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Olympus was amongst the first companies to launch a dedicated line of cameras meant to take a beating and rough it out in the wild. Officially designated ‘Tough’, this line of cameras come with a protective shield enabling it to withstand being hit against rocks, getting submerged in icy water or handle in its stride general manhandling. The latest in this series of shock-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof and water-proof cameras is the Stylus Tough (or the µ Tough) 8000, featuring a 12 MP sensor with a 3.6X (28-102 mm equivalent) optical zoom. The USP of this camera is its tough shell and the Olympus TAP Control technology, which enables the camera to be controlled by ‘taps’, seemingly useful while wearing gloves while out in the cold.
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In the Box:
- LI-50B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- microSD to xD-Picture card adapter
- Wrist strap
- USB and A/V cables
- Camera software disc (Olympus Master)
- User’s manual
- Sensor: 12 MP CCD
- Optical Zoom: 3.6 X (28-102 mm equivalent)
- Dimensions: 3.7 x 2.4 x .85 (W x H x D, inches)
- Weight: 7.4 ounces with battery and card
- Screen: 2.7” HyperCrystal III LCD screen
- Waterproof (to 10 m), shock-proof (to falls from a height up to 2m), freeze-proof (till -10°C), crush-proof (weights up to 100kg)
- Other features: Tap Control, Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection and Advanced Face Detection technology, Beauty mode, Shadow Adjustment Technology, On-screen manometer, LED for under-water illumination, Movie mode, xD and microSD card compatible.
Now that I’ve summarized the features, let me take them on in more detail.
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The build of this camera is definitely rugged. Made of stainless steel, the body has a tough look and feel to it. Metal edges and screws on the face add more to the masculine look. Zoom mechanism is internal and the lens does not protrude out when powered up. A metal slider protects the lens from nature’s elements. Keys too are metallic and can withstand torture with ease. The 2.7 inch LCD screen is bright and visibility is good even in bright sunlight. The camera can easily withstand battering and could survive in a bucketful of running water or when dropped onto concrete or placed in the freezer. Full marks to Olympus for producing a camera which keeps jogging along in conditions which would have shrouded most other cameras.
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Olympus has packed this camera with quite a few novel features.
- Tap Control: The basic idea behind this feature is to be able to operate the camera with gloves, say, ski gloves, on. And it pretty much works, though evident that there is scope for a lot of improvement. So if you tap on the right of the camera, it goes to the flash adjust mode, tapping on the left takes you to the macro mode. A pretty good concept, and I would love to see Olympus develop this further.
- Dual Image Stabilization: This is a combination of both digital (high ISO) as well as optical (built-in gyro which adjusts CCD) image stabilization.
- Beauty Mode: In this mode, the faces are recognized and the camera automatically corrects blemishes on the skin surface, making it look brighter, smoother and more youthful.
- LED: A nifty LED is present apart from the flash which is quite useful in lighting up close macro shots or underwater shots.
- iAuto: The intelligent auto mode makes the camera take all decisions for you. No more bothering about tinkering with camera settings, it itself analyses the scene and chooses optimal settings to give the best output.
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For all its toughness from the outside, the 8000 does not really impress in what its primarily meant for – taking good photos. Daylight photos are good, but the moment dusk sets in, or in low light conditions, the camera really struggles. Maybe this rough and tough one is strictly meant for the outdoors.
Boosting the ISO to increase sensitivity indoors led to excessive noise, even at ISO 200. Anything beyond is completely unusable.
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Purple fringing is quite visible in high-contrast situations, and gets exaggerated on zooming in. Focus too is slightly on the softer side.
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The flash is rated at 10 cm to 4.0 m at wide-angle and 30 cm to 2.7 m at telephoto. These values typically reduce in real world conditions, making it pretty much average with nothing to write home about.
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The camera could certainly do with a faster processor, given that the 12MP files it produces are quite large. It takes almost a full second to write the files and get ready for the next shot.
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The Olympus Touch 8000 uses the LI-50B lithium-ion rechargeable battery. On complete charge, the battery lasts for around 220-130 shots, which is quite comparable to the competition.
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Value For MoneyRating
The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 retails for between $320 to $380. There are other manufacturers who offer cameras at a similar price point with a better photo quality. But considering that this one can weather many a storm and survive to tell the story, it may be just worth spending the dough for.
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All in all, this camera is quite a looker and has a sturdy, tough look. True to its name, its also quite tough and can withstand quite a bit of manhandling and abuse. But if you’re looking to complement that with unmatched image quality, you’re bound to be disappointed. That said, the Tough 8000 produces good outdoor images when light conditions are good. It's mainly meant for the adventurous shooter who wants to capture his treks and adventures but cannot quite bother the nitty-gritties of aperture, shutter speed, ISOs and the like.