PROS / This camera has interchangeable lenses and takes great dry-land and underwater pictures.
CONS / The camera broke during our water testing.
VERDICT / We can only hope that the Nikon's underwater failure during our testing was a fluke, but it doesn't make us optimistic about its water resistance claims.
The Nikon 1 AW1 is the only camera in our lineup that has an interchangeable lens. This is a great advantage for this waterproof camera. Since you aren't stuck with one lens, you can swap out one for another that best fits the situation. Unfortunately, even though Nikon claims this camera is shockproof and waterproof, our own tests showed otherwise.
The camera is rated to be waterproof down to 49 feet and to withstand a 6.6-foot drop. We make sure each camera we test is ready for underwater operation by following manufacturer underwater standards and procedures. During our underwater testing, the battery door popped open and led to the camera being inoperable. This doesn't back up the claim that this camera is waterproof. It wasn't underwater for any longer than 20 minutes and was nowhere near its maximum depth. This is a major concern, especially for a camera as expensive as this one. There have been a handful of customer complains about this camera having water damage issues. Unfortunately, we experienced it first-hand.
Before the camera became waterlogged, we conducted both our dry-land and underwater testing. The Nikon 1 AW1 actually produced the best dry-land photos of any camera we reviewed. The testing included taking photos of a test image at different ISO settings in a controlled environment. The camera displayed sharp image quality with little grain when zoomed in. The color saturation was also better than all other underwater cameras. When we zoomed in closely, there were definitive lines separating different colors. The fact the colors didn't bleed is impressive and displays this camera's color accuracy and definition.
The underwater images were almost as impressive. The Nikon waterproof camera rendered the water a realistic soft-blue. Other cameras tended to make the water a dark blue, which can make the overall picture look dark and less vibrant. The AW1 displayed great color saturation of the floral arrangement on the test scene. The pinks, greens and blues were bright and appealing. Compared to the best test images, the AW1 isn't quite as sharp. Comparing the patches of leaves on the test scene to other test images, the AW1 image is slightly duller, but overall the picture quality is still top-notch.
A few of this Nikon's specs are somewhat puzzling. This underwater digital camera only features 14.2-megapixel resolution. A camera in this price range should have 16 megapixels of maximum resolution. This underwater digital camera doesn't contain any internal memory storage. This means without an SD card, you won't be able to store a single picture on the camera. Finally, the Li-ion battery is only rated to take up to 220 pictures on a single charge. The best underwater camera battery we reviewed can snap 380 photos on a single charge.
This camera has many other features such as 1080p video recording, GPS for geo-tagging and a handful of picture modes and effects. It is Wi-Fi certified, but needs a WU-1b wireless adapter to use the Wi-Fi functionality.
Although this camera has many good features, it disappoints in two of the most important areas – durability and longevity. The camera was unable to withstand our underwater testing, which resulted in camera failure. The short life of the battery is also a disappointment. To give credit where it's due, the camera did take outstanding dry-land and underwater pictures before it failed. We could have run into some bad luck from a faulty model, but it's hard to put faith in an underwater camera that failed in a pool.