I’ve exalted the virtue of mirrorless systems before on this blog, and I still stand by my claim that mirrorless are great alternatives, both for their size and their flexibility. Not to mention that they just keep getting more and more powerful (see: Sony Alpha 7 and 7R). The Nikon 1 AW1, Nikon’s latest in the 1 Series, also reminded me that they’re great alternatives to problems with preconceived “difficult” solutions.
Take underwater photography, for example. Or any kind of travel photography. Or any outdoors photography in extreme conditions. Isn’t there always the fear, while lugging around your precious DSLR, that the cold will damage the internal elements of your camera, or that you’ll drop it down a ravine or into a lake? (I drop things all the time. Just don’t tell my future child.)
The Nikon 1 AW1 might not take photos that are all that mind-blowingly different from any other camera. But the quality is still there, and you can drop it in water and still expect it to work, within reason.
I took it around Clintonville with a 11-27.5mm lens and quite enjoyed using it. The body and lens were a bit heavier than I expected, but it gave it a nice heft that felt comfortable.
Let me briefly touch on the lens: Yeah, it’s a seemingly weird focal length, until you realize that its angle of view is equivalent to 30-74mm in 35mm format, which is still slightly weird if you’re used to the normal variations of zoom lenses, but it will give you a good zoom range. Plus, it’s a well-built NIKKOR lens with all the sharpness you’d expect.
Shooting in manual is somewhat cumbersome, You have to go into the main menu, or hold down the action control button and physically tilt the camera, to select “creative modes,” then from there select manual, or any of the “priority modes,” or any of the other creative modes that have become fairly standard for this class of camera, such as “miniature mode.” Once in manual mode, you can use the right arrow on the back panel display to toggle between aperture and shutter speed, and then use the playback buttons to change the aperture value or time value.
However, I kind of suspect that those who will be interested in this camera will probably be more interested in how it can capture quick, well-exposed shots in unwelcome terrains, such as the water. In fact, I wanted to test the underwater capabilities myself, so I took our display camera and put it in the water:
One final thing to note: the Nikon 1 AW1 does shoot video, which you could use to capture really cool underwater footage without having to buy a ton of equipment to protect your camera, like you would with a DSLR. Of course the image quality will be better with some DSLRs, but why spend a few thousand dollars for an underwater casing when you can just get a new camera that can easily fit in your purse or fannypack?
So if you’re looking for a new vacation camera that’s portable and adventurous, check out the NIkon 1 AW1.