• Still image taken with the Nikon KeyMission 170

    A still image taken from a ski-plane over Quebec's Mauricie region with the Nikon KeyMission 170 action camera. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic) 

I'll be totally honest, my first reaction upon unboxing the Nikon KeyMission 170 was, "Where's the case?" 

Nikon promises the KeyMission, its foray into the action camera market, is waterproof down to 10 metres, shockproof from two metres, and freezeproof to -10 Celsius, all without requiring any extra housing. Still, as someone who is admittedly hard on electronics (I have a bad habit of dropping them out of windows, into creeks, onto cobblestones, etc.), I was a tad nervous about bringing the KeyMission on a winter adventure trip to rural Quebec, where activities in the snow and ice could easily spell destruction for unprotected gear. So, how did it go?

Design and durability 

The KeyMission was clearly designed with simplicity and fun in mind, which is what you want in an action camera. It's compact enough to slip inside a jacket or backpack pocket and comes with both a flat and a curved mount and ballhead adaptor for use in a variety of situations. (Other mounts are available but sold separately.) It also has a standard 6.35 mm socket for attaching to your existing accessory (I mostly used the camera attached to my monopod). The large button controls are easy to manipulate even with gloves on, but if the lack of touchscreen controls stymies you, it has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you can turn your smartphone into a remote control and edit and instantly share clips through Nikon's SnapBridge app. The editing tools in SnapBridge are pretty rudimentary, but that's fine if all you're looking for is the ability to trim a clip and maybe add a fade in/out effect before uploading it to Facebook or YouTube.

How about those claims to durability? Put it this way: I learned the hard way that a person can in fact forget how to cross-country ski. The camera fell into the snow as many times as I did and lived to record another day. Other reviewers have complained about diminished battery life in sub-zero temperatures, but I managed to continuously record about 20 minutes of footage in temperatures around -2 C without noticing any substantial battery drain. My one regret is that I didn't stick the KeyMission into the lake while ice-fishing to truly test the watertight construction, but I had bigger fish to fry (quite literally).

Image quality

I personally love the 170° wide-angle view; it makes even quotidian scenes look epic. However, unlike comparable action cameras currently on the market, the KeyMission lacks the option to change the field of view, so if you're building a narrative and want variety in your shots (or even just some without the fish-eye effect), best to pack multiple recording devices. The most obvious upside to this camera is the ability to capture your vacation memories or daring exploits in 4K Ultra HD. The KeyMission has the best image quality I've encountered yet from an action camera, even in low-light situations, with the added bonus that it takes surprisingly crisp, colourful high-resolution stills. 

Here's a video I made entirely with footage shot on the KeyMission:

Summary 

The Nikon KeyMission 170 is a versatile, easy-to-use camera that you'll want to have in your photographic arsenal for capturing fun moments from your adventures.