All Weather Friend - The Nikon Action Touch

Confession time: I can't swim.  Throughout my younger years, I held a certain trepidation towards the water after falling into a river while fishing with my brother early on.  He pulled me from the cold waters of the Gunpowder River, but I never quite pulled myself from my aversion to bodies of water, despite trying to learn to swim in the years that followed.

And while I may not savor the feeling of swimming across a pool in a way that many people do, I do enjoy visits to lakes and beaches, and even can find a certain enjoyment in rain soaked days at times. Oh, and yes, as you may know, I like taking pictures.

In an earlier photographic life, I was admittedly guilty of trying to use a less than all-weather camera in all sorts of situations.  I held my Minolta X-700 under an umbrella as I took photos in a rain storm, or tucked it in a coat pocket as I wandered through falling snow to capture winter scenes.  Perhaps this abuse is what led the EV compensation dial to throw off the meter in this classic camera.  Who knows?  I'm not giddy about the outcome of the camera, but am at least glad to have captured some long lost scenes in less than fair weather.

If only I had elected to use a more weatherproof camera during these days for such scenes, I might still have the X-700 as a member of my arsenal to use in more optimal settings.  If only I'd had a camera like the Nikon Action Touch!

The Nikon Action Touch, also known as the Nikon L35AW (for "All Weather"), was an early Nikon point and shoot model that had no qaulms about getting wet.  The camera was designed to be fully waterproof up to 10 feet, which is far deeper than I ever care to delve. And while I was hardly in the hunt for a fully waterproof and weatherproof film camera, this one just happened to come to me amid a bulk "vintage camera lot" that I scored for a rediculously cheap lot that I scored off of ebay, costing about $5, even with shipping.

A bit of an odd duck in this vintage camera lot, the Action Touch was a cause of only modest intrigue on my part that gradually grew in no small part from the fact that it actually was in complete and functioning order.  Upon looking at this camera with more detail, the intrigue began to grow.  Not only could the camera be used underwater, but it featured a fast f/2.8 lens as well as a number of guess focusing points that could be used underwater (or above if desired) where the AF wasn't functional.  This little extra level of quirk was certainly a nice thing to have at my disposal.

Yes, those are preset focusing points you see on the dial atop the Action Touch.  Designed for use underwater, they can be used above ground as well if you choose! 

But just how could I actually take the Action Touch underwater.  Armed in late summer with a demanding work schedule that didn't allow for the kind of mid-day skinny dipping to which such a camera would make a perfect accomplice, I struggled to see what use I could make of this camera's duck-like capabilities.  What I came up with seemed questionable at best, but was worth a shot.  I'd simply plunk the camera amid some of the nearby park fountains and streams to see if there was anything worth photographing under the water's surface.  It seemed like a stretch, but my interest in the Action Touch had grown enough to pique my interest in giving it an inaugural roll of film.

Seen above, the Action Touch's viewfinder does the trick.  Note the analog bar that meters how far the image is focused for.  More cameras should have this sort of verification!  Below, the Action Touch's underwater capabilities are possible due to watersealing around both film and battery doors.

Shooting the Action Touch is actually rather fun.  Having an estimate of focus is always helpful, and the camera responded well with each shot.  One thing I noticed in mine was the need to manually hit a rewind lever on this camera to bring the film back to the cartridge.  At first I thought the camera had a bad trigger or rewind motor, but this doesn't seem to be the case.  

The Action Touch is a tad cumbersome, but it does feel pretty rugged, to where it should not only be waterproof down to 10 feet but also able to withstand a short drop.  I didn't care to test that theory and don't recommend that you do either.  I felt fairly confident at what the camera would yield, but still had a hint of caution given that I picked up the camera so cheaply. 

The trademark night shot started off things for the Action Touch, and while I'd have loved a bit more burn in on the details, the result is still passable. 

The Action Touch's usage simply doesn't lean towards underwater images, but also all-weather images.  It was nice to snap this shot in DC in a downpour without any real worries as to the camera. 

Set to closest focus distance, the Nikon does just as hoped.  Always a good sign. 

My developing may not have been the best on this roll, but this shot taken on a hazy afternoon wouldn't likely have rendered much better on any camera. 

So one shot above water in the fountains that I can consider successful.

Another shot on the same hazy afternoon as the bus shot before. 

Not bad for the Fujicolor 200, though again a bit dim.

Again a successful try taken just above the water line...

But a less successful try below water.   Guess fountains just have nothing to see. 

A sunshine filled shot rendered quite well on this camera.

Setting the focusing distances manually was both fun and rewarding.

A wet foggy morning provides a good chance for the Action Touch to provide a really decent result. 

I'd hoped to see some fish below water that I might be able to focus on.  Kids nearby were like "Mommy why is that odd man plunging his camera into the creek?!"

Partially submerged but a complete flop.

And back above water again for a good shot. 

As I searched for wet scenes to shoot, it seems that the overhead shots became more my keepsakes of my attempts than my odd camera plunging experiments. 

Yeah, so this didn't work either. 

Back to Carroll Creek I go...

Above ground.... check - good to go.

Ok, I'll take this for starters.  It's an above ground scene that looks nice with some partial submersion from the camera. 

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a remote section of a river reserve area near my former residence that provided me some nice summer evenings to hike and navigate the riverbanks.  On the hottest of these evenings, it was a great joy to dip one's calves into the waters to cool off.  On at least one occasion, I even got caught in a windy sudden downpour, an unforgettable experience that I only wish I'd had the fortitude to record for posterity.  I only wish I'd had the Action Touch at the time.

While I never was able to take full photographic advantage of the Action Touch's amphibious nature on its inaugural roll, I came away realizing the value that a camera like this has even when it is not exploited to the full limits of its capabilities.  The longish maximum shutter speed, focus points, and weather proof nature allow one to pull it out amid a drenching downpour and fire away scenes of nature unleashing its full precipitous fury.

The camera remains in my collection to this date, and had been a hopeful snowfall contender for me over the Winter, only to be snubbed by the most meager of forecasts for the frosty stuff.  Perhaps I'll manage to find a way to give it another go as Summer humidity culminates to create the inevitable 5pm thunderstorm.  This year, I'll be ready, camera in hand.