Tough and Rugged Point-and-Shoot Cameras

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When you read the selling points of professional-grade cameras such as Canon’s 1D series and Nikon’s D3 series, the manufacturers make a point of discussing the heavy-duty construction and exhaustive measures of weatherproofing that go into their respective cameras. When you pick up one of these pricy dynamos, the weight and heft speak volumes about the integrity of these imaging machines; for the prices they command, you should expect no less.

So, here’s the cool part: even if you cannot afford (or justify) purchasing one of these top-gun HDSLRs, for a fraction of the cost of these multi-thousand-dollar über cameras, you can get a point-and-shoot camera that’s all but bulletproof. Although the imaging sensor and performance levels may not be up to the ever-rising standards set by these engineering wonders, the largest and heftiest of the current crop of waterproof/shockproof/freeze proof point-and-shoot digital cameras are still small and light enough to fit in your pocket, which means that unless you’re being paid to haul a pack mule’s worth of gear around all day you’re more likely to have a camera handy when you need it. And isn’t that the point of it all?

Solid, weather-sealed construction aside, each of these cameras features zoom lenses in the 4x to 5x range located behind glass portals, which even if you never go near the water or play in the mud is far more desirable and practical than those tinny metal blades that “protect” your lens when it’s not in use. Aside from being easily damaged, these protective blades also tend to hide smudges and fingerprints that invariably wind up on your front lens element. If you don’t see them, you’re most likely not going to clean them off.

Many of these tough digital cameras also feature larger control knobs and buttons that are easier to access and use when wearing gloves or shooting under adverse temperature/weather conditions. Lastly, each of these rugged point and shoots can stand up to the most rambunctious of three-year-olds!

Nikon CoolPix

Interestingly enough, Nikon is the last company to jump into the pool… so to speak. The Nikon CoolPix AW100, which is available in orange, blue and black, is a compact number (4.33 x 2.56 x 0.90" / 110.1 x 64.9 x 22.8mm ) containing a 16MP rear-lit CMOS sensor, a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) zoom lens containing 12 elements in 10 groups, and a 3.0" (460,000-dot) LCD.

Waterproof to 33', shockproof to drops from heights up to five feet, and operable in a temperature range of 14° to 104°F, the CoolPix AW100 has a 4-way optical/digital VR image stabilization system and can capture stills at burst rates up to 7.1 frames per second, along with HD 1080p (AVC/H.264) video with stereo sound. The CoolPix AW100 also features GPS geotagging, a compass function, can display world maps on its LCD, and can focus down to a quarter inch from the front lens element.

The Nikon CoolPix AW100 is powered by a Nikon EN-EL12 lithium-ion battery, contains about 83MB of internal memory and records stills and video onto SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

Fujifilm FinePix

Fuji offers two palm-sized bang-about digicams: the FinePix XP20 and FinePix XP30. The FinePix XP20 features a 14.2MP CCD imaging sensor, a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) zoom lens containing 13 elements in 11 groups with focusing down to 3.5", a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD, 720p video capture and a top ISO of 3200. It even has a Motion Panorama mode that captures ultra-wide field panoramic images with a simple sweep of the camera across the viewing field.

Sporting a smoothly rounded asymmetrical outer body casing, the FinePix XP20 is waterproof down to 16', shockproof from five-foot falls, dustproof, and freeze proof when it’s as chilly as 14°F. The Fujifilm FinePix XP20 is powered by a lithium-ion battery, records stills and video onto SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards and is available in black, blue, green and orange.

The Fujifilm FinePix XP30, which is available in black, green and orange, features the same specs and attributes of the FinePix XP20, but also features GPS Geo-Tagging capability. Both of these rugged digicams are as pocket friendly as they get.

Panasonic Lumix

Panasonic’s tough kids are the Lumix DMC-TS3  and Lumix DMC-TS10. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is also one of the more compact models in this roundup and has a look that defines its status in this product category. Available in orange, blue, silver and red, the Lumix DMC-TS3 is waterproof down to 40', shockproof to 6.6', dustproof (obviously) and freeze proof in the chill winds of 14°F.

On the technical front, the  Panasonic Lumix  DMC-TS3 features a 12.1MP CCD imaging sensor, a Leica-designed 4.6x (28-128mm equivalent) zoom lens with five aspheric surfaces and an ED element, a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD, full HD 1080p video capture, minimum focus of 1.97", and according to the specs, quicker shutter-response times than other cameras in its class. The DMC-TS3 also features GPS geo-tagging and a digital compass, altimeter and barometer for recording the exact time, altitude and weather the moment you realized you were lost in the woods. The top burst rate for stills is about 3.7 frames per second at full resolution, and as fast as 10 frames per second at 3MP. As for recording your stills and video clips, the DMC-TS3 uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

For lighter-duty work, Panasonic also offers the Lumix DMC-TS10, which is waterproof down to “only” 10', shockproof to 5' falls, dustproof, and like all of the digital cameras in this review, freeze proof down to 14-degree Fahrenheit blasts. The Lumix DMC-TS10 contains a 14.1MP CCD imaging sensor, a 4x (35-140mm equivalent) Leica-designed zoom lens that contains four aspheric surfaces and an ED element, a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD, and a top ISO sensitivity of 6400. According to the spec sheets, the DMC-TS10 can capture video and stills at up to 4.6 frames per second onto SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10 is available in a choice of black, blue, red and silver.

