The compact interchangeable lens camera segment is continuing to grow this year, and Nikon is expanding its lineup with two new CX-format sensor 1 Series cameras — the J3 and S1. Both are essentially scaled-down versions of the flagship V2, with the same 15fps frame and Expeed 3A image processor.
The two cameras look almost identical, the only noticeable difference being the mode selector dial on the top of the higher-end J3. Manual controls are otherwise sparse compared to the V2 — there’s no dial for selecting aperture values on either camera, for instance.
Also new this year is a redesigned, spring-loaded pop-up flash that lets users bounce light of the ceiling for more flattering portrait lighting. It’s a great feature that lets you get better-looking portraits without having to cart around a big external flash unit, and the spring mechanism feels reassuringly solid.
Otherwise, aside from the difference in resolution, there isn’t too much to separate the two cameras other than the price point — $499 for the S1 and $599 for the J3, including the 10-30mm kit lens. They both suffer from the same problems as Nikon’s other 1 Series cameras; notably, difficult-to-navigate menus, sparse controls, and a small sensor that tends not to perform well in low light. That said, if you’ve been eyeing Nikon’s $899 V2 and tend to leave your camera in Auto mode, the J3 and S1 are looking like a serious bargain in comparison.