Nikon 1 AW1 Review
Nikon 1 AW1 Construction
This page originally appeared as the Preview for the Nikon 1 AW1. Skip to Usability if you already read this.
The Nikon 1 AW1 is the world's first waterproof or rugged interchangeable lens camera. This is an impressive feat of engineering which required rethinking nearly every component of the camera and lenses. The AW1 when fitted with a waterproof lens is submersible to depth of 15 meters for up to 60 minutes and shockproof to drops of 2 meters. In this preview we take a close look at how this was achieved and what impact it has on the AW1.
The Nikon 1 AW1 is a mirrorless digital camera using a 1" CMOS sensor with 2.7X and featuring an adapted Nikon 1 mount. It readily accepts all Nikon 1 lenses. Special waterproof lenses designed for the AW1 are not compatible with other 1-series cameras though.
The water-tight seal is provided by an O-ring surrounding the mount which protrudes from the camera. To complete the seal, lenses have a protrusion which covers completely the rubber ring when installed on the camera. Since other Nikon 1 series mirrorless have their mount flush with the front of the camera, waterproof lenses will simply not fit.
Despite the ruggedness of this camera, the water-tight seal is rather delicate. There cannot be any gaps around the mount. This means that any particle, such as a grain of sand, can potentially compromise the seal. For this possibility to be minimized, Nikon put a lot of thought into accessories, including body and lens caps. The Nikon 1 AW1 comes with a special body-cap which is designed to protect the O-ring while being tight enough to avoid foreign particles from entering.
AW1 lenses come with a specially designed rear-cap to avoid the same issues. After all, it would be easy for a particle to fall from the rear of the lens onto the O-ring which would threaten the seal. This is probably the only dust-proof lens cap around.
The newly designed lens cap must fit with the unique shape of the AW lenses. As seen on the picture below, the lens the mount bayonet and contacts are noticeable recessed.
The Nikon 1 AW1 is also shockproof which requires additional considerations. In particular, the AW1 is unique in that it has no moving parts. There is no traditional mechanical-shutter and this camera relies on an electronic one like the J3. This gives it an extremely quick maximum shutter-speed of 1/16000s but a flash sync-speed of only 1/60s, the slowest among any digital camera.
Another moving part which is missing compared to nearly all other modern interchangeable lens camera is a dust-reduction system. Cameras usually move the sensor or low-pass filter at very fast speeds to shake dust off. This would be very hard to ruggedize, so Nikon removed it.
The minimize the impact of dust, the Nikon 1 AW1 is equipped with a fixed dust-shield which is an extra layer of glass in front of the sensor. By keeping a relatively large gap between the sensor and dust-shield, dust should appear minimal as it would not be able to completely block entire pixels.
Nor the AW1, nor its waterproof and shockproof lenses, offer any form of image stabilization. To have image-stabilization, one must use non-waterproof lenses which is OK but may mean you would buy lenses covering the same focal-lens in both shockproof and stabilized versions.
Lenses for the AW1 are equally shockproof. They are mostly made of metal except for a rubber edge to absorb impact along the lens rim. The front and rear glass elements are obviously recessed to avoid breaking. A thread allows the use of 40.5mm filters but there is no provision for a bayonet-type lens-hood.
The battery compact and connector doors are covered with rubber on the inside to form a tight seal. To avoid accidentally opening either of these doors, the AW1 features a double-locking mechanism on each.
Care must be taken before using the Nikon 1 AW1 underwater. All seals have to be checked for particles and wear. Nikon provides silicon grease to keep the O-ring flexible and improve the seal. The rubber ring is also replaceable and it is recommended to do so once it shows some wear.
Nikon AW1 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 13 x 9mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|14 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 160-6400|
|Nikon 1 Mount|
|Waterproof to 15m||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Weatherproof down to -10C||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|60 FPS Drive, 60 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 920K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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