Nikon AW100 Review

Digital photography is one of those things that was weird to see the consumer inception of, especially given the ubiquitousness of it now. Indeed, for the first years of our marriage, we didn’t have so much as an internet connection or computer in the household, so a digital camera would have been utterly useless. We had a couple of 35mms and a little Polaroid, and somewhere we have boxes and boxes of prints and negatives, like many other established households. Once when we upgraded our mobile phones, the neew hawtness was this nifty little flip with color screens and a built in camera of all things! For months, onlookers were shocked to see me taking pictures (however rudimentary, grainy, and low-res) with my phone, especially quaint and hilarious considering how often you can catch people mistakenly using the words ‘camera’ and ‘phone’ interchangeably at this point. I remember when my dad dropped his 35mm SLR while on vacation, and I thought he was going to be sick. When he was told that the camera couldn’t be fixed, he saved up his money and bought a new Cannon Rebel DSLR. I was fascinated. By that point in time, I believe we had an HP desktop we purchased from a Wal Mart Slaughterhouse Black Friday sale, and a couple/few Linux boxes. I’m nearly certain I was running my Hydra, a home-brewed, triple-display, ‘nix-powered affront of technology that was pieced together with the cannibalized remains of dead computers, and ran visual effects in the GUI that still wouldn’t be seen in the world of Windows for several years yet. But I digress…

Jennifer decided that she’d like to have a digital camera. On her blog, she has briefly mentioned her old Olympus Stylus 600. We had a lot of good times with that little all-weather camera and its massive, 1-GB XD card. In fact, a few weeks ago, we discovered that the card was still loaded up with a bunch of old pictures. When it came time for a replacement, we found a LNIB Nikon P80 for a fantastic price at the local pawn shop. After running that one until she outgrew it, we purchased a new Nikon D3100 for her last year after Christmas. That was around the time that I purchased my bow. Of course, phones were upgraded over the years. Now, the camera built into my Galaxy Epic 4G takes pics to compete with the old Olympus for image quality, and at a higher resolution to boot. Even so, I started to feel the need for a dedicated point and shoot, something that would take better images than my phone, and preferably something that would take good video, and that would go everywhere with me, no matter the weather or circumstances. Having spent quite a bit of time myself with Jennifer’s P80 and then D3100, I turned a biased eye towards Nikon and their AW100.

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Of course, I considered several other options while shopping, not to miss out on a better fit because of said bias. I checked out Cannon’s Powershot D20 and Olympus’ TG series cameras, and I even took a look at the GoPro Hero 2 and the Contour Roam, just to broaden my scope. The latter two really weren’t in the product family that I was looking for, although I’ll probably wind up with such toys before I die. I honestly didn’t know what GoPro was before I ran into a Hero display at Target one day – that probably catalyzed me wanting a waterproof/shockproof camera. Anyway, after considering all the options, I decided that I did like the Nikon the best. The combination of controls, capabilities, size & shape, local support, and product familiarity influenced me to go home with an AW100. Nikon was running a special at the time, so I got a package that included a little carry case and a three-year extended warranty. Since that day, my AW100 goes just about everywhere with me. What came in the box (short of the camera and batter, which were employed for the picture):

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The carry case (upper right) turned out to be entirely too bulky to be useful, so it now lives in the box with the other unused items. Under it, you can see a stack of paperwork and CDs. It also came with a lens filter adapter (upper left), a USB cable, a useless A/V cable, and a useless neck strap that I tried using until I replaced it with a wrist strap that I stole off another camera that was laying around, nearly forgotten in its obsolescence. Oh yeah, and the battery charger – it only takes a couple of hours for the battery to reach full charge, and that will support quite a bit of time for my purposes. I usually wind up charging it once a week or so, but it depletes at the worst possible times. On Saturday, I was trying to get some good pics of a red tail hawk that was circling low overhead when the battery tanked on me.

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A word of advice – if you get a camera like this, get a couple extra batteries. You can find the Nikon-branded batteries on Amazon for around $20, and third-party replacements for a quarter of that. As you can imagine, the battery only dies when you are using the camera, which is by definition, the least convenient time for it to happen. As to the storage card, I’m running an HP-branded 32GB Class 10 SDHD. I may replace this with one of the wi-fi cards from Transcend or Eye-Fi so I can access pics and videos wirelessly from my Android or laptop. It would be nice to not break the water seal as often as I do for file transfers. Here’s a self-portrait:

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I boldly chose the orange variation over blue or black. This little camera boasts a 16MP CMOS sensor, full 1080p video with stereo sound, GPS, compass, 5x optical zoom Nikor lens, and it is waterproof to 33-feet and shockproof from a 5-foot drop. I have dragged this thing through the woods, swimming pools, and like I said – about everywhere I go.

