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.
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.
We think it's safe to say that, if the AW110 had a Raw mode, you could probably get some of that fine detail back. But since it (and all of its peers) does not, this is the best you'll get.
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
Another thing we learned from real-world use of the Coolpix AW110 and its underwater compact peers is that it's best to shoot at wide-angle. The main reason is because the lens is faster at wide-angle than it is at telephoto, and you want as much light as possible for underwater photos. Also, shooting wider gives you a bigger safety margin for framing, which is trickier underwater than on land.
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
The first of our two underwater photos was taken just beneath the surface, with the fish directly in front of the camera, instead of below. It's a short clip, but we think you'll still get a feel for the quality.
|1920 x 1080, 30p, 16.4 Mbps, 8.3 MB, 4 secs Click here to download original video|
Sample Video 3
The second 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 the 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.