Nikon 1 AW1 Review: Waterproof and Shockproof Digital System Camera

Nikon 1 AW1 Review: Nikon 1 AW1 Waterproof and Shockproof Digital System Camera 

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

Up to now, you could only take digital cameras with you on your dives in expensive underwater housings, but this has changed with the Nikon 1 AW1.

If it is equipped with one of the two equally waterproof lenses, it can be used to dive up to 15 meters deep without any additional housing. The mirrorless system camera can also easily withstand falls from heights of up to two meters and frost down to -10 °C, such as the Sealife DC2000 that we have also reviewed in this article.

Nikon even has a solution for operation with gloves.

Nikon 1 AW1 Pros And Cons


  • With depth and altimeter as well as GPS log ideally suited for outdoor use
  • The video program offers slow motion and a manual mode
  • Very fast camera, best suited for snapshots
  • Advanced features including manual mode
  • Waterproof to 15 meters diving depth and shockproof to two meters


  • Quite heavy for a mirrorless system camera
  • Often nested menu navigation due to missing setting wheels
  • Sluggish zooming due to the waterproofness of the lens
Nikon 1 AW1
The special Action Control button on the Nikon 1 AW1 allows camera control by movement, which is especially practical when wearing gloves. [Photo: Nikon]

According to Nikon, the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 is “fit for any adventure”. You can dive with it up to 15 meters deep, it survives falls from a height of up to two meters without damage and is also suitable for outdoor use in winter at temperatures of up to ten degrees below zero.

Its robust exterior combines with a 13.2 by 8.8 millimeter CMOS sensor with 14.2-megapixel resolution, which gives the physical focal length of the kit lens a crop factor of 2.7. In order to be able to use the camera to its full potential, the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 comes with a 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 mm waterproof and shockproof lens.

The special action control button on the back of the camera activates a camera motion control function that not only allows settings to be adjusted but also switches to playback mode.

Both the two lenses 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 (30-74 mm corresponding to 35 mm) and 1-Mount AW 10 mm 2.8 (corresponding to 27 mm) as well as the camera have special seals, also on the lens bayonet.

The lens cannot be changed underwater, but the flash can be folded out and triggered because it is protected against water penetration even down to a depth of 15 meters. The special lenses have a metal housing, an internal focus and, in the case of the 11-27.5 mm, an internal zoom, making the 11-27.5 mm in particular larger than its non-waterproof counterpart.

Although the other 1-Nikkor lenses can be used on the 1 Nikon 1 AW1, normal Nikkor lenses can also be adapted as usual, but the photographer has to do without the waterproofness.

However, the Nikon is not only suitable for snorkeling, diving, and other wet sports, but also for skiing, for example, because it tolerates cold temperatures down to -10°C.

Despite this enormous robustness, even falls from a height of up to two meters, the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 is said to be able to put away the lenses, the Nikon looks like a normal well-designed modern mirrorless system camera. You can immediately see that it is a Nikon and especially a camera of the 1-system.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

The lens of the Nikon 1 AW1 also matches the color of the respective housing. [Photo: Nikon]

Technically, the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 is similar to the 1 J3, so it comes with the fast 1″ CMOS image sensor (13.2 x 8.8 millimeters, 3:2 format) with 14-megapixel resolution, which can not only take ultra-fast continuous shooting (up to 60 frames per second), but also Full HD video.

However, the buyer must do without an image stabilizer, neither the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 nor the two waterproof lenses have one. The image stabilizer of appropriately equipped 1-Nikkor is of course supported.

The electronic shutter of the system camera allows not only a silent release but also shutter speeds of up to 1/16,000 second. However, for bulb mode long exposures, the exposure is limited to a maximum of two minutes. The rear screen measures three inches diagonally and has a resolution of 921,000 pixels.

Furthermore, the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 has a built-in electronic compass, a satellite positioning system (GPS and GLONASS) and an altimeter and depth gauge, the former working from -500 to 4,500 meters altitude, the latter at diving depths from 20 to zero meters.

Although the Nikon does not have a built-in WLAN, the adapter WU-1b is compatible. However, if you plug it into the camera’s USB port, you lose the waterproofness. The adapter allows not only wireless image transmission but also remote control of the camera including live image transmission to a smartphone or tablet.

