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Nikon 1 AW1 review

Waterproof wonder

We have to hand it to Nikon for introducing a toughened, yet attractive, waterproof system camera with plenty of features and decent performance.

Sure, other cameras will give you better image quality for the money, but some compromises have to be made to make this kind of versatility available at a relatively accessible price point.

Only the Olympus OM-D EM-1 manages to be splash-, dust- and freeze-proof, but it's still not fully waterproof or indeed as rugged as the AW1, plus it costs significantly more.

However, you can't ignore the competition from cheaper ruggedized compact cameras such as the Panasonic FT5 with its more versatile focal length range and respectable image quality.

The compactness of these cameras is invariably more appealing for action photography, as are common features like image stabilisation. The AW1's 30cm minimum focus distance is also no match for the super-close 1cm macro modes available on several toughened compacts. It's not as if the AW1 gives you any extra features or any more manual controls than Nikon's own AW110 waterproof compact either.

Of course you could solve any lens and stabilisation shortcomings by playing the AW1's interchangeable lens trump card, but then you'll compromise the camera's rugged abilities and in doing so lose the key benefit it has over the cheaper J3.

In the end the AW1's appeal hinges almost entirely on how much you'll use its toughness, and whether Nikon releases more toughened lenses with a greater focal length range and Vibration Reduction.

But as it stands the AW1 performs well, produces acceptable shots in most conditions and has unparalleled go-anywhere abilities. It's certainly a fine choice for those who'll value it's toughness over the lack of manual controls and current lens-based compromises.

Nikon 1 AW1 review

We liked

The AW1 is a fresh and unique entry into the digital camera market and impresses not only with its toughness, but also its shooting performance and improved image quality over a rugged compact camera.

The useful action-orientated features come in handy and the camera is even blessed with some good looks.

We disliked

A limited selection of toughened lenses is the camera's biggest drawback, as it limits focal length range and maximum aperture, and rules out any image stabilisation.

Ditching a mode dial and hiding essential settings away in menus are more minor niggles but they still irritate, as do some fiddly rear controls.

Final verdict

The AW1 will get you decent shots well off the beaten track. The limited selection of toughened lenses are its biggest drawback, so we're hoping Nikon will expand the range soon.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
TouchscreenNo
Effective Camera Resolution14.2 Megapixel
GPSYes
USBYes
HDMIYes
Wide AngleYes
PictBridgeYes
Product Family1
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Image StabilizationNo
ColourWhite
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
Minimum Focus Distance300 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4608 x 3072
Maximum Frame Rate1200 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeCMOS
Total Camera Resolution15.1 Megapixel
Camera AssemblyBody with Lens Kit
Battery Model SupportedEN-EL20
Height71.5 mm
Width113.5 mm
Depth37 mm
Autofocus Points135
Focal Length11 mm to 27.50 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
Audio FormatsAAC
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerNikon Corporation
Product ModelAW1
Product Name1 AW1 Mirrorless Camera
Product Line1
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part Number27669
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.nikon.co.uk
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.

Battery Life220 Shot
Display Resolution921000 Pixel
Built-in DevicesSpeaker, Microphone