Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 review: Olympus Stylus Tough 8010

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The Good Extremely rugged for a compact; very good feature set; full, built-in user manual; 1.6GB of internal memory for photos, video.

The Bad Frustratingly slow performance; soft photos; pricey.

The Bottom Line The Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 is rugged on the outside, but average on the inside.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 7

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 is one of the most durable pocket cameras you're going to find. Its metal body and shock-absorbing system can survive drops of 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 solid set of shooting options, making snapshots easy regardless of what conditions you're using it in. You even get 2GB of internal memory, 1.6B for storage--a rarity.

However, inside the rugged wrapping is a fairly average point-and-shoot, and a painfully slow one at that. Its photos are good to very good as long as you don't need razor-sharp poster-sized prints. The big hurdle is understanding that the relatively high price tag is for all that ruggedness--not for performance, not for photo quality.

Key specs Olympus Stylus Tough 8010
Price (MSRP) $399.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.9 x 2.5 x 0.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.7 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x f3.9-5.9 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,288x3216 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, CIPA-rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 200 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; by computer or wall adapter
Storage media SD/SDHC; 2GB internal memory (1.6GB for storage)
Bundled software Olympus [ib] (Windows only)

The Tough 8010, which comes in silver, blue, or black, is a good-looking pocket camera. It's certainly not lightweight, though; put it in a pocket and you won't forget it's there. 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 8010 it helps it look the part of an extremely durable camera. One thing to beware of is sand or dirt getting trapped between the lens and its lens cover. When the camera is turned off, the lens is protected by a metal cover that automatically drops down when the camera is powered on. The lens is set back into the body, making it difficult to easily wipe clean, 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. The manual explains this clearly and details how to avoid and correct the issue.

All of the controls are spaced just far enough apart, so it's not a problem pressing the correct button while wearing thick gloves. On top there is only a slightly recessed power button and a slightly raised shutter release. On back from top to bottom are buttons for operating the zoom; a one-touch record button for capturing movies at resolutions up to 720p HD; a Play button; a directional pad and OK button; and Menu and Help buttons. Hitting the Help button brings up a full, searchable user manual that's stored in the camera's 2GB of internal memory (1.6GB is available for photo and video storage). The biggest problem here is that the button labels are very difficult to read.

This model also features Olympus' Tap Control. While touch-screen cameras continue to pop up, they won't do much good when your touch input is compromised by environmental conditions like being underwater or wearing a pair of gloves when you're skiing or snowboarding. Olympus solves this by letting you simply tap the top, bottom, back, and sides of the camera to access camera features like playback and shooting 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 constantly light up your subject. The camera has dual image stabilization as well.

While the controls are very good, the interface is sluggish to the point where making simple changes such as shutting off the flash or changing shooting modes can be frustrating. It generally takes about a second for the interface to catch up to button presses.

The camera's battery, card slot, Mini-HDMI port, and proprietary USB/AV terminal are all under a thick door on the body's right side with two locks. The battery is charged in camera with the included USB cable connected to a computer or the included wall adapter. (Of course, you'll want the camera and your hands completely dry when you open the compartment.) Battery life is shorter than average for shooting stills at a CIPA-rated 200 photos; it's even shorter if you capture both photos and video.

General shooting options Olympus Stylus Tough 8010
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Panorama, Beauty, Magic Filter, Scene, Movie
Focus modes iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF, AF Tracking
Macro 7.9 inches (Wide); 19.7 inches (Tele)
Metering modes Digital ESP, Spot, Face Detection AE
Color effects Black & White, Sepia, Low Saturation, High Saturation (only in Playback)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The Tough 8010 has plenty of shooting options, though they're mostly geared toward snapshots; you won't find any semimanual or manual modes. The Intelligent Auto mode takes away most control so you can just relax and shoot, while a Program mode gives you choices for focus, metering, white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation, among other things. One nice touch is a live multiframe preview for exposure compensation and other settings so you can see the result before you shoot. It especially comes in handy when you're using the camera's creative Magic Filters, so you can get a glimpse of what the final shot will look like. (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.) If you can identify what you're shooting there's likely a corresponding scene mode, with 19 of them at your disposal, including four underwater options. There's also a three-shot in-camera Panorama mode that uses an onscreen target to line up the series of shots, automatically releasing the shutter when the seams are aligned. After three shots it'll stitch them together into one panorama. Lastly, if you like to shoot close-ups, you might not be happy with the 8010's macro capabilities; it can only focus on subjects as close as 8 inches.