Nikon Coolpix AW100 Camera Review – Rugged camera with lot of features
Nikon was a bit late to launch their compact camera range as compared to the other competitors in the market. Their first camera is Coolpix AW100 which is tough enough to handle some rough treatment. The manufacturer says that it is water proof up to 33 feet, freeze proof up to 14 degrees F, and shock proof to five feet. Just like all the other rugged cameras out there, this one too has some limitations about what it can survive and what it cannot. I was glad to see that Nikon here was more frank about the entire ordeal as compared to other cameras.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 comes with GPS receiver built in to geo tag your photos, electronic compass and there is also Action Control (it is quite similar to the Olympus Tap Control) and you get to change the settings by simply tapping sides of this camera or by shaking it around. Rest of shooting options and features in here are very similar to what you get on the more expensive cameras of Coolpix and it is pretty good choice if you are looking for a rugged compact camera. However, just like the AW100, there are limitations to the rest of this camera too and hence you should think twice before picking this one up.
Coolpix AW100 The Picture Quality :
If you want to take the Nikon Coolpix AW100 for diving, then I would advise you otherwise. It can take really good pics when there is a lot of light but the small max aperture needs you to use the higher settings of ISOs of the slower speeds of shutter for getting shot along with less of light and for worse or better, this camera does go with latter. Over all speaking, the pics of the AW100 are good enough for printing up to eight by ten inches or for using on the Web without any cropping or enlarging. When you view it at a hundred percent, you will see artifacts that are visible and also some noise even at lowest sensitivity at ISO 125. The subjects were looking soft but this isn’t unexpected for the rugged cameras and you will have to do some sharpening post-shooting.
Going up in terms of sensitivity, you will find that the photos get more and more soft and the quality of the colors to get down. At ISO 800 and above, the subjects were looking rather flat with some muted colors. Intrinsically speaking, the high ISO pics of this camera aren’t really great and this along with the slower lens makes me hard to recommend this for using in the conditions of low lighting. On the other hand, if you are looking for taking pics during off road sports or snow, then this camera is great one for you.
The quality of movie was quite decent but here too, things will get better if there is plenty of light. You can switch on the AF assist lamp and brighten up the close subjects. Zoom lens works well while recording and you will not hear it moving but you will get to hear the press and the release of zoom rocker. Turning continuous AF functions on will give you sounds of camera focusing on the movie.
Coolpix AW100 Performance of Shooting :
In my tests, AW100 was really fast camera. It went off from switched off mode to 1st shot in less than one second and the shutter lag too was relatively lower at 0.2 second in terms of bright lightening. In low lightening conditions, it goes up to 0.5 seconds. The times of shot-to-shot are bit more than average but still very good at about 1.6 secs without the flash and1.9 secs with it. Continuous burst full resolution of this camera can take 7.1 fps but this is done for just 3 shots and it takes some time before the camera gets ready for shooting again.
Performance of the camera was same during my anecdotal testing but there were some problems in focusing occasionally. While testing, I saw a message of ‘initializing lens, can’t focus’ a lot and this error locked the camera till it was recovered. Also, while shooting with macro mode, this camera said that it had focused on the subject but this wasn’t true.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 Design and Features :
Nikon Coolpix AW100 certainly looks like a rugged point and shoot camera and I was glad to see that the manufacturer hasn’t overdone it. Apart from big knob on right side and long button that is located on left side, all controls are quite typical of the other models of Nikon Coolpix. Some of the buttons are spaced tightly and are small and this will certainly give you accidental presses. The buttons feel quite spongy and was a bit unresponsive due waterproofing. Body is really slippery too particularly in wet conditions and you will find it hard to get a good grip of this device.
Right side of this camera comes with single door that protects the battery, miniHDMI port, card slot, and the microUSB port. Everything is there under a single roof and hence, there is limited access for water. Also, there is a big seal on the door along with a lock. Things are pretty secure.
