100'/30m Underwater Camera
Presented in ultra-high resolution.
Nikon AW130 (in yellow; also comes in black, in blue or previously in red, 7.8 oz./222g with battery and card, about $270) bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.
Nikon AW130. bigger.
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Nikon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, previously flooded and dried out, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.
Under a Lazy River bridge, 11:37 AM, 20 February 2016. (Nikon AW130 at 4.3mm at f/2.8 at 1/800 at Auto ISO 125.) bigger or © camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display all the resolution).
Aulani, 16 February 2016, 8:31 AM. (Nikon AW130 at 4.3mm at f/2.8 at 1/800 at Auto ISO 125.) bigger or © camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display all the resolution).
Palm tree and ocean, 11:09 AM, 16 February 2016. (Nikon AW130 at 6.1mm at f/4.2 at 1/1,000 at Auto ISO 125.) © camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display all the resolution).
The Menehune Bridge, 12:30 PM, 16 February 2016. (Nikon AW130 at 10.1mm at f/4.4 at 1/400 at Auto ISO 125.) bigger or © camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display all the resolution).
The Menehune Bridge, 12:35 PM, 16 February 2016. (Nikon AW130 at 14.1mm at f/4.6 at 1/160 at Auto ISO 125.) bigger or © camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display all the resolution).
The Nikon AW130 is an underwater camera rated to 100 feet (30 meters).
It has a 5x optical 4.3~21.5mm zoom covering a range similar to a 24-120mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio for stills, and shoots 480 and 1,080 video in glorious underwater stereo.
It feels and is rated tougher than the more expensive Olympus TG-4, but this Nikon is an inferior camera with poor ergonomics and so-so image quality.
I'd get this Nikon for dangerous environments or SCUBA because it's tougher and costs less, but for vacation use, the Olympus TG-4 is easier and faster to use and usually takes better pictures.
Tough and inexpensive.
Correct 4:3 aspect ratio.
GPS, GLONASS, three-axis accelerometer, magnetic compass, barometer, barometric altimeter and a bathymetric depth gauge.
GPS even has a map with points of interest — but don't expect to be able to figure it out.
Great battery life; runs all day.
473 MB internal memory in case you forget a card.
Poor ergonomics; good luck figuring out how to use this camera.
Dim screen (casualty of the great battery life).
Poor autofocus on video.
Doesn't automatically convert to underwater color mode when underwater; looks too blue. Worse, I never could figure out how to set it to underwater white balance mode, and for all I know, it might not have one.
Comes with a neck strap, but really needs a floating wrist strap for water use.
"Shake to control" mode.
Waterproof zoom point-and-shoot.
NONE.; rear screen only.
4.3 ~ 21.5mm (24 ~ 120mm equivalent)
f/2.8 ~ 4.9.
12 elements in 10 groups.
2 ED elements.
No adjustable diaphragm.
-1 stop Waterhouse stop and -2 stop neutral-density filter.
Works only in three steps: wide-open, -1 Waterhouse, then -1 Waterhouse and -2 ND combined.
This gives effectively f/2.8, T4.1 and T8.2 at the widest zoom setting.
This is normal; with a lens this short stopping down more would make it too soft due to diffraction.
1.7'/0.5m at any zoom setting.
0.4"/1 cm in Macro mode at Wide setting.
4.62 x 6.16mm CMOS.
5.58x crop factor.
16 MP (4,608 x 3,456)
8 MP (3,264 x 2,448)
4 MP (2,272 x 1,704)
2 MP (1,600 x 1,200)
VGA (640 x 480)
12 MP 16:9 (4,608 x 2,592)
12 MP square (3,456 x 3,456)
ISO 125 ~ 1,600.
ISO 3,200 and 6,400 can come up in AUTO mode, too.
Can run at 7 FPS for 5 frames, or 2.2 FPS for 10 frames, with locked focus and exposure, at full resolution.
You supposedly can set a pre-shooting cache at 15 fps for 25 frames near the main shot at 1,280 x 960.
