Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 Review
By Mike Flacy
Olympus has changed the name of its new 'SW' series models to the 'Stylus Tough' series. The new Tough series incorporates all of the same qualities as the previous series such as the waterproof, shockproof, and freezeproof construction that makes it the perfect go anywhere camera. The Tough 6000 also features a 3.6x wide optical zoom lens, 10-Megapixel CCD imaging sensor, 2.7-inch HyperCrystal III LCD screen, dual image stabilization, 25 shooting modes and tap control. It also sports many of the features that are found throughout Olympus's collection of cameras: YouTube movie mode, Perfect Fix, Smile Shot and the very informative help button. One thing that is not found on this model is the 'guide' spot on the mode dial.
Making the Stylus Tough 6000 easier to handle and operate in extreme conditions, Olympus has added its breakthrough 'Tap Control' technology. When turned on, you can simply tap different areas of the camera to operate it. This is a must for underwater or in cold weather when the user is wearing gloves.
In normal conditions, the camera is just as easy to handle and operate as any other point and shoot model. It fits nicely into one hand or can be comfortably held in two hands without blocking the lens or flash. All of the controls on the back lay under the thumb for easy access and operation. Most of the back, however, is taken up by the 2.7-inch HyperCrystal III LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. Twice as bright as the previous LCD screens, this new version on the HyperCrystal LCD allows you to see all of the details in your images. Since there is no optical viewfinder, this is your only way of framing your images as well as viewing and editing them. In direct sunlight or even when underwater you will have no problems seeing what is on the screen.
Performance from the Tough 6000 is slightly improved over the Stylus 1050 SW, but still a little on the slow side. When turning the camera on, it takes 3.5 seconds before you are able to capture your first image. Shutter lag, the time between when you press the shutter release and when the camera actually captures the image, is approx. 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused. When allowing the auto focus to work, it takes between .9 and 1.1 seconds before the camera can capture the image, depending on the conditions. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 15.2 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 19.6 seconds with it.
The camera also features two continuous shooting modes. Normal continuous allows for the capture of 10 images in 14.4 seconds (10-Megapixel Fine quality). High speed continuous changes your shooting setting to a 3-Megapixel Fine image but is able to capture 10 images in just 2.1 seconds and captures up to 24 before the buffer fills. This is a perfect tool for analysis or capturing a sequence of a fast moving subject. All of our tests were completed using an Olympus H 1GB xD picture card, Program mode, flash off, 10-Megapixel, Fine quality and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality from the Stylus Tough 6000 has its good and bad points. Exposure and color are both very good; capturing a pleasing image no matter where you are shooting. Both indoors and out the colors are natural representations of what the photographer sees. Skin tones also look natural and there are very few instances of red-eye without using the red-eye reduction flash. This is also true when shooting underwater without the flash, although the deeper you go, the slower the shutter speed gets and your images quickly become blurry. To counter this you need to ad the flash. This adds the blue tint to your image. The further away from your subject the faster the flash fades, thus darkening that tint.
Noise in your image is the major downfall from this camera. When viewing your images at 100%, there is a noticeable amount of noise in the image even at ISO 100. This takes away the nice crisp-looking image that you would expect to see. Edge softness was also an issue, as it makes it almost impossible to read the magazines on the side of the M&M man images.
A 3.6x (28 - 102mm 35mm equivalent) wide optical zoom lens is what you will be using to frame your images. This is a great lens for shooting landscape, macro and portrait photography, but is not enough to get you very close to a distant object. At the wide end of lens you will see some barrel distortion and you will see the edge softness throughout the focal range.
The camera's built in flash has a range as close as .33ft and up to a distance of 13.1ft at ISO 800. The range decreases quickly as your ISO goes down, and with the amount of noise shown in the higher ISO settings, you will want to keep the ISO as low as possible. This is also true when shooting underwater, but to a much greater degree. Here you will be lucky if the flash range is just a couple of feet, and the further away you get, the more color you will lose from your image.
Video quality from the Stylus Tough 6000 is very good for a point and shoot camera. In situations where the lighting is constant, the auto white balance does an excellent job, but struggles a little when there are several light sources as the camera constantly tries to adjust. Video capture and playback are very smooth with very little artifacting. The small, built-in mic leaves little to be desired when capturing sound as it only picks up what is closest to the camera. With the ability to capture video at both 640x480 and 320x240, both at 15 or 30 fps, you have the perfect settings available for watching on your TV or sending a video email.
Powering the camera is a 3.7V, 925mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. I was able to capture well over 100 images (many underwater with the flash) and several videos on a single charge. Olympus's claim of 230 images seems possible if shooting only without the flash. The included external battery charger is a great way for you to keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - The Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 is great for the active or adventurous person as well as a great toy to keep around a pool. With the durability of the camera, there are no worries of children handling it. Performance and quality are ok, but the camera makes up for these with its unmatched versatility. With a MSRP of US$299, this is a great choice for people that want to document their adventures without the risk of breaking the camera from small bumps and accidents.
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