The Nikon COOLPIX W150 is an inexpensive rugged waterproof compact designed to be simple and fun to use. It’s waterproof to a depth of 10 metres, dustproof, can be dropped from a height of 1.8 metres and is freezeproof down to -10C.
The COOLPIX W150 has a 3x zoom with an equivalent range of 30-90mm and a maximum aperture of f3.3-5.9. Behind it is a 13 Megapixel sensor that is smaller in physical size than most compact sensors and closer in size to the sensor in your smartphone. It has a 2.7 inch screen, which is again smaller than the 3 inch screens found on most compacts these days including the slightly more expensive Fujifilm FinePix XP140 and the much more expensive Olympus TOUGH TG-6 with which I’ve compared it in my review.
Ease of use is the W150’s main selling point, so you won’t find any manual exposure controls, advanced movie recording modes or fancy sensors, but it does have a very simple interface and lots of fun shooting modes. It also makes it very easy to share images and video via WiFi and a Bluetooth connection that transfers photos to your phone in the background while you shoot. And while it doesn’t have a built-in GPS you can add location data to your pictures from your phone.
The COOLPIX W150 is an update to the 2016 COOLPIX W100 and a fairly minor one at that; the physical specifications of the camera are unchanged from the W100, and in fact the only new feature is Underwater Face Framing mode, which automatically takes a shot whenever the camera spots a face underwater. It’s undeniably a great idea, but I must admit to being a little disappointed that Nikon didn’t make more of an effort to upgrade some of the W150’s weaker aspects, like the small screen, the lack of stabilisation, or the fact that you can’t use the optical zoom during video recording.
That said, there are plenty of things that the W150 does at least as well, if not better than its more sophisticated – and more expensive – rivals. Read on to see how it compares with the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 and the Olympus TOUGH TG-6 and to find out if it’s the best rugged waterproof compact to take with you to the beach, piste or pool.
The COOLPIX W150 may be physically identical to its predecessor, but Nikon has at least provided it with a new paint job. This one is called resort. If it’s a bit too wild for you, the W150 is also available in more conventional colours including white, orange and blue. If you’re on a budget, bear in mind that in some places you’ll pay a little more for the graphics models than the plain coloured ones.
The COOLPIX W150 is a superbly well designed camera, with ease of use the prime focus behind every design decision. Press the big button on the right to take a picture, press the big button with the red dot on the other side to shoot a movie. That’s something any five year old can understand. Note also that you can fit the hand strap to either side. And if you scroll back up to the picture of the front of the W150 and look at the position of the built-in flash, you’ll see that it’s virtually impossible to dangle your fingers in front of it. It’s not all good news though, the W150 is one of the few waterproof compacts that doesn’t double-latch the battery and card compartment door, and there’s a real risk this could accidentally open in the water.
The COOLPIX W150 retains the earlier model’s 2.7inch LCD screen and for me this is one of the new model’s disappointments. A bigger screen would have made a big difference to the W150, making it much easier to compose and review shots, without taking anything away from the camera’s simplicity. This is one area where it compares poorly with the Fujifilm FinePix XP140 and Olympus TOUGH TG-6, both of which have larger and more detailed 3 inch screens. But though it’s small, the W150’s screen is nice and bright, so in sunny conditions like this is actually easier to see than the bigger screen on the FinePix XP140.
Here’s the angle of view with the COOLPIX W150 set to its maximum wide angle setting which is the equivalent of 30mm on a 35mm camera. This is wide enough for a head and shoulders selfie at arms length with a couple of mates if you squeeze in tight. It’s not as wide as the FinePix XP140 (28mm) or the TOUGH TG-6 (25mm) and you’ll find it more of a problem to shoot large groups and small interiors (boats, caves, cable cars, ski lifts) than with those models.
With the COOLPIX W150 fully zoomed in to its 90mm equivalent focal length this is what you see. While you’re not going to fill the frame with distant birds, or even match the 100mm of the TOUGH TG5 or the 140mm reach of the FinePix XP140, I don’t think that’s really a problem on these kinds of cameras. The zoom will allow you to take good portraits and to get a little bit closer to action in the water – scroll down to the next shot and you’ll see what I mean.
