Compared to Olympus E-PL3
Let’s take a look at ISO performance of the Olympus E-PL3 that has a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which that is about twice bigger than the Nikon 1 V1 CX sensor. The base ISO of the Olympus sensor starts at ISO 200 and it can go all the way to ISO 12,800. Please note that the E-PL3 has a 12.3 megapixel sensor, so I had to move my camera setup back and forth to get a similar field of view. No image resizing and rescaling was performed in Photoshop – these are 100% crops. All images were shot at the same shutter speed and aperture values.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Olympus E-PL3 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 200-800)
Here is a comparison of both cameras at ISO 200 (Left: Nikon 1 V1, Right: Olympus E-PL3):
At base ISO 200, both cameras look about the same. The Olympus E-PL3 looks a tad sharper than the Nikon 1 V1, most likely due to better focus or optics.
At ISO 400, the Nikon 1 V1 looks slightly noisier, but the difference is not big.
Looks like ISO 800 is also more or less the same as ISO 400, with E-PL3 having a slight advantage. Let’s compare the two at higher ISOs now.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Olympus E-PL3 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-12800)
Now here is where things get interesting. The Olympus E-PL3 gets significantly worse at ISO 1600, which is clearly visible across the frame, especially in the shadows; the grain is much bigger in size. Now the Nikon 1 V1 clearly takes the lead – just take a look at the difference in the shadows.
The situation is even worse at ISO 3200 for the Olympus. Large grain specks appear all over the image and in the shadows. Image detail is lost by a great deal. The Nikon 1 V1 again wins here, I would say by a huge margin.
ISO 6400 is even worse for the Olympus E-PL3 – now the grain is killing the details. Letters are now mixed with grain and the shadow detail is completely lost. To be honest, I do not see the reason why Olympus decided to provide ISO 12800 capability – it is simply useless, as can be seen below:
Nikon 1 V1 vs Olympus E-PL3 Summary
As you can see from the image crops above, both cameras perform about the same at ISO speeds between 100 and 800, although the Olympus E-PL3 seems to have slightly cleaner images. The same cannot be said about its high ISO performance though – the Nikon 1 V1 takes over from ISO 1600 and clearly has an advantage in the amount of noise, especially in the shadows – all the way to ISO 6400. The ISO 12800 on the Olympus E-PL3 is useless; I do not even know why Olympus decided to leave it as an option.
The 2 megapixel advantage does not make much difference either; even if the image is down-sampled to 10 megapixels, the Nikon still wins in high ISO performance. So much for the E-PL3 sensor that is twice bigger in size. A quick side note – Olympus used a 3 year old Micro Four Thirds sensor on the E-PL3 camera. The new Micro 4/3 sensors on such cameras as Panasonic DMC-GH2/G3 perform much better in comparison. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a GH2/G3 sample on time to perform additional comparisons.
The Nikon 1 V1 also has a clear lead in the autofocus area – its hybrid AF system is much faster in comparison, especially in daylight environment. In low-light situations, both cameras seem to autofocus about the same with contract detect AF. The Nikon 1 V1 has a built-in EVF, while you have to buy one for the Olympus E-PL3, so that’s another advantage on behalf of the Nikon. I also prefer the ergonomics and the button layout of the Nikon 1 V1 (except for the video recording button) – the E-PL3 has 6 tiny buttons scattered on the back of the camera (excluding the dial), while the Nikon 1 V1 has everything neatly organized with large and accessible buttons. On the other hand, the Olympus has a traditional PASM selector on the top of the camera and its video recording button is neatly placed on the top right side of the camera rear – something I wish Nikon did the same with the V1.
The biggest difference between the two, in my opinion, is the menu system. The Olympus E-PL3 has the worst menu system I have seen to date. It truly is horrendous when compared to the Nikon 1 V1 and it took me a long time to figure basic things out, like finding where to change image format from JPEG to RAW. To change ISO, you have to go two levels deep from the Custom Menu and find it somewhere in the middle of the menu. It was ridiculous and I wasted too much of my precious time figuring basic things out.
