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Nikon Coolpix AW110

16MP | 28-140mm (5X) Zoom | $279/£229/€289
>> Click here to read full review

Nikon is a relatively new entrant into the world of compact underwater/rugged cameras, much like its arch rival, Canon. Its original model, the AW100, was announced in Fall of 2011, and then replaced in January 2013 by the Coolpix AW110.

The Coolpix AW110 is quite similar to its predecessor, retaining its design, sensor, and lens. So what's new? The AW110 is more rugged, sports a sharper OLED display, and supports Wi-Fi for easy photo sharing.

Specification Highlights

  • 16.0 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • F3.9-F4.8, 28-140mm equivalent zoom lens (5X)
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 3-inch OLED display with 614,000 dots
  • Built-in GPS with compass, manometer, landmarks, maps, and tracking
  • Waterproof to 18m, shockproof from 2m, freezeproof to -10C
  • 'Action Control' allows for camera control while wearing gloves
  • Wi-Fi allows for image sharing and remote control with smartphones/tablets
  • 'Quick Effects' lets you choose from a selection of special effects immediately after a photo is taken
  • 1080/30p movie mode with stereo sound

As mentioned above, the Coolpix AW110 uses the same 16 megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor as the AW100. BSI sensors, as they are known, promise higher sensitivity than traditional CCD and CMOS designs, by allowing more light to hit the photosites. Unfortunately, the AW110's lens doesn't help with high sensitivity / low light shooting, as it has a maximum aperture of F3.9-4.8, which means that it's not letting in as much light as a camera with a 'faster' lens.

The AW110 features an F3.9-4.8, 28-140mm zoom lens. It bears a strong resemblance to the lens on the Canon PowerShot D20, and it wouldn't surprise us if they're the same unit.

To its left you'll find the AF-assist lamp, which can also be used to brighten the scene when recording movies.

The Coolpix AW110 is one of the most rugged cameras on the market, though it doesn't feel like it when you pick it up. While the front plate is metal, the rest of the camera is composite. The camera has clean lines, with the only protrusions being one for the GPS and lens on the top, and the locking mechanism for the side door. The AW110 is available in orange, black, blue, and even camouflage.

As the photo above shows, the AW110 is a very thin camera (for its class), but it's slippery and lacks a grip.

The Coolpix AW110 has an OLED display with 614,000 dots. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to see outdoors and underwater. If that sounds familiar, the Olympus TG-2 (which may have the same display) has the same problem.

The AW110's built-in flash has a maximum flash range of 5.2m at wide-angle and 4.2m at telephoto (at Auto ISO, which maxes out at ISO 1600).

Since nobody wants to take photos at ISO 1600 on a compact camera, the flash range at a more reasonable ISO 400 is just 1.3m at wide-angle and 1.1m at telephoto.

The lamp next to the flash isn't just for AF-assist or counting down the self-timer. It can also be turned on while recording movies, to brighten up the scene. Unfortunately, the LED isn't terribly large (especially compared to the Olympus TG-2 that we recently reviewed), so it doesn't do a whole lot.

If you're looking for a camera that can go deeper underwater than any other, the AW110 is for you. It can go a whopping 18 meters (59 feet) under the sea, whereas the best of its peers is limited to 15 meters. The AW110 can also be dropped from 2 meters (6.6 feet) and, as you might expect, is also dustproof.

The AW110's I/O ports, battery, and memory card slot are all behind a single door. This door is protected by a rubber gasket, to keep out water and dust. The AW110 has a very simple way of opening its side door. Simply press the button in the center and rotate the dial.

Shooting Modes

The Coolpix AW110 is a great camera if you like scene modes and special effects. If you're looking for manual controls, don't expect a whole lot. The shooting modes include Easy Auto (virtually no menu options and automatic scene selection), 'regular' Auto (full access to camera settings), scene and special effects, and Smart Portrait.

The AW110's shooting mode menu - activated by pressing the button with the green camera on it - is loaded with scene modes. The main menu is simple and easy to navigate. You can see a description of each scene mode by pressing 'up' on the zoom controller, but the same isn't true for the rest of the menu.

The Smart Portrait feature takes advantage of the camera's face, smile, and blink detection features. When a subject smiles, the camera takes a picture. If someone has blinked, the camera will warn you, and you can try again. And, if the photographer desires, they can turn on a 'skin softening' effect to remove blemishes.

The Coolpix AW110 is unique in that you can apply special effects in three different ways: before the shot, immediately after, and in playback mode. The second feature on that list is called Quick Effects, and when turned on, will let you press the 'OK' button to bring up a list of effects that you can apply. There are six options to choose from before the shot is taken (soft, sepia, monochrome, high and low key, and selective color) and twenty-four afterward (such as painting, toy camera, cross screen, and miniature effect). The choices in playback mode are the same as for Quick Effects.

