updated 12:40 am EDT, Wed August 24, 2011
Nikon AW100 and P7100 headline camera revamp
Nikon rolled out a sweeping change to its Coolpix range Wednesday. The AW100 is a first for Nikon as a ruggedized, modern camera. The 16-megapixel camera can stay underwater at up to 33 feet, can survive temperatures as cold as 14F, and will take drops from up to five feet.
Other outdoor-friendly touches include GPS with a built-in map for geotagged photos and the option of always-on tracking to plot the route even without photos. A compass provides heading, and users burdened by gloves can use a new motion-operated control to change settings without the precision of direct finger input.
As a camera, it uses a relatively low-light friendly CMOS sensor and a 5X, 28-140mm equivalent lens with stabilization. The ruggedization doesn't stop it from recording 1080p video or from recording slow motion at speeds of up to 240 frames per second, albeit at a lower resolution. An Expeed C2 chip keeps the speed up.
The P7100 is more straightforward but continues the recent pattern of semi-pro compact cameras. Although it runs the same 10.1-megapixel, physically large CCD, tilting LCD, and 7.1X, 28-200mm lens, it takes advantage of the Expeed C2 to improve performance over the P7000 it replaces. It can snap JPEG photos at a comparatively fast 1.2 frames per second and is overall faster in RAW shooting. Improved autofocus also comes into play to save time getting a lock on the subject.
A redesigned interface both speeds up the time to get to shooting and reduces the lag time between shots. Much of the practical menu navigation is now faster, Nikon claims. As expected, it has full manual control with an ISO 100-6,400 sensitivity range, though it adds an ISO 12,800 night mode that lowers the resolution but bins pixels to improve the picture without increasing the noise. Video is unusually capped at a lower 720p, although photographers have the advantage of a hot-shoe for an external mic or flash.
Manual control now brings a front sub-command finger dial to get DSLR-like control without having to leave grip. A quick menu dial changes on-screen items like ISO or white balance at the top level.
Less advanced users can now drop filter and special effects on top, including a new Zoom Exposure trick with a slow shutter, a Defocus Filter for bokeh effects, and Cross Process to induce odd color tones. High dynamic range and artificial fisheye modes are options as well.
Both cameras are due by the first half of September. The AW100 will cost $380, while the P7100 slots in at its ancestor's $500 price.