You supposedly can shoot at 60 FPS at 1,280 x 960 for 25 frames, ditto at 120 FPS at 640 x 480 for 50 frames.
Mechanical and electronic shutter.
1/1,500 ~ 1 second.
4 seconds only in Fireworks mode.
1/4,000 only in high-speed continuous mode.
TTL flash with preflashes.
Range 0.5–5.2 m (1 ft 8 in.–17 ft) in wide, 0.5–4.5 m (1 ft 8 in.–14 ft) at tele.
Audio & Video
Stereo underwater microphone with dual hydrophones.
.MOV files containing H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video and LPCM stereo audio.
480/120p MOS (4 times the usual frame rate, no sound)
1080/15p MOS (half the usual frame rate, no sound)
Position and Environmental Sensors
WGS 84 geodetics.
1.5980625 ~ 1.6053750 GHz.
WGS 84 geodetics.
Yes, and further corrected by the:
500 ~ 4,600 hPa.
Displays -984 ~ 14,760 feet (-300 ~ 4,500 meters), no way to correct altimeter setting.
Bathymetric Depth Gauge
Displays 0 ~ 114 feet (0 ~ 35 meters).
3" (7.5 cm) OLED (not LCD)
98% coverage while shooting, 100% on playback.
One SD card slot.
473 MB internal storage.
Micro HDMI type D.
Micro USB 3. Nikon says use only its own UC-E21 cord; I use one from the 99¢ store.
IEEE 802.11b: 5 Mbps.
IEEE 802.11g: 17 Mbps.
IEEE 802.11n: 17 Mbps .
2,412 ~ 2,462 MHz (channels 1-11).
EN-EL12 Lithium-Ion battery: 3.7V, 1,050 mAh, 3.9 Wh.
Rated 370 still shots OR 1¼ hours of movie rolling (actually rated 1:20 at 1,080/30 or 1:10 at 1,080/25).
Charges in-camera via USB, rated 2:20 charging time.
Optional $31 Nikon MH-65 external charger.
Optional EH-62F AC adapter.
The clock runs from an internal battery that charges itself when the camera has power. That's how the clock keeps running when you take out the battery.
110.4 × 66.0 × 26.8 mm (4.4 × 2.6 × 1.1 inches), excluding projections.
Standard ¼" × 20 TPI, all plastic.
7.830 oz. (222.0 g) with battery and card, measured.
7.8 oz. (221 g) with battery and card, rated.
Made in Indonesia.
Battery made in Indonesia with a cell from Japan.
Air: 14º F ~ 104º F (-10 ~ +40º C).
Water: 32º F ~ 104º F (0 ~ 40º C), ha ha.
Max 85% RH, noncondensing. I'm laughing; so I can't use an underwater camera in humidity above 85%? Someone's asleep in Japan and Norway.
JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent under Nikon's undisclosed testing conditions.
Capacity to shoot images underwater up to a depth of 30 m (100 ft) and for 60 minutes.
JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IP6X) equivalent under Nikon's undisclosed testing conditions.
Not really rated for drops or shock. Nikon warns that it may NOT BE WATERPROOF AFTER BEING DROPPED FROM ANY HEIGHT, and that it may not work anymore, either!
Nikon claims it cleared their testing conditions compliant with MIL- STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock, but that test drops 5 cameras in 26 directions (8 edges, 12 corners, and 6 faces) from a height of 122 cm (48 in.) to make sure that only one to five cameras pass the test. If any defect is detected during the test, another five cameras are tested to make sure that the test criteria are satisfied for one to five cameras. In other words, if 80% of the cameras break, that's still a passing mark.
Nikon also says that "dropped from a height of 210 cm (7 ft) onto a surface of 5 cm (2 in.) thick plywood" it passes these tests, but that changes in appearance, such as paint peeling off and deformation of the drop shock portion and waterproof performance are not subject to the test!
These tests "do not guarantee that the camera will be free from damage or trouble," in other words, they don't guarantee anything.
