Offering adventurers protection from shock, water and freezing conditions, the new AW100 from Nikon is its first foray into the rugged camera category.

Rather than pulling punches and putting out a cheap waterproof camera, Nikon have shot for the top spot by packing all the features they can into its new action camera. 

In the hand it looks and feels like it’s ready for action: the muted black colour out-shone by the orange and camouflage models. We haven’t seen a camouflage camera since Canon’s PowerShot D10 - also a rugged model. 

Thing haven’t got too bloated however, and despite packing in a 5x 28-140mm (in 35mm terms) folding lens, the camera remains pocketable with 110.1 x 64.9 x 22.8mm dimensions. It feels solid in the hand and in our brief dropping and biting tests, didn't seem too alarmed.

The compromise of that lens, perhaps, is that it only offers a maximum aperture of F/3.9, but it does give you a 1/2.3 type CMOS sensor with 16 megapixels. Quality we can’t judge from our brief time with the camera, so a full assessment will have to wait until we get the camera in for a full review.

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Moving on, the Coolpix AW100 offers the usual run of Nikon compact shooting features, with some additional extras for intrepid explorers.

First up the AW100 features a GPS, accelerometer and digital compass, so the camera not only knows where you are, but what direction you’re heading in, with Nikon demonstrating the in-built mapping to us.

This mapping resides within the camera, incorporating things like points of interest (which you can turn on or off as you fancy) and you’ll be able to keep the maps up-to-date via firmware updates in the future.

Control of the camera offers both the conventional approach with plenty of buttons on the back, but the AW100 also offers a larger action button on the side. This can be set to toggle quick access to the menus, then navigated using the in-built accelerometer. A flick of the wrist is literally all it takes to navigate these menus, so control when wearing gloves looks to be easier than some rivals.

All the sensitive parts - the battery and SD card bay, along with the USB and HDMI connections - reside under a chunky flap on the side, secured with a dial lock. So once you've shot your action movie in Full HD, you'll be able to share on your TV back home.

Hitting the shelves from 8 September 2011 the Nikon Coolpix AW100 can be yours for £329.99 and looks like a serious competitor for the Olympus Tough range.