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Nikon Coolpix AW120 Review

We test the waterproof Nikon Coolpix AW120 - waterproof to 18 meters it features built in GPS and Wi-Fi.

|  Nikon Coolpix AW120 in Compact Cameras
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Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (3)

The Nikon Coolpix AW120 is an update to the Nikon Coolpix AW110, and has a new 24mm equivalent wide-angle lens, improved battery life, a higher resolution 921k-dot OLED screen and is waterproof to 18 meters. The AW120 is available in black, blue, camouflage and orange for £279.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Features

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (4)

The Nikon Coolpix AW120 is an extremely robust camera. It is waterproof to 18m, shockproof to 2m and freezeproof to -10°C. It has a 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and internal 5x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 24-120mm. To help keep your images sharp there is Hybrid VR which combines lens-shift and motion blur reduction

The built-in Wi-Fi allows you to transfer your images and movies to a mobile device for sharing to social network sites. The device can also be used as a remote control. The AW120 also has built-in GPS and an electronic compass. There is a World display map so you can see where you took your pictures and view your route. The altimeter gives you your exact altitude and the hydro-barometer shows you how deep underwater you are. Action Control makes it easy to use the camera underwater or when wearing gloves.

When shooting there is auto mode which adjusts the camera settings automatically. There are also a number of scene modes which includes dedicated light modes such as Auto HDR and Night Landscape. The AW120 can shoot a maximum of 6 frames at 8 fps. Easy Panorama 360°/180° mode lets you pan vertically or horizontally to create panoramas. When shooting underwater, underwater mode automatically adjusts the white-balance.

Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD with stereo sound, optical zoom and autofocus available during recording. You can also record slow or fast motion videos, with speeds varying between 15 and 240fps. You can connect the camera to a HDTV with a HDMI cable.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (1)

Key Features

  • 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor
  • 5x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24-120mm)
  • Hybrid VR (lens-shift and motion blur reduction)
  • 3.0 inch 921k dot OLED screen
  • Waterproof to 18m, Shockproof to 2m, Freezeproof to -10°C
  • Built-in GPS, altimeter, hydro-barometer and electronic compass
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Action Control
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • ISO 125 - 6400
  • 1cm minimum focusing distance
  • Auto HDR
  • 8fps continuous shooting
  • Easy Panorama 360°/180°
  • Available in blue, black, camouflage and orange

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Handling

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (5)

The Nikon Coolpix AW120 has a mostly plastic body with a metal front and its shape makes it easy to grip, although the front can be quite slippery so a wrist strap is recommended. On top of the camera is an on / off button and shutter release. The rear has a zoom rocker with movie record, scene mode, playback, menu and delete buttons. There's also a d-pad for cycling through the menus, this also gives quick access to exposure compensation, flash, self-timer and macro mode.

Also on the rear of the camera is a 3 inch screen with an improved resolution of 921k dots and is easy to view in all light. Access to the battery and memory card is via the chunky round dial on the side of the camera. You have to press the central button and turn the dial 90°. The camera menus are clear and easy to navigate.

On the opposite side to the battery area is a button which switches to the World map and Action Control. If you activate Action Control in the camera menus you simply need to press it and a menu comes up on the screen. You simply flick the camera up and down to go through the menu and press the Action Control button again to make your choice. Options available are mode selection, start movie recording, and playback. This makes it easier to operate the camera when underwater or wearing gloves.

To make use of the Wi-Fi you need to download the Wireless Mobile Utility app to your smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android). This allows you to use your mobile device to download pictures from the camera to edit and share them. You can also use it as a remote release. A preview appears on your mobile device, you can control the zoom or set a timer. Other information appears on the screen, such as shutter speed, aperture, number of shots left and battery life. 

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (8)

Battery life is rated at 350 shots according to CIPA test results, which is an improvement over the last model, however, this may reduce with a lot of GPS and Wi-Fi use, so you may want to consider carrying a spare.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Blue (7)

We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Nikon Coolpix AW120
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.1
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.4
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.8
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.3
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before stopping)
8fps (5 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A

Focus and shutter response is quick, as is switch on time, as well as shot to shot time. Continuous shooting is quick at 8fps although the camera will only take 5 photos before it stops shooting. 

