The Coolpix AW110 is very quick to start up, taking less than a second. That's good, since you can quickly catch a moment before it passes.
Autofocus speeds are above average for a compact camera, though they won't blow you away. In good light, the camera will lock focus in under half a second the majority of the time. In low light it took roughly a full second for focus lock. Shot-to-shot speeds were average, with delays of two seconds without the flash, and four with it.
The AW110 has a whopping seven continuous shooting modes, including two 'conventional' modes, another with a pre-shooting cache, and a another with ultra-high frame rates. Also available are Nikon's Best Shot Selection - which selects the best photo out of a burst of ten - and Multi-Shot 16, which creates a collage out of sixteen photos taken sequentially.
In the high speed, full resolution mode (Continuous H), the Coolpix was able to capture six shots at 7 fps. If you don't mind going a bit slower, the Continuous L mode took twenty-six shots in a row at 2 fps. Do note that the camera is inoperable for a full minute while it saves the photos taken in Continuous L mode to the memory card.
The Coolpix AW110 uses a 3.9 Wh lithium-ion battery, and its 250 shot per charge battery life (CIPA testing) number is among the worst in the waterproof category. Since that number is derived with the GPS turned off, expect a lot less if you're using that feature - especially the logging function. The battery is charged externally, and takes about 2.5 hours to charge from empty.
When you're taking photos above sea level, you'll be pleased with what the Coolpix AW110 can produce. It tends to pick the right exposure most of the time, with only occasional overexposure. Like nearly all compact cameras in its class, it will clip highlights at times, and since there's no RAW mode or any highlight recovery tools on the camera, there's not much you can do about it. Colors are vivid, which many people will find appealing. Chromatic aberrations aren't a huge issue, though you will spot them near the edges of the frame at times. Something else you'll find near the edges of the frame - especially the corners - is blurring, which is common on folded optics lenses.
In terms of detail capture, the AW110 is a mixed bag. High contrast subjects look good, but low contrast objects - especially grass, trees, and hair - will be smudged due to heavy-handed noise reduction. Thats said, the vast majority of potential AW110 owners won't be viewing 16MP images at 100%. Rather, they'll be downsizing them for sharing with friends on Facebook, or perhaps printing them at 4x6 or 5x7 inches. One situation in which detail loss does become relevant is when you're cropping, which will make the smudging more apparent.
Don't expect miracles when the ISO sensitivity is set to 800 or 1600. Details get very smudged, making this setting best for small prints and web viewing. The ISO 3200 setting is best left alone, as there's virtually no fine detail left.
The Coolpix AW110 performed fairly well underwater, but as mentioned earlier, the OLED display is very hard to see in these situations. The camera was able to keep the ISO down to its base level (125), so was able to capture plenty of detail. The main issue here - found on the majority of waterproof cameras - is a bluish color cast. The semi-included ViewNX2 software (you have to download it) can't fix this issue, but more capable software (including Photoshop) does a good job.
|Aside from the bluish color cast, this this photo of a yellow tang looks pretty good. You can click here to see what the photo looks like after a trip through the 'Auto Color' feature in Photoshop CS6.
ISO 125, 1/500 sec; f/4.5
For more sample photos and analysis, please read our full review of the Coolpix AW110.
As we mentioned on the previous page, the Coolpix AW110 can record up to a half-hour of 1080/30p video with stereo sound. We have three examples below for your viewing pleasure.
Sample Video 1
This first video shows a seaplane taxing from its mooring. The wind filter is turned on, and appears to do a good job. The video is sharp, with vivid color, with the only annoyance being some choppiness near the end of the clip.
|1920 x 1080, 30p, 16.7 Mbps, 33.6 MB, 16 secs Click here to download original video|
Sample Video 2
Our underwater video sample was taken with the fish below the camera. Since there's quite a bit of sand being kicked up, the quality isn't quite as good as when fish are right next to you.
|1920 x 1080, 30p, 15.4 Mbps, 19.4 MB, 10 secs Click here to download original video|
As with its underwater still photos, the Coolpix AW110's videos also suffer from a blue cast. Unless you're a real video whiz, that's going to be hard to correct.
While the Coolpix AW110 doesn't lead the pack in terms of image quality it is, by far, the best value in the group. It offers one of the best feature sets in the rugged camera space, yet is priced anywhere from $15 to $60 less than its peers. It offers robust performance, one of the best GPS implementations out there, and built-in Wi-Fi.
That said, the AW110's image quality isn't great. While color and exposure are generally pleasing, fine details have an over-processed, smudged appearance. Panoramas stitched in-camera are low resolution and have poor quality, as well. However, if you keep in mind that most buyers of the AW110 won't be viewing their photos at 100% on a 27-inch display, these problems aren't as big of an issue as they sound. The AW110 also loses points for its mediocre OLED display visibility outdoors, and sub-par battery life.
If you want a budget-friendly underwater camera that's packed to the gills with features (pun intended) and you won't be 'pixel peeping', then the AW110 is worth a look. Just be sure to test out the OLED display before you buy.