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.
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 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.
|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)|
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 TX220.127.116.11
- 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.
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.
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
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.