Nikon 1 V3 and Sigma DP2 Merrill: On holiday with beauty and the beast.

Beyond taking digital pictures these two cameras could not be more different. Both cameras have some real weaknesses but also some distinct features. I thought I’d give them a proper go.

So for a holiday to Cornwall the Sigma and the V3 came along and I considered the pictures to be a success. The Sigma picture has edge to edge sharpness and when stopped down the detail is astonishing. I took this panorama and was very pleased.

Polperro, Cornwall. Sigma DP2M panorama.

The V3 combined with the 1 Nikkor 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6 is a really fun walk around camera with lots of reach. It is very very fast. Be mindful that on a small sensor an aperture of f5.6 at over 800mm requires quite a lot of sunshine. With the earlier Nikon V1 and the FT1 adapter I took this picture on a local walk – a reminder that keeping a capable camera close to hand can be very rewarding.

Sparrowhawk with kill. Nikon V1 with FT1 adapter.

Like the Sigma, noise can be destructive above ISO 800-1600. If you underexpose and then try to bring up the shadows the V3 can show some ugly banding noise. But for me it has a secret weapon – ‘Best Moment Capture’ – which is a delight to use. It buffers a series of images so that you don’t miss fast moving and unpredictable events. In Cornwall I took some pictures with the V3 that I was reasonable pleased with.

Buzzard. Nikon V3 with Nikkor 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6.
Insect. Nikon V3 with Nikkor 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6.
Sunset, Cornwall. Nikon V3 with Nikkor 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6.
Nikon V3 with Nikkor 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6.

For a holiday to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming I took the D800E and a fast telephoto prime. But for long hiking days and speculative photo trips I found myself taking the two mirrorless options – the V3 and the Sigma. For landscape pictures the Sigma rivals or surpasses the D800E for detail.

Grand Tetons sunrise. Sigma DP2 M.
Yellowstone sunset. Sigma DP2 M

But the real success came with the V3. During a day of continual lightning storms rolling over the Teton Range the V3’s ‘Best Moment Capture’ proved itself to be very useful.

Lightning at dawn. Nikon V3 best moment capture.
I’d love to see this feature or something similar in a more capable camera – the recent firmware update to the Panasonic GH4 added a feature called 4k Photo which sounds very interesting albeit in JPEG format. Shame this isn’t RAW video.
A warning about Nikon Best Moment Capture. You might want to use the Nikon Best Moment Capture with the FT1 adapter and one of your other NIKKOR F Mount lenses. Forget it – the camera doesn’t allow it to work at all. You might also want to use Best Moment Capture with the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app. At least at this time, forget it. The Nikon Wireless app only seems to allow shooting a single frame and gives no control over any camera settings. You also need to keep your finger on the shutter button – it would work better if a single press of the shutter activated the buffering and a second press recorded the buffered images.

I actually like almost all the camera aspects of the Sigma. It’s small with an amazing photo quality. But it has a diabolical photo processing workflow. It shoots a RAW format that Lightroom doesn’t read and so forces you to use the Sigma image programme which is not so fun to use.

The take away lesson is that almost any camera these days can take a great picture when used correctly. Both the V3 and the Sigma are extremely capable cameras, but they also have some quirks and flaws that can be very annoying.

London sunset. Nikon V3 with FT1 adapter.

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