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Olympus Mju Tough 6000 review: Olympus Mju Tough 6000

Though we tried to like the Tough 6000 thanks to its candybar styling, it's a fairly lacklustre camera in the performance stakes.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
4 min read

Olympus has gone through a bit of a re-branding of late — its new series of rugged cameras, which used to be known as the SW series, are now called Tough. There are two new cameras that the company announced back in January — the Tough 8000 and Tough 6000. Both are waterproof, shockproof and feature a host of controls designed to make their use in the snow easier. The 6000 is AU$100 cheaper over its bigger sibling, so why pay more?

7.3

Olympus Mju Tough 6000

The Good

Compact design. Relatively stylish for a rugged camera. Very bright LCD screen (both a help and a hindrance though). Wide-angle lens.

The Bad

Image quality not fantastic. Still a little expensive for what you get. Very bright flash. Slow.

The Bottom Line

For the most part, the Tough 6000 is fairly lacklustre, even if it looks stylish and can take a decent picture when it wants to. We like it better than the Tough 8000 and would recommend it over the more expensive camera, if you can live with its slow speeds and quirks.

Design

This camera certainly looks nicer than the Tough 8000 for the most part — it's thinner, more compact, and is slightly easier to hold in one hand. The lollipop-esque exterior is a little off-putting, though we can see how this will easily appeal to those who like brash, garish colours more so than the understated chrome appeal of the other camera. For the most part we applaud Olympus for pushing the design boundaries a little bit.

Button layout doesn't deviate from the standard Olympus configuration, so as you spin this camera around to the back you'll notice that it has the small silver buttons that we're used to seeing and a mode dial that rotates 360 degrees.

Smooth metals at the front and the back lend a somewhat refined feel despite the garish colour selection, and the entire unit is relatively lightweight for a tough camera at 149g. It's definitely lighter than one of its competitors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1, which weighs in at 162.5g.

Features

In terms of functionality, the Tough 6000 is fairly similar to the other waterproof, shockproof companions on the market such as the aforementioned Panasonic and the Canon PowerShot D10. Inside you'll get 10 megapixels rather than the 12 afforded to its older sibling the 8000, the camera is shockproof to 1.5 metres and waterproof to 3 metres, as well as snowproof to -10 degrees Celsius.

The Tough 6000 certainly looks like it can cut the mustard. (Credit: Olympus)

These specifications are the real Olympus stronghold in the compact camera market — more than likely you'll be drawn to one of these Tough cameras because you require something rugged that will withstand the elements. Image quality and performance, as we've discovered with previous iterations of the Tough series, still has some way to go — see below to find out if the Tough 6000 is able to buck this trend or not.

As well as the requisite ruggedness, you will also find dual-image stabilisation and a ridiculously bright 2.7-inch LCD screen which is great for the snow and outdoors, but not so useful for remaining incognito on your spy training course. The lens is a splendid 28mm wide, which is ideal for sweeping panoramic vistas, but the zoom is capped at a maximum of 3.6x optical. Storage is the standard Olympus fare with xD and microSD being the order of the day.

Performance and image quality

One of the immediate things we noticed with the Tough 6000 was the slow response in turning on. We waited around 2.7 seconds for the camera to be ready to take its first shot, and from there, shutter lag only increased with the wait time from shot-to-shot averaging out at approximately 2 seconds.

Image quality wasn't astounding either, being on-par with the experience we had with the Tough 8000. Saturation levels were acceptable, and greens and blues in particular looked very nice (which definitely helps in underwater photography), but there was a distinct level of graininess especially on photos taken in low light. The camera also liked to clip highlights in bright situations, however, this is a tendency that most cameras with small (1/2.3-inch) sensors display.

Focus tended to drop off towards the edges of the frame, and the lens displayed moderate amounts of barrel distortion at the widest end, though not anything too extreme that could not be corrected in post-processing. Noise was almost the same as what we experienced on the Tough 8000, with anything above ISO 400 proving incredibly grainy, and ISO 1600 being practically unusable. Chromatic aberration wasn’t too much of an issue, but it did exhibit itself mostly in cyan or halo-like guises.

Click image to enlarge (Credit: Olympus)

We also experienced a strange non-responsive issue where the Tough 6000 would not power off or change out of a setting even when we pressed the power button repeatedly and held it down — the only solution was to remove the battery and start again. Also, all the so-called invincible waterproofing and ruggedness aside, Olympus has fairly stringent guidelines to maintaining these features, and it is best to acquaint yourself with the procedures before you begin throwing your AU$600 piece of photographic equipment off your balcony.

Conclusion

The Tough 6000 is a capable, rugged camera, but when we stack it against its competitors from Panasonic and Canon, we're not sure how it will stand up. These other cameras have better specifications and from our hands-on experience with the Panasonic FT1, produce better images. That said, we much prefer the Tough 6000 to the Tough 8000, so unless you need crushproofing and extreme underwater capabilities, choose the less expensive of the two.