Nikon has just made a very surprising move and released a rugged Nikon 1 mirrorless camera, the AW1. I have not been excited by a Nikon announcement in a long time now as they have, just like Canon and Sony, been releasing products that have barely changed since their last iteration. Not this time. The Nikon 1 AW1 is the first camera in its niche, and I hope it is not going to be the last. Of course, a waterproof interchangeable lens camera makes little sense without appropriately rugged lenses. Therefore, two lenses – a 10mm f/2.8 AW and a 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 AW – have also been announced. A proper new addition, this, and will make Nikon 1 system very tempting for some.
1) Nikon 1 AW1 Overview and Key Specifications
Most of Nikon 1 AW1 specifications are very similar to that of J3 and thus are quite impressive. It is bigger in every dimension due to its rugged build. It features the same 14 megapixel 1″ CMOS sensor which, although not exactly big (crop factor of 2.7x), has proven capable of high quality images. With ISO range of 160-6400, it won’t run out of puff in low light conditions, although obviously high ISO performance will be nowhere near APS-C and m4/3 sensors found in most other mirrorless cameras. Arguably the best hybrid AF of any mirrorless system is also present with all the overwhelming 135 points to choose from. Shutter speed range is very impressive, too – 30-1/16000s and it can fire up to 15 frames per second with AF tracking and up to 60 without. To put these numbers into perspective, a $6000 D4 can’t hold a candle against the AW1 in continuous shooting speed. It should be mentioned the Nikon 1 AW1 uses an electronic shutter.
On the back of the camera there is a high-resolution 3″ LCD screen with the usual 921k dots. Sadly, there is no flash hot shoe, but a small pop-up flash is available. There is built-in GPS functionality, too. Here is a short list of Nikon 1 AW1 key specifications:
- 14.2 megapixel CX (1″ sized) CMOS sensor with 4608 x 3072 image size and 2.7x crop factor
- Waterproof down to 15 meters, shockproof at 2 meters, freezeproof construction. Very tough and doesn’t look like it!
- Well-received Hybrid AF with both contrast- and phase-detect systems for very fast and accurate focus acquisition and up to 135 focus points
- Built-in GPS
- 3″ 921k dot LCD screen
- Shutter speed range of 30s-1/16000s
- 15 frames per second shooting speed with continuous AF, 60 frames per second without AF tracking
- FullHD video mode with high-speed options at lower resolution
- Battery life good for approx. 220 shots
- Weighs 201g with battery (0.44 lb / 7.09 oz)
- Measures 114 x 72 x 37 mm (4.47 x 2.81 x 1.46″)
To be completely honest, except for some differences in control layout and perhaps one other point from all of the above, there is nothing you would not find in a cheaper Nikon 1 J3. But that one point is what makes the AW1 so special. It is the first compact system camera to have a waterproof construction. More than that, it is waterproof when submerged to a rather impressive depth of 15 meters, shockproof when dropped from up to 2 meters and is freeze-resistant. Without looking like it. Seriously, you could take this camera out on your every-day street photography route and no one would know you are carrying a piece of equipment that will work in most environments you would dare go yourself. Couple that to the fact it has a decent lens selection for when you are not pumped-up with adrenaline and its very impressive AF system for when you are, and you’ve got a camera that could prove to be extremely popular. You can get one of the colorful cases for extra protection and a better, rubberized grip under water.
I must admit I have been thinking about underwater photography for more or less a year now. But I could never afford a proper case for my D700 and would not feel very confident with a bright blue point-and-shoot on a real assignment with a client. This, however, may turn out to be exactly what I needed. The biggest problem is lack of a sealed flash hot shoe with the appropriately sealed flash unit – a must for serious underwater photography. Not even a cold shoe is present (used only to mount the flash with no communication between it and the camera body whatsoever). Even without one all would be good if AW1 had a built-in radio trigger and Nikon introduced a waterproof flash unit. Perhaps, if the sales prove there’s a real, profitable share in the market for such a system, Nikon will do just that in the future. I dare not guess, but one can hope. After all, what makes a system successful is what makes it different from competing products. If Nikon were to turn the 1 system into a line-up of durable, waterproof cameras, lenses and flashes, it would definitely be different from anything else on the market. I am already tempted by Nikon 1 AW1 and the rugged 10mm f/2.8 AW prime lens alone. And that, by the way, brings us to lens announcement.