The Nikon 1 AW1 will not only be offered in black but also in silver and white. [Photo: Nikon]

Not only are numerous automatic modes available for the shooting programs, but for more experimental photographers or those who want to have full control over the exposure parameters, there are also semi-automatic and manual modes.

Aperture, exposure time, ISO sensitivity, white balance, etc. can, therefore, be controlled manually if desired. The raw storage format is also available as an alternative or in addition to JPEG. The autofocus is also impressive. Depending on the situation, it works with a contrast measurement via the image sensor or via phase comparison measurement points integrated on the image sensor.

While the focus is locked on the first frame at 60 frames per second, allowing 20 consecutive images to be captured, the autofocus automatically adjusts the focus at 15 frames per second, allowing 22 consecutive images to be captured in this mode. The focus is also readjusted for video recordings.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

The Nikon 1 AW1 and the 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 is waterproof up to 15 meters. Even the flash is sealed and can be folded out and used underwater. [Photo: Nikon]

Since the end of 2013, the Nikon 1 AW1 is being offered in a set with the 11-27.5 mm in the colors black, silver and white at a price of just under 800 dollars. The lens has the same color as the camera body.

The 10 mm should cost just under 320 dollars individually but is also available in a double kit with the Nikon 1 AW1 and the 11-27.5 mm, the set price is then just under 1,020 dollars. The 10 mm is only available in black.

Furthermore, Nikon offers special optional accessories such as a matching waterproof carrying strap, a water-repellent bag or a special camera handle. Optically, the Nikon 1 AW1 including lens can not only be upgraded but also protected from scratches by silicone coatings in orange, army green or black.

Nikon launched a powerful external underwater flash called SB-N10 in spring 2014.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

Ergonomics and Workmanship Of The Nikon 1 AW1

At the latest when you take the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 in your hand, you feel the effects of its waterproofness and shock resistance. Seals, extra shutters and the matching kit lens 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 with inner zoom and inner focus provide an increased weight compared to other mirrorless system cameras.

With a weight of 533 grams, the Nikon 1 AW1 is still good and safe in the hand. There are also effects of the action suitability in the operation.

For example, the Nikon 1 AW1 has no dials at all, everything is done at the touch of a button. Also, a mode dial on the top of the camera is not found. Nikon has thought of another clever alternative, which has advantages, especially in outdoor use.

If you press and hold the so-called “Action button” next to the thumb rest in the live image mode, different recording modes appear on the display. If you now tilt the camera gently to the left and right, the pointer moves back and forth between the programs and you only have to release when the pointer is at the desired mode.

For the semi-automatic and manual modes, however, this still means one more step of setting work than with direct selection via a rotary knob, because they can be found under Creative Shots and must be called up by pressing the button again.

The Nikon 1 AW1 has this “one-time multiple press” system. It offers many settings and useful features, but it takes a lot of keystrokes until all settings fit. For example, the Nikon 1 AW1 lacks a typical quick menu for image size, ISO, white balance, etc. To do this, the tilt control can also be used in the playback menu to scroll through the images already captured, or from the menus to adjust the so-called outdoor displays such as monitor brightness or high display contrast.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

In addition, the Nikon 1 AW1 can be protected against impacts and decorated at the same time with the Nikon CF-N6000. [Photo: Nikon]

With two exceptions, Nikon has distributed the buttons according to the usual standard with options for exposure compensation or flash and self-timer via shortcut via the four-way rocker or direct selection buttons for image playback or erasing.

The action button, which helps a lot with the operation, is a bit unfavorably located next to the very useful thumb rest on the back.

If you are in the heat of a photo battle, you often press the button by mistake. Also, the video button that Nikon has not placed at the back but prominently at the top beside the shutter release makes sure that many small unintended films are created because the finger presses a big button in a hurry.

The Nikon 1 AW1 has two of them with a shutter release and video button and until you get used to it, you will miss some snapshots.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

With the belt Nikon AH-N6000 the 1 Nikon 1 AW1 always stays on the user firmly. [Photo: Nikon]

There is nothing to complain about in the processing of the Nikon 1 AW1. The flaps close securely and are equipped with extra seals and closures for underwater use. Next to the tripod thread made of metal, which is off the optical axis, there is a tiny opening that serves to equalize the pressure.

Mounted on a tripod, the battery and memory card can be exchanged. The flash is also well protected in the camera body. It must be folded out manually and can also be used underwater.

