Nikon 1 V1 Gordon Laing, December 2011

Nikon V1 vs Olympus E-P3 vs Sony NEX 5N image quality

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To compare real-life quality, I shot this scene with the Nikon V1, Olympus E-P3 and Sony NEX 5N within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

Each camera was fitted with its respective kit zoom lens and adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view. Each lens was also focused on the same point on the image and set to f5.6 in Aperture priority mode for a level playing field; f5.6 was chosen to maximise sharpness and minimise diffraction.

The sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting on each camera: 200 ISO on the E-P3, and 100 ISO on both the V1 and 5N.

  Nikon V1 results
1 Nikon V1 vs NEX-5N vs E-P3 Quality
2 Nikon V1 vs S100 vs S95 Quality
3 Nikon V1 RAW vs JPEG
4 Nikon V1 vs S100 vs G3 Noise
5 Nikon V1 vs NEX-5N vs GX1 Noise
6 Nikon V1 Sample images

On this page you're comparing cameras with different aspect ratios: the Olympus E-P3 employs the Micro Four Thirds standard with a squarish aspect ratio of 4:3, while the Nikon V1 and Sony NEX-5N deliver slightly wider 3:2 shaped images. Where aspect ratios differ, I always match the vertical field of view in comparisons, which may penalise models with wider ratios, but is standard practice in camera and lens testing.

As such on this page, I'm only effectively comparing 4:3 crops from the middle of the Nikon V1 and Sony 5N images and am ignoring thin strips on either side. This means the V1 and 5N are effectively operating like 9 and 14.2 Megapixel cameras in this test, compared to 12 for the E-P3.

With the Olympus and Sony cameras here effectively boasting 3 and 5 Megapixels more than the Nikon, not to mention considerably larger sensors, you'd expect the E-P3 and 5N to comfortably out-perform the V1, but the results at low ISOs under bright light may be closer than you think.

As we've seen before, the Olympus E-P3 in the middle column is applying fairly punchy image processing with higher contrast and sharpening than the models on either side, making the 5N and V1 look a little soft in comparison. This is all about personal preferences though and it is possible to boost the processing on the V1 and 5N, or tone it down on the E-P3 if desired. What's more revealing here are any differences in resolved detail and noise levels.

Looking very closely the Sony 5N is unsurprisingly resolving finer details than the V1, but it may not be as great a difference as its 6 Megapixel advantage implies. It's even closer with the E-P3, and in some areas, the V1 actually enjoys an upper hand due to what looks like a better-corrected lens.

The V1 is certainly doing very well here, but its small sensor and modest resolution can't perform miracles. You can really see the advantage of the 5N and E-P3 in the foliage areas where trees and branches are much better resolved than the V1. In areas of flat colour you'll also notice a fine sprinkling of noise from the V1. Admittedly nothing to be too concerned about, but it's revealing to note how much cleaner the E-P3 and 5N crops are in this respect. Sharpening the V1's images will also make any noise more apparent.

So as you might expect, the cameras with the larger sensors and higher resolutions are delivering slightly finer details and cleaner output, but perhaps not as decisively as their specifications might suggest. This is a great start for the Nikon V1 and proves its 10 Megapixel images can contain a high degree of real-life detail at low ISOs.

Of course comparing the V1 against cameras with larger sensors puts it at a disadvantage. The V1 is also competing against cameras with smaller sensors, so on the next page you'll see how it compares against the Canon S100 and S95. Alternatively if you're ready for some high ISO comparisons, check out my Nikon V1 noise page, or if you'd like to download some photos to check out for yourself, head over to my Nikon V1 sample images page. Or if you've seen enough proceed directly to my Nikon V1 verdict!


Nikon V1
Olympus E-P3
Sony NEX 5N
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

Nikon V1 results : Quality vs 5N vs E-P3 / Quality vs S100 / RAW / Noise vs S100 / Noise vs 5N vs GX1

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