2) Nikkor 10mm f/2.8 AW and 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 AW Lens Overview
The two lenses introduced along with the AW1 camera are virtually the same as the regular Nikkor 1 10mm f/2.8 prime lens and 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom. The only difference is that they feature similar water- and shockproof construction as the camera and will work under water down to 15 meters. The small prime has a focal length equivalent to 27mm on a full-frame camera, while the zoom is similar to a 30mm-74mm lens on a full-frame camera. It does not extend when zooming.
They are, of course, a little bit bigger than the regular lenses. Also, you will not be able to use either one on a regular Nikon 1 camera body but the AW1 due to the mount seals. That is unlikely to be a problem as they would make little sense on anything but the AW1 currently.
3) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release for Nikon 1 AW1 camera and the two lenses:
CAPTURE THE ACTION AT THE SPEED OF LIFE: THE NIKON 1 AW1 IS THE WORLD’S FIRST WATERPROOF AND SHOCKPROOF INTERCHANGEABLE LENS CAMERA
From Tropical Tides to a Whitewater Adventure, the New Nikon 1 AW1 and Two New 1 NIKKOR AW Lenses Help Capture Family Adventures, Even When Traveling Off the Beaten Path
MELVILLE, NY (September 19, 2013) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the world’s first waterproof, shockproof interchangeable lens camera1, the Nikon 1 AW1. Also designed to be freezeproof, the durable and versatile AW1thrives in harsh environments while delivering the high-performance features and incredible image quality that thrill-seeking families need to capture every moment and memory. By land or by sea, from the tropics to snowy peaks, this newest addition to the Nikon 1 Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lens System (ACIL) is equipped with outdoor friendly features to capture amazing photos and stunning Full HD video.
To complement the AW1, Nikon also introduced two new waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof lenses, the 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 and 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8. Striking the ideal balance between portability and performance, the robust 11-27.5mm lens offers a versatile lens option with a 2.5x zoom range. Additionally, the portable wide-angle 10mm lens offers a fast f/2.8 aperture to help deliver a shallow depth of field and excellent low-light performance.
“As the world’s first waterproof and shockproof Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lens System, the Nikon 1 AW1 offers an exciting new option for the family who seeks both exhilaration and a durable yet versatile camera to complement their active lifestyle,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “The Nikon 1 AW1 and the new 1 NIKKOR lenses are always ready to capture the action with high speed performance and incredible image quality that users have come to expect from the Nikon 1 System.”
The Nikon 1 AW1: The World’s First Waterproof and Shockproof Interchangeable Lens Camera
Whether the destination is to the beach, the slopes or a mountain pass, the Nikon 1 AW1 is a must-pack accessory for any adventure. Waterproof (down to 49 feet), shockproof (up to 6.6 feet) and freezeproof (down to 14° F), the AW1 can handle the toughest conditions while capturing fast action. Though built to be durable and robust, the camera retains a compact and lightweight body, making it easy to carry on any expedition, above or below sea level.
Additionally, the versatile Nikon 1 AW1 offers the unique feature set that adventurers of all levels can take full advantage of, whether tackling a black diamond slope or an unfamiliar trail. With built-in GPS technology, AW1 users can track their travels while identifying the exact longitude and latitude where an image or video was captured. The AW1 is also equipped with an altimeter, a depth gauge, an electronic compass and a virtual horizon indicator. What’s more, the cameras pop-up flash is waterproof as well, allowing the user to add light to a scene automatically or on command.