My advice: don't drop this camera any more than you'd drop any other, and especially don't drop it on rock or concrete, which are a lot more damaging than the plywood sheets used in these tests.
USB AC adapter.
Little brush to help get sand out of the gaskets.
$270, January-March 2016.
The Nikon AW130 is a tough little camera at a good price, but it's often a pain to use because it throws too many stupid warnings in front of us, and sometimes these will prevent us from taking a picture!
Picture quality is OK, but poor compared to other modern cameras. It's inferior to an iPhone because it uses a sensor almost as small, but shoots it at ISO 125 in daylight, not ISO 25 as does the iPhone. Because the AW130 is shooting at too high an ISO for its tiny sensor, noise reduction blurs all images, even those shot in direct sunlight!
You won't see any of these noise-reduction related sharpness problems with photos posted online, but you will see them if you plan on making five-foot wide gallery enlargements.
For still photos, autofocus is OK at wide, but will sometimes be out of focus at tele.
AF is poor for video. Often it will be out of focus as zoomed-in while rolling video. Oddly the Olympus TG-4 had this same problem with video focus, and in both cases this is when shot on land!
It handles poorly overall.
Power turns on and off quickly.
Often it asks dumb questions when you turn it on, and sometimes these will prevent you from getting your picture.
The worst is when it asks you - every time - if you want to use the current GPS location for all pictures after you submerge. Of course I do, and once I answer it YES, please stop asking me every time I turn on the camera.
The AW130 has a load of features, but no one will ever figure them out. The menus don't make much sense, for instance, I never figured out how to force flash ON for fill-in, and have no idea if that's impossible, or just that Nikon hid that setting.
There are no C1 or C2 preset settings, which are extremely helpful on the Olympus TG-4. With this Nikon I was never able to figure out how to set most things.
The OLED monitor is OK in the dark, but even set all the way to its maximum brightness of 5, too dim to see outdoors in daylight. I have to shield it to see it.
The Olympus TG-4 is much brighter.
The little built-in flash doesn't do much. Like most point-and-shoots, it looks ugly when used indoors, with dark backgrounds.
I wasn't able to force it on for fill-flash, so that's also poor.
As you can see at Sample Images, it's plenty sharp for online use.
However, if you look at any of the camera-original files on your computer, you'll see that none of them are really that sharp.
The problem is that Nikon has to use so much noise reduction to clean up images from its tiny sensor that every image is softer than it should be. In fact, there's no point of shooting it at 16 MP; I shot it only at 8 MP and it's still soft.
Exposures are great; no problems here.
Shooting at 7 FPS for 5 frames or 2.2 FPS for 10 frames, with locked focus and exposure, at full resolution, works fine.
These sequences play back funny in-camera, but record just fine to the card like any other shots.
You supposedly can set a pre-shooting cache at 15 fps for 25 frames near the main shot at 1,280 x 960, but I never tried to set this.
You supposedly can shoot at 60 FPS at 1,280 x 960 for 25 frames or at 120 FPS at 640 x 480 for 50 frames, but I never tried any of these either.
Movies are stereo and look fine - so long as they are in focus.
Movies look swell in low light.
Just as in the Olympus TG-4, it will often go out of focus and take a long time to get back into focus when you zoom-in while rolling a video.
There's a 300 frame 30 fps 10 s time lapse option, with different time span choices.
Performance top of AW130 review
Auto White Balance is swell on land, indoors and out.
AWB is poor underwater; it lets things stay way too blue.
Color rendition is OK, but not quite as good as the Olympus TG-4 or even Nikon's DSLRs.
It's usually too blue underwater, the Olympus TG-4 does a much better job restoring reds. I never found any way to force it into underwater white balance, if it even had this feature.
The depth gauge is solid and accurate — but I didn't go below three feet (one meter).
The altimeter is poor. Even at sea level it usually reads about -300 feet and varied all over the place, and there's no way to enter the altimeter setting.
So it reads all sorts of crazy altitudes in air, and goes exactly to zero as soon as it goes in the water.
