Gear

Gear Review : Nikon AW 100 Cool Pix Adventure Camera

When Dana and I landed in Bozeman, the first thing we did was go in search of a replacement for my Samsung point and click. I’m loathe to spend money on myself but I thought, “How many times in my life will I get a chance to capture the beauty of this western landscape?” I figured it a well-justified expenditure.  The Samsung had actually served me nicely for several years but due to an open housing acquired moisture spots on the internal optics. I’ve talked a little about a couple of waterproof, shockproof adventure cameras here in the blog section so went in search of one of them.  My search ended at the Bozeman Costco where I picked up Nikon’s contribution to the adventure camera category, the AW 100.  I read over the specs, played with the display a bit and though it was well beyond my budget, thought good of my purchase and shrugged off my usual buyers remorse. After charging the battery, I experimented with different settings, functions etc.  The next day we ventured into Yellowstone where I gave my new toy a workout.  Over the course of the week I shot nearly a thousand pics/videos.  Here’s what I discovered:

Likes:

– Panoramic function. Didn’t realize this was one of the perks until I unpackaged it.  Simple, easy to use and gives great results.  Perfect for the wide open spaces and majestic summits of Montana.

– Video function.  “Easy button” on the back of camera gives me video capability with a single click. HD video, I might add.

– Macro.  Simple to use,  Beautiful, detailed results.  Love it.

– Landscapes.  Great camera for landscapes. Unlike my Samsung, it gave me nearly perfect focus every time.

-GPS.  Though I didn’t explore it fully, the AW 100 boasts onboard GPS which, as a hiker, I consider a phenomenal feature. I often return from a trip, sort through my pics and wonder, :Hmmmm, where was this?” Assuming it functions well, I consider this a huge plus.

Dislikes:

– Location of lens.  It took several screw-ups before I re-trained my finger away from the top left corner.

–  Rechargeable battery with heavy external charger.  Neither convenient nor practical for backpackers.

–  High maintenance.  This is supposed to be an adventure camera.  When you peruse the manual you’re given instructions to be careful about getting it wet.  Really?!  Don’t get a waterproof camera wet? If exposed to moisture of any kind, you’re to immediately dry the camera with a cloth.  Nice, Nikon.  Really nice.

–  Focus issues.  Though it performed admirably on macro and landscapes, anything in between was no-man’s land.  I have a slough of disappointing pictures of wildlife that I’ll  never get another chance to capture.  The automatic focus on this camera is a miserable, epic fail. Were it possible to buy a point-and-click adventure camera with manual focus, I’d be a happy man.

–  Digital zoom takes waaaaaaaaay too long to initiate. Missed a lot of shots waiting for it to kick in.

– Shutter lag. Pretty severe and at seemingly random intervals.

– Resolution.  The AW100 boasts 16 megapixels.  Again, great color and detail on macros and landscapes but anything in between is washed-out and sort of hazy in appearance.  Dana’s 8 mega-pixel Sony consistently gets strikingly better shots than the Nikon. Without exaggeration, many of the 2 or 3 mp shots from my crappy phone camera look better than the results from the Nikon. No excuse.

-It locks up.  No kidding.  This happened, not once, but repeatedly. If I left the power on for more than a few minutes without snapping a pic, it would completely lock up. The only way I could restore function was to open the battery compartment, eject the battery, re-install the battery, close the compartment and cut the camera back on. Geez.

The Gist

Nice try Nikon.  Some cool features but bells and whistles do not a camera make. Let’s start with the basics:  A good camera should take good pictures. Fail. Just praying Costco will let me return this since I left the inconvenient packaging in Montana.

 

Update:  Costco was amazing!  The store in Greenville gave me a full refund plus an adjustment in sales tax, with nearly no questions asked despite the fact that I purchased the camera in Montana and had neither the original packaging nor the receipt.  Thanks Costco!  You guys ROCK!