Rugged Compact Camera

Back in 2012, I reviewed the Nikon COOLPIX AW100, so I was excited when Nikon announced the COOLPIX AW120, their third generation camera in the rugged compact segment. What improvements has Nikon made?

The body is slightly redesigned (emphasis on slightly) and now it's even more rugged. The AW120 is waterproof to 59′, freezeproof to 14° F, and shockproof up to 6.6′. Inside, the AW120 has a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor; Hybrid VR (vibration reduction); GPS with mapping, electronic compass, and points of interest; and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity so you can share your journey via email, text, or on social networks.

The AW120 has a 5x optical zoom (24-120mm equivalent); 3″, 921,000-dot OLED monitor; and a faster f/2.8-4.9 lens. The back of the camera has a series of small buttons, their size allowing for the 3″ monitor. It's not an ideal setup for anyone wearing gloves (skiers, divers, etc.), but everyone else should have no problem using the buttons, with one exception: The Movie button is very close to the zoom rocker switch and it's easy to push the Movie button while zooming. The camera strap is, well, not ideal. The AW120 has a full neck camera strap that requires disassembly to attach it to the camera. This strap makes one-handed use difficult at times. A fully articulating wrist strap would suit this camera much better.

Performance is greatly improved, especially in low-light situations. The scene modes work better and photos are sharp, unlike the AW100, which frequently yielded soft photos. Viewing the scene modes has changed from a full view to a scrolling list on the OLED. To me, this is not an improvement as it takes longer to find the appropriate scene.

The Nikon COOLPIX AW120 is a tough camera that performs well. If you're in the market for a rugged compact camera, you owe it to yourself to take a look.

Company: Nikon Inc.
Price: $299.95
Rating: 4
Hot: Rugged build; improved low-light performance
Not: Small buttons; position of Movie button; strap; no RAW