The altimeter is good enough when you're in the mountains, but bothersome at the beach.
The battery charges in-camera via USB. The optional $31 Nikon MH-65 external charger is not included.
Nikon warns only to use their cable and charger, but I use a cable from the 99¢ store and it works fine from USB.
The OLED screen is dim, and that helps give the AW130 very good battery life.
The monitor turns off after a minute, leaving just the charge LED blinking.. Everything turns off after three minutes.
I can shoot all day and have plenty of power, which is helpful when you realize that you can't just open a salty and sandy camera to recharge until you've rinsed and let it dry.
It is easy to set the clock, and easy to swap between vacation and home time zones.
Data performance is fair.
Cards are not correctly formatted; they are named "NO NAME" instead of "NIKON AW130" as they should be.
Files are named in the form "DSCN0123.jpg"
It made new folders named "101NIKON," "102NIKON" and "103NIKON" for no apparent reason, making it it harder to copy all my images from my cards.
The Olympus TG-4 isn't quite as tough and costs more, but it's superior in every other way.
For instance when it comes to ergonomics, it takes seven clicks to get the clock to display in the AW130, while one held button on the TG-4 shows a screen where I can check not only the time, but also the depth or altitude and GPS location. This is handy when I'm not wearing a watch out in the water.
Be sure the gasket is clean and dry before you close the camera. There is only one hatch.
Nikon includes a little brush to help get sand out of the gasket.
Nikon warns not exceed 100 feet (30 meters) and not stay there for more than 60 minutes.
Nikon says to avoid rapids and waterfalls and not to jump in with it, but I found no problems. Their fear is that instantaneous pressure will be high enough to get in the gaskets.
Nikon says to avoid above temperatures above 104ºF (40° C) or low temperatures, as it degrades waterproofness.
Nikon also warns that waterproofness may drop after a year of use.
After use, soak in fresh water for 10 minutes. Take it out, put it on a towel and wait for it to dry before opening.
Power & Battery
Plug it into USB with any cord.
The green LED blinks slowly while charging and turns off when done. Rapid green blinking means something's wrong and its not charging.
A full charge from dead ought to take about 2.3 hours.
It's OK to use it while charging.
If you want to pull the battery out to charge, or let a spare charge while you're out in the water, get an MH-65 optional external charger.
Nikon includes a flimsy neck strap.
Nikon warns not to use this strap in the water, but since it's all I had, I used it, and it works fine.
Ideally I prefer a tough wrist strap, as Olympus includes with the TG4.
The AW130 has a firm trigger pull, so firm that at first it wouldn't shoot since the pressure most cameras need to shoot is only enough to get the AW130 to the half-stop.
Be sure to press much harder to fire.
The AW130 isn't very sharp, so you're kidding yourself shooting set to 16 MP.
I shoot set down to 8 MP to save file space, and I'm not missing anything.
For all I know, shooting at the 4 MP setting may also be just as sharp.
Set "Underwater Flash" to ON in the camera menus.
Nikon warns that the AW130 "is a camera. Do not use for navigation."
It won't be in focus if you zoom-in while rolling video. It's best to zoom-in and let it focus before rolling video.
You can save a still frame from a movie, see page 77 of the user's manual.
The Macro setting is remembered when the camera is turned back on; it doesn't cancel with power off.
The Olympus TG-4 is a better camera that costs more, but it's more delicate.
If used for SCUBA or anyplace you expect that you may lose or flood this camera, by all means opt for this Nikon AW130. It will take more abuse and costs less to replace if you kill it.
Don't drop any of these cameras. While they share the same 7 foot/2 meter drop rating, the drop ratings are bogus. My son dropped our TG4 from only 5 feet onto concrete, it was no longer waterproof, and promptly flooded and died as it fell into our pool. These are plastic cameras — not a Nikonos — so while they are great underwater, they will crack if dropped.
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Nikon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a previously flooded, defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.
Thanks for helping me help you!
© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
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14 February 2016