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Updated: October 3, 2010 20:31 IST

For when the going gets Tough…

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala
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Olympus µTough 8010. Photo: S.S. Kumar
The Hindu Olympus µTough 8010. Photo: S.S. Kumar

The µTough series from Olympus are a rugged set of cameras, intended for extreme weather conditions and outdoor use. Following the launch of the µTough 3000, Olympus introduced the µTough 8010, which is a waterproof camera.

Overview

The 8010 is a camera that is waterproof up to 10 metres, shockproof to 2 metres, crushproof to 100 kg and freezeproof to -10ºC - perfect if you're snorkelling or on a ski vacation. While this camera is designed to withstand a couple of knocks and hard falls – its durability comes at a price – it looks clunky. Encased in an aluminium-finish casing, this tough cookie is held in place by a couple of steel screws. It comes with a metal lens cover which protects it from dust, heat and water when not in use. At 215g, this isn't one of the lighter cameras we've reviewed, but it certainly is far from being flimsy.

Controls

The Olympus µTough 8010 is a 14-meg camera, with a maximum aperture of 3.9-5.9.

The camera has a 5x optical zoom, which translates into a focal length equivalent of about 28-140mm.

The camera has a 2.7-inch, Hypercrystal III LCD screen, which is a reasonable size. However, we weren't too happy with the image quality on the LCD, which wasn't too clear and tended to make colours look drab.

Next to the LCD are the zoom buttons for Wide and Telephoto. Below that is a red button which when pressed turns on the video mode. There is also a Play, Menu and Help button. The Help button takes you to the in-camera manual which tells you about the featured and basic ‘how to' functions. We found this a really useful feature, because we didn't need to lug around the manual with us at all times.

There is also a D-pad which you can use to navigate through the different functions of the camera. The top button serves as an Info button which displays your options and the bottom is a delete button. At the centre of the D-pad is an OK button.

The right side of the panel has a slot that holds both the battery and memory card. It also houses the mini-USB and HDMI slot. Olympus has very cleverly sealed all the slots in this water-tight compartment to avoid any damage.

Functions

The camera has a variety of modes you can choose from, including Program, Intelligent Auto, Scene, Magic, Panorama and Beauty. There are a number of scenes to help you get the perfect shot – some of them are fireworks, sunset, cuisine, documents, beach & snow, pet, landscape and candle.

The program mode lets you adjust manual settings such as macro, self timer, exposure up to six stops, white balance and shot mode.

We found the 8010's functions simple to use and got used to them quite easily.

Other features

After Sony made the Panorama shot big, a lot of other camera manufacturers have been including the feature by default in their cameras. The 8010 also had this function, and you can choose either Auto, Manual or PC. Using the Panorama feature wasn't easy on the 8010, and this often resulted in photos where there was uneven stitching.

Given the fact that the camera is meant to be used in harsh conditions such as snow and underwater, Olympus has included the tap control feature in the camera. You can activate tap control by going to the Setup. Once it is activated, you can tap the top, bottom and sides of the camera to navigate through the menu or switch from view to play mode. It is designed to make it easier to use underwater or if you're wearing gloves. In the case of Tap Control, only the casing of the camera is touch sensitive, the screen is not. It does take a while to get used to the firm tap though, after having used a lot of touchscreen devices. The camera also has a built-in Manometer which measures pressure, useful to know when you are underwater.

Image quality

We found that the camera was able to perform quite well indoors when the lighting was low. At the longest or telephoto end, the camera was able to focus quite accurately and the resulting pictures did not show higher noise levels. However when we tried the camera outdoors in low light, the results were different. Images were blurry even at the widest end, and we had trouble focussing. The only mode that seemed to work well for us was the Program Auto mode where we adjusted ISO to the highest setting. Olympus is known for producing cameras which use ambient light to create stunning photographs, so to get average results was disappointing.

The camera was easy to use underwater. It was able to handle drops and of course, splashes well; we tested it from a height of about two feet into the pool. The 8010 was easy to use underwater, and unlike some of the other waterproof cameras in the market, there is no need to switch on an underwater mode. For our underwater shots, picture quality was average and fine detail was lost. At times we got hazy photos. Colour reproduction was also average.

Our verdict

The Olympus µTough 8010 is an all-weather camera. If you're an outdoorsy kind of person living the adventurous lifestyle and want a camera that can withstand a few hard knocks, then this would be your best bet. However, if you're a stickler for image quality and don't need all-weather abilities, then we suggest you look at other cameras from the Olympus range.

Price Rs 19,999

Love: Rugged build

Hate: Image quality could be better

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