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Lifewire / Gannon Burgett
Multiple color options
Subpar video quality
Limited control options
The Nikon Coolpix W100 does exactly what it’s advertised to do—take decent images in a range of environments, from campsites to underwater, all without missing a beat. Image quality could be better, but at this price point you won’t find a better option.
As robust as smartphones and DSLRs have become, sometimes you need something a little more rugged for when your adventures get a little wild. Enter the world of rugged point-and-shoot cameras. Multiple companies have been creating rugged point-and-shoots for years, but Nikon was one of the first to introduce a waterproof camera, and decades later they’re still doing it in the form of the W100.
We got our hands on one of Nikon’s entry-level ruggedized cameras and put it through the test to see what it has to offer in a compact form factor and affordable price point.
At first look, the Nikon Coolpix W100 doesn’t look much like a rugged camera. The design is toylike, with rounded edges and minimal inputs. But don’t let its looks fool you. Underneath the vibrant colors and playful design is a camera that can take a beating and keep on shooting.
The front of the camera features a lens, a small LED light used to help autofocus in low-light situations, and a Xenon flash right above the lens. The top of the device features three buttons: the shutter button, a power button, and a dedicated record button for video. On the back of the device is a 2.7” 230k-dot LCD screen as well as directional buttons, a review button, and four buttons on the left used for navigating through the menu.
The design is toylike, with rounded edges and minimal inputs.
The four buttons on the back are one of the most brilliant design elements of this camera. Since this camera is designed to be used in wet and dirty conditions or underwater, the decision to use individual buttons to the side of the rear display to navigate the menu is brilliant. If you’re used to navigating through camera menu systems via a directional pad or joystick the W100 might throw you off, but for those times when your hands are muddy or you have gloves on, the four-button system is smart and well-executed.
Aside from the aforementioned design features, there’s nothing too fancy about the W100. It’s rather barebones in external features and functionality, but that’s to be expected for a $100 camera.
Setting up the W100 is as simple as taking it out of the box and installing the included battery. Once turned on, it’ll ask you to input the date (for the purpose of adding it to the metadata embedded within images captured with the W100) and once it’s set and you've installed a compatible SD card, you’re ready to start shooting.
At the core of the Nikon Coolpix W100 is a 13.2MP ½.1-inch CMOS Sensor with a Nikkor 3x optical zoom lens in front of it. The Nikon lens, which features six optical elements in five groups, offers a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 30-90mm and has an aperture range of f/3.3 to f/5.9 (as you zoom in the maximum aperture drops).
We put the camera to the test in a variety of environments and while the photos were adequate, the combination of the small sensor and less-than-impressive lens left much to be desired. The images often came out looking flat and due to the additional glass in front of the lens (which helps to keep the camera sealed), the images were rather soft, especially when fully zoomed in. The images proved to be even worse in low-light environments, when the ISO needed to be cranked up. The noise was very prominent and details were even softer than in full light due to the noise reduction applied to the JPEG images.
This is extremely cheap for a digital camera, but considering the image quality the W100 puts out, we’d say this is more a case of getting what you pay for.
All of that said, the image quality is about what you’d expect for a camera that costs as little as the W100 does. If you just plan on posting these photos to Facebook or Instagram, the image quality should be more than good enough, but don’t expect to be making any photo prints larger than 8” x 10” without blurring, graining, and other quality issues.
Much like the still image quality, video was average at best. The ability to shoot 1080p Full HD was nice, but the video was very soft across the board and the onboard speakers sounded very tinny, likely due to the waterproofing required to keep the camera protected.
In the brightest situations, the video is certainly usable, but in dimmer light, the video suffered to the point of being almost unusable at times.
As with most other recent cameras from Nikon, the W100 features Nikon SnapBridge technology. This means you can connect the W100 to your smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and wirelessly transfer full-resolution photos and videos. Nikon’s SnapBridge app isn’t the most feature-rich or intuitive to navigate, but it gets the job done and makes it convenient for times when we wanted to immediately share the images we captured with friends and family.
The Nikon Coolpix W100 costs $100 (MSRP). This is extremely cheap for a digital camera, but considering the image quality the W100 puts out, we’d say this is more a case of getting what you pay for. In all honesty, the images you take with your smartphone will be more or less the same or better quality than the W100, but the ability to take the W100 underwater and in more rugged environment gives it an edge over using your smartphone as your travel camera.
While the W100 stands alone in many regards, there is one competitor that more or less compares with the Nikon in specs—the Fujifilm FinePix XP120.
The Fujifilm FinePix XP120 retails for $166, making it quite a bit more expensive than the Coolpix W100, but for that extra money, you get more imaging and processing power. The XP120 features a 16.4MP backside illuminated CMOS sensor with a 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm full-frame equivalent).
Cheap and durable.
The Nikon Coolpix W100 doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. It’s a budget waterproof camera and it has everything you need to take decent photos underwater or in dirty conditions. The photo and video quality aren’t the best, but the resulting images should be more than good enough to keep on hand for reminiscing about unique experiences down the road.