The Best Tough Cameras

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Waterproof, durable, and versatile are three of the best descriptors for the point-and-shoot cameras that are commonly known as “tough” cameras. In a camera market that has seen smartphones become our de facto compact cameras, tough cameras have filled an important niche, satisfying the needs of a range of photographers who want a stand-alone camera that can take high-quality images and be safely used underwater, while hiking or skiing or poolside. They are a great vacation camera or an everyday “don’t worry about it” camera and very useful if your work requires images for notes or documentation.

The features that most tough cameras share are their compact form factor; a waterproof, freezeproof, shockproof body design; and a versatile zoom lens. Many also offer GPS, Wi-Fi, and macro modes, and they are quite affordable. Let’s take a look at a few of the best available.

Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera

The Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera is the most notable of the tough point-and-shoots, and that is primarily because it offers RAW imaging capability and has a fast maximum aperture of f/2 on its 4x optical zoom lens with a 25-100mm equivalent focal length range. It features a 12MP BSI CMOS sensor and TruePic VIII image processor, ISO to 12800, fast 20 fps continuous shooting, and image stabilization. Video is supported at 4K30p and at Full HD 1080p at 120 fps with an internal stereo microphone.


Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera

Its design can withstand underwater submersion to 50' (15m), temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C) and falls from 7' (2.1m), and it is crushproof to 220 lbf (100 kgf) of pressure. A dustproof rating to IP6X and a double-pane glass covering the lens protect the interior, and its dials and buttons are designed to be adjusted while wearing gloves. Five separate underwater modes produce accurate colors when working in water, and a macro mode enables focus stacking and close focus to 0.4" (1cm). Additionally, its Field Sensor System incorporates GPS, a manometer, a compass, and a thermometer for recording the details of your environment and embedding this data onto your photos and movies. Built-in Wi-Fi is also supported.

Ricoh WG-6 Digital Camera

I appreciate the simple design of the Ricoh WG-6 Digital Camera, its built-in, adjustable LED ring light for macro photography, and that it is “chemical and disinfectant resistant” for industrial and construction site use. Its 20MP BSI CMOS sensor enables clear, low-noise still images and UHD 4K30 video with Movie SR+ (Shake Reduction) for smoother videos. Its ISO sensitivity range is from 125 to 6400, and its optical zoom lens offers a focal length equivalent of 28-140mm.


Ricoh WG-6 Digital Camera

While its maximum lens aperture is not as fast as that of the Olympus and it does not support RAW, its telephoto reach is longer, and its durability specs are impressive: waterproof to a depth of 65.6' (20m), freezeproof to temperatures as low as 14°F ( -10°C), and shockproof from falls up to 6.6' (2m) high. Other design elements include the above mentioned LED ring light, which supports its macro modes, an assignable ADJ button, which offers quick access to oft-used camera functions, and a 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD monitor with AR coating for use in bright conditions. Finally, its GPS system is reached via a dedicated button and corresponds to the latest satellite navigation augmentation systems.

Nikon COOLPIX W300 Digital Camera

While Panasonic and FUJIFILM make comparable cameras, I have used the Nikon COOLPIX W300 and like its button placements and response time and also the color it produces underwater. It features a 16MP 1/2.3 BSI CMOS sensor and a 24-120mm equivalent focal length lens with f/2.8 maximum aperture with image stabilization. It also supports UHD 4K/30p video capture and shoot stills at up to 7 fps. Its shockproof and freezeproof specs are similar to the above cameras, and it is waterproof to a depth of 98.4' (30m). Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS are all supported, and it is compatible with the SnapBridge app for easy sharing to mobile devices. It also features an eCompass, altimeter, depth gauge, and barometer to record the environmental data of your shoot.


Nikon COOLPIX W300 Digital Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX0 II Digital Camera

More of a cross between a GoPro style “action cam” and a point-and-shoot, the Sony RX0 II Digital Camera takes its place on this list not only because of its “tough” build and ultra-compact size, but because it offers top-notch image quality thanks to its 15.3MP 1" Exmor RS Stacked CMOS sensor, dedicated DRAM chip, and BIONZ X processor. ISO sensitivities up to 12800, continuous shooting at 16 fps, and shutter speeds of up to 1/32000 second are part of its feature set, as is a ZEISS Tessar T* 24mm equivalent f/4 lens with a minimum focus distance of just 7.9". On the video side, it offers internal UHD 4K30 video along with Picture Profiles, including the advanced S-Log2 gamma. Uncompressed 4:2:2 4K recording over HDMI is supported, and a 3.5mm microphone input improves audio capture.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX0 II Digital Camera

Measuring only 2.4" wide and weighing just 4.7 oz, the RX0 II provides a 1.5" 230k-dot 180° tilting LCD. The screen can also tilt downward 90° for odd-angle capture, and it is waterproof to 33' (10 m), shock resistant to drops from up to 6.5' (2 m), and crushproof to 400 lbf (181 kgf), as well as dustproof. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also supported.

Canon IVY REC Digital Camera

Affordable, simple, and stylish, the Canon IVY REC is an especially compact digital camera with a built-in carabiner-style clip to directly attach to your backpack or belt for easy carrying. Not exactly in the mold of the typical tough camera, it does provide a durable construction that is water resistant down to 6.6' (2m) and shock resistant from up to 6.6' (2m). It also provides Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. While high-quality imaging specs are not its raison d’etre, it does utilize a 13MP CMOS sensor for both stills and video capture up to Full HD 1080p at 60 fps and features a 25.4mm focal length equivalent lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.2.


Canon IVY REC Digital Camera

Ideal for camping, beaches, on the boat, in the workplace, or just around the backyard, these cameras are meant to go the distance. Let us know where and when you use your tough camera.

 

4 Comments

I’ve had the TG3, then the TG4 and currently own a TG5 with the specific purpose of taking UW pictures, as I travel a lot (oops, travelled...) to many scuba dive locations around the world. The TG5 takes incredible pictures; even considering Olympus ‘downgraded: its sensor from 16 to 12MP in the move from version 4 to 5, or maybe exactly because of that downgrade. I use it with the PT58 UW housing in order to go deeper than 15m, and it’s tranquilizing to know that, even if some water leaks into the housing, the camera inside is waterproof (just don’t expose it to the full pressure of a dive to beyond its rating). I’m considering the next upgrade when I can travel again when the pandemics is over. The size and practicality of this concept won me over the larger Micro 4/3 setup I used before, Well dove, Olympus!

Thanks for the insightful comment and good advice Walmyr....look forward to seeing some images from your next dive.

 

I would love to have an Olympus Tough TG-6, but am rather surprised that the Fujifilm XP140 didn't place here. I still use an XP-120 which has served me well!

Thanks for the comment Robert and for reading Explora.  I did link the XP140 in the Nikon section and it is a solid camera, I've used it while snorkeling.  However, wanting to keep the list short, I decided to include a variety of "bests"...  and therefore included the IVY over a few other very good cameras. Thanks again.