Easy operation. Inexpensive. Waterproof to 33 feet. Scene modes and filters. SnapBridge Wi-Fi.
Low-res LCD. Smartphone-level image quality. Modest zoom range. Omits manual controls.
- Bottom Line
The Nikon Coolpix W100 is a tough, inexpensive camera at a reasonable price, but image quality isn't any better than a good smartphone.
By Jim Fisher
The Nikon Coolpix W100 ($159.95) is an attractive rugged camera for families who want something they don't have to worry about dropping or getting wet. Simplified controls and large buttons make it easy for kids to use, and Wi-Fi and NFC are included for seamless image transfer to your smartphone. You won't get much benefit in image quality versus using your iPhone, although the W100 is equipped with a modest zoom lens. The real benefits are the low cost and sturdy design. If you're looking for a point-and-shoot you don't have to worry about breaking and that won't break the bank, give the W100 a shot.
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The W100 measures 2.6 by 4.3 by 1.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.2 ounces. The body sports rounded edges, a lens that doesn't extend when zooming, and large buttons that are comfortable to press. You can buy the camera in blue or white.
The lens is a modest 3x zoom, matched to a 1/3.1-inch CMOS image sensor. It's roughly the same sensor size you get in an iPhone, but the W100 has slightly more pixels, 12.9MP. The lens covers a 30-90mm field of view in full-frame terms, with an f/3.3-5.9 variable aperture—you're going to want to use the flash for low-light photography.
Operation is almost fully automatic. You can turn the flash on or off, and select a Scene mode to fine-tune settings for specific shots—cityscapes at night, fireworks, underwater photography, fast action, macro, and other common options are included.
You can access the Scene options, and other settings, using the four buttons that run in a column on the left side of the rear LCD. An overlay menu runs next to them, and if you dive deeper into the menu their functions change. The menu isn't dense. You can change basic options, like set a self-timer, suppress the flash, adjust color output, add decorative borders to images, and connect the W100 to your smartphone.
If you're serious about photography, you'll miss the ability to set the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO manually. But that won't bother most casual users, who want the camera to capture pleasing photos without any fiddling. As such, there are only a couple of shooting controls—a four-way pad on the rear adjusts zoom using its up and down positions, and there are buttons on the top to snap images or start and stop videos.
The rear LCD isn't going to wow anyone. It's a little small at 2.7 inches, and not that sharp at 230k dots. Viewing angles are fine from the left or right, but if you hold the camera above your head or at your waist, you'll have a hard time viewing the screen.
The W100 is waterproof to 33 feet. I didn't take it that deep, but I did submerge it in a bowl of water, and it continued to work without issue. The camera is also rated to survive drops from 5.9 feet, is resistant to dust, and can work in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nikon's Wi-Fi system is called SnapBridge. If your phone supports NFC, you can just tap it to the camera to pair, but if you have an iPhone you'll need to pair using the SnapBridge app. It connects the W100 and your phone via Bluetooth, which also means the W100 will automatically add GPS data to images and set clocks via information gathered by your smartphone.
If you're using the W100 for the occasional snapshot or event, you can set it up to automatically transfer photos to your phone via Bluetooth. This all happens in the background, without you having to do anything. This makes it easy to share images shot with the W100 on Facebook or Instagram. Photos are downsized to 2MP before transfer, so you won't fill up your phone's memory. Still, that's plenty of resolution for social media, and you can use a phone app to filter or edit images, as I did with the black-and-white shot above.
You can also use your phone as a remote. To do so you'll need to connect via Wi-Fi—don't fret, the app walks you through the simple process. You'll get a live feed from the W100 on your phone's screen and you can use it to adjust the zoom or fire an image. When connected via Wi-Fi you have the choice of sending full-resolution or downsized 2MP images to your phone as you shoot. Full quality files are saved to the W100's memory card.
The W100 has one access door, at the bottom, with a single-locking design. You'll need to pull the lock back toward the rear while sliding the door outward to the side in order to open it. Inside you'll see the removable battery, an SD card slot, and micro USB and micro HDMI ports. The camera must be recharged via micro USB, there's no external charger included. CIPA rates the battery for 220 shots per charge, but using SnapBridge will cut into that figure.
The W100 delivers pretty decent speed. It starts, focuses, and fires in about 1.6 seconds, a fine figure for a compact. Autofocus locks on in about 0.2-second, not the fastest we've tested, but also not slow. And if you enable the continuous shooting Scene mode you can fire off images at 4.8fps for up to 12 shots. You can keep shooting longer, but the camera slows to about 1 shot every 2.5 seconds. There is some recovery time needed after a full burst, about 30 seconds to write all of the images to a card.
Image quality is on par with a smartphone. Imatest shows that the lens resolves 1,700 lines per picture height at its widest angle on a center-weighted sharpness test, which is a bit less than the 1,800 lines we look. The very center is crisp, but edges lag behind, which is typical of a point-and-shoot. Quality suffers when zoomed all the way in, dropping to 1,077 lines. That's not as good as you get with the wide-angle lens found in an iPhone or premium Samsung Android handset, but it's better than what you'd manage with a digital zoom or crop of your phone camera.
There's no manual ISO control, but I was able to test the W100 from its lowest sensitivty to light (ISO 125) through ISO 800 by adjusting the power of our studio lights. Nikon says the W100 can shoot at ISO 1600 at maximum, but I couldn't get the camera to use that setting, even when the lights were dim enough to force a 1/2.5-second exposure at ISO 800.
Noise never exceeds 1.5 percent, although the W100 uses some very agressive noise reduction to keep grain out of images at higher ISOs. We see the most detail at ISO 125, which is expected, but it won't blow you away. There's muddiness in the smallest areas of our test scene, with very close lines melding together due to lack of resolution. Lines with more space between them are distinct. At ISO 250 those distinct lines haven't quite melded togehter, but their edges aren't distinctly delineated—the result is a slightly blurred photo.
Blur is more of a problem at ISO 400. The lines that were previously individual have now started to run together. There's some slight additional blur at ISO 800. Results are very simlar to what we see from the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7 at comparable settings, although the phones have the advantage of crisper, brighter prime lenses.
The 1080p30 video, captured in MP4 format, is slightly cropped, so you'll lose some wide angle coverage. Details are crisp, especially in the macro focusing range, and the camera refocuses as the scene changes, though it is a bit slow to do so. Audio sounds hollow and distant, which is typical for a waterproof camera.
Smartphone cameras, especially those on flagship models, have wiped out most of the market for low-cost digital cameras. The Nikon Coolpix W100 doesn't give you any sizable advantages over an excellent smartphone in terms of image quality—in some ways, it lags behind, omitting 4K video and delivering images that aren't quite as crisp as a high-end iPhone or Galaxy. But that's not the big appeal here. The W100 is an affordable, tough, waterproof camera that's a solid option for families with kids. It can be used at the beach or poolside without worry, and if you do end up losing it or breaking it, you won't be out a lot of money—the same can't be said about a flagship phone. If you're in the market for an inexpensive camera and don't demand top-end image quality, the W100 is worth a look.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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