Nikon 1 AW1 is Nikon's first waterproof mirrorless camera. Although we are not fans of the back LCD screen, the images speak for themselves. It's shaping up to be a great camera.
So, the big question is this...should the Nikon 1 AW1 be a holiday purchase for the adventurous photographer in your life? The answer is a resounding yes! This answer came as a bit of a shock to me as the Nikon 1 series is not my favorite lineup of mirrorless cameras. In general, I prefer the Olympus PEN series due to Olympus' super fast and accurate auto focus. But the Nikon 1 AW1 has more to offer than any other Nikon 1 camera so far. The AW1 is a fully submergible waterproof mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. It can also be taken on skiing adventures and/or a hike that might include the camera bumping into a few rocks.
Upon first opening the box I noticed that the AW1 has a more robust build than it's stable mates. The new 11-27.5mm waterproof lens is solid. It has a metal grip that makes it easy to adjust focal length even underwater or with gloves. The lens has a waterproof seal that makes you feel assured when submerging the camera underwater. The shutter button and video button are located at the top of the camera and are oversized in order to use with gloves and underwater. The camera has a small ridge that is supposed to serve as a grip. The ridge is also made of the same texturized metal as the barrel of the lens. Although I really like that the ridge is made like this, I would really prefer that the grip be about 4-6 times it's current size. A pop up flash is included. I have yet to test the flash underwater, but seems to do as good as similar cameras in traditional environments.
Keeping the camera in auto mode is the easiest way to use the camera. Although the AW1 has fully manual shooting modes, they are housed in the camera's menu and cannot be changed quickly. Since receiving the camera less than a week ago, it has remained in auto mode most of the time. Even with the backlit leaf image shown below, the camera performed very well in auto mode. You could see the camera adjusting exposure for the backlit situation. I even tried out the pano feature. It worked seamlessly and easily.
We were able to do some initial testing of the camera underwater. The testing was restricted to the bathtub as it is pretty cold outside (late November in Ohio). The pictures are not exceptional or very interesting, but that is not really the camera's fault. I would love to see the camera taken to the beach or on an underwater scuba adventure to see how it fares. This underwater video shows our ferret playing in the bathtub.
Overall I am very pleased with what the Nikon 1 AW1 has to offer. The full review of the Nikon 1 AW1 will be published in the next couple of weeks.