Nikon 1 AW1 review - Quality

Quality

Nikon AW1 vs Olympus TOUGH TG-2 vs Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Nikon AW1, Olympus TOUGH TG-2 iHS, and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

Both the Olympus TOUGH TG-2 and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5 were zoomed in a little from their maximum wide angle lens setting to provide an equivalent field of view to the Nikon AW1 fitted with the 11-27.5 zoom with its 30mm equivalent wide angle.

For this test all three cameras were set to Program Auto mode. Image stabilisation was turned off and the camera settings were otherwise left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Nikon AW1. The camera was set to Program Auto mode and with the sensitivity set to 160 ISO the AW1 selected an exposure of 1/800 at f5. At 100 ISO the Olympus TOUGH TG-2 metered 1/1000 at f3.2 and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5, also set to 100 ISO metered an exposure of 1/800 at f3.4

Generally, the crops from the Nikon AW1 look clean and crisp and show a high level of detail. In the first crop you can see not only the door and window frames in the chapel, but the individual frames in the window on the end wall. You can also make out some of the detail in the stone work. In the second crop you can make out the distinct white column of the lighthouse despite the atmospheric haze, and the edges of the window frames in the foreground buildings are nice and clean. Edge detail in the third crop is a little softer than in the centre, but not much. And in the fourth and final crop from closer to the middle of the frame the only blemish on an otherwise sparkling performance is a slightly noisy overall texture. Despite that there’s plenty of fine detail and the edges are nice and sharp.

Compared with the crops from the two compacts alongside – the TOUGH TG-2 and Lumix FT5 / TS5, there’s a clear and obvious difference with the bigger sensor and superior optics of the AW1 delivering cleaner, crisper crops with a higher level of fine detail resolved right across the board. That’s what you’d expect and the AW1 doesn’t disappoint, though its quality that comes at a much higher price than the compacts.

To see how these models compare at higher sensitivities check out my Nikon AW1 Noise results.

Nikon AW1
Olympus TOUGH TG-1
Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5
f5, 160 ISO
f3.2, 100 ISO
f3.4, 80 ISO
f5, 160 ISO
f3.2, 100 ISO
f3.4, 80 ISO
f5, 160 ISO
f3.2, 100 ISO
f3.4, 80 ISO
f5, 160 ISO
f3.2, 100 ISO
f3.4, 80 ISO

Nikon AW1 vs Olympus TOUGH TG-2 vs Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5 Noise

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Nikon AW1, Olympus TOUGH TG-2 iHS, and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5, within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Both the Olympus TOUGH TG-2 and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5 were zoomed in a little from their maximum wide angle lens setting to provide an equivalent field of view to the Nikon AW1 fitted with the 11-27.5 zoom with it’s 30mm equivalent wide angle.

For this test all three cameras were set to Program Auto mode. Image stabilisation was turned off and the camera settings were otherwise left on the defaults.

The image above was taken with the Nikon AW1. The AW1 was set to Program Auto mode and at its base 160 ISO sensitivity setting, selected 0.6s at f3.5. At its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting the Olympus TOUGH TG-2 metered an exposure of 0.5s at f2.2 and the Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5 metered 08.s at f3.5 also at 100 ISO

Just to remind you that the three sensors we’re comparing in the Olympus TOUGH TG-2, Nikon 1 AW1 and Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5 have resolutions of 12, 14 and 16 Megapixels respectively, which means the crop area of the Nikon 1 AW1 is mid-sized compared to the other two models. The 12 Megapixel TOUGH TG2 has a slighlty larger crop area with smaller detail and the 16 Megapixel Lumix FT5 / TS5 has a smaller crop area with larger detail. More importantly though, the Nikon AW1’s CX sensor is physically much larger than the 1/2.3in sensors in both compacts, so should deliver images with lower noise levels at equivalent ISO sensitivities.

So let’s take a look at the crops. The base 160 ISO crop from the AW1 isn’t noise free by any means, there’s a slight graininess over the entire crop area which softens the detail a little. Having said that, the text is perfectly legible and the edges are clean. The slight increase in sensitivity to 200 ISO brings with it a visible increase in noise and further softening of the details. At 400 ISO there’s more of the same, but there’s no clumpiness and you can still read the text.

At 800 ISO it’s more of the same with a further linear step up the noise ramp, it’s starting to look a little bit clumpy now, but with text still readable 800 ISO shots are passable at full size. At 1600 ISO things take a turn for the worse both in terms of the level of noise and its quality, though. You can just about make out the larger text here, but there’s a lumpy claggy texture getting in the way of all but the larger detail. At 3200 and 6400 ISO, as you’d expect, things look pretty grotty, but these are useful settings for must have shots that you intend to use at smaller sizes.

The Nikon AW1’s base ISO sensitivity is 160 ISO which I’ve compared here alongside the 100 ISO crops from the TOUGH TG-2 and the Lumix FT5 / TS5. Not surprisingly, with its larger 14 Megapixel sensor the Nikon AW1 produces better quality images with lower noise levels throughout the ISO sensitivity range than both the Olympus TOUGH TG-2 and Panasonic Lumix FT5 / TS5. The 160 ISO crop from the Nikon AW1 isn’t noise free, but the noise levels are considerably lower than in the 100 ISO crops from the two compacts. In fact the difference is so great that the 800 ISO crop from the AW1 looks at least as good as the 100 ISO crop from the TG-2. The Lumix FT5 / TS5 does a little better the the TOUGH TG-2 at 100 ISO, but noise levels quickly escalate. So the overall verdict is the Nikon 1 AW1 performs significantly better than either of the two compacts at their base sensitivity settings, an advantage that quickly grows as you increase the ISO sensitivity.

Now head over to my Nikon AW1 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my verdict.

 

Nikon 1 AW1
Olympus TOUGH TG-2
Panasonic Lumix FT5
160 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO Not available
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