Nikon COOLPIX AW100: Rugged Video Diaries




The Nikon COOLPIX AW100 is weatherproof, and also promises to be a competent stills-video package. Supriya Joshi puts it to the test.

What is the first thing you do when you receive a rugged, shockproof camera to review? Why, you drop it, of course! The Nikon COOLPIX AW100 is Nikon’s first venture into the world of all-weather cameras, and I took the camera on a spin, sometimes literally. Here are my findings.

The Nikon COOLPIX AW100 is a waterproof (up to 33ft), shockproof (up to 5ft) and a cold-resistant camera (up to -10 °C). This 16MP camera features 5x zoom (28–140mm equivalent) and also houses an inbuilt GPS system, a digital compass as well as a world map, which points out places you have shot your images in. The inclusion of the map is quite welcome as it makes geotagging far easier to refer to. Also, if you use the Creative Logs option from the menu, you will also be able to view any routes you have created while shooting.
Interestingly, the AW100 is the least expensive rugged camera that is capable of shooting Full HD video. A 3-inch, 460,000 pixel LCD monitor, in-camera panorama functionality and several scene modes round up the feature set of this camera.

On first sight, the camera looks as if it is going to be heavy, but it is actually quite lightweight. On the right side of the camera, you will find a large round dial with a button combination that houses the memory card, battery as well as the HDMI/AV-Out compartments, which protects them when the camera is under water. The lens also has a weird-shaped hood, which is a rarity for cameras at this price point.
There is an Action button located on the left of the camera, which you can use either to access the world map or to use the Action Control, which simplifies camera operations. In the Action Control mode, you can access some features by shaking the camera! This reminded me of a similar function were present in some Sony Ericsson phones. While it sounds quite innovative, I found that it took a lot of time getting used to shifting between the camera operations.

The AW100 offers practically no manual control, which is disappointing. The shooting experience is still decent, as the AF is fast and accurate in good lighting conditions. The image quality of the AW100 is a mixed bag. The images are quite sharp at the lower ISO settings. However, there is visible noise even at ISO 200, and beyond ISO 400, the quality really suffers. I would not recommend you use any setting above ISO 800. The video capabilities of the camera, on the other hand, are simply brilliant. The stereo sound does well in voice recording. It is also the only compact camera in the market that features a light for movie recording, wherein the AF assist lamp is illuminated throughout the length of the video recording. Cell phones have had this feature for a long time, and we are glad that a camera manufacturer has finally thought of it! However, this reduces the battery life quite drastically, so you may want to be careful about that.

For those on a budget, you may want to wait for the recently announced COOLPIX S30, which is only USD 119.95 (approx. Rs. 5950) and is the cheapest weatherproof digital camera in the market. But it does cut corners and if you wish to take your camera through some more extreme conditions, the AW100 suits the purpose well.
At Rs. 16,950, this camera is quite the bargain. It may look like a regular compact camera, but can endure almost any difficult situation you throw it in. From surviving cold temperatures, to dunks in the pool and repeated dropping on the floor, the camera withstood it all and performed. While it can do a lot better with image quality, but for an adventurer looking to record his extreme travels, this is probably all that you need.

Even at the telephoto end, the AF was accurate and the camera managed to produce sharp details. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/4.8 (ISO 125). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Even at the telephoto end, the AF was accurate and the camera managed to produce sharp details. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/4.8 (ISO 125). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Final Ratings
Full HD video recording, built-in GPS system

Great video quality, poor ISO performance

Build Quality
Complete weather sealing, lightweight

Difficult-to-use Action function, compact form factor

Warranty & Support
Two years warranty with a wide service network

Value For Money: 3.5/5 stars

Who Should Buy It?
Someone who wishes to shoot high quality video in extreme conditions.

The AW100’s video capabilities are superior to other rugged cameras and its image quality is quite good at low ISO values.


Tags: Video, Supriya Joshi, Camera review, shockproof, march 2012, Nikon COOLPIX AW100, weatherproof, tough, rugged, Action button, cold resistant, 16MP camera