For underwater shooting, the AW110 has one option, which is a scene mode. There is no underwater white balance setting, unlike on some of its peers.

As for manual controls, there are just two, for custom white balance and exposure compensation.

Wi-Fi

The Coolpix AW110 is one of several rugged cameras to have Wi-Fi built right in. It's a relatively simple system, which allows you to 1) take photos from your smartphone or tablet and 2) transfer photos from the camera to your mobile device. If you want to send photos to social networking and photo sharing sites, you'll have to go through your phone or tablet first.

The AW110 creates its own wireless network, to which you'll pair your phone or tablet. Before you can do that, you'll need to download the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility for iOS or Android. Once that's done, you'll be able to take control of the camera.

When composing a photo on your smartphone you can adjust the zoom and take a photo. In 'playback mode' you can view the photos on the camera, and choose which are transferred over. Once they're on your mobile device, they can be sent onward via e-mail or other services.

When transferring photos from the camera to your phone, you have the choice of full resolution or VGA. You can also set the camera's clock, though you can also use the GPS for that purpose.

GPS

The Coolpix AW110 has a fully loaded GPS feature. In addition to the normal GPS features (in other words, locating itself), the camera can also save your current depth (thanks to a pressure meter), the direction you were facing, and nearest landmark. Want to see where you took your photos on a map? It can do that too.

Look closely at the bottom of screenshot to see the landmark (which is accurate) and the altitude. At the far right is the direction the photographer was facing. Something's missing, though: your coordinates. In map view you can see where you took the selected photo (the yellow circle on the map) and where others have been taken. The compass is used here as well, showing the direction in which you took the photo.

The AW110 has a robust landmark database, and covers most of the major spots in the world, from Paris to Seattle. The camera doesn't always guess the correct landmark, but thankfully Nikon lets you 'back up' a step, so it would just show the city instead of the incorrect landmark name. You can also delete the landmark data entirely.

Another common GPS feature you'll find on the Coolpix AW110 is logging, which turns on the GPS every once in a while (even when the camera is off) and saves a file which can be imported into the included ViewNX2 software or Google Earth. You can then see the exact path you took while taking your photos. Do note that this feature will drain the camera's battery even faster.

The AW110 impressed us with its GPS reception. Out on the relatively open terrace atop DPReview headquarters, the camera took just ten seconds to locate itself (due in part to the A-GPS data we loaded into it previously). Where many cameras struggle in the big city, the Coolpix did surprising well, even when surrounded by buildings and trees.

Movies

The Coolpix AW110 has a pretty standard movie mode for a compact camera in 2013. You can record video at 1080/30p for up to thirty minutes simply by pressing the dedicated 'red button' on the back of the camera. Sound is recorded in stereo, as you'd expect. Other available resolutions include a lower quality 1080/30p setting as well as 720p and 480p.

The AW110 supports full-time autofocus while recording movies, and the optical zoom can be used, as well. The only available manual control is a wind filter.

You can also record slow and high speed movies, ranging from 15 to 240 fps. When slow speed movies are played back at normal speed, everything appears to move quickly. The opposite is true when you shoot at high speeds. Do note that the resolution is decreased when using the high speed movie modes.

You'll find a couple of sample videos on the following page.

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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 10, 2013)

From this lineup, Lumix and Nikon are about the only ones you would not be ashamed of being seen as a user.

There rest are just Comedy Central.

.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

not even...
Nikon: Not good for: Frequent shooting in bright light, pixel peepers, or those who want long battery life
Panasonic Lumix: "Photo quality is typical for this class. Fine details are often smudged and chromatic aberrations can be strong at times." Not good for: Low light

0 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Aug 10, 2013)

does GoPro and Astac 7200 fit into this category ?

0 upvotes
Rod McD
By Rod McD (Aug 10, 2013)

Hi DPR, thanks for your review.

People buy these things because there's no alternative other than a bigger camera and a housing. I'd like to see a manufacturer opt for a new approach. Year after year your reviews (and others) comment on their small sensors and poor IQ. The internet is also littered with leak complaints and poor company response on guarantees.

There seems to be a view that wilderness/outdoor/water sport followers don't value better IQ, which is absolutely untrue. And that serious photographers should have a D4 in a housing. Try stuffing one of those in your life jacket. The middle ground - the old Nikonos - is gone.

We need a manufacturer to make a robust, WR, direct light path camera with an APSC sensor, a fixed 24-85eq zoom (or primes) and real "O" rings. One 25mm "O" ring cover could give access to an SD card, a shaped battery and USB plug. Add a decent grip. And useable with gloves please.

Yes it would be bigger and cost more. But worth every cent.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
Treeshade
By Treeshade (Aug 10, 2013)

Most of these cameras are not only water-proof but also shock-proof - they are not just for diving, but also for skiing, skating, mountain-biking, etc.. It would be really difficult to shock-proof an APSC standard zoom.