I would never buy the E-PL3 if I were a beginner – the camera will scare the hell out of any beginner for sure. Sure, it has some great features like bracketing (exposure, white balance, ISO, etc), multiple exposure, customizable buttons and much more, but they are of little use if they are not easily accessible. Where Olympus right now truly has the lead is in the lens department – Olympus has a wide array of lenses that cover everything from wide angle and macro to portraits/telephoto. Nikon is committed to the CX format and we should be seeing a wider selection of all kinds of lenses very soon.
Overall, I personally would not buy the Olympus E-PL3 for the above reasons. Despite its smaller sensor size, the Nikon 1 V1 is a better camera in many ways. Oh and one more thing, coming from a Nikon DSLR background, I do prefer the aspect ratio of the V1 instead of the Micro Four Thirds 4:3 aspect ratio.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony NEX-5N
Let’s see how the Nikon 1 V1 compares to the Sony NEX-5n, which has a much larger 1.5x crop factor sensor – a similar size sensor used on the Nikon D5100 and D7000 DLSRs. I had a hard time matching up images, because there is a huge difference in resolution – the Nikon 1 V1 sensor is 10 MP, while the Sony NEX-5n is 16 MP. Therefore, the Sony crops below look a little bigger.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony NEX-5n Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Here is a comparison of base ISO 100 on both cameras:
At base ISO 100, both cameras seem to perform about the same, although the shadows on the Sony seem to be a little brighter, probably because of higher dynamic range.
ISO 200 seems to be a little cleaner on the Sony NEX-5n.
The same with ISO 400 – the Sony NEX-5n is a tad cleaner.
And even at ISO 800, the NEX-5n has a very slight advantage over the V1. The strange thing is, while the shadows are a little brighter, they also seem to be slightly noisier on the Sony. Let’s see how the cameras compare at high ISO levels now.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony NEX-5n High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
Unlike the Olympus E-PL3, the Sony NEX-5n does a great job at ISO 1600. There is very little grain in the image and I would say that it looks better compared to the Nikon.
Increasing ISO to 3200 adds more noise to both images, but the Sony NEX-5n still looks better. Grain is smaller and a little more manageable than on the Nikon 1 V1.
Nikon’s maximum ISO boost is 6400 and it is the last image that I can compare against the Sony NEX-5n, which has two extra ISO levels. Again, the cameras are comparable, but the Sony NEX-5n seems to be slightly better. Both cameras seem to retain good colors at high ISOs. Here are two extra ISO levels on the NEX-5n:
The ISO 12800 crop looks pretty good, but the ISO 25600 shot is unusable for my taste.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony NEX-5n Down-Sampled High ISO Comparison (ISO 800-6400)
Comparing sensors with different resolutions can be challenging. The above comparisons show pixel-level performance, which is typically in favor of a lower resolution sensor. Without a doubt, a camera with more pixels per inch equals more noise due to simple physics – the smaller the pixel, the more the noise. Let’s see what happens when images from both cameras are normalized, which in this case means the Sony NEX-5n 16 MP image gets reduced to 10 MP. Since there are many different ways to down-sample an image in Photoshop, I tried a few different methods and came to a conclusion that the regular “Bicubic (best for smooth gradients)” resizing algorithm results in the least amount of noise, which is what I used for the below images.
As expected, the results are in favor of a high-resolution camera, which in this case is the NEX-5n:
The differences are obvious right at ISO 800 – the NEX-5n looks very clean with smaller grain. In fact, if you take the ISO 1600 sample from the NEX-5n and put it against the ISO 800 sample from the V1, you will see that NEX-5n still looks a tad better, which means that there is more than a stop of difference between the two, when down-sampled to the same resolution. The NEX-5n images will also look sharper due to this down-sampling technique.
The same story with ISO 1600 – NEX-5n looks very clean in comparison.
When putting NEX-5n ISO 3200 against V1 ISO 1600, the image from the NEX-5n is still a tad cleaner, so there is still over a stop of difference between the two.
ISO 6400 on the V1 has plenty of large grain, while the same on the NEX-5n looks cleaner with smaller grain.
