16 April, 2016
So after countless hours of research and reading reviews I decided to purchase a Nikon 1 AW1.
For a few months now I have been really wanting to casually try out some underwater photography. There are so many inspiring images out there that are taken in the surf/underwater and for land dwelling DSLR users like myself, I continually found myself wishing that I could get shots like that.
I don't have a dive certification and I have no desire to get one, so I knew that I wasn't going to need something that could handle extreme low light in the depths of the ocean. However I knew I wanted something with manual controls and that could shoot in RAW.
There are so many options and brands for underwater photographers, albeit expensive ones, so I decided that ultimately I wouldn't be able to afford underwater housing for either my Olympus EM1 or Nikon D800. Especially since I was only planning on taking a relatively casual approach to this style of photography and doing it for a bit of fun. This really only left me with the Nikon 1 AW1.
Now I have read great reviews and some bad reviews for this camera. The bad reviews mainly centred around the fact that the models tested leaked and basically became expensive bricks. The reviewers that didn't experience these problems raved about the small size and portability, the 60fps burst rate and the fast autofocus.
It was tough, because I really wanted to try this style of photography but I didn't want to fall victim to paying for something that was going to fail after one or two uses. I decided that if I followed the user manual to the letter and always made sure I cleaned it really well, I wouldn't have any problems.
I am happy to report that I have been using the AW1 for over 12 months now and I have not had any leaks so far. It is relatively easy to use and the menu system is pretty straight forward. If you are already used to the Nikon menu systems on their DSLRs then you will be in familiar territory.
Image quality is great for a compact system camera and it produces some very vivid colours.
It is a very rugged camera which Nikon state is shock proof up to 2 metres. I have never wanted to test this out, but I after consistent use I am confident that it can take a beating. Because I am only using it free diving, I have never tested its depth allowance of up to 15 metres but from what I have read, it stands up very well to deeper dives.
My only disappointment with this camera has been related to lens selection. The kit lens is a 11-27.7mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom which has been a great lens to get started with however I find that it is nowhere near wide enough to capture some of the shots that I have envisioned. There is also a 10mm f2.8 prime available but I have not yet had chance to try it. Because of the sensor crop factor in this camera, the focal length for the kit lens is equivalent to 30-74mm in 35mm (full frame) format. While this can be great for getting up nice and close to your subject, it is nowhere near wide enough to get the classic above and below the surface look to your shots.
In conclusion, I would have to say that I am very impressed with this camera overall and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get their feet wet with some underwater photography. It is slightly overpriced compared to other compact system cameras in this category however if you can get it on a good special when Nikon offer their cash back deals, it is well worth picking one up.