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Customer Review

170 of 177 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent camera, with a few caveats, September 24, 2011
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This review is from: Nikon COOLPIX AW100 16 MP CMOS Waterproof Digital Camera with GPS and Full HD 1080p Video (Orange) (OLD MODEL) (Camera)
First, a few things to know before you buy, since Nikon doesn't tell you these things until you get your owner's manual:

Regardless of the size of memory card, single videos are limited to 4 GB of space (The manual says about 35 mins at the highest quality setting; the camera itself usually says 28 minutes. I haven't come close yet to maxing that out, so I don't know which is more accurate).

The user manual indicates that the waterproof packing in the camera may deteriorate after a year, so it is recommended that you have it serviced yearly to replace the waterproofing (at your expense).

The camera strap is supposed to be removed for underwater use. So be prepared to hold on tight, or buy your own waterproof strap!

Speaking of waterproof, the camera seems to live up to its billing as such. I tested mine in perhaps the dumbest way ever: I set it down on the wet sand in the surf zone at a local beach, held on tight and let an incoming wave surge over the camera. The video turned out very cool, but I had a huge, tedious cleanup job on my hand. The sand churned up by the wave worked into every crevice on the camera. Nothing got inside (the battery and SD card were clean and dry), but every button was jammed with fine grains of sand that had to be laboriously worked out. Worst was the wheel to open the battery door. It still scrapes a bit weeks later. Bottom line, I would seriously not recommend performing this test yourself. Just take my word for it, it doesn't leak. Using it underwater is fine, but you'll want to minimize the exposure to sand.

Battery life: Good but not great. At Disneyland, I started the day with a fully-charged battery and by that night it was depleted to the point where the camera shut down. I did have the GPS and compass turned on most of the time the camera was on, and did lots of chimping and deleting of photos. I left the power-off setting at the default of 5 minutes. All in all I shot 65 photos and eight videos, the longest of which was 2 minutes and 48 seconds. You will want to buy a second battery for multi-day trips or if you plan to shoot all day with GPS enabled. Battery life with GPS off seems pretty good.

Still image quality: Decent to good, but not great. It is a point-and-shoot, after all. The camera performed better than I expected in low light, but I wasn't expecting a lot. I should note that it's been about five years since I last used a point-and-shoot, and my reference point for image quality is a Nikon D700 SLR. I would say the image quality is about the same or a little better than the Canon Powershot A540 that was my last point-and-shoot. The camera does tend to overexpose, so I've taken to shooting at -0.3 or -0.7 exposure compensation.

Video quality: Good. I shot on the top quality setting, and the video looks smooth and sharp on my 47" HDTV. Like most small video cameras, every sound you make, including pressing the zoom and other buttons, will be recorded.

Performance: Vibration reduction and autofocus work very well and there's virtually no perceptible shutter lag. I am very impressed by the Subject Tracking AF area mode. It follows the subject better than the 3D tracking on my D700.

Recording formats: JPG only for photos (no RAW); MOV for video (Quicktime).

Features: If you want a lot of control over your settings, this is not the camera for you. You can turn off the flash and autofocus assist, and you can adjust exposure compensation. But you can't manually dial in your own shutter speed or aperture, and there is no bracketing, although the camera does have an HDR scene setting (an option on the Backlit setting). I tried the HDR setting and it does make a notable difference in dynamic range. You will need a tripod or somewhere stable to set the camera for best HDR results; handheld, you'll get blurring. In Auto mode (which ironically gives the most control over settings) you can select white balance, continuous shooting modes, ISO sensitivity, autofocus area and autofocus mode.

Additional observations: One omission that would be really nice to have is a histogram. Since you're forced to shoot jpg, it would be nice to be able to assess the exposure with a histogram. Mine does tend to blow out a lot of highlights and I've taken to knocking down the exposure compensation to -.3 or -.7

Bottom line: A decent point-and-shoot. Buy an extra battery if you shoot a lot.

If you have any questions I didn't answer, feel free to leave a comment and I'll respond.

UPDATE: Interestingly, another AW100 user pointed out to me that the best image quality appears to come not at the full 16MP size, but 12MP. I've started shooting at 12MP and found it to be at least as good as the 16mp setting. I've also experimented with a lens hood and filters with good results. The hood and filters can be attached using the filter holder included with the camera. The holder takes 40.5mm filters. If you stack filters or use the hood and filters together, you will get some vignetting. Zooming in a bit (to approximately the 35mm film equivalent of a 36mm field of view) eliminates that. The hood I bought is the EzFoto 40.5mm Wide Angle Metal Lens Hood Shade for Leica, Contax Zeiss, Voigtlander and other Lenses. I also picked up a Hoya filter kit with UV, ND and circular polarizer filter, and Nikon's LC-N40.5 lens cap, which works with the filters (but not with the hood, which needs a 58mm lens cap). The polarizer is very handy and helps curb the camera's tendency to blow highlights. Filters and particularly the hood do make the camera a little bulkier. I leave the filter holder and polarizer on the camera with a lens cap, and carry the hood in my pocket for the times when it's necessary. I've uploaded photos of the camera with the filter holder and hood. I highly recommend at least getting a polarizer if you do a lot of outdoor shooting.
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Showing 1-10 of 27 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 26, 2011 5:07:44 PM PDT
oz zy says:
what is HDR?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2011 7:56:47 PM PDT
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Essentially, it means taking the same photo at different exposure levels and merging them into one. All cameras are limited in the range of tones they can capture in a single shot. If you take a single shot of a scene that has both very bright and very dark areas without using HDR, the camera will be forced to choose whether to expose for the dark part or the light part. If it exposes for the dark part, you'll see details in the shadows but lose detail in the bright area -- the sky, for example. HDR allows you to get detail in both areas by combining images that expose for the shadows and for the highlights. The HDR function on the AW100 performs this automatically.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2011 8:48:42 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2011 8:48:56 AM PDT]

Posted on Sep 27, 2011 9:22:03 AM PDT
B. Perry says:
Is it possible for you to please post some pictures taken with this camera? I have found several excellent examples of video shot with this camera, but no still images that I can compare with other rugged cameras.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2011 12:00:23 PM PDT
I've uploaded some shots. All are straight out of camera. Hope they help.

Posted on Sep 29, 2011 4:13:33 AM PDT
Kaichu Dento says:
One of the things I like a lot in a camera is the ability to shoot in very low light - moonlight only, aurora in the country with dusky sky and stars almost showing - with no flash.
Do you think you could give us an idea how this camera does under those types of conditions?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2011 2:48:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 29, 2011 2:48:59 PM PDT
There is one photo among those I've already uploaded that was taken at dusk. I can try to get some more. Can you tell me a little more about what you're interested in? Normally in a situation like you describe I would shoot from a tripod with a slow shutter at the standard ISO setting. Is that what you're looking for, or do you want to see a high ISO shot to assess the noise?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2011 12:16:11 AM PDT
Kaichu Dento says:
Actually both would be great. I know I could have the kind of low light capability I'd like with a larger camera, but it's my belt-wearable camera that's always with me, and I love taking pictures in the dark or near dark. That's the most important thing to me in my decision as to which camera will be next.

Thanks for doing this and I look forward to more results.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2011 5:23:32 PM PDT
oz zy says:
thanks.

Posted on Oct 3, 2011 5:38:47 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 3, 2011 5:39:16 PM PDT]
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