7 Digicams you can Dunk, Drop, & Freeze

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If there’s anything tougher than defining the ‘perfect’ camera it would have to be defining the word ‘perfect’. For some folks the perfect camera is small. For others the perfect camera has ‘’lots of pixels’.  And for some it simply boils down to ‘Can I stick it in my pocket, sit on it, and then go diving in sub-freezing water with it… and oh… is it available in red?’

 

If I made your whiskers twitch on that last note you’d be interested in knowing about the following cameras, because each of them can be dunked, dropped, frozen, and afterwards tucked nicely away in your pocket. And cameras you can easily tuck away in your pocket (or dangle from a carabiner) are more likely to be within reach when you need them most… especially if you plan on mountain climbing during a nor’easter. And yes, most of these tough minis are available in a choice of colors.

 
 

Panasonic was among the first companies to introduce tough point-and-shoot digicams, and their latest ‘Photo/Movie Hybrid Tough Digital Camera’ is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2. The DMC-TS2 features a 14.1MP CCD imaging sensor, a Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.6x (28 - 128.8mm equivalent) optical zoom, a 2.7” (230,000-dot) TFT LCD, and the ability to capture AVCHD Lite hi-def video.

In the ‘tough’ department, the TS2 is waterproof down to 33’/10 m (IEC60529 IPX8" standard), drop-proof from 6.6’/2 m (MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-shock test standard), freeze-proof down to 14°F /-10c, and dustproof according to IEC60529 IP6X standards.

Other features found on the Panasonic DMC-TS2 include a built-in ‘fill-flash’ LED light for shooting close-up video under murkier lighting conditions (even underwater!), and Power O.I.S. optical image stabilization. When planning your summer wardrobe, do keep in mind the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 is available in silver, blue, orange, and yellow.

Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 & Tough-6020

Tough digicams are available in 3 flavors from Olympus, and they are named accordingly. The toughest of the three is the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010, which is waterproof to 33’/10 m, shockproof to 6.6’/2 m, freeze-proof to 14°F /-10c, and crushproof to 220 lb.

Available in black or silver, the Olympus Tough-8010 features a 14MP (1/2.3”) CCD sensor, a 5x (28 – 140mm equivalent ) zoom, 1-touch 720p video capture, 2 gigs of internal memory (very cool!), a 2.7” LCD, dual image stabilization, in-camera panorama stitching, a slew of creative filters, and a very useful tap control system that allows you to control many of the camera’s basic functions by simply tapping the top and side panels. If you’ve shot with gloves or underwater you’ll find this feature to be a welcome one.

 Slightly less bullet-proof (and slightly lighter) is the Olympus Stylus Tough-6020, which like the Tough-8010 has a 14MP sensor, a 2.7” LCD, a 5x (28 – 140mm equivalent) zoom, tap-control, dual image stabilization, and 1-touch 720p video capture. The differences between the cameras have to do with waterproof ratings (16’), shock-resistance (5’), internal memory (1GB vs. 2GB), and weight (6.3oz (178g) without batteries and media card for the Tough-6020 versus 7.6oz (215g) for the Tough-8010). The Olympus Tough-6020 is available in black, pink, blue, and green.

A third dunk-able from Olympus is the Olympus Stylus Tough-3000, which contains a 12MP CCD, a 2.7" LCD, a 3.6x (28-102mm equivalent), 1GB of internal memory and the ability to capture JPEGs and MP4 video. In the abuse department, the Stylus Tough-3000 is waterproof down to 10', shock-proof from 5', and freeze-proof to 14°F. The Olympus Stylus Tough-3000 is available in blue, redgreen, and pink.

Canon PowerShot D10

The Canon PowerShot D10 stands out from the crowd because it’s one of the few ‘dunk-ables’ that’s not a squared-off rectangle. Resembling a rounded, blue and silver bar of soap, the odd-looking shape of the Canon PowerShot starts to make good sense when you start using it underwater, where it's bulbous shape makes it easier to grasp, especially when wearing gloves.

 

Even on terra firma, the Canon D10 is an easy-to-use digicam that can withstand the abuse of grandchildren, who are naturally attracted to the camera’s playfully-unorthodox design. The Canon PowerShot D10 features a 12.1MP CCD, a Digic4 image processor, a 2.5” (230,000-dot) PureColor II LCD, ISO ratings up to 3200, image stabilization, and a 3x (35-105mm equivalent) optical zoom. You also have a choice of ‘ports’ to which you can attach the D10’s wrist strap. The Canon PowerShot D10 records JPEGs and AVI video.

