Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 review: Olympus Stylus Tough 8000

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The Good Nice design; wide-angle lens; good feature set.

The Bad Soft photos; slow performance.

The Bottom Line For going from snorkeling to rock climbing to everyday life, the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is a good choice, though its photos and performance can be disappointing.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 6

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is one of the most durable pocket cameras you're going to find. Its metal body and shock-absorbing system can survive drops up to 6.6 feet and it's crushproof up to a weight of 220 pounds. On top of those things it is waterproof down to 33 feet and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a decent set of shooting options making snapshots easy regardless of what conditions you're using it in. However, its slow performance and second-rate photo quality above ISO 200 hurt the overall package.

Key specs Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
Price (MSRP) $379.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7x2.4x0.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.1 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3.6x, f3.5-5.1, 28-102mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,968x2,976 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 250 shots

The Tough 8000, which comes in silver, blue, or black models, is a good-looking little pocket camera. The body is entirely metal--shiny metal, at that--and it scratches easily. On any other camera this might be a problem, but on the Tough 8000 it makes it look the part of an extremely durable camera. All of the menus are easy to master as are the controls, and they're spaced just far enough apart so it's not a problem pressing the correct button while wearing thick gloves.

This model also features Olympus' Tap Control. While touch-screen cameras continue to pop up, they won't do much good when your touch is compromised by environmental conditions like being underwater or through a pair of gloves when you're skiing or snowboarding. Olympus solves this by letting you simply tap the top, back, and sides of the camera to access camera features like playback, macro modes, and flash modes. It can even be used for snapping photos when set to the Snow scene mode. It takes some fine tuning--all of the sides can be individually calibrated to work best with your tap strength--but in the end it's a great solution. Also nice is the LED in front between the flash and lens, which can be turned on to light up your subject or as a spur-of-the-moment flashlight. The camera has dual image stabilization as well, which should be standard on this type of camera.

The only design flaw I came across was with the lens and its protector. The lens is set back into the body, making it difficult to easily wipe it clean of water or sand. And if you're not careful about washing away all dirt or sand from the lens before shutting it off, the protector will slide up and get stuck. To be fair, though, the manual explains this clearly and details how to avoid and correct the issue.

General shooting options Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto; 64; 100; 200; 400; 800; 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Beauty Mode, Scene Modes (19), Movie
Focus iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF
Metering Digital ESP, Spot, Face Detection AE
Color effects Black & White, Sepia (in Edit mode only)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Continuous unlimited

It's not packed with shooting options, but the Tough 8000 has almost everything expected for its class. The Intelligent Auto mode takes away most control so you can just relax and shoot, while a Program AE mode (represented by a camera symbol on the Mode dial) gives you choices for focus, metering, white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. One nice touch is a live multiframe preview for exposure compensation and other settings so you can see the result before you shoot. If you can identify what you're shooting there's likely a corresponding scene mode with 19 of them at your disposal. This includes four underwater options and In-camera Panorama. Though the camera has no preshot color effects, you can change photos to black and white or sepia and adjust saturation in its Edit mode.

The Tough 8000 mainly uses xD cards for storage, which currently only go up to 2GB in capacity. If you want more space, Olympus includes a small adapter for use with microSD/microSDHC cards. This is probably the better option for shooting, especially if you plan to use the Movie mode. When set to the camera's highest resolution and frame rate, 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second, you can only record 10-second clips when using an M-type xD card.

If the majority of the stuff you're shooting with the Tough 8000 is still or slow moving (e.g., landscapes, portraits, flowers, lazy fish), the camera's slow performance might not be an issue for you. The average shutter lag in bright conditions was noticeably long for action shots at 0.7 second; it fared better in low light at 0.8 second. The full-resolution continuous shooting speed of 1.1 frames per second is on par with its class, but the long shot-to-shot times for single pictures are a bit maddening: 2.5 seconds without flash, 5 seconds with it. The one thing it does somewhat fast is start-up: 1.8 seconds from off to the first shot.

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