Capturing the Perfect Shot: The Performance and Speed of the Nikon 1 AW1
Featuring both a14.2-megapixel CX-format CMOS sensor and Nikon’s EXPEED 3A image processing engine, the AW1 produces sharp, high-quality images and HD video with great detail and color, even in challenging lighting situations. The Nikon 1 AW1 also sports a wide ISO range (160 to 6400), allowing users to capture sharp photos in a variety of lighting, even while handheld.
Swift performance and rapid response are hallmarks of the Nikon 1 System, and in similar fashion the the AW1 includes Nikon’s superfast and extremely responsive Advanced Hybrid Autofocus (AF) system that affords users the ability to capture incredibly fast moving action. To capture even the fastest moving subjects with clarity, the 73-point AF array can lock on to the action in approximately 80 milliseconds2. To help ensure that no moment is missed, the AW1 offers the world’s fastest continuous shooting frame rate (approx. 15 frames-per-second [fps] with AF)3 and continuous shooting at 60 fps when the focus is locked.
Ready for the Next Adventure: The Feature Set of the Nikon 1 AW1
The compact Nikon 1 AW1 strikes the perfect balance between creative and user-friendly features and controls. Similar to the Nikon COOLPIX AW110, the AW1 also includes Action Control, which allows users to control certain functions of the camera simply by swinging it in the air. This feature makes it easier to adjust the camera underwater or when wearing gloves.
When using the Nikon 1 AW1, the Creative Mode menu provides an easy way to utilize full manual exposure controls (P,S,A,M) as well as Selective Color, Miniature, Soft, Night Landscape, Backlighting and Night Portrait modes. Additionally, Easy Panorama provides a simple way to capture vast landscapes from a wide perspective of awe-inspiring landscapes.
The Nikon 1 AW1 incorporates Full HD 1080p video capabilities as well as Advanced Movie Mode. In Advanced Movie Mode, users can shoot Full HD video and high-resolution stills simultaneously. Additionally, Slow Motion Movies can capture all the action at either 400 fps or 1200 fps. The AW1 also features Enhanced Motion Snapshot Mode, which provides shooters with the option of capturing a quick passing moment with a short, slow-motion movie sequence in addition to a single defining still image.
When Best Moment Capture Mode is selected, camera users have access to Smart Photo Selector or Slow View modes. With Smart Photo Selector, the AW1 can capture up to 20 shots with a simple press of the shutter button, and the camera will select the best shot. Slow View is ideal for extreme action sports; once focus is achieved and the shutter button is pressed halfway down, users capture live action (approx. 1.33 seconds) while the subject is displayed in slow motion on the screen. A slowed-down view is then continuously looped over until the shutter is fully pressed, resulting in an amazing moment that would have been otherwise been missed.
Furthermore, the Nikon 1 AW1 features an intuitive Auto Mode to help users frame the perfect shot with ease. The AW1 also comes equipped with Live Image Control, giving the user access to real time adjustments of Active D-Lighting, Background Softening, Motion Control and Brightness Control, which are displayed on the AW1’s LCD screen prior to capture.
When it’s time for some aquatic action, the Nikon 1 AW1 offers several underwater controls. When in Underwater mode, users can choose from either three options (standard, scuba, close-up), which will automatically adjust the camera’s settings to deliver optimal results based on the type of activity that a user is participating in. Additionally, the Underwater White Balance setting makes adjusting white balance simple, while the Underwater Distortion Control corrects the effects of distortion caused by water.
Share the Adventure: Wirelessly Send Images from the Nikon 1 AW1
For those who want to share their images from their latest expeditions instantly, users will be able to take advantage of the AW1’s Wi-Fi capabilities. Similar to previous Nikon 1 System cameras like the Nikon 1 J3, the Nikon 1 AW1 is fully compatible with Nikon’s optional WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter4, allowing high-quality images to seamlessly be transferred to compatible smart devices wirelessly. If using the free Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility application for Android™5 platform smart devices as well as iPhone® and iPad®6 mobile digital devices, AW1 users will have the ability to remotely take photos with the camera from a smartphone or tablet as well.