Nikon Coolpix AW120 In Sand (2)

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Pictures are colourful, and are well exposed, with good performance when shooting underwater as well. Portraits have good skin tones, while having minimal amounts of red-eye.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Lens test images

Lens Performance - The macro mode lets you get very close to the subject, with the camera showing you on screen the best amount of zoom to use to get a close shot. There is little barrel or pincushion distortion, although slight vignetting is visible when shooting bright skies at the wide-angle end of the lens. Some glare and ghosting is visible when shooting with a bright light source in the frame, although purple fringing appears to be well controlled. 

Nikon Coolpix AW120 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is reasonably low in ISO125 shots although if you look closely some colour noise is visible in darker areas of the image. Similar results can be seen at ISO200, with decent levels of detail. At ISO400 noise increases slightly and there is a light drop in image quality. At ISO800 there is a more noticeable drop in image quality. At ISO1600 there is an even more noticeable drop in detail, although colour is still good. At ISO3200 noise becomes more noticeable, but colour is still good, so these may provide usable images. ISO6400 is best avoided due to excessive noise. The level of detail in images is a little disappointing with images appearing quite soft at times. 

Nikon Coolpix AW120 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent lights, the auto white balance (AWB) and incandescent preset perform well, taking identical images. Under the fluorescent lights the AWB performs well, with a magenta cast when using the fluorescent preset.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Panoramic DSCN0582 | 1/500 sec | f/2.8 | 5.1 mm | ISO 125
Panoramic | 1/500 sec | f/2.8 | 5.1 mm | ISO 125

Panorama mode - Panoramas have a reasonable amount of detail and are stitched together well, although any movement in the scene will cause ghosting. There are options for 180° and 360° panoramas, you can also shoot in four directions, left, right up or down.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Outdoor images

The camera has a number of modes to increase dynamic range in photos, including a backlighting scene mode that uses flash, as well as an automatic HDR option. 

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a number of effects available, which can either be pre-selected, as shown above, or you can also apply quick effects straight after taking the shot. 

Video - The camera records full HD video, at 30p, 25p or 60i, with stereo sound, and optical zoom is available during recording. There are a number of high speed video modes available, and there is the option of single or continuous AF, wind filter and video LED. High speed video example 1 (120fps), HS video example 2 (240fps).

Value For Money

The Nikon Coolpix AW120 is available for £279 which makes it reasonable value for money, with a waterproof rating of 18m, and is up against the following waterproof cameras:

Panasonic Lumix FT5, 13m, Wi-Fi, £269
Olympus Tough TG-850, 10m, £269
Olympus Tough TG-2, 15m, £229
Canon Powershot D30, 25m, GPS, £299

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Verdict

The Nikon Coolpix AW120 offers a very good depth rating of 18m, and is shockproof to 2m. The lens is a 5x optical zoom with a 24mm equivalent wide-angle, zooming to 120mm. Vibration reduction helps keep shots sharp, and the screen has been improved with a higher resolution. Battery life is also improved with 350 shots, making this suitable for a days shooting or more. The camera is competitively priced and packed with built in Wi-Fi and GPS, making it a great travel camera, particularly if you want to share to social media sites. Images have good colour and exposure, but could be sharper, however should be good for sharing on websites. 

  The Nikon Coolpix AW120 gives a great range of features, packed with Wi-Fi and GPS, it's tough and ready for action. 


Nikon Coolpix AW120 Pros

Built in Wi-Fi and GPS
2 year warranty
Improved battery life (350 shots)
Available in a number of colours
Wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens
18m waterproof
Auto HDR mode
Good macro mode
8fps continuous shooting

Nikon Coolpix AW120 Cons

Soft images
Noise in images
Slippery front


Nikon Coolpix AW120 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/4.9
35mm equivalent24mm - 120mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels16Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
Sensor Size1/2.3inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921k dot
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest4sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Centre Spot
ISO sensitivity125 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting8fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS60i, 30p, 25p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-Ion EN-EL12
Battery Life (CIPA rating)350shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsCamera strap for land use, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-71P, USB Cable UC-E21, Brush

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Coolpix AW120

50/50Malta 2016

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Dennis123 8 2
8 Apr 2014 2:41PM

first of all thank you for the great review.

I would have a question:

Does the Nikon AW120 performe better than the Panasonic FT5? I need a new cam for my holiday and so I would like to have one of these for getting pictures over and under water...

Thank you.
Dennis123 8 2
8 Apr 2014 7:35PM
Sorry for the double post, I mean of course the Panasonic TS5. So it has to be which is better Nikon AW120 and Panasonic TS5?
Thank you

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