Nikon makes a splash with the AW1 waterproof mirrorless camera
By Simon Crisp
September 19, 2013
Photographers who want to shoot while snorkeling, rafting, skiing, or just splashing about in the water, are normally limited to using a tough compact camera, or shelling out for an expensive underwater-housing for their DSLR. The Nikon 1 AW1 has been designed to change that. It's claimed to be the world's first commercially available digital interchangeable lens camera which is waterproof and shockproof.
Part of the Nikon 1 System, the camera boasts a CX format 1-inch-type (13.2 x 8.8 mm) 14 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is larger than those found in typical compacts, but smaller than most interchangeable lens cameras. This is paired with Nikon's EXPEED 3A image processing engine which enables an ISO range of 160 - 6,400 and a continuous shooting speed of 15 fps with autofocus, and 60 fps with focus locked on first frame (both for bursts of around 20 shots).
That may all sound similar to the Nikon 1 J3, but this is a very different camera, and one that may appeal to the fans of the underwater Nikonos cameras of old. The Nikon 1 AW1 has been designed as a carry anywhere camera which can survive whatever you throw at it. Thanks to rubber seals between front and rear body covers, and an O-ring on the mount, the compact shooter is waterproof down to 15 m (49 ft). It's also shockproof up to 2 m (6.6 ft), and freezeproof down to -10 degrees Celsius (14° F).
Showing that it's aimed at the adventure-loving photographer, the camera has an altimeter, a depth gauge, an electronic compass and built-in GPS technology. There's also an interesting feature called Action Control which allows users to control certain functions of the camera (like changing shooting mode or scrolling through images) by simply pressing a button on the rear and swinging it in the air. This could be particularly handy if you are underwater or wearing gloves. Nikon is also releasing camera and lens skins for added grip and comfort.
Back to less extreme specifications, the Nikon 1 AW1 uses Hybrid autofocus with a mixture of 73-point phase-detection AF and 135-point contrast detect AF for speedy focusing. Full HD 1080p video recording is possible at 30 fps, and this is increased to 60 fps at 720p. Slow-motion recording can be done at 400/1200 fps, if you're willing to drop the resolution much further. A 3-inch LCD on the rear has 921K dots, and the camera is fully compatible with Nikon’s optional WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter for wireless sharing and remote shooting with iOS and Android apps.
While the built-in pop-up flash on the AW1 is waterproof, Nikon is also announcing the development of an underwater speedlight, the SB-N10 which promises extra illumination power when shooting stills in wet and low-light conditions. Also being released is the Filter AW 40.5 NC, a new filter attachment which helps to combat condensation when changing lenses in environments with extreme temperature and humidity changes.
Because the new waterproof camera wouldn't be much use without equally waterproof glass, Nikon has also revealed a pair of compatible lenses. The 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5 mm f/3.5-5.6 is a zoom which gives the 35 mm-format focal length equivalent of 30-74 mm, making it suitable for anything from landscapes to portraits, either above or under water.
Meanwhile, the new 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 gives a wide view (27 mm equivalent in 35 mm-format) and has a fast aperture which could come in handy in low-light underwater situations. Both lenses are also shockproof and freezeproof. They have been designed for exclusive use on the Nikon 1 AW1, though the camera can use any 1 Nikkor lenses, or even F-mount lenses with an adapter.
The Nikon 1 AW1 will be available in black, silver or white from October and will cost US$800 with the 11-27.5-mm kit lens, or $1,000 with both lenses. The accessory skins will be available in a variety of colors including black, khaki and orange and will cost $37. There's no price on the Filter AW 40.5 NC, but it should be along in the first half of 2014.