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  1. #1

    Default Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Over the years Iíve used a few of the waterproof point and shoot cameras, and Iíve built up a list of likes and dislikes from each.

    I started with Olympus and it took great, sharp images and had very nice macro, but in low light the camera was useless and there was a long wait for both focusing and shutter lag.

    After I lost my Olympus at a movie theatre (fell outta my pocket), I found a Pentax W90 that someone was selling locally online. The camera wasnít too bad and had some nice features to it, namely its macro. However, the camera again was terrible in low light and the ďHD videoĒ was terrible quality.

    I did manage to get some very good quality pictures out of both cameras but there was many more photos that were wasnít because the camera did not perform the way I would have hoped. And when youíre fishing, you canít sit and take a fishís picture for half an hour trying to get that ONE good photo. So itís 2 or 3 shots and ya gotta release the fish! I decided to try out one of the latest and greatest underwater cameras.

    My search for the best begun a few months back when I was trying to decide between a small dSLR type camera and a point and shoot waterproof. I decided in the end with a waterproof just for peace of mind and the less bulk for when Iím fishing and guiding. I searched all the various reviews on the latest waterproof cameras and discovered that late winter is just before all the companyís introduce their new cameras. Panasonic is coming out with the TS4, Canon is going to be introducing their D20, and I was skeptical whether or not to wait or to go ahead and pick one from the current selection.

    All the reviews stated the Panasonic and the Nikon were their top picks. Both have very similar features and even look pretty similar. I decided the best thing to do was to try them out and also do a side-by-side comparison of the specifications.

    The Panasonic had a better waterproof rating but that wasnít really an issue for me. Iím not going to be down at 33ft with my camera and if I am, I wonít be conscious. If youíre into scuba you wonít want to be taking these down there anyways because you wonít be getting the photo quality you would hope for.

    The Nikon had some really great features that I liked, namely the various video modes including slow-motion and HD 1080p. It received very good ratings for its video quality, despite it having such a tiny lens and sensor, like all of the waterproof point and shoots. Also, it comes with a handy filter attachment that clips onto the front of the lens housing! In the end just the small things are what won me over.

    I picked up the camera and a UV filter from Henryís in Winnipeg. I wanted a circular polarizing filter but they didnít have any in stock. Iíll probably pick one up at a later date. I decided with the orange colour just for the simple fact that itís easier to see and hopefully harder to lose!

    I was going fishing right after picking up the camera so I would be testing it right away. The weather outside had heavy cloud cover and the lighting conditions were less than favorable but I figured Iíd see what the camera could do. One thing I liked is it comes with a neckstrap that suspends the camera in arms reach but itís small enough to tuck under a hoody or jacket without even knowing its there. The neckstrap is just a cheap nylon strap but itís better than the useless wrist straps that typically come with the waterproof cameras.

    I clipped the filter adapter on and really like the design. Itís easy to put on and take off but is secure enough to not wiggle around or fall off when bumped. Nikon, as far as I know, is the only company that is offering this unique filter adapter which I really like! Having a polarizing filter to cut the glare off the water is fantastic and kudos to Nikon for listening to their end userís!

    I took a few photos and the thing that stuck out most was the speed of the camera. From when you first hit the ON switch, to when the shutter snaps, it takes less than 2 seconds. So you can get the camera out and snap a shot in no time, which is great for those quick shot opportunities. Those who are in the outdoors a lot know you donít get a warning for when an animal appears or a neat bird lands on a branch. Itís there and itís gone, and having a camera that can capture those moments is pretty invaluable!

    The auto-focusing is blazing fast in outdoor settings with good light. I did find that in low-light scenarios it takes a little bit longer. Once the focus locks on a target and you hit the shutter itís almost instantaneous, thereís virtually no shutter lag. Itís a beautiful thing!

    Another nice little feature is the textured shutter button. This is sweet because you know exactly where that little sucker is just by feel. My Pentax I had before was a pain because it was suck a small button and it was smooth just like the camera body around it. Nikon has addressed this issue and also made the button larger, so even with gloves on, you can get that shot!

    The battery and memory card hatch is quite unique as well with a locking mechanism unlike any of the competitorís. They have a dual locking mechanism that has a push button and a dial you have to turn. This is sweet because itís pretty much fail-safe and is less likely to pop open accidentally. It also has a bright yellow gasket that seals the compartment tight. The bright yellow colour makes it easy to spot dirt or abrasions that might otherwise fault the seal.

    The camera performed very well out on the water and the detail and colour capture was superb, despite the horrid lighting conditions. The sample image below shows the macro capabilities and colour preservation. This photo was taken with the UV filter attached, which helps cut down on unwanted glare.