Fujifilm FinePix XP10

Also non-traditional in design is the wedge-shaped Fujifilm FinePix XP10. Easily pocketable, the all-metal Fuji XP10 is waterproof down to 9.84’/3 m,shock-proof down to 3.3’/1 m, freeze-proof to 14°F /-10c, and sealedagainst dust and other airborne intruders.

Features-wise, the 4.9 ounce, all-metal Fuji XP10 has a 12.2MP CCD, shoots JPEGs & AVI video, and has a 5x (36-180mm equivalent) optical zoom that focuses down to 3.5”/9cm, and digital image stabilization. Most importantly, the Fujifilm FinePix XP10 is available in black, silver, and an irridescent interpretation of green.

Pentax Optio W90

The Pentax Optio W90 is easily recognizable by its wraparound rubber bumpers that protect the edges of the camera body. It's one of the more visually adventurous of the tough digicams discussed in this rough-and-tough digicam review. A particularly unique feature found on the Optio W80 are the 3 LEDs that allow you to light close-lying subjects when shooting stills and video in macro mode, which should prove to be especially valuable for shooting underwater close-ups.

As for toughness, the Optio W90 is waterproof down to 16’/5 m, shock-resistant from falls 3.3’/1.0 m from the ground, and freeze-resistant down to 14°F /-10c. As for the specs, the Pentax Optio W90 features a 12.1 MP CCD, a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) optical zoom, a 2.7”(230,000-dot) LCD, 720p video capture @ 30fps, HDMI connectivity, Advanced Pixel Track Shake Reduction, and a super macro mode that focuses down to 0.39”/1 cm from the front element of the lens. The Pentax Optio W90 is available in a choice of black or Pistachio green, and there’s a handy carabiner included with each camera to facilitate dangling the camera from your belt, bag, dive suit, or for nights out on the town in a beltless gown, your hoop earrings.

Pentax Optio W80

Sony Cyber-shot TX5

The last dunk-able digicam on our list contains a few neat attributes of its very own. Sony’s ¾”-thin Cyber-shot TX5 is the first of the Cyber-shot cameras that’s waterproof (down to 10’), shockproof (from falls up to 5.5’), and freeze-proof (down to 14°F). Inside, the TX5 contains a 10.2 megapixel “Exmor R” back-illuminated CMOS image sensor that works with a BIONZ image processor to bang out up to 10 full-res stills per second as well as 720p HD MP4 video.

The lens on the TX5 is a 4x (25-100mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom that captures dramatic landscapes as easily as tight headshots, and you can compose your pix on the TX5’s 3” (230,000-dot) touch-screen LCD.

As for the Sony TX5’s unique features, this little honey can produce in-camera panoramic images up to 226° (even underwater!) and the camera’s Hand-held Twilight mode and Anti-motion Blur modes make taking hand-held night-time (or underwater) pictures a piece of cake. Sony’s Cyber-shot TX5 is available in black, pink, red, silver, and green.

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Bought the Lumix DMC TS2  for my active son. It has been well worth the shots from mountian summits and beaches to the streets of New York city. It is tough without suffering quality

Frank DiBella wrote:

Bought the Lumix DMC TS2  for my active son. It has been well worth the shots from mountian summits and beaches to the streets of New York city. It is tough without suffering quality

Two important pieces of comparative information I would like to know would be 1) battery life and 2) photo storage.  Olympus used to take different memory from the others.

Which has the least shutter lag. The maddening thing about these cameras is how long it takes to release the shutter after the button is pushed. Near impossible to get peak moment. I had an Olympus that had a mode that would shoot a 5 shot burst and that was the best for action. There was still a lag, but you could start early and get the burst. My new Olympus doesn't have that mode.... 

PLEASE, PLEASE,PLEASE!!! IF YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR MONEY BUT ABOVE IT, CAPTURING YOUR FAMILIY MOMENTS WITH QUALITY AND NICE COLOR (SPECIALLY WHEN USING FLASH) DOOOOOOOON´T BUY THE OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH... I USED TO HAVE A SONY... I AM JUST WAITING TO SELL MY OLYMPUS AND WILL GO BACK TO SONY OR ANY OTHER BRAND... THIS OLYMPUS WAS EXPENSIVE AND IT´S NOOOT WORTH IT.

TAKE MY WORD!

