Nikon Coolpix AW100

The AW100 from Nikon is the latest rugged compact to hit the shelves and sports a slim and slender design that’s only 23mm thick. With a back-illuminated 16Mp CMOS sensor producing 4608x3456 pixels and a 5x optical zoom – equivalent to 28-140mm in film terms – this hardy compact boasts a tough construction. It can be submerged up to a depth of 10m, dropped from a height of 1.5m and is also freeze-proof down to temperatures as low as –10°C – making it handy for skiing and winter pursuits.

Nikon Coolpix AW100

Nikon Coolpix AW100

To keep handheld shots sharp, Nikon has introduced its Hybrid type of Vibration Reduction, which combines Lens Shift and Electronic Vibration Reduction and, impressively for a compact of its pedigree, it can rattle out a continuous burst of images at 7.1fps (this is in JPEG format as it doesn’t support RAW).

At the rear the 3in, 460k-dot screen is accompanied by a neat arrangement of weather-sealed controls, and tapping the Scene button gives you access to a variety of automatic modes that include 19 Scene modes and six picture effects (Soft, Nostalgic Sepia, High-contrast Monochrome, High Key, Low Key, Selective Colour) but it’s worth noting that there’s no manual control so Aperture and Shutter Priority are not supported.


In the hand the AW100 feels robust – just as its specification suggests –and we found it easy to navigate through the shooting, movie and setup menus. Full HD video capture (1920x1080 @30fps) is also very quick to control, thanks to the dedicated movie-rec button directly below the zoom controls. We liked the way you can tilt the camera up and down to scroll through your shots rapidly in playback mode. 

To test ruggedness, we dropped it on concrete, submerged it in the bath and chilled it in the freezer overnight. It sustained these demands well, working just as well as it did out of the box. The ISO range of 125-3200 has no drop in resolution and inspecting our test shots revealed Noise-free results between ISO 125 and 800. As we pushed the ISO beyond this point, however, Noise became increasingly evident.

There’s no question that this compact won’t survive the rough and tumble of rugged use, and the built-in GPS, Electronic Compass, and World Map will appeal to those who like a memory of where their shots were taken, although there’s room for improvement in terms of image quality.

If you’re after a bullet-proof camera that can survive anything, Nikon’s AW100 makes a top compact choice, provided the price falls within your budget.


  • Street Price: £100 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
  • Resolution: 16Mp (4608x3456pixels)
  • Lens: 5x optical (28-140mm film equivalent) 
  • Aperture: f/3.9-4.8
  • Water Resistance: 10m
  • Shock Resistance: 1.5m
  • Freeze Resistance: -10degrees centigrade
  • ISO: 125-3200
  • Monitor: 3in, 460k-dot
  • HD Video: 1920 x 1080@30fps
  • File Format: JPEG
  • Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC
  • Weight: 178g
  • Dimensions: 110.1 x 64.9 x 22.8 mm
  • Visit:

This review was first published in the December 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.