For a photographer one of the biggest challenges is picking a point and shoot camera. Believe me when I say you are spoiled by interchangeable lenses and a 5,000-dollar body. However, that being said I am a big believer in that it is the photographers eye and not the camera that makes a great picture. So when it came time to pick a new point and shoot, I think there couldn’t have been a harder decision for me! What did I settle on? The Olympus Stylus Tough…let me just say it lives up to its name!
The one important thing when going from a DSLR to a point in shoot is that sudden feeling you have lack of control of your exposure and the type of lens you use. The Tough makes up for this by
giving the user multiple scene modes, lens simulation modes (think pin hole, fish eye), a fully automatic mode and finally a P mode, which allows for control of all the fine details of a shot.
So how did these handle? Well on the beach for my vacation, I used the Sand/Snow mode, which actually gave me a great tonal range – sand looks sandy and the clouds actually have detail. I was impressed with the way the camera handles high dynamic range. However, at a concert in Ithaca with a lower dynamic range it still handled like a typical point and shoot no matter the mode. Everything was slightly blurry – so you really need a tripod to capture anything with low light levels (yes I realize you would need a tripod on the DSLR too but what could have easily been a ISO or f-stop adjustment setting the camera stumbled). P mode was also good and where the night mode failed, the P mode did take up some slack.
So having in the past a Nikon Coolpix (never buy this camera if you want pictures that don’t look like an early vector rendering), one main selling factor to me was the noise levels on the camera.
The Tough handled the noise levels like a champ, I did end up correcting a bit of noise in the night scenes but that is to be expected for a small camera sensor. In the high key scenes noise and chromatic aberration was virtually non existent, which was nice since most of the time I am using the camera for day pictures of random things.
Before buying this camera, I asked around about video quality from different people. Overall, everyone told me the Tough would be a good camera for random HD video needs. When I was at the concert in Ithaca a girl asked me to video tape her playing with the band but her camera died. Thankfully, I had the Tough to step in and after looking at the video on my computer was surprised at the dynamic range captured and sharpness of the video. It does better capturing dynamic range in low light settings with video over the picture; one caveat is that kills the battery life.
The color balance of the camera really depends on the scene mode you are in. Some have great color balance like the settings for Snow/Sand and other such as the night scene…not so much. Overall the camera leans towards a red/yellow shift the most but it is very slight.
So how is the maneuverability of the camera? Not so great, I’m not sure what it is about Olympus but they love to make their buttons small and tight. I find myself hitting record instead of review or needing to bring the camera right on top of my face to see the buttons I am hitting. I really have trouble with remembering what to hit when and don’t feel like you go intuitively to where the buttons are placed on the camera. The user shouldn’t have to feel like the need to remember were to go they should just be able to go.
Other Cool Things
So, you may be wondering why is it called the Olympus Tough? Because it can go under water AND be dropped from a distance of 5 feet!!! I haven’t tried the underwater feature (I’m scared haha) but I did drop it on the beach, at the concert and in a street so yes it does live up to its name
Small buttons aside – this camera is awesome and lives up to its name. Wait…oops! I just dropped it into water! And would you look at that! It is just fine.