    I like the controls on the back of the camera. Theyíre all easy to use and it doesnít take long to get used to the menu system that Nikon uses. One stand-out feature that a lot of companies are moving to, including Nikon, is including a one-touch video record button. This designated button allows you to start recording a video instantly just by hitting the button. You can select whether you want single-area auto-focus or full-time auto-focus. Most people would want the single-area I would think.

    Nikon has included quite a selection of movie modes that allow you to capture all sorts of creative videos. Below is the list of movie modes.
    HD 1080p 30fps (1920 x 1080)
    HD 720p 30fps (1280 x 720)
    iFrame 540 (960 x 540)
    VGA 30fps (640 x 480)
    HS 240fps (320 x 240)
    HS 120fps (640 x 480)
    HS 60fps (1280 x 720)
    HS 15fps (1920 x 1080)
    What I like is the fact that Nikon has allowed you the opportunity to capture slow-motion video, which is kind of a neat option.

    Iím looking forward to using this camera this year! I have a trip out to British Columbia planned for next month, and Iíll also be guiding in the arctic at Plummerís Lodge. So the camera will be getting a lot of use in different settings this year.

    If youíre looking for a really good waterproof camera to have with you while fly fishing, hiking, kayaking, etc, look no further or at least highly consider this camera. I definitely would recommend this camera!

    The camera retails for $329-359 and is available in Black, Blue, Orange, and Camouflage.

    *Stay tuned for more sample images!*


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Pinedale, WY
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Nick: Great write-up on the Nikon Coolpix!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review


    I agree with Larry that you gave a great report on your impression of the camera. I've been using a Nikon for going on 4 years right now I think and have grown to believe they are good, perhaps better than good... The fast boot up is something I like too. After reading your review I may be looking at this model myself.

    Thanks for that,


    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

  4. Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    I picked up an AW100 for a fishing trip to Belize and had high hopes. Good size, controls, easy to use menu and waterproof etc..

    I liked the camera for all those reasons but found a fatal flaw...fogging.

    Used the camera daily in 80 degree heat, no submersion and found the lens would often fog a few minutes after the camera was turned on. Extremely frustrating. Quite a few pictures have a big blurry spot, others slightly "fogged" depending on the amount of condensation within the lens enclosure.

    A Google search shows others have had the same problem. Called Nikon on my return and they said "never heard of it, send it in for eval". Took it back to Costco instead and now I'm waiting for Canon to release it's D20.

    The AW100 could be a good camera but Nikon has to address this problem.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Thanks for the feedback nvpescador. The only way that could happen is if humidity somehow got into the camera body. It's a sealed unit. I had an Olympus that did that but it turned out it was the seal on the battery hatch. It wasn't sealing properly and moisture got in. I took it back to the camera shop and they just gave me a new one over the counter. Never had a problem with that since. Hopefully that was just an isolated incident but again, thanks for the feedback.

    I've taken mine in below 0ļC temps and it's been fine and the camera speed or battery life aren't affected.

    Here's a couple fish pic examples from the other day. The colour and detail is pretty spectacular on this cam.

    Couple more sample pics.

    ---------- Post added at 11:50 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:49 AM ----------

    And here's a couple of macro fly shots.

    Size 10 dragonfly nymph

    Size 12 chironomid

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Nick-- great write up-- and great pics!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Thanks Nick! I've been wanting one of these and now I want one more. I think it's my favorite waterproof PS of the bunch.

    Steelheader's Anonymous.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    St. Louis, MO

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Nikon released this camera like 2 days before I was ready to buy my Panasonic. ARGH!. I went back and forth with them but ended up going with the Pana over the Nikon. Both cams seem to be the choice of underwater though. I didnt know that the Nikon had a threaded filter adapter, that would have been a much bigger selling point to me.

    One thing to get for yours, is a strap that is heavy enough to float your camera. I have experianced this first hand, it doesnt matter how waterproof or deep your camera can go if you drop it and it doesnt float.....
    "When you do things right, people wont be sure you've done anything at all."

    Storm Drain Bonefisher

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    White City (tad north of Medford) Oar-E-Gone

    Thumbs up Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Good call: "One thing to get for yours, is a strap that is heavy enough to float your camera. I have experienced this first hand, it doesn't matter how waterproof or deep your camera can go if you drop it and it doesn't float....."

    My first WP camera is sitting (somewhere) on the bottom of the Chetco River (SW Oregon).
    When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. - Billy Graham"

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Bennington, VT

    Default Re: Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof Camera Review

    Great review, thanks for taking the time!

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