Display
Display Screen 3.0″ Rear Screen  Live Preview LCD (921000)
Live View Yes
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 160-6400
Shutter Type: Electronic
Speed: 30 – 1/16000 sec
Metering Method 3D Color Matrix Metering, Center-weighted average metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority
Compensation: -3 EV to +3 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent (Day White), Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade, Underwater
Burst Rate Up to 15 fps at 14.2 MP
Flash
Flash Modes Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Fill-flash/Slow Sync, Fill-in, Off, Rear Curtain/Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction, Second-curtain Sync, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction
Built-in Flash Yes
Guide No. 16′ (4.88 m) ISO100
20.7′ (6.31 m) ISO160
Max Sync Speed Electronic Shutter: 1 / 60 sec
Flash Compensation -3 EV to +1 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
Dedicated Flash System iTTL
External Flash Connection None
Performance
In-Camera Image Editing Backlighting, Color Balance, D-Lighting, Miniature Effect, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Selective Color, Soft Focus
Continuous Shooting Up to 15 fps
Self Timer 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec
Date & Time Stamp Yes
Connectivity HDMI C (Mini), USB 2.0
Wi-Fi Capable (With Optional Transmitter) Yes
Power
Battery 1x EN-EL20  Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
AC Power Adapter EH-5b AC Adapter (Optional)
Physical
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.1″ / 101.6 x 61.0 x 27.9 mm
Weight 7.1 oz / 201  g body only
Kit Lens
Focal Length 10 – 30 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 27 – 81 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.5 – 5.6
Minimum: f/16 – 16
Angle of View 77° – 29°
Minimum Focus Distance 0.66′ (20 cm)
Groups/Elements 9/12
Diaphragm Blades 7
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization Yes
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.3 x 1.7″ (5.84 x 4.32 cm)
Weight 4.1 oz (116 g)
Kit Lens
Focal Length 30-110 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 81-297 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.8 – 5.6
Minimum: f/16
Angle of View 29° – 8°
Minimum Focus Distance 3.3′ (1.01 m)
Groups/Elements 12/18
Diaphragm Blades 7
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization Yes
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.36 x 2.40″ (60 x 61 mm)
Weight 6.17 oz (175 g)

S1

Imaging
Lens Mount Nikon 1 Mount
Camera Format Nikon CX (2.7x Crop Factor)
Pixels Actual: 12.0 Megapixel
Effective: 10.1 Megapixel
Max Resolution 3872 x 2592 @ 3:2
Other Resolutions 2896 x 1944 @ 3:2
1936 x 1296 @ 3:2
3840 x 2160 @ 16:9
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 13.2 x 8.8 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, MOV
Audio: AAC
Bit Depth 12-bit
Dust Reduction System Y
Memory Card Type SD
SDHC
SDXC
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes, NTSC
Resolution 1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 30 fps
1280 x 720: 60 fps, 30 fps
640 x 240: 400 fps
320 x 120: 1200 fps
Aspect Ratio 3:2, 16:9
Audio Recording With Video, Stereo
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Single-servo AF (S), Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M) , Focus Lock AF Area Mode
Autofocus Points 135
Viewfinder/Display
Viewfinder Type LCD Display
Display Screen 3.0″ Rear Screen  Live Preview LCD (460000)
Live View Yes
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 100-6400
Shutter Type: Electronic
Speed: 30 – 1/16000 sec
Metering Method 3D Color Matrix Metering, Center-weighted average metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority
Compensation: -3 EV to +3 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent (Day White), Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade, Underwater
Burst Rate Up to 15 fps at 10.1 MP
Flash
Flash Modes Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Fill-in, Off, Red-eye Reduction, Second-curtain Sync, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction
Built-in Flash Yes
Guide No. 16′ (4.88 m) ISO100
Max Sync Speed Electronic Shutter: 1 / 60 sec
Flash Compensation -3 EV to +1 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
Dedicated Flash System iTTL
External Flash Connection None
Performance
In-Camera Image Editing Backlighting, Color Balance, D-Lighting, Miniature Effect, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Selective Color, Soft Focus
Continuous Shooting Up to 15 fps
Self Timer 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec
Connectivity HDMI C (Mini), USB 2.0
Wi-Fi Capable (With Optional Transmitter) Yes
Power
Battery 1x EN-EL20  Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
AC Power Adapter EH-5b AC Adapter (Optional)
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating
32 to 104 °F (0 to 40 °C)
Humidity: 0 – 85%
Physical
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.2″ / 101.6 x 61.0 x 30.5 mm
Weight 6.9 oz / 196  g body only
Kit Lens
Focal Length 11 – 27.5 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 30 – 74 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.5 – 5.6
Minimum: f/16 – 16
Angle of View 72° – 32°
Minimum Focus Distance 1.0′ (30.48 cm)
Magnification 0.1x
Groups/Elements 6/8
Diaphragm Blades 7
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization No
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.26 x 1.22″ (5.74 x 3.10 cm)
Weight 3 oz (85 g)
Kit Lens
Focal Length 30-110 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 81-297 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.8 – 5.6
Minimum: f/16 – 16
Angle of View 29.4° – 8.2°
Minimum Focus Distance 3.3′ (1.01 m)
Groups/Elements 12/18
Diaphragm Blades 7
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabilization Yes
Filter Thread Front: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.4 x 2.4″ (6.10 x 6.10 cm)
Weight 6.2 oz (176 g)

