Nikon Coolpix AW120 review

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Summer is still not over, and I’ve got another underwater camera for review – Nikon Coolpix AW120. On the paper, it is similar to other price comparable competitors – it has 16 megapixels sensor, 5x optical zoom, full HD video and 3 inch LCD screen. Besides that, Nikon AW120 packs full connectivity like GPS, WiFi and motion sensor that can be used to control camera when you cannot use buttons like when wearing thick gloves.


  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: Waterproof compact
  • Dimensions: 110 x 66 x 26 mm (4.33 x 2.6 x 1.02″)
  • Weight: 213g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm), 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Image stabilization: Yes (in the lens)
  • Lens: 24-120mm (35mm eq.), F/2.8-4.9, internal zoom
  • Dust and moisture protection: Yes (Waterproof to 59ft/18m; Shockproof to 6.6ft/2m; Dustproof)
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Continuous shooting: 7 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 921,000 dots
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (60p, 30p), 1280 x 720 (60p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
  • Connectors: mini USB 2.0, micro HDMI


As expected, build quality is on a high level – typical for all waterproof cameras. TG-850 can withstand diving up to 18m (59ft) and being dropped from 2m height. It is made from a combination of tough looking plastic and metal front plate. Around the camera there is a ring made from some sort of very hard rubber the purpose of which is probably to protect it if dropped. The camera is relatively heavy for its size and left me with confidence regarding the amount of abuse it should handle.

Buttons, although not very big protrude a lot and it is very easy to find them purely by touch. They are squishy when pressed due to waterproof seals but all of them have very palpable “click” so I was always sure when I pressed something or not.

On the left side there is a special button that activates motion sensor. This option allows you to change shooting mode, go into playback or start video recording simply by moving the camera one way or the other. This is excellent for any occasion when you wear thick gloves (skiing) that will make it hard to use normal buttons.

Tripod mount is placed near the center of the camera and is made from plastic. Battery and memory card compartment is on the right side, so it is possible to change battery or memory card without removing the camera from the tripod.


3-inch LCD has 921,000 dots what is as high as one can get in a compact camera these days. Viewing angles are excellent but overall image quality left me a bit disappointed. More expensive cameras have LCD units with more detailed image and better color reproduction. AW120′s LCD is not bad, but is definetly not among the best.


The lens has 5x optical zoom: 24-120mm in 35mm equivalent. Optical image stabilization (VR) is built in. Generally speaking, lens quality is decent. For the most part it is sharp and blurring is visible only on the wide angle in corners. This is much better performance than Olympus TG-850 whose review I published a few days ago. Macro performance is also quite good; not like the Olympus TG-3, but not bad at all, just take a look at the bee photo in the image samples section at the end of the review.


Small sensor (1/2.3″ – 6.17 x 4.55 mm) has 16 megapixels. It suffers from noise reduction just like almost all other compact cameras. This will manifest in a way fine details will be blurred when you zoom into images at 100% view. Still, I’ve seen worse (Olympus TG-850) so Nikon AW120 actually makes quite usable images. Colors are accurate and well saturated (but not too much).


Nikon AW120 uses Li-Ion battery strong enough for around 200 shots what is an average for this type of camera. It supports standard SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Battery and memory card as well as micro HDMI and USB connectors are placed in the same compartment on the right side of the camera.


Menu system is identical to what other Nikon cameras have. It is logical and easy to understand. Quick menu is not available so for every setting you will have to go into main menu. External buttons control only the most basic functions like flash, exposure compensation, macro and timer. Also, AW120 does not have manual exposure modes and you will not be able to take control over aperture or shutter speed.


AW120 takes around a second to focus in good light. Low light conditions will require up to 3 second but this is still acceptable for a compact camera. AF assist lamp is also built in as well as small flash with a range of 5m.

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