Conclusion: The Nikon 1 J3 is a solid ILC, but it didn’t overwhelm us. However, take that same camera and make it waterproof and shockproof, name it the AW1, and it’s hard to not make an overwhelming recommendation. Also, there’s nothing else in the world like it.
Pros: Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, Produces better images than rugged compacts, Solid construction
Cons: Average lens, Lower quality images at higher ISO settings, Only two rugged 1 Nikkor lenses available right now
Excerpt: Consumers have shown that they really like compact digital cameras that combine the ease of a point and shoot with the feature set of a DSLR. They like larger sensors, enhanced performance, better image quality, and the abilty to swap lenses. The new Nikon 1 AW1 meets this consumer criteria. The AW1 is a waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof MILC (mirrorless interchangeable lens camera); a relatively new type of camera.
Pros: Waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, and freezeproof, Neutral colors, Fills a unique product niche
Cons: Poorly placed action mode control, handgrip is less than ideal
Conclusion: The AW1 is an interesting camera, and one that we're very curious to try out when final production samples become available. We've had some time with a (very) pre-production sample, and although we haven't had the opportunity to actually shoot with it, our brief experience suggests that the AW1 does what Nikon says it does, about as well as we'd expect from a modern 1 System camera. What we really like about the AW1 is that it doesn't feel like a tough camera in use.
Conclusion: The Nikon AW1 is a nice, small camera that weighs less than 8 ounces and can be the perfect addition to your travel photography bag. The features and weatherproofing allow for use in just about any situation providing the technology to produce the best images possible in a small package. For less than $1,000 you can get one and judging by the features and specs, it will be money well spent.
Summary: Although the AW1 is built like a tank and survived our brutal test at sea, it's not entirely faultless. The lack of manual controls on the body means you'll constantly have to fight your way through the menu if you like to be in charge of frequently used settings, and in that respect it's just like other Nikon 1 system CSCs - great for the point and shoot snapper who wants no fuss, but not as good for the more advanced photographer who likes to get creative.
Conclusion: Another benefit of sharing the J3's technology is that the AW1 also gets its impressive hybrid autofocus system. By utilising both phase-detect and contrast-detect AF, the AW1 promises rapid autofocussing in a wide range of shooting conditions.
Summary: In the AW1, Nikon has delivered the most rugged system camera on the market. Despite being built like a tank and able to survive demanding drops and harsh environments, it is not entirely faultless. The lack of manual controls makes it incredibly slow to set up, and in that respect it's no different from other Nikon 1-system CSCs. It is good for the point-and-shoot user who wants minimal fuss, but it leaves advanced photographers wanting.
Conclusion: As a unique product - an underwater camera that doesn't need an additional special housing - it is an outstanding addition to Nikon's product line-up. It is not a camera for everyday use; it is for anyone who goes in for eyeball-to-eyeball encounters with marine life, or who skis, or has a child who drops things.
Pros: We never thought we would say this, but shooting JPEG is better than RAW. Nikon's decision to go with a relatively small sensor means noise is obvious at ISO800, well below the speed that will be needed underwater or in fog. But Nikon has long been the champion of noise reduction in JPEG, without loss of detail.
Cons: Given the small sensor, the unit seems a little larger than necessary - but that may make it easier to handle with gloves.