Equipment And Features

The equipment of the Nikon 1 AW1 is geared towards its strengths as a dive and outdoor camera. For underwater use, the Nikon 1 AW1, of course, provides an appropriate scene mode program, which is further subdivided into underwater standard, scuba diving for greater water depths and underwater close-up photography.

If you are not satisfied with the color scheme that automatically compensates for the bluish tint of the water, you can easily shift the blue-green balance by pressing the arrow keys. A correction program is also available for distortion.

The Nikon 1 AW1 can record position data and has an altimeter and depth gauge, whose data is also stored in the image data. For operations without underwater housing up to 15 meters, it is sufficient, from 20 meters on it fails its services.

The built-in flash is secured so that it can be used underwater. But the Nikon 1 AW1 does not only show its advantages underwater. Even at temperatures below zero, it remains ready for use and the altimeter can be used to accompany many a mountain tour and assign the geodata to the pictures.

The panorama program, which is very easy to use, captures landscapes on a grand scale and is an absolute must for an outdoor camera.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

You don’t necessarily see the waterproofness of the Nikon 1 AW1 immediately, it looks like a normal, well-designed system camera. [Photo: Nikon]

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

But the Nikon 1 AW1 is also not scarce with other features. In addition to the subject and automatic programs, it offers an aperture and aperture priority mode as well as a manual mode.

Even in automatic mode, there is no need to restrict yourself to the settings specified by Nikon 1 AW1. If live image control is selected, the strength of certain effects such as background blur, brightness, motion blur or the balance between highlights and shadows (Active D) can be assessed on the screen before recording.

This works quite well with D-Flash and the brightness. For background blur or motion blur, it is better to rely on your own aperture and shutter speed settings. Most subject programs also offer the possibility of self-adjustment.

In the Backlight program, for example, you can determine whether HDR is active or whether the shadows are brightened by a flash. Beyond the classics P, A, S, M and scene programs, the Nikon 1 AW1 allows you to take moving snapshots and best moment capture. With the latter option, the camera takes 20 images in about 1.3 seconds with the shutter-release button pressed halfway and plays them back to the photographer in an endless loop until the photographer selects the desired image by pressing the shutter-release button.

If you want to capture a really decisive moment like the goal shot of your kid, you have to find the right moment with this program. Or you can choose the fast series, which allows up to 60 frames per second. Because one thing you have to give the Nikon 1 AW1 credit for: it is really fast.

With the moving snapshot, the Nikon 1 AW1 records 1.6 seconds of a film with the photo and underlays these mini sequences with music. If you’re not into these gadgets, choose the classic settings. The menu offers a variety of options from portrait mode, exposure metering, and focus mode to AF point selection.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

The Nikon 1 AW1 allows filming in full HD resolution (1080p). If you select the slow-motion function, the camera records about 400 frames per second without sound in an 8:3 aspect ratio and plays them back at 30 frames per second.

What is not standard with all cameras in this class and therefore distinguishes the Nikon 1 AW1 is the fact that you can use the aperture and aperture priority and even select the manual mode.

The waterproof kit lens proves to be less ideal for filming with zoom. Due to its seals, it is more sluggish than conventional lenses, which leads to camera shake or jerky zoom movements.

Image Quality Of The Nikon 1 AW1

A waterproof action camera that is allowed to fall down from time to time is of little use if the image result leaves something to be desired. Whether the Nikon 1 AW1 can meet the demands of ambitious photographers, we have examined in the test lab and in practice.

The waterproof zoom lens 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 shows no loss of sharpness with DIN A4 prints and also the edge dimming is so minimal that it does not play a role in practice.

Less beautiful is the enormous barrel distortion that occurs in the wide-angle range at the equivalent of 30 millimeters focal length. Nikon offers an internal correction for above and underwater.

The chromatic aberrations are kept within limits and only appear in such a way that they are easily visible at very specific aperture focal length constellations. In practice, color fringes are therefore not a problem.

If you bring the sensor into play, a look at the resolution in line pairs per millimeter shows what it can do. The Nikon 1 AW1 is very restrained here and does not reach the value of 40 at any aperture and focal length, while competitors are advancing to 50.

If you fade down to F16, it is only enough for an average of 25 line pairs per millimeter. The test chart for texture sharpness therefore also shows a rather low entry of Nikon 1 AW1, which is still completely sufficient up to ISO 800. But Nikon maintains a restrained image processing.

