Nikon follows up its first waterproof digital compact, the AW100, with the aptly-titled AW110.
Design and features
From the outset, it appears that little has changed since the AW100. The same 16-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and 5x zoom at f/3.9-4.8 take pride of place. The slimline chassis looks and feels remarkably similar to the earlier camera as well. So, what has changed?
The AW110 comes with built-in Wi-Fi on top of the existing GPS module that existed on the earlier camera. Instead of a button zoom dial, there's now an actual rocker lever at the back that adjusts the focal length range. A 3-inch OLED screen is slightly higher resolution than before at 614,000 dots while the camera's main rugged credentials have been given a bit of a boost as well. Waterproof to 18 metres, shockproof from 2 metres and freeze proof to -10 degrees Celcius, the AW110 fits into the middle of the range when compared to other tough cameras.
The locking door, which protects the battery and memory card slots, comes with what appears to be a slightly more ruggedised rubber strip. It unlocks using a dial and button configuration, meaning it should stay firmly shut when the camera is dropped or submerged.
The AW110 has various features to add effects to photographs. However, the implementation is a little confusing. During playback mode, users can add Quick Effects including painting, high key, low key, toy camera, fish-eye, cyanotype and fog removal among others.
In the shooting menu, below scene modes and the easy auto mode, filters can also be applied which lets you preview the effect in real time. However, these are limited to soft, sepia, monochrome, high key, low key and selective colour.
A filter adapter is provided in the box, which lets you mount 40.5mm filters to the lens, such as polarisers.
The screen can be set up to show any number of different variables, including the depth meter, compass, GPS detail and the altimeter.
For skiiers with bulky gloves, the AW110 comes with tap control. You don't need to remove gloves in order to press the buttons, just activate the control system by pressing the dedicated button on the left hand side. Then, tilt the camera down to cycle through options for taking images, movie recording, playback or GPS. Touching the tap control button again will select the option.
The AW110's Wi-Fi implementation works very well. The only obvious downside is the lack of Wi-Fi button on the camera itself. To establish the connection, you have to delve into the Settings menu and activate it from there. Once the camera's Wi-Fi is switched on, you will need the Wireless Mobile Utility app (iOS or Android).
Using a smartphone as a remote viewfinder (left) and for transferring photos and videos from the camera's memory card (right).
(Screenshots by CBSi)
The AW110 establishes an open Wi-Fi connection, unlike other cameras that require a password or NFC tap to activate. This is good for easy connectivity, but in the unlikely and rare case that someone else in close proximity is trying to connect to a Nikon wireless camera using the same app, you might run into trouble.
From the app, you can either take photos using the remote viewfinder function, or transfer photos and videos from the camera's memory card to the mobile device. The remote viewfinder implementation is basic, only allowing you to take photos and use the zoom. There is a slight delay in the image when using remote viewfinder mode.
Note that to use the Wi-Fi you do need to have a battery that displays as fully charged, otherwise the wireless connection option within the camera menu will be greyed out.
|Nikon Coolpix AW110||Olympus Tough TG-2||Panasonic Lumix FT5||Sony Cyber-shot TX30|
|16-megapixel backlit-CMOS sensor||12-megapixel backlit-CMOS sensor||16.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor||18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor|
|3-inch OLED screen (614,000 dots)||3-inch OLED screen (610,000 dots)||3-inch LCD screen (460,000 dots)||3.3-inch touchscreen (1,229,760 dots)|
|5x zoom, f/3.9-4.8||4x zoom, f/2.0-4.9||4.6x zoom, f/3.3-5.9||5x zoom, f/3.5-4.8|
|18m waterproof, 2m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof||15m waterproof, 2.1m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof, 100kgf crush-proof||13m waterproof, 2m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof, 100kgf crush-proof||10m waterproof, 1.5m shockproof, freeze proof|
|GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer||GPS, compass||GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer||No GPS|
|Built-in Wi-Fi||Eye-Fi and FlashAir card compatible||Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC||No Wi-Fi|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
Olympus Tough TG-2
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In continuous high mode, the AW110 can take 6 shots in total at a rate of 6 frames per second (fps). In continuous low mode, that reduces to 2fps but the camera can keep firing off shots until you are finished.
It does, however, take the camera an incredibly long time to process this burst. We fired off approximately 22 frames in continuous low mode, and the AW110 took almost a minute to finish writing them to the Class 10 card.
Nikon rates the battery at 250 shots.
Bearing in mind that the AW110 hasn't undergone any significant lens or sensor changes since the previous version, it would be expected that image quality remains the same as before. This is borne out through our comparison tests, looking at the AW100 and AW110 images side-by-side.
Photos retain accurate colours and the lens is reasonably sharp at the wide end, with a little drop-off in sharpness towards the corners. Macro performance is somewhat disappointing, with a lot more falloff and what appears to be artificial blur towards the edges of the frame to help emphasise the main subject.
An example of a macro photo taken on the AW110.
Cleanest images from the AW110 are produced at ISO 200 and below, though all photos exhibit a fair amount of over-processing. We feel this could have easily been resolved by reducing the effective resolution to something more reasonable like 12 megapixels, especially given that the sensor is only 1/2.3-inch in size.
The position of the lens does make it susceptible to stray fingertips. It is also prone to smudging and fogging, which does make you wonder why certain images look a little more cloudy and out of focus than others. It can easily be fixed with a quick wipe though.
The AW110 just passes our low-light tests; the image stabiliser struggles to keep everything shake-free when shooting handheld under 1/25 second. The built-in flash is also blindingly bright — sometimes the exposure is correct using flash, but other times your subject in the frame can get blown out.
Below are a few comparison shots showing how the Nikon AW110 stands up to another tough camera in its class, the Olympus Tough TG-2. Unless otherwise specified, these comparison images were taken from the same vantage point at the same time, using the camera's automatic settings.
Compared to the Olympus TG-2, the AW110 produces a flatter image with less contrast. You can boost the vibrancy and saturation in post-processing, but this is the result straight out of camera.
Underwater, the results start to level up a bit more. Apart from the obvious differences at the wide angle (Nikon is 28mm, Olympus is 25mm), colour rendition is similar. The Olympus pumps up saturation in the blue channel a touch more than the Nikon.
With both lenses zoomed in to their telephoto reach, the Nikon's lens loses some detail thanks to over-processing. Chromatic aberration is kept to a minimum on both, though the Olympus does exhibit it more than the Nikon does. At a reduced web resolution, the difference is not really noticeable.
Video quality is decent with smooth motion, though the audio is rather muffled. It's particularly noticeable when filming underwater.
Exposure: 1/250, f/3.9, ISO 180
Exposure: 1/800, f/3.9, ISO 125
Exposure: 1/125, f/3.9, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.9, ISO 125
The AW110 is a competent tough camera, but with no improvement over image and video quality since its predecessor, there is little reason for existing users to upgrade.