Imagine the thickness of a 58mm fliter that would not break when dropped to the ground with a 1kg body crushing it.

But I agree that it would be fantastic be have, for example, a weatherproof tough X100s.

1 upvote
breth
By breth (Aug 10, 2013)

Agree with Rod. I can't be completely sure, but I believe there is a good market out there for a WR aps-c sensor serious compact. Not only would it be the backpacker's ultimate camera for convenience, I think that perhaps it would also interest streetshooters who like to get photos in the rain, or other less than perfect conditions.
If Ricoh-Pentax would use their expertise in designing cameras like this, I see no reason why a serious WR compact would not be a hit. A WR Ricoh GR would perhaps not have to be much bigger than it already is - and even if it would be, it still would be very attractive to a lot of backpackers.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd settle for a waterproof RX100.

it would seem like a reasonable compromise.

2 upvotes
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd even be happy with a waterproof DMC LX7. But even this seems highly unlikely to happen...

2 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I completely agree with all these comments. A waterproof and ruggedized Ricoh GR or Nikon Coolpix A would be a great outdoor sport camera. Also, Nikon wants to revitalise the Nikon 1? Bring out a fully waterproof and shockproof model with a couple similarly toughened primes to match. It's already got the great autofocus that would be good for skiing etc. Nikonos reborn!

2 upvotes
LaFonte
By LaFonte (Aug 10, 2013)

It is extremely expensive to make waterproof "real" camera that would withstand more than a year of use. On all professional equipment you have to regularly change the o-rings and take pretty good care of the housing. A grain of sand can make waterproof camera no longer waterproof.
All of those small wp cameras are basically with planned 1 year obsolescence. They are cheap inside so if they start leaking, then you throw it away and get new one. Many of those would leak after some time, some even after first dip :-)
You definitely don't want a wp expensive camera like rx100 or x100 and nobody will make it. If you need wp you will buy a marina case that is probably more expensive than the camera itself, but it will protect your equipment.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Sony rx100 option here below.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/909217-REG/Ikelite_6116_10_Housing_For_Sony.html

0 upvotes
tiberius_dinu
By tiberius_dinu (Aug 10, 2013)

I have bought the Lumix TS5 and I'm very pleased with it. The image quality is as good as it can be in this class but would not care more about. I do shoot Canon 6D but I can not take in the water or running or snorkeling. The video is as advertised and it looks awesome and that was one of te reasons I opted for TS5. I had no issues with the wifi and it connects smoothly to my ipad, iPhone and the LG android I'm using. Neat to be able to control the zoom and the settings in the camera remotely.

Thanks for the reviews I did follow them and it did help me.

Cheers

T

2 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Would have liked to have seen some mention/discussion of options out there using dedicated or aftermarket housings in conjunction with standard compact cameras. Ie. Can u get a better performing camera + housing for not much price difference?

1 upvote
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

This is the review you should have made to begin with instead of giving every single rugged camera its own review. Why do you assign these cameras for review rather than the many mirrorless cameras you have skipped or may be about to skip over like the GF5, G5, GF6, G6, E-PL5, NEX-5R, NEX-3N, just off the top of my head. Not a single one of your six individual rugged reviews got even 100 comments. I guarantee you that any one of the cameras I mentioned would get more than 100 comments if it was still the current model.

5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 10, 2013)

We don't judge success by comments - if we did, every other news story would be about Adobe Creative Cloud.

16 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

Simon Joinson himself said that you judge success by traffic and I'm sure there's a strong correlation between number of comments and number of page views.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

bah! come on!
no harm was done.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

We're talking about cameras that should have been reviewed and weren't, not whatever your definition of "harm" is.

0 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I doubt there is a correlation between comments and page views. Most page views surely come from people who are not registered members of the site. DPReview reviews cameras that will generate more page hits, so why budget DSLRs are reviewed in a timely fashion and also consumer friendly cams like these rugged cameras (summer's almost over though, these are a bit late I'd say).

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

If you honestly think that a review with 50 comments and a preview with 700 comments are equally likely to have the most page views between the two, you are completely delusional. More likely is that you just don't understand correlation very well.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 11, 2013)

Barney makes a good point. A doorstop from Nikon will generate 10 times more comments than an unusual or outstanding camera from a small fry like Ricoh.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 11, 2013)

Nikon Coolpix AW110 Review: 77 comments
Ricoh GR Review: 214 comments
Panasonic GX7 First Impressions Review: 702 comments (and counting)

Want to try again?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 29 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 12, 2013)

Mikhail - please stop it.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 12, 2013)

Can you be more specific? What I've done here is to refute people's factually inaccurate statements, is that not allowed? Or if I have myself said anything inaccurate in this chain of replies, please explain that as well. Thank you.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 123
12