Olympus Stylus Tough-6000|
Tough, waterproof, freezeproof camera now with 10 megapixel, tap control, dual image stabilization
(by Carol Cotton)
Together with a new top-of-the-line model, the 12-megapixel Stylus Tough-8000, Olympus introduced the shock and waterproof Stylus Tough-6000 in January of 2009 as part of the company's big winter announcement that included almost a dozen new consumer cameras. Realizing that they're on to something with their tough, waterproof cameras, the former "Stylus SW" line is now the "Stylus Tough" line.
The new Tough-6000 seems destined to carry on the torch of the currently still available Stylus 850 SW and Stylus 1050 SW as a less expensive alternative to the Tough-8000 that costs US$100 more. The Tough-6000 has 10 megapixel resolution, an updated look, and a number of new goodies and features. The list price is US$299.99 -- the same as the 850SW started out with (that model is now down to US$249.99). The tough new Stylus comes in four colors (orange, blue, yellow and white). It is shockproof, waterproof to ten feet, freezeproof, sandproof and dustproof, chock full of features and ready to be used virtually anywhere, including the desert, in the water, or skiing. And it can even survive a 5-foot fall. And newly added dual image stabilization means fewer blurred images.
What you get with the Stylus Tough-6000
The Stylus Tough-6000 is a very compact, elegant 10-megapixel camera you can take anywhere. It has a footprint of 3.8 x 2.5 inches and is 0.88 inches thick. It weighs just 5.3 ounces without its Li-Ion battery, making it a bit larger but lighter than the top-of-the-line Stylus Tough-8000. The 3.6X optical zoom is internal, which means there is no annoying lens barrel that motors in and out. The zoom starts at 28mm equivalent, slightly wide, and we consider that an improvement over its predecessors. The Stylus Tough-6000 is not quite as tough as the Tough-8000, but it is waterproof to water 10 feet (compared to 33 feet in the Tough-8000), can handle a 5-foot drop (as opposed to 6.6 feet), and freezing temperatures. No crush spec here, but this is still a very rugged and well sealed full-function digital camera with all the features you expect from a modern point & shoot compact.
Like its Stylus SW predecessors, the new Tough-6000 is easy to use right out of the box, though the accelerometer-based tap functions require a bit of getting used to. In the back is a simplified mode dial and below that the standard four-way navigation pad with an "OK" button in its center. Four additional function buttons cycle through often used functions. Those familiar with the Olympus SW lineup of cameras will find that the Tough-6000 borrows from both the 850 SW and the 1050 SW, though it has an entirely new look and none of its predecessors had the wide 3.6X zoom.
As stated, despite being a "specialty camera," the Stylus Tough-6000 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-6000 has an advanced face detection mode. This means that the camera is able to find a face or even multiple faces (up to 16!) 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-6000 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-6000 has the aforementioned 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-6000 does not have any manual modes, there are 25 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, smile-shot, 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-6000 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-6000 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 850 SW's annoying 10 second limitation for VGA movie clips is still there.
New and improved compared to the 850 and 1050 SW
The Tough-6000 is sort of a mix between the older 8-megapixel Stylus 850 SW and the 10-megapixel 1050 SW, both of which are also waterproof to 10 feet and can handle a 5-foot drop. The most relevant difference is the 3.6X optical zoom that starts wide; the older cameras had standard 3X zooms.
Like the 1050 SW, the new Tough-6000 has about 42MB of storage memory built in. 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-6000 can take a beating. Thanks to a durable metal body, floating circuitry inside, and shock-absorbing construction, it is rated to survive 5-foot drops.
The camera is also waterproof thanks to a combination of seals and gaskets. The Tough-6000 is rated waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, which makes it suitable for playing in the pool, rafting, snorkeling and a bit of freediving. Olympus hasn't announced an underwater housing for the camera yet, but since the camera has underwater modes, 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 Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 is an attractive ultra-compact water, shock and shockproof 10-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 10 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-6000's 850 SW and 1080 SW predecessors were handy all-round camera perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities, and this very attractive new model seems to carry on that tradition and offer some much appreciated new features.
Not so much:
- Attractively styled sports and outdoor camera
- Snorkeling and freediving possible with 33 feet depth limit
- Inherent waterproofing provides peace of mind when handling in/around water
- Can survive 5-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
- Strictly point & shoot
- At this point we'd like more advanced movie modes
- Tiny mode wheel and almost illegible tiny labels
- 10 feet not enough for scuba