I have two Olympus Tough cameras: the first one they came out with and the 8000.  Both have burst mode setting.  Olympus does have a different card format, xD, but the cards are readily available, hold similar amounts of data as other storage cards, and are read by most multi-card readers.  The Olympus works well under water, has a variety of pre-formatted settings as well as manual control.  The tap feature is probably more sizzle than substance (I've never been able to get it to work well for me) but the camera definitely is tough.  I've dropped mine 20 feet while rock climbing and it still works fine.  Video is internet quality.

  Olympus does have a different card format, xD,

Olympus uses SD memory cards now.

[quote=ken]

I have two Olympus Tough cameras: the first one they came out with and the 8000.  Both have burst mode setting.  Olympus does have a different card format, xD, but the cards are readily available, hold similar amounts of data as other storage cards, and are read by most multi-card readers.

Olympus uses SD memory cards now.

best choice so far - I have Panasonic TS-1 - takes decent pictures and excellent HD video clips i had it on the beach and river and still working fine ,and battery lasts enough for whole weekend - if you take around 100-200 pictures and some video

i had olympus 850 - they all using xD cards (dont know why?) and 850 model could take only 10 sec video clips ! what a disaster - i tought that was something wrong with the camera but NO - you would have to reduce vga quality to 320x240 to get couple of minutes of video - yes i did return it to the store 

and also i owned canon D10 - another disaster camera - huge shutter lag and pictures quality comparable to olympus plus the bulky shape of the camera - it is a canon mistake -i sold it on ebay

i owned also a 2 sony cameras (not water or shock proof) DSC-T9 - excellent old camera (no touch screen) - i had it for about 3 or 4 years now and still taking great pictures  - BUT for about 2 months i owned DSC-T200 - touch screen and this one supposed to be superior to DSC-T9 - well big mistake - there is something with sony ccd sensors - after about 2 months this camera started to take blurry pictures and whatever settings i was using i couldnt get decent picture ,same with my friends DSC-T200 and DSC-T300 and DSC-W300 so i would wait to get some decent review on TX5

Allan,

Would it be possible for you to provide a feature-by-feature comparison of the Canon PowerShot D10 vs. the Sony Cyber-shot TX5 vs. whichever other options are comparably high-end in features and quality?  It's rather problematic to do that sort of detailed comparison just based on your text above.

I'm a professional photographer (top-side, not underwater) and I use all Canon equipment. I'm looking for a waterproof, dunkable/submersible (shallow depth), high-quality, very durable, withstands-cold-and-heat, little camera to slip into a pocket for some situations in which I want to grab quick (but high-quality) shots and I don't want to destroy, or can't carry and fiddle with, my very expensive pro gear.

Thanks!

Allan, I have the Lumix FT1 (12 mp) and  a great little camera,  I can vouch for the tough and waterproof quality when I 'lost' mine while white water canoeing in a rapid... the bright blue helped me find it about an hour later and 100 meters downstream. Still working and not a mark despite getting the washing machine treatment.  The shutter lag is reasonable considering in normal light.  However the biggest limitation I have as a pro photographer in all of these cameras is 1. The actual sensor size is (naturally) very small = reduced quality and greater shadow noise and 2. Only JPEG - no RAW capture. So compared to even the Lumix LX 2 (that does have RAW) that I have you can see a quality difference, and that of course is much less than my 40D let alone my 5DMk11 or 1D Mk3. So I often travel with the FT1 and despite limitations have taken some great photos with it above love it. ps, I shoot in many different countries from desert at 50degC+ to below zero.  Bob

Allan,

Would it be possible for you to provide a feature-by-feature comparison of the Canon PowerShot D10 vs. the Sony Cyber-shot TX5 vs. whichever other options are comparably high-end in features and quality?  It's rather problematic to do that sort of detailed comparison just based on your text above.

I'm a professional photographer (top-side, not underwater) and I use all Canon equipment. I'm looking for a waterproof, dunkable/submersible (shallow depth), high-quality, very durable, withstands-cold-and-heat, little camera to slip into a pocket for some situations in which I want to grab quick (but high-quality) shots and I don't want to destroy, or can't carry and fiddle with, my very expensive pro gear.

Thanks!

[/quote]

Any thoughts on the Kodak Playsport video camera? Looking for something a bit more water resistant than our Nikon D90... The cameras above are in the $200-300+ range; whereas the Playsport is only $149. While it has no zoom and is capable of only 5MP stills, it does HD Video (1080p) and has image stabilization (something many of the above cameras lack). thoughts?