Again, this test shows what happens when both cameras are at 10 MP – the extra 6 MP of resolution on the NEX-5n results in over a stop of high ISO advantage.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony NEX-5n Summary
Initially, I published only 100% crops from the top of the page, where I show the pixel performance between the two cameras. I received a number of complaints from our readers that the test was rather biased, because it showed the Nikon 1 V1 performing almost as good as the Sony NEX-5n, which has a lot more resolution (this was despite the fact that I clearly stated that when images are down-sampled, the NEX-5n would have over a stop of advantage). Hence, I added one more test to this page showing “normalized” images at 10 MP, which clearly shows that the NEX-5n has over a stop of advantage compared to the V1.
Don’t forget that the sensor of the NEX-5n is over 3 times larger than the one on Nikon 1 V1, so the V1 stands its ground really well with its tiny sensor. A larger size sensor also means larger lenses – and that’s Sony’s biggest weakness. It has a very compact camera body, but much bigger camera lenses (with the exception of the 16mm pancake lens). When shooting with mirrorless cameras, the Nikon 1 V1 fit my jacket pocket much easier than the Sony NEX-5n.
At the same time, a large sensor also means two things: shallower depth of field and better dynamic range – two major factors that work in NEX-5n’s favor. Sony has a few other advantages, such as swivel / touchscreen LCD, in-camera editing, HDR, panorama and 3D modes, but lacks a serious feature that the Nikon 1 V1 has, which is a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). An excellent high-resolution OLED viewfinder can be purchased separately, but for $350 more; plus it eats up the same socket that can be used for mounting a flash unit. I also really like the ergonomics of the NEX-5n when compared to the V1. The grip is great, much better than the little bump on the front of the V1.
Sony’s menu system is very good, but has a lot more options than on the Nikon, so beginners might find the Nikon 1 V1 easier to operate. Nikon’s stronghold is its hybrid autofocus, which works faster than Sony’s AF. So the Nikon is clearly better at tracking and shooting action / sports. On the other hand, Sony lenses have a manual focus ring and manual focus operation is much easier. Simply turning the focus ring automatically zooms in at high resolution and you can use the touchscreen to move to any area of the image you want. You could even zoom in all the way to 9.5x for even closer and more precise focus adjustment.
Comparing these two cameras, I would say that they are targeted at different audiences. The Sony NEX-5n suits photo enthusiasts and pros that shoot landscapes and portraits, because of a larger sensor, more megapixels, shallower depth of field, higher dynamic range and great image quality / ISO performance. The Nikon 1 V1, on the other hand, is a great everyday camera that can shoot action and sports – something soccer moms and birders will appreciate.
Compared to Sony A65/A77
Since I have been simultaneously testing the Sony A77 and A65 cameras, I could not resist the temptation to compare the Nikon 1 V1 ISO performance against the highest resolution APS-C sensor in the world. The Sony NEX-7 mirrorless, A65 and A77 DSLRs all share the same 24 megapixel sensor, so the below crops should be about the same for these three cameras. The translucent mirror on the A65 and A77 cameras does actually block some light, so the NEX-7 might actually perform a tad better. Again, matching field of view was difficult, so the below images appear slightly larger. Let’s take a look!
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony A65/A77 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
The base ISO performance of the A65/A77 cameras seems to be on par with Nikon 1 V1 performance. Noise levels are relatively low both in highlights and shadows.
ISO 200 is also clean on both with a slight advantage on behalf of the Sony.
ISO 400 does not change much and noise levels are also comparable.
At ISO 800 we start seeing bigger grain on the Sony A65/A77 sensors and the Nikon 1 V1 takes over, especially in the shadows.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony A65/A77 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-16000)
The Sony sensor looks similar to the Olympus E-PL3 in terms of pixel-level performance at high ISOs. Anything above ISO 800 is very grainy, including ISO 1600. As can be seen from the above crops, the Nikon 1 V1 has much less and smaller grains in the image. But mind you, we are comparing 24 MP versus 10 MP!
ISO 3200 is even worse for the 24 MP Sony sensor – noise levels are very high with large grains and there is visible loss of details across the frame. Some colors are also lost as a result. The Nikon 1 V1 looks much cleaner in comparison (again, with a lot less pixels).