This, in turn, has a positive effect of fewer sharpness artifacts. The signal-to-noise ratio shows a rather low trace. Already between ISO 400 and 800, the Nikon 1 AW1 breaks the critical limit of 35 decibels. This means that image details from ISO 800 and above are superimposed by interference signals.

Luminance and color noise, on the other hand, do not pose a major challenge for the Nikon 1 AW1. From ISO 3.200 onwards, however, the grain size, at least in the blue and red channels, goes into dimensions that can be perceived as too coarse.

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

The Nikon 1 AW1 also shows no peak performance in terms of input dynamics, but with values of around nine f-stops up to and including ISO 3,200, it is at a very consistently high level.

Nikon has adjusted the tonal value transfer in such a way that the image result comes across with crisp color tones – a result that is definitely desired for this class. And if you want to have it different, you can take pictures in raw format and readjust them yourself.

The white balance is very accurate and even at speed, the Nikon 1 AW1 can score. With values around 0.2 seconds for the autofocus including shutter release delay, it can be recommended as an extremely fast companion for snapshots. This is certainly partly due to the hybrid autofocus consisting of phase and contrast detection.

Conclusion: Is The Nikon 1 AW1 Worth It?

The Nikon 1 AW1 is worthwhile for photographers who like to be out in the wild under extreme conditions and take their cameras into the water.

It doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced photographer who likes to make all the settings yourself or a beginner in the field of system cameras.

The Nikon 1 AW1 offers all variants from intelligent automatic to full manual mode. Due to the missing dials, the operation is sometimes a little annoying and involves a lot of pressing. The possibilities offered by the menus, however, relativize the effort again. In terms of image quality, the Nikon 1 AW1 shows solid, reliable results, but does not achieve peak values for a mirrorless system camera except in terms of speed.

Compared to compact cameras with 1/2.3″ sensor, however, it has very good image quality. The Nikon 1 AW1 is a real snapshot camera. Those who do not need the outdoor qualities of the Nikon 1 AW1 are better off with another mirrorless system camera.


Manufacturer Nikon
Model Nikon 1 AW1
Price approx. dollars 750 at market launch
Sensor Resolution 14.2 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.608 x 3.072
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6
Filter thread 40.5 mm
Dioptre compensation
Image field coverage
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 921.000
as Viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene mode programs
More 5 additional scene modes available
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection
Remote release
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format MOV
Codec H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
Frame rate (max.) 60 frames/s
automatically ISO 160-6.400 (upper limit adjustable)
manually ISO 160-6.400
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Underwater, shadow
Manually yes
Number of measurement fields 135
AF auxiliary light green
Speed approx. 0,2 s
Languages English
More 35 additional languages available
Weight (ready for operation) 356 g (body only) 533 g (with lens*)
Zoom adjustment at the lens
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible.
Battery life approx. 250
– = “not applicable” or “not available”* with lens 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6

Brief assessment


  • With depth and altimeter as well as GPS log ideally suited for outdoor use
  • The video program offers slow motion and a manual mode
  • Very fast camera, best suited for snapshots
  • Advanced features including manual mode
  • Waterproof to 15 meters diving depth and shockproof to two meters


  • Quite heavy for a mirrorless system camera
  • Often nested menu navigation due to missing dials
  • Sluggish zooming due to the waterproofness of the lens

Nikon 1 system Discontinued

Mirrorless 1 system it is now officially discontinued, as reported by Nikon. We confirmed this in 2019 also talking with the dealer who sends us cameras for testing on behalf of Nikon.

The cameras of the Nikon 1 system have disappeared from the Japanese website already in 2018 or are listed as “discontinued”, and there is also a written confirmation of the discontinuation. By 2020 we could still find models to purchase online.

Nikon still lists the models 1 J5, 1 V3, and 1 Nikon 1 AW1, in many countries of dollarsope, whereby the latter is no longer available at any dealer and also the other two models are only available at very few dealers. So if you still want to have an originally packed camera for your “museum”, you should get one soon.

Meanwhile, rumors are growing that Nikon will soon introduce mirrorless professional system cameras. Therewith, if one believes the rumors, Nikon would rely on the professional photographers in the second attempt instead of the beginners and hobby photographers to whom Nikon mainly sells APS-C-DSLRs but also full format DSLRs and to whom the 1-system could only be made palatable with massive discounts (some models were temporarily offered for less than 200 dollars including standard zoom).

