Nikon Coolpix AW100 Update: Print Test and Video Sample

Posted May. 17th, 2012 by Daniel J. Cox

A few days ago I highlighted my experience with Nikons new Coolpix AW100 “adventure camera”. I mentioned I wanted to reserve my final opinion based on the quality of prints you could make from it. On my way home from Peru, I sent my assistant Jill a JPEG to make an 11×17 print. Before I got home she sent me an  email stating that she thought the print was quite impressive, so I was anxious to see it for myself. This morning when I walked in the studio I found the 11×17 laying on my desk and ready for close inspection. She was right, it was impressive.

That's Jill behind the hill. She's a bit shy but can really make things happen when producing prepress files for publication.

Keep in mind that the image above was produced to show me what the details of a camera like this can produce. The colors in this image are a bit funky due to the mixed lighting I shot the above photo in. The original print was actually dead-on to the original color of the scene around Machu Picchu, Peru. Ideally I should have shot this in better light but the moment of Jill behind the print was fairly spontaneous and she doesn’t like to pose for pictures too long.

The Nikon Coolpix AW100 Adventure Camera

The details over 90% of the print were stunning. I could pick out people walking the rock walls within the ancient ruins. The one downside that came to light were the edges of the frame. Unfortunately the outer corners were a bit soft, the detail in the grass and rock walls just didn’t match the center of the frame. That’s not unusual in any camera, even the multi thousand dollar pro cameras. In a perfect world I would have loved to not have noticed it, but I did. That said, would that affect my decision to use this camera? Not in the least. For an all-around point and shoot it produces razor sharp, highly detailed photographs. Remember this image was 11×17 inches. I would venture to guess you wouldn’t see the soft edges in images most people print. For details on how the print was produced I’m going to turn the rest of this Blog Post over to Jill. She’scover the technical details of making a print of this size from a small point and shoot camera. Take it away Jill.

Hi folks, Jill here (the eyes in the above photo). As Dan mentioned, he sent over this image of Machu Picchu to do an 11.x17 test print. The file I received from him was an out-of-camera JPEG file, 6.6MB, 300ppi and 15.36 x 11.52 inches. Keep in mind that the typical file we would work with would be shot in RAW format (probably a NEF, since Dan is almost always shooting with a Nikon) and be approximately 15-40MB – significantly larger than the JPEG file he sent over, and for an 11 x 17 print we would work from this RAW file to create a TIFF file, about 50MB, 300ppi.

Tanya sometimes takes Jill off to faraway places for help with fine tuning our Invitational Photo Torus. Here she's on the job in Ireland. Next month her and Tanya head to Brazil. She doesn't know I have this photo. © 2012 Tanya Cox/

Anyhow, as many of you may know, JPEG files are compressed, meaning that some of the original image data is lost, cannot be recovered, and the quality of the photo will most likely degrade each time you make an adjustment and ‘re-save’ the file. Sounds awful, right? This is a trade-off for having images that don’t take up too much space, but that is another blog in itself, so we won’t delve too deeply into that. The importance of JPEG versus RAW is that shooting in RAW format, the image will retain the all of the original file information which makes for better files to print from in general.

Now that you have an idea of the type of file we’re working with from this little point and shoot camera, we’ll go on. I opened the Machu Picchu file in Photoshop and re-sized it (using Genuine Fractals Print Pro Express 5.0) to make the print 17 inches on the long side (rather than the original 15.36 inches). After enlarging, the print is 300ppi (same resolution) and 12.75 x 17 inches, not a significant enlargement, but we are enlarging a JPEG, not recommended, but it’s orders from the boss. We then do a basic sharpening using Nik Sharpener 3.0 for an inkjet, luster print – no creative or selective sharpening added. Send the print job to the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II here in our office, and viola we have our print. As Dan said, the end results are highly acceptable (minus the soft corners), considering the file we we were working with. Printing smaller files for a photo album, around 4×6 or 5×7 would be even better but when the need arises you’ll be able to make a large print for your wall without much trouble.

Well, hopefully these technical details didn’t bore you to the point of leaving this blog post. Case in point – pretty great little point and shoot camera – print-tested and Dan-approved 🙂 Speaking of Dan, he has a few more words to say about the video feature on the Coolpix AW 100. Happy reading! Here’s Dan.

One of the other great features of this mighty, mini, digital imaging power house is its ability to shoot stunning 1080P HD video. It captures movies in the .MOV format and I loaded the clip below in to iMovie 11. This clip is nothing that will get me even a napkin to dry my tears at Sundance but it does show video quality and AF capabilities of a fairly fast moving subject. The entire video was shot hand-held which is not something I suggest when shooting video, especially when you zoom the camera out to its longest telephoto setting which I did in this sample. In general it really looks great. In fact I like the video out of this camera even better than the stills but both are pretty darn good. You can see another video sample of the Hammerhead shark in the original post I did on this camera a few days ago.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions for either Jill or myself please plug them in here on the Blog. We’re both happy to help. As the newweb site comes online you will all be hearing from Jill on a more regular basis. She has great tips and tricks for all things on the prepress/Photoshop side of the equation. As most of you know I’m not a Photoshop guy. Drop us a line any time. We love hearing from you.


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There are 2 comments on this post…
  1. NateOn Oct. 8th, 2012

    Two questions
    1) While in Peru did you need a special adapter for the charger to recharge your batteries? – I have this trip in my near future with my AW100 and would rather not add weight to my bag.
    2) When you shot the video did you have the Video Wind Noise reduction on or off? (Shooting screen> Menu button> Movie Tab> Wind Noise Reduction.)

  2. Isaiah LadermanOn Jun. 7th, 2012

    Your sample photo may have been shot at wide-angle, where most lenses show distortion, vignetting, and corner softening. Is the lens soft in the corners in the middle of its zoom range, where most lenses are best?

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