Ergonomics

J3

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (8 of 17)ISO 16001-640 sec at f - 4.0

The Nikon J3 is one of the most minimalistic cameras that we’ve held: basically it’s an aluminum case with buttons, a screen, and a sensor inside it that can house a lens. Somewhere in the mix, there’s also a crazy processor.

The front of the camera is very plain and simple. Like other 1 series cameras, it can be turned on by simply unlocking the lens or pressing the appropriate button.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (9 of 17)ISO 16001-480 sec at f - 4.0

The top f the camera has a mode dial, on/off switch, pop-up flash, shutter release and a one touch video record button. The dial doesn’t include any of the more advanced shooting modes, so you’ll need to go into the creative menu to access those if you wish to use them.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (10 of 17)ISO 16001-105 sec at f - 4.0

The back of the J3 houses an extremely large LCD screen that unfortunately isn’t touch based. When turned on, it is also quite bright and beautiful. Next to this is a playback button, menu button, four way control dial, and a trash button.

From the way this camera was designed and when considering its target audience, people may probably never even use these controls.

Well, most people that is. Experienced Nikon users with lots of glass may want to take more control over their images by using these modes.

S1

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (11 of 17)ISO 16001-340 sec at f - 4.0

If the J3 was minimalistic, then the S1 is…well…more minimalistic? We seriously can’t even think of a word as this camera is nearly devoid of buttons and sports a really sexy look to it. The S1 seriously took me by surprise.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (12 of 17)ISO 16001-350 sec at f - 4.0

The top of the camera incorporates a pop-up flash, on/off button, shutter release, and video record button. No mode dial here: meaning that Nikon is literally targeting this one at the point and shoot crowd.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (13 of 17)ISO 16001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Want to access other shooting modes? You’ll need to use the menu button on the back of the camera. The S1 still keeps the standards for the 1 series: the playback button, dial with directional controls, and the trash button.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (16 of 17)ISO 16001-220 sec at f - 4.0

And the overall package still stays quite small and what I would call purse-ready.

Build Quality

The S1 and J3 have to be some of the most solidly built mirrorless cameras I’ve held. They’re mostly metal, they’re small, they’ve got a weight that feels good in my hands, and they can probably take a beating. We’d be happy to put them to the test.

Autofocus

The S1 and J3 keep Nikon’s very fast focusing abilities. We tested the cameras with the new 10-100mm lens; and not only was the focusing speedy in the low light of Nikon’s booth, but it was also smart to choose what my subject was based on my composition of a scene.

That was refreshing; however, it still can’t beat Olympus’s focusing speed.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (14 of 17)ISO 16001-180 sec at f - 4.0

The S1 and J3 are really just meant for you to set it and forget it; or at least that’s how I feel. However the S1 incorporates new features that make their settings easier for consumers. For example, there is motion control which slows the shutter speed down to get the blur effect that some people love. However, it is in a simple interface and easy to understand terms. There is also background softening.

This naming convention and dumbing down of terms has been common practice for a while in the industry, but Nikon is taking it a step even further.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (15 of 17)ISO 16001-160 sec at f - 4.0

When you get to the creative modes and go to the different PSAM settings, you’ll get a different picture displayed to help illustrate to the user what that setting can do. For example, the aperture priority will show you that bokeh is achievable.

Image Quality

We didn’t get to put a card in the pre-production units, so we can’t be the judge of image quality just yet. However, we will try our hardest to get review units in.

First Impressions

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D5200 S1 and J3 first impressions CES 2013 (7 of 17)ISO 16001-450 sec at f - 4.0

 

The new S1 and J3 are targeting the super-entry level crowd: and Nikon is making a very aggressive attempt at giving this target audience all of the features that they need. Sales in the US are really quite high; which I personally never expected. At CES, I’m also seeing quite a bit of them slung around journalists.

The cameras have a stellar build quality for the price point and if the sensor (which is smaller than most mirrorless cameras) can perform on par, then these cameras could be major winners.

We’ll have to wait and see.

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