I bought the Panasonic Lumix TS2 after my wife and I lost our TS1 in the Pacific ocean (kayak got overturned by a wave and a carabiner clip failed and released the camera into the ocean).  Had high hopes for it.  Took some test shots, put it in a bathtub to test it out, took some shots while swimming at the beach.  Then tried it down to 15 ft scuba diving.  After 12 shots it stopped working and you could tell after a while that water had infiltrated the camera - the LCD and lens were showing fog on the inside of them.  The camera is being sent back as defective, not sure if I want to try with the same camera again...

I don't think any of these camera are meant to be brought Scuba Driving the water pressure at that distance underwater is too intense for even water proof camera to withstrand.

Ben L wrote:

I bought the Panasonic Lumix TS2 after my wife and I lost our TS1 in the Pacific ocean (kayak got overturned by a wave and a carabiner clip failed and released the camera into the ocean).  Had high hopes for it.  Took some test shots, put it in a bathtub to test it out, took some shots while swimming at the beach.  Then tried it down to 15 ft scuba diving.  After 12 shots it stopped working and you could tell after a while that water had infiltrated the camera - the LCD and lens were showing fog on the inside of them.  The camera is being sent back as defective, not sure if I want to try with the same camera again...

[quote=Jennifer]

I don't think any of these camera are meant to be brought Scuba Driving the water pressure at that distance underwater is too intense for even water proof camera to withstrand.

I have the Canon D10 and have had it to 85 feet while diving and it was no problem. It has color correction built in and with the big screen it is easy to see while diving. The shutter lag can be maddening though.

I bought the Pentax W90 shortly before going on a snorkelling holiday for a month.  On that paricular holiday I got to also try a Canon compact in an underwater casing, why?  Well the Pentax stopped working, it would turn on but no menu functions or buttons were accessable, it just froze.  But prior to this misadventure it did take some great shots, the shutter lag was very minimal.  The downside of this camera would be if the lens got dirty with a finger print it was difficult to see it through the viewfinder, when you are swimming for 3 hours very rarely putting your head above water simple things like this are an issue.  Also if there was a strong contrast of light flare hitting the water for example, there would be a very strong pixel rip in the image until you moved your composition away from the strong light, not great when shooting video and in the  middle of a sequence.  I am interested to see how my new replacement will be and if that particular problem was unique to my faulty camera.

I have the old Olympus Stylus 850 SW and it has been a great little "purse" camera.  I have called it my "grandma camera".  The little kids in our family love to take pictures and videos with it.  With the waterproof, shock proof, freeze proof I hand it to them and never worry.  Even with getting a newer DSLR I kept my little Grandma camera to carry in my purse and call in my Jr camera assistants when taking pictures.  Even the little 3 year old grandaughter can point and shoot to take pictures.  Next generation of picture takers are in training!  The best part is seeing the kids take the camera in the pool and hearing the gasps from adults when they drop it in the water! 

I have owned 2 Olympus Tough models, and both of them allowed water to enter, destroying the camera. The first one was replaced through insurance, the second one we couldn’t claim on as it was purchased on eBay.  2 out of 2 isn’t a very good record. I wouldn’t touch another ‘Tough’ for quids. And BTW, neither camera had been dropped, and both failed in less than 3 metres depth. Worked fine one minute, then just wouldn’t work at all.

Although I have seen many splashproof, waterproof, and dive cameras fail over the years, most of those failures can be put down to 2 things. Not making sure seals are clean prior to using in water. Sand and hair being the common causes, or (This includes the battery compartment) using them in moving water, rivers, surf, etc. It’s not often the pressure that makes them fail. It’s the change in pressure.  In surf and in rivers as well as things like jumping in pools or rolling over in kayaks there is often suction as well. Most camera seals are designed to be under positive pressure all the time. Remembering these 2 things may save your next waterproof camera. Have fun with your new cameras.

Life one the world's longest beaches means many photo ops but northwest marine weather  includes sudden gales, even hailstorms and sneaker waves. I chose the TS-1 as a lightweight, very high image quality camera with reasonable water and dust protection.   Although not a deep submersible camera and totally unsuitable for fast moving water, such as one encounters on river raft expeditions, the excellent picture quality and extremely compact design makes it a winner for the hiker, fisherman, beach comber and sportsman.  SD cards are available everywhere.  I also have had the Olympus cameras with xd cards and found them very good, but in the boonies xd cards are not so available. Give the TS-1 very high ratings for sheer picture quality, but some characteristics are a real nuisance, such as the teeny controls and lack of any reasonable way to wrap your fingers around the camera without getting them in image.  The lens flush with the camera front surface protects it and adds to compactness, but it makes the grip weird.