Pro Photo

Nikon 1 AW1

A blazing fast mirrorless camera that is waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof.

I used to carry the indestructible Nikonos V with me on many of my adventure sports assignments. Shooting stories for Canoe and Kayak, I ventured from the iceberg-choked waters of Alaska to the steamy tropics of Honduras.  One piece of gear that never failed was my waterproof Nikonos.  I longed for a camera that might come close in durability.  Naturally, when the Nikon AW1 was introduced, I was first in line to get one.  Had my replacement camera finally arrived?

Here are just some of the amazing features of this camera.  To start, the AW1 is waterproof to 49 feet, freezeproof to 14 degrees and shockproof to 6.6 feet.  This is my dream camera…one I can drop in the river, on the rock or in the snow, and pick it up and keep shooting.  Not only is the camera waterproof, but it has interchangeable lenses.  The AW1 come with an 11-27.5mm zoom lens (equivilant of a 30-74mm in terms of 35mm) and also can use a fixed 20mm (27mm equivilant).  The lenses have a robust rubber gasket that seals out water when they are attached.  The AW1 has a 14.2 MP CMOS sensor, and can shoot at 15FPS with full autofocus (60FPS with fixed focus).  The camera has no viewfinder but instead has a large bright LCD on the back to help compose and review images. Full 1080 HD video is available at 30p or 60i.  GPS is included for geotagging your secret photo locations.  The camera uses SD flash cards inserted in a waterproof slot along with the battery.  The AW1 has a popup flash that is also waterproof.

That is quite an impressive list of features.  But AW1 offers a few others that really caught my attention.  One of my favories is the built in altimeter/depth gauge.  Yep, you can figure out how high you are on the mountain or how deep you are in warm Caribbean waters.  The AW1 also offers a way to select your shooting mode by simply holding the camera at a different angle until the mode is selected.  This feature is very convenient when you are shooting with gloves on and don't have lots of dexterity.  Another cool feature is underwater mode.  Choose this to correct that nasty green color shift when you shoot underwater.  Other features that are very useful are the built in level, simple exposure compensation and informative display with histogram.  If you use Nikon SLRs, you will feel right at home with this camera.

I have been shooting the AW1 in a variety of situations from polar bears on Hudson Bay to chilly high mountain streams in Colorado.  And I'm impressed.  The AW1's 14.2mp sensor cranks out tack sharp images with accurate colors.  The autofocus is fast, and very important, so is the image processing before you can take the next shot.  Many point and shoots struggle after capture to write the files, but the AW1 is almost instantaneous (use a fast SD card for best results).  I use the single point autofocus and easily get sharp focus.  What is really incredible is shooting at 15fps.  I just wait for a mountain biker to fly past on the trail, and blaze away right at the critical moment.  I have more frames than ever to choose the best shot.  Attach the 20mm lens and I can compose over/under paddling shots.  Or take it snorkeling.  This camera is versitle.

The AW1 has some cool accessories.  Wireless shooting is available via the Nikon WU-1b Wireless Moblie Adapter (not underwater).  You can shoot, compose and review photos from wireless devices like smart phones and iPads.  A rubber body/lens cover is available for easier handling in the water.  If you are looking for a durable, waterproof camera with great image quality, check out the Nikon AW1.  Retail kit price (body and 11-27.5mm lens) $799.95.

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