Nikon Coolpix AW100 Review

4.0
November 16, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel High JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6.5Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix AW100 produced images of above average quality during the review period. The 16 megapixel sensor used in the AW100 suffers from noisy images even at the relatively slow speed of ISO 200. ISO 400 exhibits quite visible noise and colour desaturation, and ISO 800 and 1600 are even noisier, although still usable for small prints. The fastest seting of ISO 3200 is best avoided altogether.

The Coolpix AW100 dealt well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing mostly in high contrast situations. The flash worked fairly well indoors, with a little red-eye and adequate exposure, except in the corners of the frame at the wide-angle setting. The night photograph was poor, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds not allowing you to capture enough light.

Macro performance is very good, allowing you to focus as close as 1cms away from the subject. The images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera setting if you don't like the default results. Anti-shake is a feature that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range, while the new range of special effects and the Easy Panorama mode allow you to add a little in-camera creativity to your photos.

Noise

There are 6 ISO settings available on the Nikon Coolpix AW100.  Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix AW100's 5x zoom lens offers a fairly versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:

28mm

140mm

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

There are two JPEG quality settings available at full resolution, Normal and High. On the camera, the latter is denoted with an asterisk next to the megapixel count. The Coolpix AW100 doesn't shoot RAW. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options.

16M High (6.81Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Normal (3.21Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

For a camera with an internally stacked zoom, the Nikon Coolpix AW100 handled chromatic aberrations well. Here are a couple of 100% crops that show what you can expect in the worst case.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Nikon Coolpix AW100 has a very good macro mode. The minimum focus distance is 1cm. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject. The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix AW100 are Auto, Flash On, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchro and Off. These shots of a white wall were taken at a subject distance of 1.5m. It is obvious that the flash struggles to evenly illuminate the entire subject at the wide end of the zoom range, but the flash coverage issue is much less severe at the maximum telephoto setting. In the photos taken without flash, we can also see a bit of light fall-off in the corners.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. The flash has a red-eye reduction setting, though in this test there was not much of a redeye effect to begin with.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Nikon Coolpix AW100's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Fireworks scene mode, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 125. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Night Landscape

The Nikon AW100 has a Night Landscape mode that increases the ISO to produce sharper results, although at the expense of greater noise.

Night Landscape

Night Landscape (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

Vibration Reduction is Nikon's name for anti-shake, which in the Coolpix AW100 works via a sensor-shift mechanism. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/10th / 28mm
     
0.5 sec / 140mm

Special Effects

The new Effects mode offers a variety of creative options.

Off

Soft

   

Nostalgic Sepia

High-contrast Monochrome

   

High Key

Low Key

   

Selective Color (red)

 
 

Easy Panorama

The Easy Panorama shooting mode lets you pan the AW100 either vertically or horizontally to create an auto-stitched panorama.

Normal (180 degrees)
 
Wide (360 degrees)

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, 1080p, 16 megapixel, hdmi, nikon, 5x zoom, coolpix, waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, action, shock proof, water proof, freeze proof, aw100, Nikon Coolpix AW100 Review

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