Nikon 1 AW1 review

Waterproof wonder

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Forget image quality and normal camera performance measures for a moment. The first thing that blows your mind when you encounter the AW1 is how an interchangeable lens camera can survive being dropped from head-height onto concrete. This certainly gets a few worried glances from onlookers, as does dunking the camera underwater without a bulky great housing around it.

Strangely, nobody on the digital camera team here was thrilled at the idea of diving in Britain's chilly coastal waters to test Nikon's 15m depth rating, but the AW1 sailed through more modest underwater excursions. It also survived plenty of gratuitous drops, though one did redesign the front edge of the lens casing with a small dent, whilst a couple of impacts caused the pop-up flash to eject itself.

When you've finished abusing it and are ready to shoot, the AW1 is up for action in around two seconds. The swift hybrid autofocus system maintains this nippy pace, locking on to well-lit subjects almost immediately. In lower light this slows fractionally, but is still impressively fast.

Nikon 1 AW1 review

Exposure metering is another strong aspect of the AW1, accurately exposing in backlit and high-contrast scenarios, especially when the Backlighting mode is activated. In normal conditions Nikon's Active D-Lighting can increase dynamic range to varying degrees by holding back highlights and boosting shadow areas.

Image quality from the J3-derived sensor is decent enough, but the AW1's price hike over the J3 puts it up against rivals more accomplished in this area.

The camera's fortés are its accurate yet punchy colour reproduction and respectable JPEG dynamic range.

However, the relatively small CX-format sensor can't quite resolve the detail of larger, more pixel-packed designs and it also increases image noise levels across the sensitivity scale. Even at the base ISO160 setting some noise is visible in shadow areas of well-lit shots, though you do have to be an ardent pixel peeper to spot it.

By ISO800 there's more grain than you'd expect for a camera in this price bracket and, whilst both luminance and chroma noise are still under control at ISO3200, detail takes a noticeable turn for the worst. This would be less problematic if the AW1 had some form of image stabilisation, but without it ISO3200 is regularly required to keep handheld shots sharp without resorting to the flash.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution14.2 Megapixel
Wide AngleYes
Product Family1
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Image StabilizationNo
Optical Zoom2.5x
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameNikon
DurabilityWater Proof, Shock Proof, Freeze Proof
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode, Live View, Orientation Sensor, Face Detection
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMOV, MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
Weight (Approximate)313 g
Image Sensor Size13.20 mm x 8.80 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4608 x 3072
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height71.5 mm
Width113.5 mm
Depth37 mm
Focal Length11 mm to 27.50 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashNo
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerNikon Corporation
Product ModelAW1
Product Name1 AW1 Mirrorless Camera
Product Line1
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part Number27669
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Built For Life

Stay in the action. From outdoor adventures to family events, don't miss a moment with the world's first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera. The Nikon 1 AW1 is built for life with astonishingly fast autofocus, rugged construction and an intuitive interface. From the epic to the everyday, it delivers high-quality images.