And ISO 6400 looks pretty unusable for my taste when viewed at 100% on the Sony A65/A77 cameras. Too much detail and colors are lost.
It is unfortunate that Sony is allowing ISO 12800 and 16000 on the new sensor for marketing purposes. These images look horrid and completely unusable.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony A65/A77 Down-Sampled High ISO Comparison (ISO 800-6400)
Let’s see how the sensors compare when the Sony A65/A77 image is down-sampled to 10 MP. Obviously, there is a huge difference in resolution here, which works in A65/A77’s advantage. Here is ISO 800 down-sized to 10 MP:
Similar to the NEX-5n, the difference between A65/A77 and the V1 is a little over 1 stop when normalized. Here is ISO 1600:
At ISO 1600, the difference seems to be slightly less, right around 1 stop. If you took the ISO 1600 crop from the A65/A77 sensor and compared it to the ISO 800 crop from the V1, they would have roughly the same amount of noise, with slight differences here and there.
ISO 3200 is not much different than ISO 1600 in terms of noise – roughly 1 stop of difference. And finally, here is the not so pretty ISO 6400:
Nikon 1 V1 vs Sony A65/A77 Summary
I won’t go into feature differences between these cameras, because we are not comparing apples to apples here. But one thing is clear – high resolution and small pixel size equal more noise for the new Sony sensor, when viewed at the pixel level. When down-sampled and resized to 10 MP, however, the Sony A77/A65 still shows superior performance compared to the Nikon V1 at high ISOs.
The difference is not as big as between the Sony NEX-5n and the Nikon V1 (which is more than a stop), but a little less – I would say about about a stop. If you take the ISO 800 crop from the Nikon 1 V1 and compare it to the ISO 1600 crop from the Sony A65/A77, the noise levels will look about the same; maybe except for the shadows, where the Nikon 1 V1 seems to be working its firmware magic to suppress more noise. If you compare the NEX-5n high ISO crops to the A65/A77 crops, you will see that the former has slightly less noise when both are down-sampled to 10 MP.
Put into a different perspective, when down-sampled, the Sony A65/A77 looks slightly worse than the Sony NEX-5n at ISO levels above 400 (but beats it at low ISOs due to much higher resolution). Both are better than the Nikon 1 V1 by a stop or more at pretty much all ISO levels.
Compared to Nikon D700/D3
Last, but not least, I wanted to show you how the new CX sensor compares to Nikon’s full-frame FX sensor from the D700/D3 DSLR cameras. Again, the comparison is far from being fair, so this comparison is provided simply as a reference. Please note that D700’s base ISO is 200, but the camera provides an option to boost to ISO 100.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Nikon D700 Low ISO Comparison (ISO 100-800)
Nikon’s legendary full-frame sensor is a reference of practically noise-free performance at low ISOs.
While the Nikon 1 V1 does pretty well with noise, the difference is clear, especially at ISO 800 – the D700 is very smooth in comparison.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Nikon D700 High ISO Comparison (ISO 1600-25600)
Let’s take a look at what happens at high ISO levels:
At ISO 1600, the Nikon 1 V1 performs well, considering how small of a sensor it has compared to the full-frame D700.
Nikon 1 V1 loses plenty of detail at ISO 3200 when compared to the D700, which stays relatively clean and perfectly usable.
Boosted to ISO 6400, the Nikon 1 V1 suffers and plenty of details are lost in comparison.
The extra 2 ISO levels on the D700 are very grainy, pretty much unusable for my taste.
Nikon 1 V1 vs Nikon D700 Summary
I was rather surprised to see how well the Nikon 1 V1 performs against Nikon’s high-end full-frame sensor. With a more than 7x smaller surface area, the Nikon 1 V1 is only about ~2 stops behind the D700 sensor in ISO performance. This is great news for the DSLR users, because it shows how superb the future sensors will be on the upcoming Nikon DSLRs. Another good news for the Nikon 1 V1 is color reproduction – colors look almost as good as on the D700.
Again, the above comparison is provided only as a reference, since we are comparing a small-sensor mirrorless camera to a high-end DSLR.
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