First Impressions – Nikon 1 AW1

Here are my first impressions of the Nikon 1 AW1, which Nikon claims it’s the world’s first rugged, waterproof MILC.

Update: See some snowscapes here.

For me, the standout features are:

  • CX Sensor with 14 megapixels
  • Waterproof to 15 m
  • Shockproof from heights of up to 2 m
  • Freeze-proof to -10°C
  • Dust proof
  • Up to 15 frames per second
  • It shoots Raw (.NEF)

The use-cases that I expect it to fill are:

  1. Snowboarding
  2. Beach/Snorkelling
  3. Small Product Shots

Build Quality
Excellent.  It’s rugged and feels high quality.

(Click on any of the images in this post for high-res viewing)

For snowboarding and snorkelling, I was delighted to find that both doors are double-locked.  You have to unlock one lever before you can use the other lever to open the door.  The rubber seal around the lens makes putting it on a little bit harder than most mounts, but it feels reassuring and not difficult.

I think it’s an all-metal body, but I couldn’t confirm it with the specs.

The NIKKOR AW 11–27.5mm f/3.5–5.6 kit lens, likewise has a high quality, premium feel.  The zoom ring is a very quick throw from wide to tele, and no external parts extend on zooming – it’s water sealed after all.

The Nikon 1 AW1 comes in several colors, but I chose white because my girlfriend liked the way it looks with the orange protective cover, which I have on the way as well.

Looks?  Yes, it’s a “fun” camera, mostly and she’ll be using it as well.

One of the reasons I wanted the AW1 is because the 1″ sensor, while small compared to a DSLR is actually pretty large for compact cameras – and the largest yet for an underwater digital camera.

One advantage of a smaller sensor (than APS-C or full frame) is that the depth of field is expanded a corresponding amount.  As one of the important use-cases for me was no-fuss deep depth of field product shots of small objects, I think this is going to work out.
The CX sensor will have less low-light performance than a D-SLR, but much better than your typical point and shoot.  My first images prove this out.

And, it shoots Raw!  I’ve been looking for years for a underwater camera that shoots Raw.  This is the “one” if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you Nikon.  I was a skeptic, even a critic, but you finally enticed me to the 1 series with some really unique features.

As of this writing, Adobe Lightroom 5.2 doesn’t support the AW1 .NEF files.  There is some noise in the blacks, but I’m going to wait a bit to make my final judgement on image quality.
Nassim Mansurov reports that the beta 5.3 supports it.

As I predicted, I think this is going to work out well for quick product shots when I don’t want to mess around with shooting my D-SLR at tiny apertures and using focus stacking software.

Good guys wear white
(for the record, they wore white because they were the good guys)

It’s fast – faster to start and focus than my X100s.

The rear screen is pleasant, but I’m usually not a fan of shooting that way.  There is no option for a viewfinder, as you can imagine.

To retain the maximum waterproofness, it doesn’t have a lot of external controls.  It took me a trip user manual to find out how to get out of the scene mode and into aperture priority and again to learn how to turn off auto ISO.

The tripod hole is offset far to the edge, which will irritate some users, but I like it because you have access to the card and battery slot while firmly mounted to a tripod.

The flash is subtle and works under water also.

In conclusion, I think this is going to work out well.  It’s rugged, fast, decent image quality, the sensor is small enough for deep depth of field but larger than any other underwater camera on the market and it shoots Raw.

I can’t wait to hit the slopes!

Happy Thanksgiving to all the North Americans out there.

Thanksgiving with the Nikon 1 AW1

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