Nikon AW1 preview: World’s first waterproof, shockproof mirrorless is like a digital Nikonos Lite


posted Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 11:01 PM EST

For years, fans of underwater photography have been clamoring for a digital Nikonos camera: an interchangeable-lens camera they could take snorkeling or scuba diving without the need for an expensive, cumbersome underwater housing. Today, they get their wish -- or at least, in part. The Nikon AW1 is the world's first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable-lens digital camera, and while it doesn't bear the legendary Nikonos brand (or travel quite as far beneath the surface as did the film cameras), it's still big news for the underwater set. It's sort of a digital Nikonos Lite, if you will. And it's also freezeproof, to boot.

At its heart, the 14.2-megapixel Nikon AW1 is very closely related to the existing Nikon J3 mirrorless, though it's a bit larger and heavier, and does add some new features. These include a built-in GPS receiver, altimeter / depth gauge, electronic compass, and virtual horizon. There's also an Action Control function similar to that seen on the Nikon AW100 compact, which allows the camera's menus and settings to be controlled simply by tilting its body.


In other respects, though, the Nikon AW1 retains the J3's core features, but places them in a much more rugged body. Both its CX-format, Aptina-produced CMOS image sensor and EXPEED processor are carried over, as are the blazingly-fast 73-point autofocus system, equally swift 60 fps full-res burst shooting, and most hardware features.

Of course, an underwater interchangeable-lens camera isn't going to work without underwater lenses, and so Nikon has also prepared two new lenses that -- due to their waterproofing -- can be mounted only on the AW1 body. The new 1 NIKKOR AW 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 and 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 lenses are pretty straightforward ports of their existing, dry-land counterparts, but with O-rings to prevent water ingress. Both lenses, too, are shockproof and freezeproof.


Available from October 2013, the Nikon AW1 is priced at US$800 with a waterproof 11-27.5mm zoom lens. Add the waterproof 10mm prime to form a two-lens kit, and you'll pay US$1,000. The AW1 won't be available body-only.

Want to know more about the Nikon mirrorless that's the closest thing yet to a digital Nikonos? Read our Nikon AW1 preview for the full story on the camera that takes the Nikon 1-series beneath the ocean blue.


As well as the Nikon AW1 and its two kit lenses, Nikon has also revealed several other accessories. Silicone rubber grips for comfort and security will be available for the AW1 body and both lenses, in a choice of three colors: black, khaki and orange. They'll be priced at US$37 each. Nikon has also revealed that it is developing an underwater Speedlight flash strobe and a filter intended to prevent issues with condensation when changing lenses in harsh environments. The AW 40.5 NC filter ships in the first half of 2014, with pricing as-yet undisclosed. Pricing and availability for the SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight likewise haven't yet been revealed.