Tough (Yet Affordable) Gear
Rugged Stuff for the Rest of Us
Like I said earlier, you don't need a king's ransom if you need a tough consumer digicam to take on your next on your next weekend safari. One company that has long offered affordable, yet rugged and handsome digicams is Olympus. There are currently three distinctly different pocket-rockets available starting with the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW , available in Green, Black, and Silver. In three words the 1030SW is a tough little bugger.
Built around a 10.1Mp CCD sensor, the Stylus 1030 SW tells the story when you pick it up. There's a noticeable heftiness about it, which is understandable considering the Stylus 1030 SW can withstand a 33' dive, as well as the impact of a 6.6-foot drop onto concrete and up to 220 pounds of pressure (Hey big boy, is that a compact digicam in your back pocket...?) Heading north? Well listen up all you snow bunnies because the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW is also freeze-proof down to -14 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the pedestrian side, the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW features a 28- 102 mm (equivalent) zoom lens, an extensive list of shooting modes including Underwater (of course) Face Detection, Digital Image Stabilization, a 2.7" LCD, and 14.7Mb of built-in memory in case you find yourself swimming through a school of clown fish with an xD card that reads 'Full'.
The second rugged offering from Olympus is the Stylus 850 SW - available in Yellow, Blue, Black, Silver, and Pink - which has all of the bullet-proof qualities of the Stylus 1030 SW, albeit with a smaller 8Mp CCD, a slightly smaller (2.5") LCD, and a 38-114 mm zoom.
The Pentax Optio W30 is a 7.0Mp digicam meets the JIS Class 8 Waterproof standard, which means it can be used underwater down to 10' for up to 2-hours. It also claims title to a JIS Class 5 performance standard for dust-resistance. To steady the bumps the Optio W30 utilizes Digital SR (Shake Reduction) and ISO ratings up to 3200 for still imaging and Movie SR for blur-free video recording. The W30 has a 38-114 mm (equivalent) zoom (11 elements in 9 groups with 3 aspheric surfaces) that focus' down to an impressive 1cm, and has SP coatings to keep water from pooling on the lens surface.
Now if you're really serious about shooting underwater you might want to look into the Sea & Sea DX-1G, which is available as a standalone 10.3Mp digicam with an underwater casing, or in a choice of kits.
Usable down to 164' below the waves, the Sea & Sea DX-1G features a shutter-lag time as short as 0.1-seconds and close-focusing down to a half-inch from the front of the housing, which are important attributes when trying to nail the perfect shot way down in Nemo's secret garden.
Other features of the Sea & Sea DX-1G include a 2.5" TFT LCD, a choice of RAW or JPEG capture, a very appropriate 24to 72 mm (equivalent) zoom lens with a relatively fast (f/2.5) maximum aperture at the wide end, AF with Manual override, all designed to make underwater shooting as hassle-free as possible.
The DX-1G kits come with variations of strobe lighting and other accessories, such as a wide-angle converter that turns your 24mm lens into an effective 16mm ultra-wide angle lens.
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