The Nikon Coolpix AW100 is a robust digital camera. It has 16 megapixels and a 5x optical zoom lens. Robust features include being waterproof to depths of 10m, shockproof to falls of 1.5m and freezeproof to -10 degrees centigrade. It has a few extra features compared to other robust models. This includes GPS tracking as well as Full 1080p High Definition movies. It has a solid build and is relatively easy to use.
The Coolpix AW100 has a few extra features when compared to some robust models. Picture quality is good as you might expect from a Nikon digital camera. It handles most photo opportunities and there are no areas where this camera really struggles. Shutter lag is also kept to a minimum.
Megapixels and Zoom
The Coolpix AW100 has 16 megapixels and a 5x zoom lens. The lens has wide angle capabilities with a focal length equivalent to 28 - 140mm in 35mm format.
These are the big attractions of this camera. It is waterproof to 10m, shockproof to falls of 1.5m and freezeproof down to -10 degrees centigrade.
You can use SD cards with this camera. It is compatible with 3 different types SD, SDHC and SDXC.
Lithium ion battery.
The Coolpix AW100 is capable of recording Full 1080p High Definition movies.
The LCD screen is 3 inches in size.
There are a number of pre programmed scene modes available to you. These are Back Light, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Panorama, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Snow, Sports, Sunset and Underwater.
For close up work the Coolpix AW100 can focus from 1cm away from your subject.
Nikon have added an Easy Panorama mode. When you place the camera in this mode you can spin through a 180 degree or 360 degree arc and the camera will automatically build a panoramic shot.
Image stabilisation helps to negate any picture blur caused by not being able to hold the camera completely still. It comes into its own when you are taking photographs in lowlight.
GPS Tracking and Compass
If you are on holiday or at a location that is new to you GPS tracking can be turned on and your images can be stamped with where you are in the world. There is also a compass and world map available.
High Speed Burst Mode
There is a burst mode capable of shooting at speeds of up to 7.1 frames per second. It is a little limited as it is only capable of firing off three shots at this speed.
Picture Quality Summary
Overall picture quality is good. It is only when you look at some of the images nearing full size that you will start to see issues. Unless you are planning to make seriously large prints this should not be much of an issue. If you are planning to make extra large prints you are likely to be looking at higher quality and more expensive digital cameras any way.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 1
Colours and brightness are captured well. From this picture you can tell the Coolpix AW100 can handle more challenging snapshot situations. There is some loss of detail from the lightest areas of the shot and sharpness does slip a few degrees away from the centre.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 2
Nikon have opted to go for a lens that is not as extreme as others when it comes to the width of the scene being fitted into the picture. The advantage of this is that the overall picture quality of the test shot is higher than the more extreme lenses usually offer. The most noticeable difference is the levels of sharpness being maintained as you reach the edges of the picture.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 3
Zooming in seems to place the lens under a bit more pressure. The result is mildly disappointing with sharpness dropping away from the centre of the shot. It will depend on the print size you choose as to whether or not this will present much of a problem. If you keep your prints to a reasonable size picture quality is likely to be quite acceptable.
This is the best of the first four tests. Sharpness is maintained across the picture as the camera is able to lock focus on to the building. There is a hint or two of detail being lost in the lighter areas where the sun catches the building, but you would have to be making extra large prints before this became an issue.
The outdoor portrait shot looks good to me. It has a natural look to it. One of the key points is that the Coolpix AW100 gets the exposure levels right. This means there are good levels of colour in the face and it avoids any washed out look.
Indoor Portrait With Flash
Getting the balance right between too much light and not enough is a difficult job for most compact digital cameras. They tend to fire off a blast of fairly harsh light that hits the face, but does not illuminate much away from the centre. That is what happens here to a degree. The face receives enough light, but there is not enough light available for the hair. This gives it a bit of a dull look.
Indoor Portrait Without Flash
Working in natural light the camera just about manages to focus and keep noise to an acceptable level. You are likely to need to use flash in most indoor settings unless lighting is very bright.
