Dorm-Proof Digicams | B&H Photo Video Pro Audio
Home < Photography< B&H Email Newsletter

Dorm-Proof Digicams

Cameras Designed to Withstand the Trauma of Higher Education

By Allan Weitz

As the cinderblock walls of any dorm room can attest to, college can be a bear, and as such it should be approached with tools that can stand up to the challenge. The following cameras were designed to withstand the rigors of college life (within reason of course) not to mention winter and spring 1break. Depending on the model, each of these cameras can withstand a 3 to 6-plus foot drop onto a hard surface, a 3 to 33' dunk in the surf, sub-freezing temperatures, and desert heat. A few even go well with those adorable shoes you bought last Tuesday. And they all take great pictures and are quite affordable.

Olympus Tough-8000 & Tough-6000

The Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 and Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 are both tough picture-takers, with the Tough-8000 being the beefier of the two. The Tough-8000 is pleasingly hefty in the hand, but then again it can withstand a drop onto a concrete surface from a height of 6.6'(MIL-STD-810F), dives down to 33'(IEC60529), and temperatures down to 14F (MIL-STD-810F).

Available in with a choice of Black or Silver faceplates on a chrome body, the Tough-8000 features a 12-megapixel imaging sensor, a 3.6x optical zoom (28 -102mm equivalent), and a Dual Image stabilization system that combines high ISO and shutter speeds to ensure sharp, blur-free images.

To make picture-taking easier when wearing gloves, the Olympus Tough-8000 has a nifty Tap Control feature that enables you to control camera functions by simply tapping the top and sides of the camera while following the guides displayed on the camera's LCD. The Olympus Tough-8000 also features a Beauty Mode that softens portrait features, a Face Recognition system that can recognize up to 16 faces, and 24 Shooting Modes. Stills can be captured at 7 levels of compression and video can be captured at 2 levels of compression.

Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 Digital Camera Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 Digital Camera Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 Digital Camera

Slightly smaller, lighter, curvier, and slightly less bang and water-resistant is the Olympus Tough-6000. Available in Yellow, Blue, and White, the Tough-6000 is designed around a 10-megapixel sensor, is waterproof down to 10', and can withstand a 5-foot drop onto a hard floor. Otherwise, the Olympus Tough-6000 shares most all of the other rugged attributes found on the Tough-8000.

Also available from Olympus is the Olympus Stylus 1050 SW, which is available in Silver and Black. The 1050 SW contains a 10.1Mp sensor, a 3x optical zoom, 2.7" HyperCrystal LCD, in-camera image editing, and is shockproof from a height of 5' (MIL-STD-810F0), dunk-proof down to 10' ((IEC6059 IPX8/JISC0920), and will function in temperatures ranging from 14F to 104.

Pentax Optio W80

The Pentax Optio W80 is a bold-looking digicam that's available in Azure Blue, Gunmetal Grey, and Cardinal Red. Drop-proof from a height of up to 3', waterproof down to 16', and capable of taking pictures in temperatures ranging from 14 to 104F, the Optio W80 contains a 12.1Mp sensor, a 5-25mm, 5x (28 140mm equivalent) zoom, a 2.5" LCD, a bunch of in-camera filter and scene effects, HD video recording and playback, and for low-light shooting, ISO ratings up to 6400 and Shake Reduction technology.

Canon PowerShot D10

Canon's PowerShot D10, with its bathysphere shape, truly looks like a dive camera. With it's bulbous turquoise housing, it also can easily pass for a kid's toy, albeit a kid's toy with a 12.1Mp sensor, a DIGIC 4 image processor, and a 4x 6.2 18.6 mm (35-105 mm equivalent) image-stabilized zoom lens.

Along with water-resistance down to 33', the PowerShot D10 can withstand drops up to 4' off the ground, and functions in a temperature range of 14 to 105F. For viewing images the D10 sports a bright, 2.5", 230,000-dot LCD. Still images can be captured in 3 levels of compression, and video clips at 2 levels of compression.

Compared to the other splash-cams discussed in this review, the Canon D10 can be described as Rubenesque. And while it can fit into a larger, loose-fitting pocket, to the casual observer you'll look like you're carrying around your wallet, keys, and a spare kneecap.

In use the camera actually fits very nicely in the hand, especially when wearing gloves. Design-wise, the Canon D10 sports a Captain Nemo-ish glass porthole over lens, lots of tiny screws all over the place, round, and serious-looking wrist strap connection ports on all 4 corners of the camera body. The controls are easy to see and should prove to be user-friendly when shooting 30-plus feet under the waves.

Other features of the Canon PowerShot D10 include an ISO range of 80 through 1600 (plus Auto), Advanced Face Detection, a Face Detection Self-timer, a wide selection of Photo Effects and 18 Smart AUTO Shooting Modes that automatically determine the best shooting parameters to compliment the scene.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

If you're into small and/or fashionable, check out the Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP, which is available in Kiwi Green, Liquid Gold, Rock Chick Pink, and Daredevil Black. Submersible to a depth of 9.8 feet (though not drop resistant), the Z33WP features image stabilization, an ISO sensitivity range of 64 to 1600, an Auto Scene Recognition system that cases out each scene and sets the proper exposure parameters, as well as manual override and the ability to easily switch between still and video imaging under or above the waterline.

For taking self-portraits of you and your cohorts, the Z33WP has a Couple Timer that waits until it detects 2 faces in close proximity before triggering the shutter. A Group Timer works in a similar manner for groups of up to 4 faces. The FinePix Z33WP captures JPEGs in 5 levels of compression, 2 levels of video compression, and along with 50Mb of built-in memory accepts SD/SDHC memory cards.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

Last but not least is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, a 12.1 megapixel digicam, which is waterproof down to 9.84' and shockproof to falls from up to 4.92'. Available in Silver, Green, and Orange, the Lumix DMC-TS1 is housed in a slim-yet firm-feeling aluminum body, and sports an optically stabilized 4.6x Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom lens with a field-of-view equivalency of a 28 to 129 mm lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Digital Camera

Still images aside, the Lumix DMC-TS1 also captures hi-def AVCHD-format video at 1280 x 720. Still and video images can be composed, reviewed, and edited on the TS1's 2.7" (230,000-dot) LCD. When shooting stills you have a choice of 6 levels of JPEG compression, and for video capture you have 2 levels of compression. To ensure optimized imaging the Lumix DMC-TS1 features an iA Mode, which utilizes Face Recognition, Face Detection, Optical Image Stabilization, Intelligent ISO control, and Intelligent Scene Selector for still imaging.

For video capture the iA Mode includes Face Recognition and Intelligent ISO control. There are also 21 Scene Modes to call on when you feel like shooting on autopilot, including Baby #1 and Baby #2, which I'll assume (and hope) is merely a poor choice of wording on the part of the manufacturer. There's also a Pin Hole mode, which is actually pretty cool.

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to