For the surfing sequences from which this frame is taken I didn’t get a high proportion of keepers, The W150 chooses between centre and face auto focus depending on the subject but either way it didn’t do very well. Like most waterproof compacts, including the TOUGH TG-6 and FinePix XP140 it fixes the focus on the first frame in the sequence. It’s quite difficult to see the screen in sunny conditions but, though the W150’s screen is smaller than the Fujifilm XP140’s it’s brighter, so you can see enough of what’s going on to frame the shot.
If you’re shooting small sea creatures underwater with the COOLPIX W150, you might wonder whether to choose underwater mode or macro mode. For this shot I chose the former; you can actually get closer than this, but my closer shots were poorly framed because I couldn’t see the screen (this is a problem with every waterproof model I’ve tested if you are above the surface and the camera is blow it). Macro mode actually makes no difference to the W150’s 5cm close focussing distance, but it does exclusively use centre AF mode, which makes focussing on close subjects in the middle of the frame easier. With a little patience, however, you can achieve the minimum 5cm distance in underwater mode.
The idea of Underwater Face Framing Mode is that you can take pictures of people below the surface without having to dive under yourself and compose the photo on the W150’s screen. Just select underwater Face Framing Mode, press the shutter and the W150 will fire off a shot (up to a maximum of 4) every time it spots a face in the frame. I tried it out by attempting to shoot some selfies when I went for my morning swim. The results would have been better if the W150 had picked a higher ISO, as it is the 1/25 shutter speed isn’t fast enough. Disappointing, given this is the only feature that sets the W150 apart from the erlier W100.
Don’t expect to be able to get nice blurry backgrounds with the COOLPIX W150 either when shooting close up or for portraits when zoomed in a little. Here I was about as close as I could get to the car badge and the COOLPIX W150 very obligingly selected the widest f3.3 aperture (in any case the two aperture settings are produced by a neutral density filter rather than a physical diaphragm so it wouldn’t make any difference). Even so, the people and background scenery are only very slightly blurred.
For action shots the COOLPIX can shoot at just under five frames per second for around eleven frames (a couple of times I got twelve). That means you can capture just over two seconds of action and here you can see a sequence of 12 shots. The autofocus is much more successful on land than in the water and providing it manages to lock focus on the first frame the considerable depth of field means all your shots are likely to be in focus even when the subject is moving towards you. On the downside, the COOLPIX W150 takes an age to write the sequence to the card, so you could miss out on a great action sequence while you’re waiting.
The Coolpix W150 inherits the WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity features of the earlier W100. The WiFi allows you to download photos to your phone and shoot remotely, but the highlight is Bluetooth which, with Nikon’s Snapbridge app maintains an always on connection to your phone and downloads 2 Megapixel photos in the background while you shoot. It’s very simple to set up and you don’t really have to think about it after that (other than to make sure you have your phone with you and the Snapbridge app is running). Although the W150 lacks a built-in GPS, Snapbridge uses your phones GPS to add location data to the downloaded pics. It also records that info to the metadata on the images in the camera.
The COOLPIX W150 only has one video mode so all three clips here are 1080/30p. This clip shot handheld outdoors looks a little bit over exposed, which is something the w150 seemed to be prone to. Another thing you’ll notice is it’s a little shakey – the COOLPIX W150 lacks the optical stabilisation you’ll find on the FinePix XP140 and TOUGH TG-6. Another economy is that the optical zoom doesn’t work when recording video, instead you get a clunky ‘digital’ zoom which reduces the resolution and looks awaful – far better to use the optical zoom to frame your shot before pressing the record button.
Here’s an indoor panning clip from the COOLPIX W150. Like the previous clip it’s a little bit over exposed, but the quality doesn’t look at all bad.
Finally here’s a movie shot in underwater mode. If this looks a little shakey I should point out that it was taken in shallow water and I was being pounded by waves, so no amount of stabilisation would have helped. Of all three clips, I’d say this is the one where the COOLPIX W150 has done the best job.