Although the specification states the Coolpix AW100 is capable of focusing from 1cm I found it difficult to get the camera to focus from really close in. This camera is still capable of decent macro shots, but you may have to work very hard to get the extreme close ups that the specification suggests this camera is capable of.
The colours are punchy and the photos are bright. That is a combination I am used to seeing from Nikon.
Whether you call it noise or not picture quality does tend to fall in places. When this happens areas of the photos take on a hazy look. This is more noticeable in shady areas.
Olympus TG-820 Rating 83/100
There are a number of robust digital cameras with similar features and general qualities. The Olympus TG-820 is priced a little lower than most of its direct competitors, so if you are looking for a good quality, robust digital camera and you would like to keep a few pounds in your pocket then this camera could well be the one for you.
Read Review: Olympus TG-820 Review
Olympus TG-320 Rating 81/100
The Olympus Tough TG-320 offers quite a lot of features for the price. It is able to cope with most typical snapshot opportunities. It scores well for ease of use. All in all it is a good choice if you are looking for a digital camera with robust features and you would like one with a lower price tag.
Read Review: Olympus TG-320 Review
Panasonic DMC FT20 Rating 81/100
The Panasonic Lumix DMC FT20 is a mid range robust digital camera. In terms of performance it is mid range too when it comes to picture quality. It is one of those digital cameras that do not stand out from the crowd, but at the same time it is hard to come up with reasons not to buy it. Picture quality is fine for snapshot print sizes.
Read Review: Panasonic DMC FT20 Review
Review Date: February 2012
The Nikon Coolpix AW100 is up against some strong competition. It does a decent job, has a good range of features and can handle plenty of different photo opportunities. It's true it does not possess a knock out blow that marks it out as clearly better than its rivals, but it is good enough to make your shortlist if you are looking for a more advanced robust digital camera.
Ease of Use:
Value for Money:
64.9 x 110.1 x 22.8mm
Single Shot With Flash:
Five Shots With Flash:
Turn on Time:
The Coolpix AW100 is that bit bigger than a true pocket camera. This gives you more room when you are looking to get a good grip of the camera. On the back of the camera there is plenty of room to place your thumb with a special dimpled area available. This helps you to get a steady hold of the camera.
The lens is positioned in the top corner. This can take a little getting used to when it comes to ensuring you keep stray fingers out of the way when taking a picture.
The flash unit is position centrally towards the top of the camera. This is away from fingers, so there is no real danger of blocking out flash light.
LCD Screen Quality
LCD screen quality is good. You should find the screen easy enough to see. It is a good sized and the Nikon menu system is well laid out and easy to read.
Turn on Time and Shutter Delay
Shutter lag times are impressive. If there is one area where the Coolpix AW100 beats its competitors it is speed of operation when flash is being used. In my tests this camera turned out to be one of the faster compacts.
Design, Build Quality and Finish
Robust digital cameras tend to look a little different to most digital cameras and the Coolpix AW100 is no different. The build quality appears to be good and the camera certainly has a solid feel in the hand. The camera has a matt finish.
On the left hand side of the Coolpix AW100 is an action button. This comes in handy is you are operating the camera while using gloves. When you press the button a menu pops up with a small set of options such as selecting a scene mode, shooting a movie or reviewing images. You can then select the option you want through a combination of tapping the camera and pressing the action button. You may only use this button now and again, but you may find it useful from time to time.
On the top of the camera are the on / off and shutter buttons. On the side of the camera is the action button mentioned above. On the other side of the camera is a door to the memory card and battery compartment. This has a lock mechanism.
The back of the camera is home to a standard set of buttons and controls. At the top are buttons to zoom in and out. Underneath those is the movie recording button. Further down are two buttons. These give you access to the shooting mode and to review your photos. Next is the main control area hosting buttons to set flash, exposure compensation, place the camera in macro mode, set the self timer and confirm a setting. Finally there are buttons to access the menu system and delete unwanted images.
Nikon keep things simple in the menu system. The main shooting menu has 6 options, the movie menu has 5 options and the set up area 18 options.