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Olympus Stylus Tough-8000

Tough, waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof flagship camera now with 12 megapixel, dual image stabilization
(by Carol Cotton)

The shock and waterproof Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 was introduced in January of 2009 as part of the company's big winter announcement that included almost a dozen new consumer cameras. Olympus apparently realized that they're on to something with their tough, waterproof cameras, and that is reflected in a new new name: Stylus Tough. The new Tough-8000 takes over as the flagship of the line from last year's superb Stylus 1030 SW that remains available as of this writing. The new camera has 12 megapixel resolution, an updated look, and there are some new goodies and features. The list price is US$399.99 -- the same as the 1030SW started out with (the 1030SW is now down to US$349.99). The tough new Stylus comes in three colors (black, silver and dark blue). It is shockproof, waterproof, crushproof, freezeproof, sandproof and dustproof, brimming with features and ready to be used virtually anywhere, including the desert, underwater, or skiing. And if you drop it, no big deal as it can survive a 6.6-foot fall. And newly added dual image stabilization means fewer blurred images.

What you get with the Stylus Tough-8000

The Stylus Tough-8000 is a very compact, elegant camera you can take anywhere, and by that we mean anywhere. It has a footprint of 3.7 x 2.4 inches and is 0.85 inches thick. It weighs about 6.5 ounces without the little Li-Ion battery, and not much more with it. The 3.6X optical zoom is internal, which means there is no annoying lens barrel that motors in and out. And even though the Stylus Tough-8000 can stand up to water, shock, dust, sand and freezing temperatures, it's still a full-function digital camera with all the features you expect from a modern point & shoot compact.

Like its Stylus SW predecessors, the new Tough-8000 is easy to use right out of the box. In the back you find a simplified mode dial that works in conjunction with the camera's unique system of operating a variety of functions by tapping the top, back and sides of the camera. Below the mode dial is the ubiquitous four-way navigation pad with an "OK" button in its center. Four additional function buttons cycle through often used functions.

Features

As stated, despite being a "specialty camera," the Stylus Tough-8000 has a variety of nice features that make it suitable for everyday picture-taking, and not just trips outdoors.

Like almost all new consumer digital cameras, the Stylus Tough-8000 has an advanced face detection mode. This means that the camera is able to find a face or even multiple faces in a picture and make sure that they are in focus and properly exposed. That even works when people are moving. There is also "Smile Shot" that detects a smile on a subject's face and automatically takes three consecutive shots to capture the perfect smile.

Dual image stabilization combines mechanical sensor-shift image stabilization and digital image stabilization to provide a single optimized anti-blur solution whether the photographer or the subject is moving. The mechanical sensor-shift adjusts the image sensor to compensate for camera movement, even in low-light conditions and lower shutter speeds. Digital image stabilization seeks to freeze action with high ISO sensitivity and fast shutter speeds to prevent blurring of moving subjects.

The enhanced TruePic III Image Processor, initially developed for digital SLRs, delivers more accurate colors and flesh tones, smoother edges, less nose and higher overall speed.

Like earlier modles, the Tough-8000 comes with its Shadow Adjustment Technology that analyzes shots of subjects in front of bight backgrounds and then exposes things properly. In essence, it compensates for extreme contrast where the shadow areas on the foreground subject are underexposed and lack visible detail.

The Perfect Shot Preview feature displays the effects of various settings including zoom, exposure, white balance and metering - on the LCD in a multi-window setup so you can select the proper settings and effects

The camera also has an LED Illuminator that works like a mini-flashlight on the front of the camera to enhance focus and exposure for macro shooting. It is also great for underwater close-ups where light is scarce. The LED also works in conjunction with the Bright Capture feature (brightened LCD preview for better composition in low light) to help illuminate a subject when taking low-light portraits.

A new Beauty Mode soften shadows and tones down wrinkles or blemishes on a subject's face, and additional subtle edits can be made post-capture using the "Beauty Fix" mode that lets you apply "Clear Skin" to smooth complexion, "Dramatic Eye" to emphasize the eyes, and "Sparkle Eye" to enhance the contrast of the iris and pupils.

The Tough-8000 has an internal 3D accelerometer that is used for Tap Control. A slight tap on the top, back or sides can turn functions on and off, making operation wearing gloves or underwater easier.

The new OR button stands for "Olympus Recommended" is used to activate Olympus is proud of, like in-camera panorama, shadow adjustment and the perfect shot preview.

Intelligent Auto Mode tries to automatically identify what you are shooting and then use the appropriate scene mode. If it works like in prior models, sometimes it gets it right, other times not. It can come in handy once you know what the camera is likely to select.

While the Tough-8000 does not have any manual modes, there are 24 shooting modes. They are intelligent auto, program auto, sensor-shift image stabilization, beauty mode, and then 19 scene modes (portrait, landscape, night scene, night portrait, sport, indoors, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, beach & snow, snow, pre-capture movie, underwater snapshot, underwater wide 1 and 2, underwater macro, and movie. In pre-capture movie mode, the camera records but only commits to storage once you push the shutter. That way you are certain to capture the seconds leading up to an event.

Like its predecessors, the Tough-8000 has both a macro and a super-macro mode. The macro mode goes from four inches to infinity whereas super-macro goes from less than an inch to about two feet.

