Nikon 1 AW1 £699
19th Sep 2013 | 04:02
Is the world's first waterproof interchangeable lens camera a winner?
The Nikon 1 series of interchangeable lens cameras is now very familiar. Offering a smaller sensor than pretty much all of its rivals, the latest introduction by the company may be an excitement shot in the arm that the range needs right now.
Featuring a one-inch (CX format) sensor as found on all other Nikon 1 system cameras, the AW1 has a 14.2 million-pixel device. It also features an EXPEED 3A image processor and other standard Nikon 1 features, such as Motion Snapshot, Slow View, 15fps continuous AF and so on.
However, there are several features which are unique to the AW1 in the 1 line-up, which come as part of its rugged/adventure credentials. It features an electronic compass, horizon level, GPS and GLONASS and an altimeter/depth gauge.
There's also features such as Underwater Mode and Action Mode, to make taking shots in different 'adventure' scenarios easy.
In terms of its proofing credibility, it's waterproof down to 15 metres, shockproof from two metres, dustproof and freezeproof down to -10 degrees celcius.
This new introduction brings the number of lines in the Nikon 1 range up to four. There's the V range, aimed at more advanced enthusiasts, the J and S ranges for beginners and now the AW range, which seems also to be aimed at advanced enthusiasts.
Existing Nikon 1 owners should be pleased to know that the AW1 is compatible with the existing range of Nikon 1 lenses – although of course none of those are rugged.
Although there are no other cameras currently on the market which directly compete with the AW1, the pricing suggests that it competes with mid-range cameras such as the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Sony NEX-5R.
Build Quality and Handling
The AW1 is substantially larger than the cameras in the J and S range, but keeps a similar type of flat, rectangular shape (as opposed to the V2, which features a DSLR style grip). The standard kit lens is also pretty bulky, leading to an overall body size which is fairly large.
Anybody that has used a Nikon 1 camera before will be familiar with the layout on the back of the camera. It's a pretty sensible arrangement, with everything pretty easily reachable with a thumb. The buttons all protrude fairly far from the body and are reasonably tactile, which is especially important for a rugged camera as they tend to be used in slippery or gloved hands.
To aid use further, Action Mode is accessed by holding down a button to the right of the thumb grip on the back of the camera and then simply tipping the camera from side to side to quickly switch between different modes, such as fully automatic, creative and movie mode.
For more quick transitions, a function button – the up button on the four way navigational pad – enables speedy access to commonly used settings, such as white balance.
Removing the camera's lens is quite tough, since both the lens and the mount feature a rubber mount. The friction here means it's pretty much impossible to accidentally slip the lens off. Although the camera and lens is waterproof (etc), you'll still need to change lenses on dry land as taking the lens off obviously exposes the cameras innards.
Despite the Nikon 1's relatively small sensor, we have been pleased with the cameras in the range, particularly at the enthusiast end of the line.
Although we can't comment on image quality at this stage of the review, we're hopeful that the AW1 takes the lead from the V2 and produces more good images.
We'll also be keen to fully test the rugged credentials of the camera, particularly the waterproofing.
A special "outdoor" mode has also been developed to make menus clearer and easier to see, something that should come in especially useful when shooting in muddy or unclear waters. Again, this is something that we'll be keen to test out fully when a full review sample becomes available.
The Nikon 1 AW1 is probably the most excited we've felt about a camera in the Nikon 1 range.
Although popular with many consumers thanks to the Nikon brand and small size, the larger sensors on other compact system cameras generally mean that the Nikon 1 range is seen as a bit of a poor relation.
However, by producing an interchangeable lens camera that is water, shock, dust and freezeproof, Nikon is finally giving it a unique selling point that may just tempt some users away from the other major players in the CSC arena.
Hopefully, image quality will also prove to be good to make it something really very interesting.
Look out for a full review in due course.