Swimming with the Nikon 1 AW1
2 Into the Sea
Into the Sea
Having got the camera ready, it was time to take the AW1 into the clear waters off of Kaanapali Beach. I was immediately impressed with many traits of the camera, including its super-fast AF system, burst mode (makes it a lot easier to get a moving fish into the frame), and relatively good color accuracy. Even better, I was shooting Raw+JPEG, so I knew in the back of my mind that I could adjust color and noise reduction later.
If you're more of a point-and-shoot person, you can simply put the AW1 into underwater mode and dive in. An adjustment slider shown on the LCD lets you adjust the color tone, to remove any unwanted color cast.
|Looking good straight out of the camera. Cropped, ISO 280, 1/500 sec, f/5.6|
|The original version of this photo had pretty low contrast due to the murky water. We used the Raw image to produce the much more pleasant image you see above. Processed with ACR 8.3 and cropped, ISO 360, 1/250 sec, f/5.6|
|This example was taken on a cloudy day, so things are a bit dark. Even at ISO 1400, the AW1 still produces photos good enough for midsize prints and web sharing. ISO 1400, 1/500 sec, f/5.6|
It didn't take me long to discover something I didn't like about the AW1 - I had a hard time seeing what was on the LCD. Soon that didn't matter, though, as the battery died after roughly 30 minutes of snorkeling (starting with a 2/3rds charge). It's definitely worth bringing a spare and keeping the GPS turned off if you want the battery to last, as the EN-EL20 battery is only rated for 250 shots (CIPA standard).
I went back to the room for awhile, washed the camera in fresh water, and let it dry out with the various doors open. While recharging the battery, I took another look at the manual to see if I could make the screen more visible. Turns out you can, by setting the brightness to 'Hi' and turning on the 'high contrast display' option.
After giving the battery about an hour to charge, I checked all the seals and headed back to the beach. Moments after getting into the water a Hawaiian sea turtle pass right underneath me. The fast autofocus on the AW1 let me capture this incredible moment.
|I'm convinced that a compact camera could not have captured this incredible moment. ISO 200, 1/400 sec, f/3.5|
As soon as I took the photo of the turtle, I pressed the 'red button' to see if I could take a movie as well. The good news is that the AW1 was able to keep the turtle in focus as it swam away. The bad news is that the lack of image stabilization made for a very shaky video.
The Bad News, and the Good News
After the turtle disappeared, I continued to snorkel for another fifteen-or-so minutes. The next time I found something worth photographing, I glanced at the LCD, and noticed it was black, and that no matter which button I pressed, the camera wouldn't turn on. After returning to my room, I cleaned and dried the camera and charged the battery. Unfortunately, the AW1 was dead.
Upon returning to Seattle, Wash., the camera was returned to Nikon. The company tested the camera (which had corroded I/O ports at that point) and found that it passed their pressure test. Nikon said, 'some sort of environmental factor that is not currently present caused the leak'. In other words, foreign debris.
As an experienced user of these cameras, I had thoroughly inspected the AW1, yet some debris still made it in there. Nikon sent out a second AW1, which my colleague Erin Lodi took with her to Maui (you can tell that we enjoy the place). This AW1 went on numerous snorkeling trips, cliff dives, and hikes, and had no issues, aside from a few scrapes.
So, while we can’t conclude too much from a single incident, we can say that it’s worth being very thorough when preparing to use the camera underwater. If an underwater camera fails due to 'user error' (such as not checking the seals), the owner is most likely on the hook for the repair or replacement of the camera. With a price of $800, the AW1 is a substantial investment for most people. Our advice is to order an extended warranty with accidental damage coverage, or check with your homeowner or rental insurance company.
While not without its quirks, the Nikon 1 AW1 is arguably the best rugged camera I've tested. As you'd expect, photo quality is much better than a compact rugged camera, and Raw support allows you to tweak things like white balance and noise reduction to taste. The user interface is not enthusiast-friendly, and the battery drains quickly.
While there are just two 'rugged' lenses available at this point, neither have image stabilization. You can use other Nikon 1-System lenses with the AW1, but only above water. If you use these other lenses, don't forget to use the included O-Ring protector.
The leakage issue definitely concerned us, and we were relieved that our second camera had no issues. Even so, one must be extremely careful, as just a few grains of sand can end the AW1's life (or any other waterproof camera for that matter), and repairing or replacing it won't be cheap.
|Sunset in Maui. ISO 200, 1/400 sec, f/5.6|
The AW1 is a large camera, and is more of a burden to carry around than, say, the Olympus TG-2 (which was in my pocket while I snorkeled), but the image quality and performance is vastly better. Personally, I'd like something in the middle - perhaps a rugged Sony RX100 - which could provide the photo quality and controls that an enthusiast desires, without giving up portability.
