Nikon AW100 vs Panasonic TS4
Two Compact Waterproof Cameras Square Off
So you've been thinking about buying a waterproof camera and you've narrowed it down to the Nikon AW100 vs the Panasonic TS4. Which one should you buy?
In a competition between these two cameras, it's a tough choice because both have winning features and thousands of happy fans. So how do you choose the best? This page can help you decide which one is right for you.
Below you'll find a side-by-side comparison of features, sample photos and videos taken from each camera and a personal review of the pros and cons of both models so you can chose the best underwater camera for you.
(Photos by Lisa Howard)
But as a scuba diver who started diving in the 1980s when film cameras were still in vogue, I had another reason to favor the Nikon. For years, Nikon was THE name in underwater cameras. Their Nikonos series of cameras set the standard in underwater photography from the 1960s until digital cameras led to the end of their production in 2001. So when Nikon announced the AW100, it was like Lance Armstrong or Magic Johnson announcing their return to competitive sports.
However, while Nikon had been out of the game, other competitors had moved in, and Panasonic was one who was doing very well. They jumped into the "tough" camera market with the DMC-TS1 in 2009, a compact camera that was waterproof to 10 feet, and then continued to improve it. By the third generation, the Panasonic TS3 was making some serious waves in the rugged camera category. It was the most popular camera in Amazon's Underwater Cameras category for much of 2011 and hundreds of happy customers gave it a 4- out of 5-star rating. Consumers loved this camera!
Then along came the Nikon AW100 in late 2011 to steal the thunder from Panasonic's game. Panasonic fought back with the TS4 in early 2012, and now customers looking for the best all-around waterproof camera with GPS often narrow it down to these two - the Nikon AW100 vs the Panasonic TS4.
Take a quick look at the chart below to see how they compare and then read the full reviews below.
Nikon Coolpix AW100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4
1/2-in CMOS sensor
1/2.33-in CCD sensor
3-in 460k dot LCD
2.7-in 230k dot LCD
5x optical zoom
4.6x optical zoom
28mm wide angle
28mm wide angle
Size: 4.4 x 2.6 x 0.9 in.
Size: 4.07 x 2.52 x 1.04 in.
Waterproof to 33 ft
Waterproof to 40 ft
Shockproof to 5ft
Shockproof to 6.6 ft
Freezeproof to 14 degrees F
Freezeproof to 14 degrees F
1080p HD video
1080p HD video
GPS and compass
GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer
Battery life: 250 shots
Battery life: 310 shots
ISO to 3200
ISO to 3200
Auto or manual mode
Photos provided by Amazon
If you're looking for a rugged camera, there are a lot of things to love about the Nikon AW100. It's waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof to falls from 5 feet, freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and dustproof. And at less than an inch thick, it can easily slide into a pocket, making it a perfect lightweight traveling companion. It can also shoot full 108p HD video with one-touch ease, and has a built-in GPS to geotag your images.
It shares many of its features with the TS4. Both have four-way rugged design, geotagging, continous shooting, sweep panorama, and a host of preset shooting modies, including dedicated underwater modes for good color reproduction. Going down the list of features, you might think there's not a whole lot to differentiate the two cameras unless you really want to go 7 feet deeper underwater or you plan on dropping your camera from a greater height (in which case you better choose the TS4!).
But what sets the Nikon AW100 apart from its competitor is its design and image quality. The AW100 has a 16 MP CMOS sensor and 5x Zoom-NIKKOR ED glass lens that perform well both above and below water. In my experience, the images on this camera are sharper and clearer than those of the TS4. Both cameras take great photos, but the Nikon has a slightly larger sensor (1/2inch) than the Panasonic, giving it an edge in quality.
The other feature that clearly sets the Nikon above the Panasonic is the locking mechanism on the door. A waterproof camera is only as good as the door that keeps the water out, and Nikon is the winner here. The twist-and-push button that locks the battery/memory card door would be virtually impossible to open accidentally , and it shuts with an audible "click" that lets you know the lock is engaged. Of the half dozen different compact waterproof cameras I've used, the Nikon AW100 has the best locking mechanism of them all.
