How many outlets will use that original headline, I wonder, and what inspiration leads to it…
Today, Nikon released the world’s first interchangeable lens digital camera – if you ignore the military version of the Nikonos RS underwater SLR produced with Kodak. Unlike that specialised system, the AW1 is intended for the consumer and is extremely affordable. Available in black, white or silver metal finish for £749 with standard 11mm-27.5mm F3.5-5.6 Zoom lens (equivalent, in 35mm terms, to 30mm to 74mm) which is rated for 15m submersion, or £949 with the 10mm F2.8 and the zoom, with the 10mm supporting 20m submersion.
Part of NIkon’s 1-series, the AW1 sports the hybrid AF 14Mp sensor, high-speed shooting (now 15fps with continuous AF) and good high ISO abilities that defined the CX-mount family from the start, with some enhancements inherited from newer models and ideal for underwater use. First, though, let’s look at the mount that makes the AW1 so unique.
It’s very similar, in concept, to the Nikonos RS mount, but reversed. Even the familiar grease to maintain the seals is included. Naturally, changing the lenses underwater is not possible, as the sensor and electronics are exposed.
As a member of the CX-mount family, the AW1′s physical lens mount and registration is unchanged, but the body includes a greater protrusion for the flange with a rubber gasket. On the new underwater lenses, the mount is recessed, with the extension of the barrel including a silicone liner. Mounting the underwater lenses is satisfyingly difficult, making it clear that this is sealing to back up the claims of 15m submersion.
Aiding the underwater experience, the 11mm-27.5mm zoom has a grippy metal zoom collar for most of the barrel, and the AW1 uses an innovative ‘press and tilt’ mode selection – simply hold the mode button, and a virtual pendulum
hangs on the LCD to indicate the mode. Tilt the camera body clockwise or vice-versa and it indicates one of the automatic modes for video, creative shooting etc. and selects it without any need for additional buttons or hands. This also eradicates the issue with the early Nikon 1, where the mode wheel could be knocked into a new shooting mode when extracting it from a bag or pocket.
An underwater 10mm prime lens has also been introduced, which can be submerged to 20m.
The AW1 does not make existing CX mount lenses suitable for use underwater, and the underwater lenses will not mount on existing CX bodies such as the V2. Yet the flexibility of the system does allow F-mount lenses via the adaptor, so opting for the AW1 really gives very little away in overall ability.
Other technical improvements include GPS/GLONASS support with compass, depth and altitude meters, shockproof from 2m capability, and an underwater Speedlight (the SB-N10) will also be introduced, though the camera’s own pop up flash can be used underwater.
We had the opportunity to try a pre-production sample for water, drop resistance and handling, though not photography for publication as the firmware is yet to be finalised, with the camera release date set for 10th October. The silver metal body was particularly attractive, and it seems that at this point, this is where the Nikon 1 system and the CX mount come into their own – offering something truly unique, with a form factor and range of abilities that suits the intended user perfectly.