PROS / This camera is durable, functional down to 100 feet underwater and takes great dry-land and underwater pictures.
CONS / Other cameras take brighter underwater photos.
VERDICT / The AW130 is our top underwater camera because it strikes a rare balance of durability and picture quality.
The Nikon COOLPIX AW130 is our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner. This waterproof camera is rugged and it takes great pictures both above and below water. The AW130 takes full HD 1080p video, has Wi-Fi capabilities and lets you geo-tag pictures. When you add up all of its features and abilities, it becomes apparent that this is the best waterproof camera in our lineup.
Nikon claims the AW130 is rated to handle underwater depths of 98 feet for up to 60 minutes, although it is labeled as 100 feet on the camera. That is 18 feet deeper than the next-best underwater camera and at least 50 feet deeper than most underwater cams. Essentially, this camera can handle a lot more than a day at the beach.
The AW130 is rated to be freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, which is standard for waterproof cameras. This Nikon underwater camera can also manage being dropped from 7 feet without damage. This is the greatest depth compared to all other cameras.
Typically, rugged cameras don't take great pictures and cameras with great image quality can't handle the outdoors. This Nikon waterproof camera is a great mix of both worlds. We performed image quality testing both above and below water. In a controlled environment, each camera captured images of our test scene under the same lighting and positioning. We examined the photos for sharpness, color saturation and accuracy. The Nikon AW130 is one of the best dry-land cameras in our comparison. The images it produced have accurate color representation. It shaded all of the black, white, light and dark gray boxes accurately. The colored checkered boxes displayed vibrantly colored squares. After zooming in, the light purple and green box at the top of the test pattern began to bleed into one another, but this camera produced impressive photos compared to the rest of the pack. Only one camera we reviewed took slightly better dry-land pictures than the AW130.
We then tested the cameras in an indoor pool to control lighting variables. Each camera was placed on a tripod and submerged to take pictures of an underwater scene. The test images were taken using the underwater setting on the AW130. This camera's underwater photo wasn't the best in our comparison, but it was close. Only two other cameras took slightly better underwater pictures than this Nikon. This was mostly due to some color deterioration – where colors were not as vibrant as other test images. The picture was also a little darker than the best test images. However, the sharpness of the test scene was outstanding. The floral underwater test scene has groupings of green, red and light-violet leaves. Even when zoomed in, the leaves are distinct and sharp. Although two other cameras slightly outperformed the AW130, the quality of the underwater image is still very high.
Beyond producing exceptional image quality, this camera is also easy to use. It doesn't bombard you with confusing menus that are difficult to navigate. Changing image parameters such as adjusting the ISO is as simple as pressing the menu button on the back of the camera, scrolling down to ISO sensitivity and pressing the OK button. Changing all other camera parameters are equally as simple. Even though this Nikon underwater camera has so many features, they are easy to use.
The Nikon has adjustable shutter speed that ranges from one second to 1/4000 of a second on continuous shooting mode. This mode allows you to take still pictures of fast-moving objects such as a bird or waterfall. You can also adjust the ISO from between 125-6400 to capture pictures in different lighting scenarios.
The Nikon has an array of features built into the camera. For starters, there are a handful of in-camera editing options. Some of these options include red-eye reduction, cropping, data imprinting and retouching. There are also a variety of scene modes to choose from. These scenes adjust the parameters of the camera for specific situations. For example, the firework scene uses a slow shutter speed and high ISO to best capture a firework show. The underwater scene adjusts the settings to take underwater pictures. There are several scene options to choose from so you can take the best pictures without wasting time setting up the camera.
Nikon labels image stabilization as VR, or vibration reduction. Turning this feature on helps eliminate shaky footage during filming. Vibration reduction, coupled with the face detection feature and focus lock, ensures that you'll take steady, clear pictures.
The AW130 is social media ready. It features both Wi-Fi and GPS. You can use Wi-Fi to send pictures straight from your camera to your smart device using NFC or Bluetooth technology. The GPS feature keeps track of every location a picture was taken so you never have to guess where you captured an image.
This waterproof camera comes with an impressive internal storage capacity of 473MB. Although this isn’t great for video, it is a good amount for shooting a few high-quality pictures. The best way to get the most out of your camera, though, is to buy an SD card, which will up the storage capacity from megabytes to gigabytes. This way, you can shoot 1080p videos or take thousands of pictures. The COOLPIX AW130 comes with a rechargeable battery, and at a full charge, Nikon promises you can take 370 shots before needing to recharge. Only one other camera takes more pictures on a single charge.
The camera has a 3-inch display, which should be large enough for most users. Unfortunately, the screen is not touch-enabled, so you’ll have to use the buttons to navigate the menus. Also note that this camera doesn't float. If you drop your camera in the lake, you probably won’t get it back.
Help & Support
Nikon offers some strong support options from its website. You can download a new user manual or view FAQs, but sometimes this isn’t enough to get the answers you need. In that situation, you can contact customer support representatives by email and telephone. By signing up for a Nikon account, you can submit questions and keep track of your inquires. It labels the date the question was submitted and where the inquiry has been answered. Unfortunately, Nikon currently doesn't have a live chat option.
The Nikon COOLPIX AW130 is the most durable waterproof camera we reviewed, and it's one of the best cameras for taking both unwater and dry-land photographs. This device is loaded with features, including easy image transferring with the use of the Nikon mobile app and the camera's built-in Wi-Fi. It can also be used to take full 1080p video. This camera is so ready for your adventures, it will even keep track of where you take pictures using GPS geo-tagging. The Nikon AW130 is a top choice for rugged cameras.