On the downside, users might be disappointed to know that there's no manual or program mode on the AW100. It's all auto, all the time. This is great for the point-and-shoot crowd, but advanced users will have to rely on auto or a multitude of preset scene modes to capture their images.
The Nikon Coolpix AW100 is an excellent waterproof camera for anyone wanting to take photos in the pool, lake or ocean, but it's not for those who want a camera they can manually control.
- Waterproof to a depth of 33 feet
- Shockproof to falls from 5 feet
- 16 MP BSI CMOS sensor
- 3-inch high resolution LCD
- One-touch 1080p HD recording
- Integrated GPS for geotagging
Sample Photos from the Nikon AW100 - Click an image to see it largerClick thumbnail to view full-size
Images from the Nikon AW100 are sharp and clear.
Nikon AW100 Underwater Video - See it in action!
Here's a video shot underwater with the Nikon Coolpix AW100.
Like the NIkon AW100, the Panasonic TS4 offers plenty of features to make it a great choice in underwater digital cameras. My favorite feature on this camera is the color mode setting. The images from the TS4 are a bit softer than those of the Nikon, but color in the photos from this camera really come alive when you choose the "Happy" color setting in auto or "Vivid" color setting in program or manual mode. If you're someone who spends a lot of time adjusting color saturation in editing software, this is a great feature that can really make images come alive with color without any post-editing.
The Panasonic also excels at creative controls. In addition to full auto mode, the TS4 offers both program and manual mode, giving users more options in creating great photos. Creative types will also enjoy the 3-D imaging and miniature effect offered in this camera, as well as the option to create both horizontal and vertical sweep panoramic images. (The Nikon only supports horizontal panoramas.)
Other things to love about this camera are the rugged durability (its waterproof and shockproof ratings are better than those of the Nikon) and the GPS. The GPS is fast, accurate and easy to use, and I prefer the way the Panasonic displays GPS information over the way the Nikon displays it. With the TS4, you never have to wonder where you are. When I was at the Golden Gate Bridge, the camera didn't just give me the geo coordinates or tell me I was at the Golden Gate Bridge - it also told me I was standing at the southbound end of the bridge. That's pretty smart!
There's really only one thing I don't like about this camera, and it's a big one. I hate the design of the battery/memory card door. The door is opened and closed by a two-step process that requires you to slide down one lever before opening another. Sounds pretty secure, right? The problem is that the first lever slides down TOO easily. I once reached into my pocket to discover the door had popped open, and another time I was underwater when I discovered the first lever had been pushed down, displaying the red warning that tells you one of the locks isn't engaged. The door didn't actually open in the pool, and the camera is still working great, but this my major complaint with the TS4. Doors that leak (or might leak) is a common complaint among waterproof camera owners, and it requires constant vigilance. But there's no doubt the door design of the Nikon is superior to the Panasonic.
Even with this flaw, the Panasonic is a great waterproof camera for anyone wanting some creative control over exposure settings or looking for features such as 3D images, but for those who want the absolute best quality in images, other cameras can outpace the TS4.
- Waterproof to depth of 40 feet
- Shockproof to falls of 6.6 feet
- 28mm wide angle Leica lens
- Full 1920 x1080p HD video
- 2.7inch LCD
- 3D images and miniature effect
The Panasonic TS4 has great color saturation.
Panasonic TS4 Underwater Video - See it in action
Here's a video shot with the Panasonic TS4 in Palau. Don't miss the rays that show up about 1:45 into the video!
Nikon Coolpix AW100 vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 - Which would you choose?
After reading this page, which would you choose: Nikon AW100 or Pansonic TS4?
And the Winner Is...
I love both of these cameras, but...
If I had to recommend one of these two cameras to a friend looking for an underwater digital camera, I would choose the . It's lightweight, compact, takes sharper photos, and is rugged enough for just about any occasion. But most importantly, it has the best card/battery door locking mechanism. Nikon AW100
I love the TS4 and frequently carry it with me because I love the color saturation in photos from this camera, and I think it takes great photos above and below the water. But when it comes to the water, I can't overlook its major weakness - the door. I still use it in our swimming pool all the time, but I'm constantly checking the door to be sure it's closed.
So in the end, I have to recommend the returning champion - Nikon. They're back in the game again.
(Image from amazon)
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