This year's pool of tough-cams is deep and wide, but the Canon PowerShot D20 and Nikon Coolpix AW100 have a better chance of getting noticed because of their big brand names. We're working on a huge adventure-cam roundup (check back for it in early July), but let's take a moment to see how the two big-name tough-cams stack up against each other.
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The D20 and AW100 share a handful of specs, including f/3.9, 5x zoom lenses and CMOS sensors. Even so, the Nikon AW100 takes decidedly sharper pictures than the D20. Edges are much sharper (due to artificial enhancement, but hey, whatever works) and more importantly, there's very little color fringing.
Canon's default color profile is technically more accurate, but both cameras take punchy, vibrant shots outdoors and underwater. The D20 is also cleaner at higher ISO settings, though neither camera is particularly useful indoors or in low-light, thanks to their slow f/3.9 lenses. The difference really boils down to resolution, and the AW100 is the obvious winner.
Winner: Nikon AW100
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Design & User Experience
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The D20 and AW100 are both waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof from 5 feet, freezeproof to the standard 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof. They're rated to survive under the exact same conditions, basically. But the AW100's physical design inspires a bit more confidence, thanks to the serious-looking locking knob for the side door. Is the advantage completely psychological? Possibly, but it doesn't hurt. It's also smaller camera—still a bit difficult to shove into a pants pocket, but notably lighter and more compact.
Canon's menu system is more approachable and better-organized, so it gets the nod over Nikon's. But the AW100 is faster and offers more extra features, like a sweep panorama mode. The AW100 wins again.
Winner: Nikon AW100
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The Winner Is...
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The Nikon AW100 wins this match thanks to its sharper images, more compact yet equally durable design, and richer feature set. And since it's been out since last fall, its street prices are considerably lower than the D20's, so bonus points for that. Both are solid outdoor cameras, and neither is a particularly great all-around snapshooter, but the AW100 has the edge.