When one thinks of rugged cameras, either Olympus or Panasonic are among the brands that one thinks of instantly. These brands have been launching tough, shockproof cameras for years and though a tad on the pricier side, they are extremely efficient and perform in the way they are intended to. So, how does the competition respond to a unique camera such as this? By launching a similarly attributed camera with their own implementations. Who better to target this segment of cameras, other than Nikon, one of the world’s most popular camera manufacturers. Nikon has responded by launching their first rugged camera, the Coolpix AW100, with AW being an abbreviated form of All Weather. This camera boasts of features such as being waterproof up to 10 metres, shockproof from a drop of 5 feet as well as freezeproof up to -10 degree Celsius.

Unique locking mechanism on the battery bay

Unique locking mechanism on the battery bay

Design and Build Quality
Mostly cameras from this segment are chunky, even though they feature in the compact camera segment. The AW100, on the contrary is pretty slim and makes other tough cameras look ugly in comparison. It is available in four colour options, which are black, blue, orange and camouflage. The review piece given to us was the black model and as far as rugged cameras go, this is a really stylish looking, compact camera.

Like other all weather cameras available, there is no large lens adorning the face of the camera. Instead, the lens is located in a depression at the top right hand side on the front. The LED flash and the AF assist are also located on the face of the camera. Nikon have used a minimalistic approach, while designing the look of the camera. It will appeal to those who do not want anything too fancy or flashy.

On the rear of the camera is the large 3-inch screen that flushes along the body. Alongside the screen, to the right are the camera’s controls such as playback, zoom, menu, four-way navigational pad, etc. Most of these buttons have a squarish shape and like the rest of the camera, they too are made of hard plastic. The top of the AW100 features the shutter release button along with the power button. The GPS antenna is also housed in this panel at the top. A button featured on the side of the camera is the GPS/ Action Control button for adjusting settings when wearing gloves.

3-inch screen flushes along the body

3-inch screen flushes along the body

Connectivity options for the camera are located in a bay at the side of the camera and they include a proprietary USB port and a mini HDMI port. Located in this bay are the battery as well as a memory card slot. The unique thing about this bay is its flap. To prevent the seepage of water, Nikon has provided a button, which needs to be pressed and a knob to be turned. Only once this is done, the bay will open. On the underside of the flap there is a rubber padding that ensures that it is further protected from water. 

The build quality of the camera is really good and there was no need for all the extra bulk that is usually found on other rugged cameras. By reducing this bulk, Nikon has made the AW100 a sporty and stylish looking camera. This camera is not heavy, so shooting with a single hand is possible as it weighs just 178g. This camera is extremely compact as well and one can easily fit it in a shirt pocket, trouser pocket or a purse.

Features
The main feature of the Nikon AW100 is its rugged abilities, which include being waterproof up to 10 metres, shockproof when dropped from a height of 5-feet and freeze resistant to around minus 10 degree Celsius. These are pretty neat features for a camera that is priced at this amount. The camera features a 16MP CMOS sensor, which allows one to click good pictures in low-lit environments. With the use of a 16 MP sensor, which is the size of 1/2.3 inches, one can click pictures at a maximum resolution of 4608 x 3456. This makes printing on large format papers possible. By using a CMOS sensor, Nikon claims that photos can be captured with great image quality as well as low image noise.

Large meshed shutter release button on the top

Large meshed shutter release button on the top

The camera has a 5x optical zoom with a vibration reduction feature that allows one to capture images from a distance with a reduced amount of blur. This feature can certainly help when one is performing adventure sports, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, etc. Apart from the rugged capabilities of the camera, it also has other interesting features such as 1080p video recording at 30fps, GPS capabilities and a whole lot of scene modes. The camera features a maximum ISO sensitivity of 3200, this makes shooting in low-lit areas possible.

The interface of the camera is similar to that of other Nikon cameras. So, if one has used a Nikon in the past, getting used to the camera will take place instantly. For those who don’t know, the interface of the Nikon is extremely easy to navigate through. One can just use the menu option to access options, then to select they need to press the OK button. The camera supports memory cards, such as SD, SDHC and SDXC. These sort of cards are found quite freely in the market. The features of this camera are really good and one would surely enjoy using them in extreme as well as in normal conditions.

Performance
This is a rugged camera that is meant for people who are into a lot of outdoor activities. These activities may, at times force the photographer to hold it in a single hand and shoot. The camera has a matte finish so gripping it does not pose a problem. The shutter release button is fairly large as well, which allows one to easily snap a picture. The camera was dropped several times from heights, ranging from two feet to five feet and not only did it work well, it came out unscathed, too. Apart from this, we ran our regular test such as the ISO sensitivity test, zoom test, etc. in a controlled environment as well as outdoor to gauge the performance of this compact camera.

ISO sensitivity test

ISO sensitivity test

ISO Sensitivity Test
From the image above, we can see that at ISO 125 there was no image noise whatsoever, and the colours looked accurate. From ISO 200, we can see that the colours look a bit desaturated, but there was not much noise seen. From ISO 400, onwards, we can see a slight amount of image noise. From ISO set at 800 onwards, we can clearly see the noise levels rise and at the fastest ISO which is 3200, the noise levels are extremely high.

Zoom test

Zoom test

Zoom Test
The camera features an optical zoom of 5x, with an equivalent to that of 28-140mm lens in 35mm format. While using the camera with its zoom set to maximum, we noticed that there was no blurring in the shots. The VR image stabilizer takes care of the blur and one can expect to capture crisp images even when on the move.

Performance Continued
While clicking pictures outdoors, we noticed that the camera handles direct sunlight pretty well and the images captured do not look dark. Outdoor images had a very minimum amount of colour fringing and this can be noticeable only if an image is zoomed in on a PC. Indoor images shot really well, too. There was not much grain noticed in these shots, which is great while capturing pictures indoors. Shooting in macro mode is really good as there is a lot of detail visible in these types of shots.

Macro images provided a lot of detail

Macro images provided a lot of detail

We recorded videos in 1080p to check the video recording qualities of the camera and we were quite pleased with the results. The video recorded well and there were no transition issues when moving from a dark area to a bright one. Video playback was good as well and we faced no issues with it, whatsoever. The flash of the camera is quite powerful and it can illuminate an area of approximately 15-feet. A 1050mAh lithium ion battery is bundled with the AW100 and Nikon rates it at approximately 250 shots.

GPS button located at the side

GPS button located at the side

Verdict
The Nikon Coolpix AW100 is available in India at a street price of Rs.15,000. The camera has some really amazing features and looks pretty stylish as well, especially for a rugged camera. It is quite slim, too, as far as compact cameras, in general, are concerned. Performance-wise, it has done really well and with its shock resistant capabilities put to the test, the camera came out on top. A thing that is really going for this camera is its price. There may be some differences, which feature in other rugged cameras that may not feature on this one. But taking everything else into consideration, this is something that should definitely not be overlooked, if you are in the market looking for a tough camera.

Publish date: December 22, 2011 1:08 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 9:12 pm

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