How does the first rugged camera from Nikon stack up when used in the snow? We took the new Coolpix AW100 for a road test at Perisher's snowfields.
While most other compact camera manufacturers have had a waterproof model in their range at some stage, Nikon has been sitting quietly waiting for the right time to strike. The iron is now hot enough for the company to release the AW100, a rugged Coolpix that can withstand up to 10 metres underwater, drops from 1.5m and cold temperatures of up to -10 degrees Celcius. Click through for our impressions of the camera, as well as sample images taken on the AW100.
The first thing you'll notice about the AW100 is how light it is compared to many other tough cameras on the market. The body weighs just 178 grams, which makes it easy to carry around. It also comes with a convenient neck strap, rather than the standard wrist strap. This version can be adjusted to the length you need, and hung around your neck while you go about your adventures — just don't leave it on while you dive underwater.
Among many other features, which we'll delve into later, the AW100 has a built-in GPS, which can show your location, as well as plot this information in each photo's EXIF data. The AW100 comes with a passive GPS, which means that it can continue to track your location even when the camera is off. Naturally, this does have an effect on battery life, so it can be switched off.
Also, the camera comes with action control, activated by a nice big button on the side of the camera. In situations where your fingers are not readily able to press the small buttons, simply tap the button on the side and a list of appropriate options will come up, including scene modes, shooting modes and one-touch video recording.
Rather than use the directional pad on the back to switch between options, you simply tilt the camera up and down slightly to make selections, then press the button again to choose. It definitely worked well when we had bulky show gloves on, and it's a lot more intuitive than options found on other rugged cameras, such as tap control on some of the Olympus range.
Like most of its compact camera brethren, the AW100 comes with a range of artistic filters that can be applied to images before and after shooting. On the screen above, you can see the selective colour mode in action, allowing photographers to choose which colour is displayed in the final picture, as all other colours are washed out to black and white. The AW100 is the only camera that we can think of that lets you select such a wide range of colours to filter. There are also fish eye, monochrome, miniature and sepia modes.
As your intrepid narrator takes a trip up to the snowfields, the AW100 comes along for the ride, too. Not only does the camera have a range of filters, as previously mentioned, but there's also even a snow mode specifically designed to optimise pictures taken in these glare-filled conditions.
All the photos from here on in were taken on the AW100. It's pretty easy for even beginner photographers to get a decent shot on this camera — pity the same can't be said about this writer's snowboarding skills.
The beginner snowboarders get off to a shaky start, but the AW100 is ready to go, exposing this tricky scene well. The 16-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor looks up to the task.
The other good thing about this camera in the snow: unlike some of its other competitors, you can actually see the 3-inch screen in bright sunlight and glare.
Not content with just taking still images, the AW100 can take full HD 1080p video at 30fps — and very good HD video at that. The image above is a still extracted directly from the video, and you can watch the clip below to see for yourself.
You might notice a stray gloved finger making its way into the video — that's because the lens of the AW100 is positioned quite high. Not unusual for cameras of this design, it's easy to let a finger slip over the lens when you hold the camera in a normal manner. It's just a matter of remembering to check where your fingers reside before hitting record.
The AW100 also comes with a 40.5mm filter thread adapter that attaches to the lens for mounting different filters, such as polarisers.
The AW100 can 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. We tried it out in a range of situations, including when people were moving through the frame, and the results were particularly good.
Even in the late afternoon as the sun was setting, the AW100 was able to get a clear shot.
On top of the artistic filters mentioned earlier, there's also the option to remove the fog from an image — pretty useful when you are shooting in early morning conditions, or even through windows. The original image is at the top, and the filtered image is at the bottom.
The AW100 has an f/3.9-4.8 lens which can zoom in to 5x, which lets it get in reasonably close to the action, even if you can't.
Alexandra Savvides travelled to Perisher as a guest of Nikon.