Beginner

The Wide, Wide World of the KeyMission 170

Glossary

We wanted to start off clever. Something like, "Wanna know what the key feature of the Nikon KeyMission 170 is?" And then we'd go on to say it was the camera's super-wide view of the world.

But that isn't really the key feature.

The key feature, we decided on second thought, is the 170's size. It's small enough to go along comfortably on any outdoor adventure activity. "It's a companion to adventure," we were going to write.

But...that wasn't it either.

It was when we talked with lifestyle and adventure sports photographer, and Nikon Ambassador, Lucas Gilman, that we realized the 170's main attraction was its ability to capture and share cool and unusual views of your favorite activities.

Lucas had traveled to Hawaii and Tahiti with a team of athletes to test out the 170's potential and performance in and around the water, as another key to the camera is that it's waterproof to 33 feet right out of the box, no housing necessary.

"It sounded good—a super-wide-angle lens on a camera small enough to take anywhere," Lucas says, "but I was out to see how it performs in the real world. To do that, I ended up putting it into new situations every day." Among the situations: cliff diving, swimming with deep-water sharks, longboarding and snorkeling.

The quality of the camera and the images were what you'd expect from a Nikon—no surprise there. "What was really cool," Lucas says, "was that because the camera is so small and light, I could set it in unexpected places and get pictures and video I couldn't get with full-size pro DSLRs." They were images of "great quality that show the nuances and details of fast-moving subjects—especially when the video clips were recorded at the 170's 120 fps slow-motion speed."

Prep Work

The KeyMission 170 isn't like your regular camera—not your Nikon DSLR, Nikon 1 or COOLPIX. It's smaller than any of them, and its lens sees more than any other NIKKOR. Lucas suggests that your own backyard is a good place to become familiar with the 170 before setting off on your outdoor adventure—even if that adventure is just a few hours at the local soccer field with your kids.

The camera is pretty much totally automatic, so working with it is mostly a matter of getting used to its scaled-down ergonomics.

Next you'll want to know what the camera is going to see and how it's going to capture what it sees. Lucas's advice is to "be aware of your surroundings and how they work in the composition." That's pretty easy to do because, despite what we said earlier about the 170 not being like your other Nikons, it of course has an LCD display, so you're going to be able to familiarize yourself with the kinds of views the camera's going to capture.

Final words on familiarization: "The 170-degree view is going grab a lot of light and a lot of territory," Lucas says, "and if you're not aware, it's going to grab a view of your finger in the frame if it's a millimeter past the front edge of the camera when you're holding it. I got into the habit of holding the 170 with the supplied accessory Handy Grip to make sure that didn't happen."

Quick Tips

Lucas returned from his KeyMission 170 assignment with stills, video clips and some real-world advice on getting the most out of your adventures with the camera.     

  • How much the 170 offers will be up to you and your creative placement of the camera to take advantage of its wide-angle view. Think unusual, striking, even downright strange angles and viewpoints. Pretty much anything goes.  

  • But some photo fundamentals remain the same, so think good light, good composition, awareness of surroundings and steady support of the camera.   

  • The 170's extreme wide-angle view can result in curvature of the horizon. To prevent that, make sure the camera is level to the horizon line. If you clamp it to something, you pretty much have to go with the angle that the "something" dictates, but if you're holding the camera, preferably with the Handy Grip or the extension arm, make sure you're on the level.

  • Use the accessories. Some are supplied with the camera, others are optional. Look over the list of the latter—it includes the extension arm, a backpack mount clip, a helmet strap mount and handlebar, surfboard, wrist and chest mounts. The idea is to match accessories to your favorite activities so you'll be ready to capture the action point-of-view.

  • Carry extra memory cards. "With this camera you're going to shoot a lot of stills and videos," Lucas says, "and the cards will fill up. I kept the 170 in burst mode—it makes it more likely to get those decisive moments."

  • And when you get 'em, share 'em. "I was able to post photos and video clips to social media rather quickly," Lucas says, "and that was a really cool thing."

Summing up, he found the 170 a small, easily-positioned, ultra-wide-angle camera that captured amazing perspectives. "I was really excited about the quality right out of the camera: the stills were sharp, with great color saturation, and the 170's autoexposure handled most scenes just about perfectly. In underwater mode, it was just a matter of going down and photographing and not worrying about it. The underwater mode keeps things neutral and balanced. It was just push the record button and enjoy the activity."

Check out the KeyMission 170 accessories here.

Lucas Gilman is one of the leading adventure photographers and filmmakers in the industry. His powerful and incisive images run in top publications & advertisements worldwide. Lucas documents subjects ranging from expedition kayaking in India and Costa Rica, to surfing in Brazil to backcountry skiing in Colorado, Alaska and South America. He has covered international events such as the Tour De France, Kentucky Derby, ESPN X-GAMES, IRONMAN®, NFL Playoffs, and more. Learn more about him at his website www.lucasgilman.com and his ambassador page.

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