The Stylus Tough-8000 has a 640 x 480 movie mode with sound, and it shoots at 30 frames per second for lifelike video. There is a standrd and an underwater movie mode, with the underwater mode having three white balance settings for different depths. We don't know if the 1030 SW's 10 second limitation for VGA movie clips is still there.

New and improved compared to the 1030 SW

Compared to the 1030 SW, which likely is its predecessor, the Tough-8000 has 12 instead of ten megapixel and includes the tap function. Other than that, not much has changed, and we couldn't really think of anything we wanted added to the fabulous 1030 SW.

One thing that's changed is internal memory. The 1030 SW had just 15MB whereas the new Tough-8000 has 45MB. That's still not much but it'll tide you over in those situations where you run out of space on a memory card or -- gasp -- forget to put one in.

Else, some of the old scene modes are missing (behind glass, auction, shoot & select 1 and 2, etc.) and there is no mention of continuous shooting modes or how, specifically, the camera handles audio and movies, so we'll have to wait for a review unit to tell you those details.

Shock and waterproof

Unlike most digital cameras, the Stylus Tough-8000 can take a beating. Thanks to a durable metal body, floating circuitry inside, and shock-absorbing construction, it is rated to survive 6.6-foot drops.

The camera is also waterproof thanks to a combination of seals and gaskets. The Tough-8000 is rated waterproof to a depth of 33 feet, which makes it suitable for playing in the pool, rafting, snorkeling, freediving and even shallow scuba diving. Olympus hasn't announced an underwater housing for the camera yet, but there will most likely be one. Like prior such housings, it'll have a MSRP of around US$275 and a 133 feet depth rating.

Freezing temperatures do not affect this camera as it is freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. So it's a perfect companion for sledding, skiing, snowboarding and such. The camera is also crushproof and can handle up to 220 pounds of pressure, though it isn't specified how that pressure can be applied.

Bottom line

The Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 is an attractive ultra-compact water, shock and shockproof 12-megapixel camera perfect for those who love to take their camera outdoors and in the water without having to baby it. The camera can take a beating and you can even use it underwater, down to a depth of about 33 feet. It has the same features as standard consumer cameras, which means it is useful anywhere and not just as a sports camera.

We like the fully internal 3.6X optical zoom that starts wide, the excellent 2.7-inch LCD with its very wide viewing angle. The ability to use microSD cards instead of just xD-Picture cards is much appreciated, as is the more generous onboard memory to tide you over when you run out of memory card space.

The Tough-8000's 1030 SW predecessor was a superb all-round camera with excellent underwater shooting quality, so we have high hopes for this new camera with its higher resolution and additional features.

We like:

  • Attractively styled sports and outdoor camera
  • Diving possible with 33 feet depth limit
  • Inherent waterproofing provides peace of mind when handling in/around water
  • Can survive 6.6-foot drops and 14 degree temperature!
  • Superb wide-angle, high-res 2.7-inch LCD
  • Dual image stabilization!
  • Pre-capture movie mode
  • "Tap" operation works well for some users
  • microSD adapter included
  • Very good underwater macro mode
  • Very good underwater picture qulity
  • LED illumination
Not so much:
  • Strictly point & shoot
  • At this point we'd like more advanced movie modes
  • Tiny mode wheel and almost illegible tiny labels

Specs Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 SW
Status Added 01/2009
Camera Type Waterproof Compact (33 feet)
Protection IP68; Shock: MIL-STD-810F Shock Compliant (6.6ft.), Waterproof: JIS Level 8 (33ft.), Freezeproof: MIL-STD-810F Low Temp Compliant (14F)
Size 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.85
Weight (oz.) 6.4 w/o battery
Effective Pixels 12.0 mp
CCD Type 1/2.33
Max pixel size 3968 x 2976
File formats JPEG, AVI motion JPEG
Compression Super High, High, Standard
Movie recording (best) til full with sound @ 30fps
Max movie pixels 640 x 480 with sound and zoom
Voice recording/sound annotation yes/4 second
Lens 10 Lenses in 8 Groups, 2 Aspherical Lenses, 1 ED Lenses
Focal length 5.0-18.2mm (28-102mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3.6X/5X
Aperture f/3.5 - f/5.1
Focus modes iESP auto, spot, face detection
Focus minimum/macro 0.8 inches, 1.7 feet
Shutter speed 1/2000 to 1/4 sec (up to 4 sec. in Night Scene Mode)
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/64/100/200/400/800/1600
Autofocus system CCD Contrast Detection
Metering Digital ESP Metering, Spot Metering, Face Detection AE
White-balance modes auto, presets (daylight, overcast, tungsten, and 3 fluorescents)
Shooting modes 24 modes, including four underwater modes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 2.7" HyperCrystal II LCD (230k)
LCD type outdoor viewable
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in + LED illuminator as additional lightsource
Flash range up to 13.5 feet (land)
Flash modes 4 (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, Off)
Camera internal memory 45MB
Storage Medium xD-Picture Card, microSD (via included microSD adapter)
I/O multi-terminal (USB, AV, DC)
Battery type Li-Ion Li-50B
CIPA Battery life 240
List Price $399.99
Contact www.olympususa.com

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