The performance of GPS was quite solid just other cameras of Coolpix. There isn’t much of menu diving involved for switching it on and off as compared to the other GPS cameras I have seen but you do need to put some effort. On the left side, there is camera button to bring up to map info and if GPS is turned on and locked on satellite, you will get to see the current location. You can use it for geotagging the pics and display and embed POIs. Also, you can use GPS for keeping log of the path while shooting.
GPS reciever will remain active even if camera is switched off and it will search for the position in every thirty minutes for about six hours. If your position can’t be found, then the camera starts looking for it every fifteen minutes for 1 hour. All this will put some strain on the battery juice and I would recommend you to switch it off if you aren’t shooting for some time. You can use same button on left side for Active Control system of the camera. Button on AW100 is really small and they are placed close together for using under water or with any gloved hands. There is Active Control for shaking up and taping the camera for changing modes of shooting, entering playback, or starting any movie recording. This is handy but you should turn it off if not needed.
One more thing, Nikon has plastic adapter which snaps on lens and it lets you add filters of 40.5mm like polarizer to camera. It is really similar to what you get on Pentax WG-2 but it attaches much better. However, it isn’t as good as lens adapter for Olympus TG- which lets you add the lenses of waterproofing. Shooting options on the AW100 are the same as that on more expensive cameras of Coolpix. There are plenty of options of auto but you don’t get direct control on results. You get 2 auto modes, 1 is Easy Auto of Nikon and it adjusts the settings based on the 6 types of common scene or under water mode when it is lowered in to the water.
Coolpix AW100 Shooting Options :
The shooting options onboard are the same as that on the other more expensive Coolpix devices from this manufacturer. There are plenty of options of auto and you don’t get a lot of control over the results. You get 2 auto modes – one of them is the Easy Auto one from Nikon. It will adjust setting that is based on 6 types of common scene and there is underwater mode for using in waters. If your scene does not match any of them, then it will default to Auto general use. You get to change white balance, ISO, and also exposure compensation along with auto focus area and mode with continuous shooting.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 offers 18 modes of scene along with the standards like Portrait and Landscape and there is also under water mode, Portrait Pet mode which automatically shoots if it has sees a dog or cat face. Finally, there is mode of Easy Panorama. You simply need to press shutter and then pan this camera down, up, right or left for creating panorama in this camera.
Also, there is mode of Special Effects and it is for people who wish to get creative along with the photos. There is back lighting mode which will use flash and it also combines the multiple exposures for improving the back lit subjects, hand held mode of Night Landscape – it uses shots burst and then combines all of them for reducing noise and blur, and skin softening, smile detecting, blink warning mode of Smart Portrait.
The manufacturer has put in a lot of features of editing in play back menu too. They include the D-Lighting one which will help in enhancing the shadows and highlights. There is Quick Retouch which will punch the saturation and contrast, several effects of filter for like the miniature, fish eye, and also selective color – it lets you pick one color in the scene and then turn the rest in to monochrome in the photo. There is Glamour Retouch to soften the skin, reduce the size of face, and also enlarge the eyes.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 Battery :
One gripe that I had was that the battery needs to be charged using external adapter. This wouldn’t have bothered me normally but it is a bit silly that a rugged camera needs outlet and charger. If there was USB then you would have other options to refill the battery. If you are going to carry this camera to a place where there aren’t any outlets, then I would recommend you to carry a couple of extra batteries according to your needs.
Nikon Coolpix AW100 Price :
Nikon Coolpix AW100 camera comes for a price of around $299.95.
To conclude, I would say that Nikon Coolpix AW100 is really good and rugged compact camera for people who are doing most of their shooting on the land. Low light average quality of photos and dark lens are better match for snow sports or hiking or shooting in the waters that are shallow in the full sun but not for diving irrespective of the rating of water proof.
While reviewing this camera, I found that the GPS performance was really good and switching it on and off was better as compared to other rugged compact cameras out there. The quality of video and photo is good provided you have plenty of lighting and if you do not need any big prints or you can just do some sharpening after shooting. The price tag of $300 doesn’t stop me from recommending it to people who are looking for lot of features and rugged body.