As you'd hope, for a camera designed to appeal to active photographers, the Nikon Coolpix AW100 offers quick focusing and shooting speed.
The AF tracking is fast, and the high-speed continuous shooting mode is capable of capturing up to three full-res images at a speed of 7.1 frames per second (although you'll need plenty of light in order to hit this). We did find, though, that the autofocus struggled for acquisition when lighting conditions were less than ideal.
For a weatherproofed camera, the Nikon Coolpix AW100 is capable of decent picture quality. As you'd expect with a 16MP compact camera, noise is an issue - even with the type of backlit CMOS sensor Nikon has used here to improve speed and low light ability.
The lowest ISO setting is 125, and even then details can look a little gritty. It's not enough to be a problem though, unless you're pixel-peeping.
During our field tests, sharpness dropped a little at ISO 200, although it wasn't until ISO 800 that there was an intrusive increase in noise and smeared detail that results from noise reduction. Thankfully, the Auto ISO setting won't select a sensitivity higher than ISO 800, while Fixed Range Auto sticks from 125-400. At ISO 1600 colours and contrast weaken markedly, and by ISO 3200 clean edges and fine details are lost.
In terms of exposure and colour balance, the Nikon Coolpix AW100 put in a good performance. The 3-inch screen has a slightly warm colour balance and is very bright, which helps when shooting in direct sunlight or murkier conditions underwater.
However, it does mean that exposures can appear more generous than when they're analysed on a computer.