Nikon Coolpix AW100

Even though the AW100 is Nikon's first attempt at a rugged compact camera, it doesn't show. The AW100 is easy to use, and has a range of features well suited to action adventurers and everyday photographers.

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The Coolpix AW100 was a bit of a surprise entrance from Nikon when it was announced in August 2011, being the company's first waterproof compact camera. Up against the likes of the Panasonic FT series and the Olympus Tough cameras, the AW100 needed to stand out on paper and in performance.

Design and features

The AW100 has a few aces up its sleeve. The big one is how attractive it is compared to its fellow tough camera compatriots. It's a slimline design, which can moonlight as a regular compact, with just enough bulges over the lens and side door to prove that it has what it takes to get in on the action. It also has a built-in GPS, can go down to 10 metres underwater and be dropped from 1.5 metres without any ill effects. For snow bunnies, it can also withstand up to -10 degrees Celsius. Weighing just 178 grams, the AW100 is significantly lighter than many other rugged cameras on the market.

The design means that the AW100 sits comfortably in the hand without the bulk associated with other tough cameras on the market. The textured shutter button also makes it easy to find when underwater, though on occasion we found ourselves accidentally hitting the power button rather than the shutter button when taking a picture. It also comes with a neck strap in the box, particularly useful for physical activities like skiing or biking. A word of warning, though: don't have the strap attached when going for a swim.

On top of the regular automatic and easy automatic modes, there are additional scene modes accessible via the scene button at the back of the camera, including selections such as portrait, landscape, macro, fireworks and underwater. Colour modes are restricted to soft, sepia, monochrome, high and low key and selective colour. The AW100 can also take two types of panorama: 180 degrees or 360 degrees. It can also take vertical panoramas, stitching everything together in-camera for the final result.

Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100Nikon Coolpix AW100

Click through for further images and analysis of the AW100. (Credit: CBSi)

Connectivity is via a mini-HDMI port located under the locking side panel and a proprietary mini-USB connector. The AW100 also comes with a 40.5mm filter thread adapter that attaches to the lens for mounting different filters, such as polarisers.

Action control

Action control lets you change shooting options without needing to press the smaller buttons at the back, ideal for use with snow gloves. A button on the side of the camera acts as a dual selector for showing the world map, and for entering into action control. To change the mode assigned to it, enter into the settings menu and select "assign action button". Once this is done, the action button responds to a quick forward shake to change between shooting options. It only cycles through in one direction, so if you miss an option, you need to shake back through the entire selection options once more.

Compared to

AW100 vs. FT3

Olympus Tough TG-810 Panasonic Lumix FT3 Sony Cyber-shot TX10 Nikon AW100
14-megapixel CCD 12.1-megapixel CCD 16.2-megapixel Exmor R 16.0-megapixel CMOS
3-inch LCD (920,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (921,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 10m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
5x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 4x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (720p) HD video (1080i) HD video (1080i) HD video (1080p)
AU$599 AU$599 AU$499 AU$449


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Nikon Coolpix AW1001.61.80.1
  • Panasonic Lumix FT32.210.4
  • Sony Cyber-shot TX101.31.60.4
  • Olympus Tough TG-8101.520.7

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Sony Cyber-shot TX1010
  • Panasonic Lumix FT32.5
  • Nikon Coolpix AW1001.2
  • Olympus Tough TG-8100.6

Nikon rates the battery at 250 shots. The AW100 comes with a passive GPS, which means that it can continue to track your location even when the camera is off. As with all GPS-enabled cameras, the battery life does take a hit when continuously tracking location information.

The AW100 has a range of continuous shooting modes. In continuous high, the camera can take photos in quick succession (7.1 frames per second); however, it is only able to capture three frames before stopping to process them. In continuous low, the camera takes 1.2 frames per second up to a maximum of seven frames in quick succession.

Image quality

For a point-and-shoot rugged camera — not generally renowned for its image quality — the AW100 performs very well. On default settings, the camera produces nicely saturated colours, and you can get some great shots in ample lighting.

Noise starts to appear on images at ISO 200, and starts to affect detail at ISO 400 when inspecting the 100 per cent crop of shots. There is also a degree of over-processing visible on all images at full magnification, though this is common among all rugged cameras. It's not enough to affect photos too much, unless you are making very large prints. The autofocus can be a little twitchy at times, particularly when shooting in low light. When zoomed in, images do lose some sharpness at the telephoto end of the optical zoom.

A sharp image and well-defined audio from the stereo microphones makes the 1080p video from the AW100 the best in its class. The only real issue with video recording is that stray fingers can cover the lens in the top left corner, particularly when wearing snow gloves, as you can see in the video below. This is a pretty minor gripe, however, and can easily be remedied with a bit of trial and error in holding the camera.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/250, f/4.2, ISO 360

Exposure: 1/1000, f/7.8, ISO 125

Exposure: 1/15, f/3.9, ISO 125

Exposure: 1/30, f/3.9, ISO 250

(Credit: CBSi)


Even though the AW100 is Nikon's first attempt at a rugged compact camera, it doesn't show. The AW100 is easy to use, and has a range of features well suited to action adventurers and everyday photographers.

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hihowareyou posted a comment   

can my camera be tracked down to find my stolen car?


"AW100 Need to fix the screen fogging issue"

akira13 posted a review   

The Good:Takes a beating and still functions

The Bad:95% of the time the screen fogs up in the cold the heat anywhere

So many good photo's have been ruined by the fog on the lens. Sent it back under warranty twice but Nikon keep saying it's normal for waterproof camera to have this issue. Ive had a waterproof olympus and Panasonic and never had that problem before. So disappointing.