Lenses For The Nikon 1 AW1

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

The standard Nikon 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6 zoom zooms and focuses internally. [Photo: Nikon]

Nikon 1 AW1 Review

In addition, Nikon offers the fixed focal length 1-Mount AW 10 mm 2.8 either as a single lens or in a double lens set with the 1 Nikon 1 AW1. [Photo: Nikon]

Nikon 1 AW1 Review
Manufacturer Nikon
Model 1-Mount AW 10 mm 2.8
Price (EIA) 319,00 dollars
Bayonet connection Nikon 1
Focal length 10.0 mm
Luminous intensity (maximum aperture) F2,8
Smallest aperture F11
KB full format irrelevant
Lens system 6 lenses in 5 groups incl.
aspherical lens(es)
Number of aperture blades 7
Close-up limit 200mm
Image stabilizer available no
Autofocus available yes
Water/dust protection yes
Filter thread 40.5 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 61 x 30 mm
Lens weight 118 g
Nikon 1 AW1 Review
Manufacturer Nikon
Model 1-Mount AW 11-27.5 mm 3.5-5.6
Price (EIA)
Bayonet Nikon 1
Focal length range 11-27.5 mm
Luminous intensity (maximum aperture) F3.5 to F5.6
Smallest aperture F16
Lens system 8 lenses in 6 group incl.
ED and aspherical lenses
KB full format irrelevant
Number of aperture blades 7
Close-up limit 300mm
Image stabilizer available no
Autofocus available yes
Water/dust protection yes
Filter thread 40.5 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 63 x 57 mm
Lens weight 182 g

Nikon 1 AW1 Datasheet


Sensor CMOS sensor 1″ 13.2 x 8.8 mm (crop factor 2.7
)14.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 2.9 µm
Photo resolution
4.608 x 3.072 pixels (3:2)
2.592 x 2.592 pixels (1:1)
2.304 x 1.536 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 60 p
Video format
MPG4 (Codec H.264)


Lens mount
Nikon 1


Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 921,000 pixels


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/16,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure Compensation -3.0 to +3.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 160 to ISO 6.400 (automatic
)ISO 160 to ISO 6.400 (manual)
Scene modes Auto, Backlight, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Portrait, and Underwater
Picture effects Miniature effect, Soft Focus, Selective color
White balance Sun, shade, flashlight, underwater, fluorescent lamp, incandescent lamp, manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 10.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 13 stored photos, 10, 30 or 60 frames per second
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 5 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)


Flash built-in hot-shoe: not available
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/60 s
Flash code Guide number 5 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
GPS function GPS internal
Microphone Stereo
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL20 (lithium-ion (Li-Ion) )70 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Image index
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Contrast
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type: USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: available
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Housing Splashproof class (IPX8), waterproof up to 15.0 m and maximum 60 min, drop-resistant up to 2 m, frost-proof up to -10 °C
Special features and miscellaneous Expeed 3 Image ProcessorFace DetectionPicture

Control Standard, Neutral, Brilliant, Monochrome, Portrait, CustomHybrid AF Systems
(Phase Detection and Contrast AF),
Phase Detection AF with 73 Fields of ViewActive D-LightingBuilt-in

Stereo MicrophoneDust Filter


Front of SensorPre-Post Capture Electronic

CompassAltimeter Function
-500 to 4.


00 meter depth gauge
0 to 20 meterAction
control of the camera by tilting the camera Automatic
distortion correction under waterWatercraft function

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 113 x 72 x 38 mm
Weight 356 g (ready for operation)


standard accessory Nikon AN-N1000 Storage AccessoriesNikon
BF-N1000 Lens AccessoriesNikon
BF-N2000 (Body Cover)
Nikon EN-EL20 Special Battery PackNikon
MH-27 Charger for Special BatteriesNikon
PA-N1000 (Underwater Accessories) Other AccessoriesNikon
UC-E15 USB CableNikon
WP-G1000 (Silicone Grease)
ChargerUSB Connection CableStretch StrapImage Editing SoftwareViewNX2Movie Software
Short Movie Creator
additional accessories Nikon EH-5B Power SupplyNikon
EN-EL20 Special Battery Power SupplyIR Remote ControlML-3

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