What I liked
- Photo quality
- Raw support
- AF performance
What I didn't like
- Clunky controls
- Lack of IS on lenses
- Battery life
There are 30 photos in the Nikon 1 AW1 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
Nov 28, 2016
Nov 27, 2016
Dec 2, 2014
May 13, 2014
|Fascia walkie talkie building London by ian herridge|
from Abstract Architecture
|Global Reach by cjf2|
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."
The latest flagship phone from Asus combines a 12MP 1/2.55" Sony IMX362 main sensor with a smaller Sony IMX351 chip for 2x zoom and a background-blurring portrait mode.
The company behind popular photo editor Picktorial 3 just released the X-Pack: a preset package that allows you to add Fuji's in-camera film simulation profiles to your RAF files in post.
Photoshop. GoPro. Every once in a while a product emerges that defines a category. And sometimes, it vanishes just as quickly as it arrived on the scene. This week's Throwback Thursday remembers the Flip, the pocket camcorder everyone had – until they didn't.
The Nokia 8's dual-cam combines the image data from a 13MP RGB sensor and a 13 monochrome chip for better detail, improved dynamic range and lower noise levels.
The company behind retail giant B&H Photo has agreed to pay out $3.2 million in monetary relief and back wages to settle a discrimination and harassment case from 2016.
After a popular Facebook teaser and some studio portrait samples, Godox has finally officially released the Godox A1 smartphone flash and flash trigger. Cheap, versatile and innovative, color us intrigued.
Canon’s EOS 5D Mk IV has won the European Imaging and Sound Association’s Professional DSLR of the Year award, making this the third year in a row that the brand has beaten Nikon to the top spot in the professional camera category.
A photograph and quote tweeted out by former president Barack Obama has officially become the most popular tweet of all time, receiving over 1.3 million retweets and 3.4 million likes.
Edward Weston was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, and in this episode of Advancing Your Photography we learn the extreme technique he used to capture one of his most famous still life photos.
Instagram just released a small update that will make a huge difference if you're active on the photo sharing app: threaded comment replies.
Venus Optics has announced the price and delivery date of the second lens to join its Zero-D line up: the 15mm F2 for Sony’s E mount. A lens they've dubbed, "the world's fastest 15mm rectilinear lens for full-frame."
Cinnac is a new social network for photographers that will help you separate your good photos from your great ones through a Tinder-like community-based rating system.
The Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM is an understated jewel of a lens, and one that we've enjoyed on a variety of cameras since its release almost five years ago. Its relatively small size and image stabilization make it a versatile tool for a variety of photography - check out our sample gallery.
You don't need a fancy studio or tons of gear to capture the kind of classic product photography you see in magazines. In this video, Dustin Dolby shows you how to do it with just a couple of speedlights and some know-how.
The life-logging camera is trying to make a comeback. Say hello to FrontRow, a live-streaming enabled life-logging camera from Ubiquiti that hangs on a necklace like a pendant.
When a prospective client approaches you, don't just say "yes" right away. Here's a useful list of questions you should be asking before you decide to take the job and name your price.
Samsung just revealed a blazing-fast new Solid State Drive capable of data transfer speeds of up to 540MB/s.
DJI has developed a 'Local Data Mode' that lets pilots fly without being connected to the Internet. The mode should calm recent fears over data privacy and security when flying DJI drones.
After 1.7 million downloads on Apple computers since the launch in November 2015, Aurora HDR will be available for Windows PCs for the first time with the 2018 release.
The company behind the new Meyer Optik Goerlitz lens manufacturing business has formed a new brand to bring back the Biotar 75mm F1.5 that was made by Carl Zeiss Jena in the 1940s and 50s.
The updated Qualcomm Spectra system is a dual-camera setup that is capable of sensing depth and motion in real time.
A sizable swath of the United States will be treated to a total eclipse of the heart – er, sun – in just under a week. Here are a few excellent guides to help you photograph this rare occasion.
f11 Magazine—an ad-supported, free magazine for 'photographers and aficionados' that focused on photos rather than gear—is suspending publication due to financial troubles.
The Minolta MC Rokkor-X 40-80mm F2.8 is unlike any zoom lens you've probably ever seen. Instead of a helicoid, it uses a gearbox, and because of this it's still one of the sharpest zoom lenses out there.
If you're looking to switch to Sony, the company's new limited-time "α trade up" promotion can snag you up to $500 + trade-in value towards a brand new a9, a7 II, a7R II, or a7S II when you hand over your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
The Google Camera app exclusive to the company's own Pixel phone has been unofficially ported to other Android devices. If you're willing to take the risk of installing, you can now use features like HDR+ on the Galaxy S8, LG G6, OnePlus 5, and more.
49-year-old David Hilos is known by the Singapore photography community as the 'camera whisperer.' When a service center says a camera is beyond repair, Hilos can usually coax it back to life.
Photographer Ryan Kelly captured one of the most viral and graphic images of the horrifying events in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. This is the harrowing story behind that photograph.
Data storage manufacturer Synology has added a new, lower-cost NAS to its DiskStation j line that has a maximum capacity of 40TB, and which is aimed at home users and photography enthusiasts.