Sony Cyber-Shot

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 is available in a choice of five colors: black, blue, pink, silver and a most unusual shade of green. It’s waterproof to 16', shock resistant to 5' drops, and like the other contenders for your hard-earned dollars, has an operating range of 14° to 104° F.

In addition to a smooth-looking, narrow-profile and understated design, the TX10 features a sliding front panel that serves as both an auxiliary ON/OFF switch as well as an additional layer of protection for the lens, which like other digital cameras in this category, resides behind a waterproof glass portal.

Spec-wise, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 features a 16MP backlit Exmor R CMOS imaging sensor, a 4x (25-100mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens containing 12 elements in 10 groups with a total of six aspheric surfaces, a 3.0" (921,000-dot) touch-screen LCD, a top ISO of 3200 and 1080i video. The Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 can also bang out up to 10 frames per second at full resolution. For times the TX10’s 25mm-100mm equivalent lens isn’t wide enough, Sony’s patented Sweep Panorama Mode enables you to capture wide-field imagery beyond 260° in coverage.

For power, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 relies on a Sony NP-BN1 lithium-ion battery. As for recording your stills and video, you have a choice of using Memory Stick Duo/ Pro Duo/PRO HG-Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

Olympus Stylus

Olympus offers a choice of four rugged camera models, starting with the Stylus Tough-8010, a camera designed in a style that screams “tough.” Available in black, silver and blue, the Stylus Tough 8010 is waterproof down to 33', shockproof from 6.6' drops and it’s crushproof under 220 lb of pressure, which makes it the ideal camera for those who think rear pockets are the perfect place to stow your camera when you’re not using it.

As for the numbers, the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 features a 14MP CCD imaging sensor, a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD and a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) zoom lens containing 11 elements in eight groups with four aspheric surfaces and macro focusing down to 1.2" from the lens. Other nifty features found on the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 include 720p video capture, Tap Control (which allows you to perform a short list of exposure adjustments by simply tapping on the top and sides of the camera, a rather useful feature when it’s minus five and you’re wearing two pairs of gloves), in-camera panoramas and a slew of Art Filters. As a bonus, the Stylus Tough-8010 contains 2GB of internal memory.

Just as rugged but with a few extra tricks up its sleeve (and a higher-resolution LCD) is the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-810. In addition to the same 14MP sensor found in the equally tough and beefy Stylus Tough-8010, the TG-810 has the same size (3.0") LCD, but with triple the number of pixels (921,000-dots) of the Tough-8010. The TG-810 also features GPS connectivity, a special mode for 3D pictures, and a built-in compass and altimeter.

If 33' is too deep for your particular comfort levels but you’re keen on Olympus, take a look at the Olympus Tough TG-310. Available in orange, red, silver and white, the TG-310 features a 14MP CCD imaging sensor, a 3.6x (28-102mm equivalent) zoom lens, and a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD. The Tough TG-310 is waterproof to 10', shockproof to 5', captures 720p HD video and is Eye-Fi compatible. It also has a top shutter speed of 1/2000th-second, which isn’t too shabby for a pocket camera.

Similar in design and ruggedness and a wee bit more expensive is the Olympus Tough TG-610, which has a larger (3.0") and higher-res (960,000-dot) LCD. Both the TG-310 and TG-610 record stills and video onto SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The Olympus Tough TG-610 is available in a choice of red, black and silver.

Canon PowerShot

Canon’s PowerShot D10 might be entering its third year in production, but it still remains one of the oddest-looking, though highly functional and user-friendly waterproof/freeze proof/shockproof point-and-shoot cameras we carry.

Pod-shaped like a bar of soap, Canon’s blue-and-silver PowerShot D10 is, in fact, one of the easier cameras to handle underwater or when wearing gloves, mostly because of its unorthodox design. Waterproof to 33', shockproof from 4' drops, dustproof and freeze proof down to 14°F, the PowerShot D10 features a 12.1MP CCD imaging sensor, a DIGIC 4 image processor, a 2.5" (230,000-dot) LCD, and a 3x (38-114mm equivalent) zoom lens.