"Cool looking but not so cool.."

meyco posted a review   
United States

The Good:Feels and looks solid

The Bad:Poor battery life.

Should have read the reviews before I purchased this. Lots of features. Ruggedness is fine, but went to take a picture this afternoon and battery was dead. Whow, was fully charged last time I used it a week ago. My Samsung pocket cammera has a battery that is half the size of this one, and it holds a charge for months.

BelindaE Facebook

"Stay away."

BelindaE posted a review   

The Good:Looks good

The Bad:Everything else!

There is nothing I like about this camera! GPS doesn't work properly, in fact mine stopped working all together after one week and I'm now without it for six weeks to get repaired. Poor battery life more so when using GPS. Poor picture quality and video. Buttons very small and hard to select features (and I have little girl hands)! Don't like the the up and down arrows function the same as the left and right in review modes, when I press the review button I keep accidentally hitting the up arrow and it goes to the first image on the card. When selecting different picture setting you always have to press "ok" so coming from using a canon where you don't have to confirm everything you often forget and it becomes very frustration having to go back and reselect your new setting. Also to delete an image you have to press a min of four buttons, 1. press delete, 2. up button to select delete current image 3. press another button to select confirm delete and then 4. press the "ok" button - only need two button press to delete with a canon!

Only brought this one as the Panasonic didn't have stereo sound recording!


"Love Love it"

goobah posted a review   

I Love Love it!!

you guys must have got a few of the first lot, because mine is great have taken it diving down to about 4m

been back country skiing with it and only a little condensation on the lens but if I keep it close inside my jacket when I'm in cold conditions its fine.

I do agree about the wrist strap but a minor point considering the comparisons in price with other cameras.

I only use my GPS when nessisary and have a few spare batteries so am never stuck.

to get the sand out from under the dial I use a small air blower used for jewlery and it usually comes right out,

MichaelT4 Facebook

"Great camera but need to improve battery chamber cover latch."

MichaelT4 posted a review   

The Good:Great quality pictures and video, nice slim and light weight. GPS is working fine without sucking the life out of the battery.

The Bad:Battery/Card Cover latch is weak. Not rugged enough.

Made great shot shots and videos during bicycle trips. After less than a month I tried it in the sea and it died when I was in less than a meter deep. I had the Canon D10 and an Olympus Tough TG-810 which were much better protected against dust and water. The cover latch seem a bit flimsy, also dust and sand easily gets under the dial making it difficult to turn.

83 Facebook

""Great Pictures"

83 posted a review   

The Good:GPS tracking, colour, big screen, good quality photos and clear digital zoom

The Bad:Wasn't waterproof after 1 month

Love this camera. Photo's turn out amazing, and I love the GPS tracking especially when I was travelling. Only downside, was the waterproof-ness. I had it in a pool, and there were no issues, then when I was overseas, I went scuba diving, Where I went the law was no deeper than 6m, so it should've been fine. But when I was under the water, no more than 2m it got water in it. I had to buy a new camera. The memory card wasn't affected. We took it back to the place I got it and Nikon replaced it with a new one, quicker than how long they said it would take.

Happy with the camera apart from that incident.


"Don't buy it!!! Not for adventurers...."

manbat posted a review   

The Good:Rugged, large LCD screen, small size

The Bad:Battery runs down too quickly, wrist strap too small.

If this is Nikons first attempt, well, I'm sorry but they have much to improve. Why???
One really good reason....Battery life is atrocious. Now they say it has a GPS inbuilt.
Yes, great feature but you will soon curse. Battery drains like tipping water out of glass when you use it. Now get this, even if the camera is turned off but you didn't switch the "Record GPS data to off" the GPS still continues to drain the battery.
So, don't buy it for the GPS feature!! Another diabolical feature....try stick your hand through the little wrist strap, then hold the camera with the same hand and take a shot. Nope, no go....wrist strap is too small. Cannot hold camera with wrist strap and take photo at the same time.
Well, I would not recommend this camera to anyone.....Keep away, you will regret it.
For an "adventure" camera......I would say not. No good half way up a mountain with a dead battery.
Spend your hard earned money elsewhere....I only wish I could return it.
Good Luck...


stanrcox posted a reply   

I have ordered this camera on-line and haven't received it yet. The main reason I chose the AW100 is because I live on a sailboat and need a camera that is resistant to the marine humidity and is tough enough to withstand some abuse. I'd also like to take videos or photos when I go snorkeling. The GPS feature is secondary, and I already know how much power a GPS device consumes since I have a number of them on the boat. I thought I'd geotag the first photo taken at a new location and then turn the feature off. Perhaps that would be a better idea than leaving the GPS on all the time when you don't really need it.


"First? Really?"

markol posted a comment   

First maybe the in the digital era. Nikon introduced its fabulous underwater SLRs in 1963. They only stopped production 10 years ago.

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User Reviews / Comments  Nikon Coolpix AW100

  • hihowareyou


    "can my camera be tracked down to find my stolen car?"

  • akira13



    "So many good photo's have been ruined by the fog on the lens. Sent it back under warranty twice but Nikon keep saying it's normal for waterproof camera to have this issue. Ive had a waterproof olym..."

  • meyco



    "Should have read the reviews before I purchased this. Lots of features. Ruggedness is fine, but went to take a picture this afternoon and battery was dead. Whow, was fully charged last time I us..."

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