Nikon AW1 camera review
Are you into adventure sports, but at the same time appreciate a great looking photograph and moreover camera? Then Nikon’s innovative AW1 might be a good fit. It’s freeze proof to -10°C, drop proofed to withstand a fall from two metres onto 2-inch thick plywood, and dust proofed. But most impressively of all can be taken underwater to a depth of 15 metres and remain there for an hour. It’s the first-ever interchangeable lens camera to feature such versatility, and naturally compatible lenses, of which there are two – a standard 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom plus a brighter 10mm f/2.8 wideangle – have the same destruction dodging qualities. On the inside, to a certain extent the AW1 is a 14.2 megapixel J-series Nikon compact, whilst omitting the eye-level viewfinder of the range-topping V2 and instead offering a 3-inch, 921k dot resolution LCD for composing and reviewing stills and Full HD video.
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Nikon’s AW1 is a one of a kind, the first waterproofed interchangeable lens camera. Though you’ll pay a slight premium for it, it’s the brand’s best CSC yet
The zoom lens we had to play with features an internal zoom mechanism, meaning it doesn’t actually extend or retract, as on non-waterproofed models. That’s fine, though on occasion, when moving from a warm to cold environment, the internal glass misted up, providing a soft focus effect we didn’t intend. Still, the AW1 and lens combines makes for a more elegant waterproofed solution than buying additional bulky camera housing. What’s perhaps more surprising is that its spring-loaded flash can also be used when taking a dip, yet there’s no vacant hotshoe to fit an additional flashgun.
Having dunked our Nikon underwater, lens and all, we discovered afterwards that a few beads of moisture had penetrated beneath the double-lock protective covers for both the battery and the output port compartments, but thankfully stopped short of making contact with either. It shouldn’t be ignored however that the AW1 is a fine camera whatever conditions it is being used in. Though you are paying a slight premium for the toughened shell, we found the Nikon worked very well as an everyday camera for street photography. We missed the lack of an actual shooting mode dial however. Manual and creative settings are instead implemented via on-screen menus. Also Nikon doesn’t appear to have made any concession to the camera being operated either with wet fingers or gloves; the button size and layout is much the same as most digital compacts aiming to be fashionable as well as functional, and the AW1, especially in its silver version, does have a covetable quality.
Despite minor misgivings as above, we reckon this is Nikon’s most fully realised compact system camera of the past three years. It's a rugged model that, unusually, takes really good photographs, and with consistency. Perhaps that’s something worth paying its premium for.