Kodak EasyShare

The least expensive rugged digital camera we sell is the nifty-looking Kodak EasyShare Sport C123. Available in a choice of blue, red and gray, Kodak’s AA-powered, palm-sized dunkables  are waterproof down to 10' and dustproof, but since there’s no mention of shock resistance you might want to avoid throwing it across the room or playing Nok-Hockey with it. Regardless, for sixty six dollars and change you can get a new Nok-Hockey set or a handsome digital camera that features a 12MP CCD, a 35mm-equivalent fixed focal length lens, VGA video clips and a 2.4" (112,000-dot) LCD. The Kodak EasyShare Sport C123 records stills and video clips onto SD/SDHC memory cards, in addition to 32MB of internal memory.

Pentax Optio

The Pentax Optio WG-1 is available in two flavors – with GPS and without GPS (the Optio WG-1 GPS). Regardless of whether you are GPS-oriented or not, both cameras feature 14MP CCD imaging sensors, a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) zoom lens, 720p video capture, 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCDs and a high ISO of 6400. They are also waterproof down to 33', shockproof to drops from 5', freeze proof to 14°F, crushproof to weights of up to 100 kgF (kilogram-force), and both feature a design reminiscent of a bowtie or a dog bone, depending on your upbringing or personal reference points.

One rather cool feature both cameras share is five daylight-balanced LEDs that circle the lens for flicker free, continuous light macro stills and video clips.

The Pentax Optio WG-1 is available in a choice of black or purple, and the Optio WG-1 GPS is available in a choice of yellow/green and black/gray.

Ricoh PX

Ricoh’s PX comes in a choice of three colors: silver, black and the same shade of green that graced an American motors Javelin I owned back in my art-school days. Designed around a 16MP CCD imaging sensor, the Ricoh PX has a 5x (28-140mm equivalent) zoom containing 13 elements in 10 groups with macro focusing down to 1.18" and a 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD.

Waterproof down to about 10' and able to survive 5' drops, the PX also captures AVI video clips and supports Eye-Fi memory cards as well as SD/SDHC memory cards.

Model Sensor Zoom LCD Burst Rate Video Water -proof Shock -proof Freeze Proof Colors
Nikon CoolPix AW100 16MP CMOS 5x (28 - 140mm) 3" 460,000 - dot up to 7.1 fps 1080p up to 240fps 33' 5' 14 to 104° F orange, blue, black
Fujifilm FinePix XP20 14.2MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 0.8 fps 720p 16' 5' 14 to 104° F black, orange, blue, green
Fujifilm FinePix XP30 14.2MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 0.8 fps 720p 16' 5' 14 to 104° F black, orange, green
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 14.1MP CCD 4.6x (28 - 128mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 10 fps 1080p  40' 6.6' 14 to 104° F orange, blue, silver, red
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10 14.1MP CCD 4x (35 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 4.6 fps 720p 10' 5' 14 to 104° F black, blue, silver, red
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 16MP CMOS 4x (25 - 100mm) 3" 921,000 - dot touch screen up to 10 fps 1080i 16' 5' 14 to 104° F black, blue, pink, silver,green
Canon PowerShot D10 12.1MP CCD 3x (38 - 114mm) 2.5" 230,000 - dot up to 1.1 fps 720p 33' 4' 14 to 104° F blue/silver
Kodak EasyShare Sport C123 12MP CCD fixed, 35mm equiv. 2.4" 112,000 - dot N/A VGA 10'  N/A NA blue, red, gray
Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 14MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 3" 920,000 - dot up to 5 fps 720p 33' 6.6' 14 to 104° F black, silver, blue
Olympus Stylus TG-810 14MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 3" 920,000 - dot up to 0.7 fps 720p 33' 6.6' 14 to 104° F black
Olympus Stylus TG-310 14MP CCD 3.6x (28 -102mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 0.7 fps 720p 10' 5' 14 to 104° F blue, orange, silver, white, red
Olympus Stylus TG-610 14MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 0.7 fps 720p 10' 5' 14 to 104° F red, black, silver
Pentax Optio WG-1/WG-1 GPS 14MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot up to 0.68 fps 720p 33' 5' 14 to 104° F black, purple, yellow/green (GPS), black/gray (GPS)
Ricoh PX 16MP CCD 5x (28 - 140mm) 2.7" 230,000 - dot N/A VGA 10' 5' 14 to 104° F silver, black, green

Add new comment

Do any of these ruff and tumble cameras shoot images in raw format?

Hello -

These fun and versatile cameras do many things well - but they cannot shoot in RAW format.

I have been on the fence between the Nikon AW100 and the Lumix TS3 for a while.  I want something with good overall quality but also want Good Macro functionality.  Any suggestions between the two, taking into account overall picture quality vs any macro functionality/quality as well?  Thanks.