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Despite my inadvertent and sometimes deliberate rough treatment of the camera, the bright orange case is not even showing any wear. At lower resolution, it will capture video at 240fps, for smooth, slow-motion playback, as seen in this video of Firehand:

Of course, the video is not going to surpass a dedicated camcorder, but I would say that the video quality more-or-less hangs with JayG’s Sony. That is to say that the disparity from the two sources is hardly noticeable in this, now world-famous video:

I flushed the camera in the toilet while recording video, but it turned out pretty boring. Washing the camera after the fact came out pretty interesting, by comarison!

At first, I found the menus to be slightly confusing, and I still haven’t figured out how to work everything it will do. Facial recognition and geotagging are nifty features that I probably wouldn’t have thought about building into a camera. I do wish that there were more manual options like on Jennifer’s D3100 or even her old P80, but this is a minor complaint in the long run. It’s not a DSLR, and can’t be expected to do the job of one – it will happily go places you wouldn’t dare drag your DSLR! Although you’ll get better video quality from a camcorder, this one stands in quite nicely for the same purpose. The GoPro and Roam cameras are far tougher and more waterproof, but they are purpose built and don’t stand in very well for a point-and-shoot. the high-speed video settings are cool, but it won’t catch bullets in the air at high resolution like a Phantom, but it doesn’t command a fraction of the price tag either. It’s more compact than a lot of its competitors and has a mind-blowing feature set crammed into the little package. What I was after was a rugged point-and-shoot that had extended features for other uses. I feel like I got that in spades. Basically, what it comes down to is if you need a camera for a specialized purpose, you can probably spend your money better. If however, you want a compact camera that can do almost anything pretty well, indoors or outdoors, in rough conditions, or even under water, I would highly recommend Nikon’s AW100.

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9 thoughts on “Nikon AW100 Review

    • LOL – sure do! It’s actually the only card we have for that camera. Because of the nature of what the 600 Stylus is, we’ll probably wind up employing it when we do riskier shots at the range. Don’t really want to put a more valuable camera where it might accidentally catch a bullet. 8/ If you know someone who is actually looking for a 1GB XD card, you can usually get them on Amazon for <$20. However, I have a feeling that your comment is a jab in the same spirit as me referring to it as “massive” in my write-up. I guess when we purchased it was toward the end of the XD format before even Olympus went with SD, as the biggest XD cards I can find are 2GB. Frankly, I thought it was odd that they were using their own proprietary format. It’s even more odd that the reader built into my laptop reads SD and XD exclusively. I’ve got an IDE to Compact Flash adapter that I’d be willing to part with, speaking of odd tech. It even has a 8MB CF card with it!

      • Wasn’t a jab, my Olympus uses XD cards, and I have no need to replace it. (Got it because it had an optical zoom lens and was the cheapest thing that shot RAW mode)

        Olympus was one of the people who developed Smartmedia, which XD cards are a later version of, Originally, SD wasn;t any larger, and IIRC Smartmedia was a little faster… but SD caught up, obviously.

        • Well that all makes sense. The last non-me employer that I had used one of the old Sony Mavica that recorded straight to a floppy disk. The optics were decent, and they were primarily capturing product images for use on the website, so it worked out alright. Toward the end of my employment there, it was getting harder to get a computer with a floppy drive, not to mention the disks themselves! Granted, that example is way more extreme than having a camera whose card is discontinued by a couple of years. I’m glad that these things are now more standardized, but for a while I kind of thought XD would lead the way.

          • Uh…

            *points to old Mavica in corner*

            at the time we got that, smartmedia and mmc’s were literally five times the cost of buying floppies… (it took about two years for that to change) I remember going to airshows with a box of floppies in the camera bag, digital camera have saved me a bundle on film development from airshow and con trips….

          • LOL! I love it! Don’t think for one minute that I’m dogging on your aging tech. I’m personally a sucker for vintage tech. There was a pair of Mavicas at the local thrift store a couple weeks ago. If either of them had powered on, I probably would have picked it up. There was probably nothing wrong with either one, but I produce enough clutter already. If I can find excuses to not bring home more strays, all the better.

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