The 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 and AW 10mm f/2.8: New Lenses for the Nikon 1 AW1
Alongside the new Nikon 1 AW1, the waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 and 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 provide two versatile lens options for the individual looking for a compact camera system that can keep up with their active lifestyle. When attached to the AW1, these lenses can handle tough conditions while being waterproof (up to 49 feet), shockproof (up to 6.6 feet) and freezeproof(down to 14° F). The compact 11-27.5mm is a lightweight yet durable lens that packs a 2.5x zoom (30-74mm equivalent) and is ideal for capturing landscapes and portraiture during a family’s latest expedition. Portable and ultra-compact, the 10mm provides AW1 shooters with a wide angle of view, useful when capturing everything from sweeping landscapes to close-up action that fills the frame. Not to be outdone, the 10mm has a fast aperture of f/2.8, to capture special moments with incredible clarity and a soft natural background, even in challenging light such as dusk or when underwater.
For further versatility when out of the water, the Nikon 1 AW1 is also fully compatible with the expanding lineup of incredibly sharp 1 NIKKOR lenses, Nikon 1 accessories, as well as a wide range F-Mount NIKKOR lenses when connected to the FT-1 Mount Adapter.
New Nikon 1 Accessories: New Skins Provide More Control and Personal Flair
Demonstrating Nikon’s commitment to the newly introduced waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof products, Nikon also introduced new accessory skins for the Nikon 1 AW1 and the 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. To provide more grip, comfort and control when shooting, the new accessory skins provide extra protection while also adding visibility and personal flair to their Nikon 1 Camera System setup.
For those adventurers looking for the flexibility to swap lenses in environments with extreme temperature and humidity changes, Nikon has developed a new filter attachment, the Filter AW 40.5 NC, to effectively combat the common occurrence of condensation. Nikon has also announced the development of the SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight. The SB-N10 will offer extra illumination when capturing still images underwater or in extreme low-light conditions.
Price and Availability:
The Nikon 1 AW1 will be available as a one-lens kit, with the 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and a two-lens kit with the 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 and 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 lenses. The Nikon 1 AW1 kit with the 11-27.5mm will be available in October 2013 for the suggested retail price (SRP) of $799.957. The Nikon 1 AW1 two lens kit with the 11-27.5mm and 10mm lenses will be available in October 2013 for the suggested retail price (SRP) of $999.957. To complement consumers’ preferences, the Nikon 1 AW1 kits will come in three different colors including black, silver and white. Additionally, the new accessory skins for the AW1, 11-27.5mm lens and 10mm lens will come in a variety of colors including black, khaki and orange. These skins will be available in October 2013 for the suggested retail price (SRP) of $36.967. Lastly, the new Filter AW 40.5 NC attachment will be available in Spring 2014, though the suggested retail price (SRP) has not yet been announced.
For more information on these new Nikon 1 Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lens System products as well as other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.
*1 Among digital cameras with interchangeable lenses available as of September 9, 2013 (according to research conducted by Nikon Corporation).
*2 Among digital cameras with interchangeable lenses available as of September 9, 2013 as determined by Nikon performance tests; measured when using the single-point AF mode and the shortest focal length of 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 (according to research conducted by Nikon Corporation).
*3 Among digital cameras with interchangeable lenses available as of September 9, 2013 (according to research conducted by Nikon Corporation).
4) Expected Price
The new Nikon 1 AW1 camera kitted with the 11-27.5mm zoom lens should set you back by around $800 in the USA and, as is almost always the case, will be more expensive in Europe. You can also have a double lens kit and add the 10mm prime lens to the package. In this case, expect the price to be around $1000. If previously most Nikon 1 cameras seemed to be overpriced at launch, expected prices for AW1 actually seem very sensible.
Pre-order links will be posted shortly.