Both the Nikon AW100 and Panasonic TS3 cameras have great image quality.  I feel the Nikon however has more of an edge over the TS3 in this comparison.  As far as the macro/close up features of the two go, the Nikon wins with a minimum focusing distance of 1cm (0.39") from its subject, vs the Panasonic TS3 with its minimum focusing distance of 5cm (1.97"). 

The Nikon has a broader ISO range which would be useful for lower light situations, and it also has a faster overall burst rate (7 frames per second vs. 3.7fps in the Panasonic) and a larger LCD screen.

Nikon  has the better close up ability and I feel it has the overall better peformance over the TS3.  As far as the image quality goes between the two, I can't see how you'd be disappointed with either.

This should be updated with the new Canon D20 camera.

Just spent my first day with my first Nikon, the Coolpix reviewed here. My path was Cybershot, Pentax Optio, and a horrible experience with a Canon Powershot. My Pentax film camera is stored away with a great 28x110 zoom lens, and I have not had that kind of image quality since. However, we've been raising kids these last seven years, and my professional work has also migrated from slide projectors to desktop projectors where the resolution is also not very good.

The Nikon has one blatant flaw: the battery charger requires a chord! The new MacBookPros read the SD cards straight, so recharging the battery is the last chore left. It would have been nice to have the built-in plug in the battery charger like Canon's.

The shutter is better than all my previous cameras. That 'hesitation' is still there while the camera either autofocuses, or adjusts aperture at low light conditions (like today in the pool after dark). But this Nikon's shutter feels a lot more like the mechanical ancestor, and the speed of shooting stills is bound to make a difference in this all important peeve: did I get a shot or not? Only the replay will tell.

I haven't worked with any of the photos yet. Nor have I used the automatic panorama stitch feature. Some of these bits of technology take a while to learn but I look forward to any advancements.

I also look forward to using a filter over the lens again. Just a polarizing filter or a hood to shield the lens are sorely missed.

Love the 'international orange color'. This one is going to be a snap to spot in a heap of suite cases or a cluttered desk.

Do any of the cameras listed here have a viewfinder, in addition to the LCD? I find LCDs difficult to work with on sunny days!

I have a fuji finepix xp50. I use it for hiking and backpacking - attached to a trek mount to my hiking pole. the problem is that the lens gets water droplets on in in the rain, and fogs up in humid weather. do any of the other models have a lens cover that opens and closes when the power button is pushed?

Unfortunately the lens portal area on these types of digital cameras is susceptible to some fogging as there is air in there. Air contains moisture and in humid conditions fogging can occur. The best solution is to try to acclimate the camera to the environment prior to shooting so that the fogging has a chance to decrease. You can also consider storing the camera with silica desiccants which we carry for helping absorb any moisture in your gear.

I noticed that none of these cameras have viewfinders. are there any good rugged outdoor cameras that have viewfinders? That can be important for outdoor shooting.

I'm researching rugged camera choices for law enforcement application.  Our evidence photos range from macro to landscape and everything in between.  Every patrol car has a camera issued and each car is used by several officers.  Equipment gets abused.  I need a camera that will take the abuse, simple to use, and produces quality photos.  I read the reviews and get some sense of what are the best choices, but was looking for some feed back from people who use their cameras for more that ordinary everday or occasional use.

Does any of these cameras have the day/ date/ time stamp capabilities?

Yes, the current versions from Nikon, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Canon, and Sony all have the ability to imprint the date on the image.  See the links below for details on the models:

http://bhpho.to/1kOUHPq

http://bhpho.to/1kOUKL6

http://bhpho.to/1kOUPi8

http://bhpho.to/1kOUThT

http://bhpho.to/1u6TYty

http://bhpho.to/1kOV6kU

I am interested in a light-weight, sturdy point-and-shoot, with good stabilization and that is easy to use plus takes really good photos (portraits, flowers mostly outside). It does not have to be waterproof. I have tremoring and am a clutz. I am very artistic and would like to use the digital camera for a source to my work. I want to stay under $400. Thank you for any guidance for cameras to consider. - Mary 

Of the models which are "drop/crushproof" waterproof is part of their designs in that category.  Below are recommendations of the better options of those for you to consider, as well as some other general (non-tough) types which are still durable and will deliver excellent image quality and have good stabilization:

http://bhpho.to/1rHbhCp

http://bhpho.to/1rHbDZL

http://bhpho.to/1mzeC7E

http://bhpho.to/WBoFOu

Do these camera protect against dust on the sensor?

I have a Canon SD 780 IS and over time dust gets on the sensor.  I can usually remove it with the help of a vacuum cleaner, but I'd rather get a camera that doesn't require this operation.

Yes, part of the waterproof/dropproof protection design takes into account the sensor, and it is very well protected including against dust.