camera review: underwater Nikon Coolpix AW100 / by Carey

My husband surprised me for Mother's Day and early birthday with a new camera.  My first digital point and shoot, actually.  But what is cool about my little P&S is that it is an underwater camera.  The Nikon Coolpix AW100.  The newer model, the AW110, is (at the time of this post) the same price within a few dollars of the AW100.  I'd probably go with that one if you were buying today- wifi and up to 18m instead of 10m).  [FYI - the AW100 was around $250 when he purchased it.  The price on Amazon seems to fluctuate a good bit.  price for the AW100 rising while the price of the AW110 falls to its lowest to date:  see here and here)].

My inlaws have a pool, so we spend a good portion of time there in the summer.  Not to mention, our kiddos are semi-fish.  I had been craving the opportunity to play with underwater imagery.  It has been a fun adventure.

Here are just a few from last week's visit to the Pool Land a la In-Laws.

underwarter photos by Carey Pace

underwarter photos by Carey Pace


My review of the Nikon Coolpix AW100 underwater camera?  I'm a fan.

I've never owned a point and shoot.  I went from a film SLR camera (the Nikon N65) to the digital SLR camera (Nikon D70, to D90, and now D800).  I'm used to having the ability to manipulate my camera and be in control.  The Coolpix AW100 has an exposure compensation button, which in my opinion rocks.  I'm not at the mercy of the camera's opinion of proper brightness in my image.  If it is taking images that are too dark - I can adjust that button to take brighter images.  I still need to play with this more, but I certainly like having that knob.

There is a place in the menus to adjust white balance.  I haven't tried this yet, so we shall see how the performance goes.  But again, awesome to have that knob.

There is also a macro button where you turn macro On or Off.  I still need to play more, but I'm guessing that allows me to focus on things more close up than the regular full frame of focus.

The battery life seems exceptional.  I take hundreds of images in a session of shooting.  It hasn't failed me.

The video has been fun to play with as well.  I will post soon with the videos we've played with.

For $250, I'm a happy camper.  However, I do want to disclose the difference between what the camera generates SOOC (straight out of camera) and my finished images.  I don't think you can go shooting and expect to get the same images I am without some post processing work.  White balance is still a HUGE issue.  This shouldn't be surprising.  You are under water... surrounded by blue.  At least, in the blue vinyl liner of my in-law's pool.  I'm certainly no expert, but I've had to do significant changes in white balance and skin tone in post processing.  If you want this kind of an image, you will need photo software like Photoshop or Lightroom where you can change the tones hugely and easily.

(I have a theory right now that the colored blue liner of the pool makes the image clarity through the water less than with a concrete pool.  The images we took in the Disney hotel pool in May were much, much better and clearer than the ones we took in our in-law's liner pool.  My idea is that since concrete is by its very nature a more reflective, and neutrally colored, surface, the available light in the water is more.  Better light - better images.  Plus, being surrounded by the blue liner means a by nature full scale blue color cast on everything, just just here or there.  More experimentation to prove my theory to come!  I at first thought that perhaps the water was clear enough in their pool - I don't think that's the case now though. The water is perfectly clear - but just doesn't seem to show that way with this camera.)

I have included the SOOC and edited of each image below, just for your comparison.  Obviously I need more practice with this, and more practice with consistency.  Yet I think the edited is leaps and bounds better than the SOOC.


comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited

comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited

comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited

comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited

comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited

comparison underwater camera photos SOOC and edited



I shot these with my Nikon Coolpix AW100 Underwater Camera.  All links are affiliate links.