A children's camera tested by a photographer: what can be done with the Nikon W100
This year, our photographer Thomas Kunz has been using an awful toy camera – or, as he calls it, a «children's multimedia thing» – to take photos. Amazing photos.
A user left the following comment:
Dear Reiserezept, that was the whole point of it: showing that you can take good photos with a bad camera. But your idea is good. The Nikon W100 is also bad, but it's more camera than toy. And comes at a low price. Does it do more than the Kidizoom? That's what Tom and I wanted to find out.
The W100 has since been replaced by its successor the W150. But we obviously tested the camera that Reiserezept requested. The differences don't seem to be too major.
Tom was full of enthusiasm. His success with the Kidizoom clearly whet his appetite. «We're going to take photos and make fine art prints out of them. Then we'll sell them for a high price or exhibit them in a gallery. What do you think?»
I liked the idea. I even believed that Tom would manage it. And if not, at least he would fail spectacularly.
Tom's street and landscape shots
Tom grabbed the camera and headed off on a photo shoot.
Well, he took a few nice shots, and I liked the colours. But they weren't very original. The photos taken with the Kidizoom camera impressed me more. Was there more to come from Tom?
The black and white trick and a bit of arty-fartiness
There was more to come all right. Black and white is a good trick to conceal a camera's weaknesses, which we saw with the Kidizoom. Tom tried to work with depth of field, which, as expected, is somewhat limited with this camera. Too small a sensor, not enough light intensity.
Brave: a shot directly into the sun. The result isn't too bad at all.
My personal favourite so far was this black and white image. But it wasn't something that I wanted to buy a print of and hang in my living room.
The camera is waterproof, which called for some daring experiments.
The last two pictures caught Tom's attention. Maybe they don't belong in an art gallery, but they do have a certain something. They're also pretty abstract. Tom asked if I was happy with them. Honestly, they didn't blow my mind because I'm used to his previous posts. For example, he took a great photo with an Honor 9 and a DIY mini studio.
I replied: «If you only take shots with the existing lighting, your images don't look much different than any old tourist photos. Do something with artistic lighting.»
Tom «Good idea. I had actually thought about taking some portraits.»
Tom's studio portraits
Tom headed into the studio and took portraits with the mustard-hued plastic camera. The result:
Now these photos really don't look like any old holiday or party snapshots. The faces are nicely lit and look professional. Nevertheless, you can do more with just a phone. I was much more impressed with the smartphone images that Tom took at the same session. Photos taken with the Nikon W100 tend to be blurred, especially at the edges. It's clearer when you see them in their original resolution.
Why didn't things improve?
Tom explained: «I can correct the exposure on the smartphone. That was the deciding factor. I can't adjust anything at all on the Nikon.»
He's not the type to look for cheap excuses. Next up, it was my turn to try out the camera. I soon realised that this camera can hardly do anything. It can zoom a little, you can manually turn off or subdue the flash and there are a few more or less useful subject programmes including macro, night mode and toy effect. That's it.
Using it is completely different to what I'm used to with other cameras. I've never seen anything like it. There are four buttons on the left, which do different things depending on what's on the screen – a lot like an ATM.
As I was writing this article, I found out by chance that the camera does have exposure compensation after all. Or at least something like it. But it's in a pretty unexpected place: in «Scene mode» under «Change colours». There you'll find a «brighter/darker» option. There are five brightness levels to choose from, and correcting the exposure seemed to work in the same way as a more conventional camera.
The camera is somehow designed for children. Among others. It's not really clear what Nikon's aim is with the W100 from the product website. The camera has a menu for children and one for adults – the only difference I can make out is that the children's version is multicoloured.
Tom's shoot at the pool
Now that I knew how little this camera could do, I admired Tom’s work so far much more. But we weren't finished yet. Tom was tasked with taking shots at the pool: professional swimmer Svenja Stoffel was testing some swimming headphones for us.
Underwater shots are theoretically possible. Practically, however, the camera is just too slow. Svenja had to dive off the starting block ten times before Tom got a shot with her fully in it. We didn't even want to start with finer details such as a sufficiently short exposure.
However, images with less movement come out fine.
I was finally satisfied. The next question was what we were going to do with the photos. Tom and I agreed that the portraits and photos of the swimmer weren't right for an art exhibition.
«Let's just go down to the basement and take an abstract shot with a torch for the exhibition,» Tom suggested. «It'll only take ten minutes.»
It was such a crazy idea that I agreed straight away.
The camera was on a tripod and we swivelled the torch around in front of the lens. We tried this and that. It took us 20 or 30 minutes. The camera does have a retake mode, but it's unusable. Regardless of the light, he took exactly 25 seconds, resulting in a completely white photo. The fully automatic version turned out better.
The benefit of art is that nothing matters you can always claim that it was deliberate. This means that what Tom created is exactly what he’d intended to.
As the image was perfect, we made a fine art print out of it. And because it was art a fun project, Gwerder Art agreed to exhibit the piece in its gallery for a month. You can see it for yourself throughout July at Sihlquai 75 near Zurich rail station. Unbelievably, Tom did it!
Would you buy the photo in this format and hang it at home? If so, how much would you pay for it? The 40 x 50cm, aluminium-mounted print cost 174.50 francs.