By Mike Mackenzie
The Nikon Coolpix AW100 (www.nikonusa.com) represents the company’s initial offering in the rugged compact camera market. As you’d expect from a camera in this category, it’s waterproof to 33′, shockproof to 5′, freezeproof to 14 F, and it has built-in GPS, making it great for all of your adventures.
The US$379.95 AW100 is a solid camera. The buttons on the back are a bit small and close together, but that sacrifice was made to fit the fantastic 3″ LCDa trade-off Id take any day. There’s a large Action Control button on the left side that allows you to change settings easily, even while wearing gloves.
Inside the tough exterior, the AW100 features a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 5x zoom NIKKOR lens (28140mm equivalent), lens-shift vibration reduction, and 1080p video capture. All of this makes for a tempting camera, but there’s a catch. During testing, a lot of photos were soft and exposure was off, especially in contrasty photos. Changing the scene mode helped in most cases. This is where the real problem lies. There’s no manual setting, so you have to select from one of 20 scene modes, or use the Easy Auto mode.
The best scene mode isn’t necessarily what you think it should be. For example, while attending an indoor party, I set the camera to Indoor Party mode, thinking it would be perfect. Most shots came out blurry (the flash was on). I switched to Nighttime Portrait and that improved the results exponentially.
The point is that to achieve good, consistent results, you must first master the scene modes, understanding that you’ll have to experiment and find what works for you, not what the camera says will work. Then, you must be diligent and change your settings as the scene changes. In many cases, auto simply won’t cut it.
Rating: 7 out of 10
(This review is brought to you courtesy of “Layers Magazine”: http://layersmagazine.com/ .)