Tough and Rugged Point-and-Shoot Cameras
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!
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.
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’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.
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 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’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.
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.
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’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|