Nikon Coolpix AW100 review: Nikon Coolpix AW100

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Typical Price: $449.00
4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Action control is useful. GPS updates with zero fuss. Great-quality HD video for a camera in this class.

The Bad Very limited exposure control. Image detail falters at mid- to high-ISO levels.

The Bottom Line 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.

8.3 Overall

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.

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

Performance

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.

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