RoadRUNNER Digital Rider

Nikon 1 AW1: Could THIS be the Ultimate Motorcycle Touring Camera?

Dec 12, 2013 View Comments by

Nikon 1 AW1: Could THIS be the Ultimate Motorcycle Touring Camera?A couple of weeks ago I posited that the Sony RX10 was the perfect motorcycle travel camera. I’ve changed my mind; the Nikon 1 AW1 is the ultimate motorcycle travel camera. And no, Nikon didn’t pay me to say that. Let me explain…

For the past year I’ve been doing a lot of shooting with the Nikon 1 V1, a Compact System Camera (CSC), with a body and interchangeable lenses much smaller than those of a DSLR. The V1 is a good compromise between size and performance. Recently, Nikon came out with the AW1, a waterproof (to 49 feet), cold proof (to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), and shockproof (6.6 foot drop) camera based on the Nikon 1 system, and this combination of toughness and image quality may make it perfect for that next big off-road adventure.

The Nikon 1 system is built on the same sensor size as the Sony RX10—one-inch. The one-inch sensor may, in fact, be the Goldilocks sensor for motorcycle travel—big enough for high quality images, yet compact enough that camera bodies and lenses can be made much smaller than a DSLR. But where the Sony RX10 has a fixed zoom lens, the Nikon 1 AW1 features interchangeable lenses. Any lens designed for the Nikon 1 system will work with the AW1, although you need to use one of the two AW lenses if you want to be fully water, dust, cold, and shockproof.

The sensors in the Nikon 1 series also have a trick up their sleeve—ultra fast autofocus. Most point-and-shoots and Compact System Cameras (from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Canon, etc…) will struggle with moving subjects; big DSLRs are still the top dog here. But in good light, the AW1 should be able to focus on a moving motorcycle, and do so at 15 frames per second.

One thing the AW1 doesn’t have is an eye-level viewfinder. Most people these days shoot by holding the camera away from them anyway, so it may not be a big deal. Eye-level viewfinders are really helpful, though, on especially bright days when it’s sometimes hard to see the rear screen.

The Nikon 1 AW1 starts at $799.95 for a one-lens kit.


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About the author

You know that little boy who stares at you, mouth agape, as you ride by? That was me, thirty-plus years ago. I merged two of my passions, motorcycles and photography, when I became a contributor to RoadRUNNER.