Always on a quest to find the best underwater camera, I decided to give the Nikon Coolpix AW100 Waterproof & Shockproof camera a try. I’ve had two separate Canon cameras and underwater housings that have worked really well, but since they’re very large and clunky compared to the all-in-one waterproof cameras I opted for the Nikon wildcard.
My first thought when using the Nikon AW100 was that the shutter and processing speed seemed really slow. The picture quality also seemed a little lackluster without the help of Photoshop, but that’s not a dealbreaker. I used the camera exclusively on a trip to Costa Rica and everything seemed good enough for a consumer grade point & shoot. Sometimes since the air was super humid the inside of the lens would fog over and not clear out for a couple hours, but I was willing to look past that because the conditions were extreme.
However, I distinctly remember when I went to buy the camera that the salesperson brazenly threw their display camera across the floor to demonstrate that it’s shockproof. I’ve never had any of my other equipment damaged from shock before, but it was a neat sales trick. Rough & tumble, even better! AND THEN THAT’S WHAT THE FUCK BROKE MY CAMERA.
What happened: I set my purse on a couch that was no more than 2 feet off the ground and the contents were a little top-heavy and it ended up falling over. When I went to use the camera later that day in the crystal clear waters of Tulum, Mexico, nothing was working and hasn’t worked since. “Shockproof” seems like a pretty big stretch in this case if it can’t even manage the shock of a 2 foot fall inside a Timbuk2 bag.
I would probably care less if I wasn’t on a vacation that was 95% water-related: boating, snorkeling, swimming, cenote diving, etc – but I planned an entire trip around a camera that failed me. Luckily we got one snorkeling trip in before it crapped out.
Overall impression: unless you don’t really care about getting any photos, get something else.
Pretty decent quality for taking point & shoot photos:
Humidity spot that was inside the lens and ruined lots of photos:
Also, if you don’t make sure to clean the lens off every time you submerge the camera underwater, the photos often lose sharpness from unexpected watermarks:
Sample video, biking in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Tulum, Mexico:
Sample underwater video, snorkeling at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico:
Sample macro video, leafcutter ants in Costa Rica: