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!

 

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2 Responses to “Gear Review : Nikon AW 100 Cool Pix Adventure Camera”

  • Sounds like I’m still stuck with my bulky old D-80, but how heavy is the battery? Could you pack along an extra pre-charged one?

    • Yeah, buying an extra battery seems to be the solution. (And no, it wasn’t all that heavy.) It appears that most manufactureres of point and clicks have done away with disposable batteries. All in all that’s a good thing for those of us who wanna walk lightly on this terra firma but it does add some inconvenience. Solar chargers are another option. My little Samsung comes with a lightweight USB cable for charging as well as downloading. That seems to be a good solution. As for me, I’m still researching. I think I’ll look at the Olympus Tough 820 next. Hearing good things.

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