There is nothing like the wilds of Nicaragua to put man to the test. And this man likes to test.
For the last few months I have been using the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010, supposedly the roughest, toughest camera on the market today. According to the Olympus website, this camera boasts some bombproof specs:
Waterproof 10 meters (33 feet)
Shockproof 2 meters (6.6 feet)
Crushproof 100 kilos (22o lbs)
Freezeproof -10°c (-14°f)
Wow! This is exactly why I was determined to get my hands on this camera. With stats like that, maybe this piece of equipment will actually last. Now understand that I am not out to push the limits and destroy this camera (it cost about $300!), but I have no intention of babying it like I do with the rest of the equipment. Waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof it claims to be, but is it saltproof? Mudproof? Scratchproof? Monkey Point proof? Caribbean coast of Nicaragua proof? And most importantly, how are the photos and video?
The rigors of life on the coast puts everything to the test in some ways more than others. The Olypmus Stylus Tough-8010’s freezeproof claim is one that I won’t have to test since the lowest low is in the sixties (aaaaahh…), nowhere near the -10°c (-14°f) threshold that it claims. However, with the average year dropping about 170 inches of rain and the fact that the most common transportation is by boat, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long to to see how waterproof it actually is. Check out this video of a trip to Monkey Point:
The camera gets pretty blasted about :25 and again at 1:05 and, well, really the whole trip was a great lesson in where NOT to sit if you want to stay dry in an ocean-going panga. It was nearly two hours of driving sea water hitting us and the camera at about 20 – 30mph. When we arrived I threw it in my pocket and didn’t think to wash the salt water off until late that afternoon. So, how did it do? Well, the camera is still in use with out any problem! One point of concern was that there were small drops of moisture inside the rubber gasket that seals the battery. It was closed and locked during use, so I don’t know that it wasn’t condensation from the humidity locked in the camera itself. However, that isn’t something I have noticed since then.
Normal operation hasn’t put the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 though a crushproof test yet, but the shockproof claim seems to be a valid one. The Olympus video shows the cameras going through about a 4-foot drop onto carpet…a far cry from the six-foot claim and not very convincing. However, swinging from my wrist, the camera has survived repeated knocks on tables, chairs, the sides of pangas and hand tools, as well as an accidental five and a half foot drop from picture-taking position to wooden floor. Oops!
So far the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 has survived what the Caribbean coast has thrown at it. The one thing that Olympus didn’t seem to account for was…my pocket. I figured that a tough camera like this one didn’t need a case. It travels part-time in my bag, part-time in my pocket and part-time hanging from my wrist. The biggest fault I see in the construction of this tough camera is that it scratches. After a few days sharing space with my keys, the camera showed signs of the view screen getting scuffed. Ouch!
There are dozens of features, settings and filters for the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010. I am only going to go over the few settings I use, the basic ones that I find most useful for me. For a more complete review, check out infosyncworld’s review. Shooting video is easy and, frankly, a pleasure! What I love is that there is a separate video button, which means no menus to scroll through quick and easy recording. The HD recording quality is impressive and the sound is pretty good for a little point and shoot. See the video above for an example.
While I have played around with a few of the more specialized settings when taking photos, normally I go with the tried and true Automatic setting. I don’t like having to decide which setting would be best depending on the subject’s lighting, speed and distance. I want to point my point and shoot and shoot. The flash gives off a slightly sterile blue-tinted hue to the subject so I usually keep it off for a more natural light. However, I am not impressed with medium to low-light shots without the flash. They tend to come out slightly blurry, especially when the subject is moving. I find that I need the flash on too often for my liking, which, in addition to the bluish hue, drains the battery more rapidly. Not impressed.
One setting that I AM impressed with is the panoramic setting. With a steady hand, the panoramic setting allows you to line up a series of two or three photos to give you wiiiide angle shots. I love it. From landscapes to even close ups, after a little practice, the panoramic shots have quickly become some of my favorite shots and the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 delivers.
Also in the shots I like to take are macro photos. If you like taking big photos of very small things, this is not the tough camera for you. There is no manual focus and the automatic macro focus does not get very close. In fact, it is a bit frustrating because the automatic focus actually passes the point of focus and settles for being slightly out of focus! That resolves itself if you back up a bit, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the macro setting. One thing that I do like is there is a light that illuminates the macro subject, which saves from having to find an awkward shooting angle to allow light in.
The Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 is average size and average weight with a lens in the upper left-hand corner. As in, my left hand keeps creeping into the shots because it takes getting used to after having used a camera with a centrally-placed lens for so long. The lens also has an automatic lens cover that protects when not in use. Pretty handy considering how the screen scratches. The battery out of the box lasts longer than I had expected, and one exciting feature is the 2gig internal memory. Recording video is as easy as pressing a button, but the other buttons are a bit small and can be difficult to press (correctly) with gloves on or when moving quickly. Speaking of moving quickly, start-up time is painfully slow, so you better hope your camera is already on when you see something worth shooting or hope it can wait about 4 seconds (which is waaay slower in real life than it sounds on paper).
The best feature of the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 is it’s durability. I feel confident taking this camera through the wilds of Nicaragua, and while the photos are passable, they certainly could be better. Video quality is excellent but navigating the menus can be a bit cumbersome. For the asking price of $350+, it is a hard sell but can be worth it if you need a camera you can drag through hell and back (as long as hell isn’t any colder than -14°f).