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Olympus Tough 8010 rugged camera

Takes the knocks and the shots

Purple fringing aside, the 8010 produced a fair show over the course of testing. The images produced were fairly soft, particularly towards the corners, but not disastrously so, and the 8010 captured a decent amount of detail. There was a tendency to underexpose by up to a stop, but exposure compensation control is at least available directly from the 8010's menu.

Olympus Tough 8010

For submerged shots the camera features underwater scene modes

Naturally there are umpteen scene modes available (19 for those counting), including two for underwater photography and two snow modes, as well as a few stylish "magic" filters, which add trendy effects such as a pinhole, heavily-vignetted effect and a mock fisheye. One mode we came back to more frequently was the super macro mode, which allows incredibly close focussing (around 1cm) at the lens's widest focal length.

The inclusion of a 720p, MPEG4 video mode is useful, as is the fact that the optical zoom remains functional while recording. Unfortunately, while video quality is good, the 8010 proved remarkably adept at picking up handling noise. Our sample also suffered from an annoying clicking noise while the zoom was in action, meaning it’s best to have your focal length sorted out before you start recording.

As our test video shows, you’ll need pretty good underwater visibility to produce anything worth watching, although the 8010 would be a decent pick as a snorkelling companion, as long as you bear in mind that it doesn’t have neutral buoyancy, and hence will sink if you let go of it.

The 8010's ISO can be set as high as 1600 but, as is generally the case with compacts, it is barely usable at that setting. Images begin to show signs of noise and softness at ISO 400 but remain reasonable; by ISO 800 the softness was very pronounced, and there's little reason to venture as far as ISO 1600 - use a tripod, and try to ignore the incongruity of a toughened camera offering only a plastic tripod thread.

Olympus Tough 8010

Not the niftiest to navigate and you'll need to be content with just auto modes

In use, navigation and configuration was rather frustrating. The menu system makes sense, but is laggy - annoying if you only want to make a quick change to the camera's white balance or exposure compensation. The Olympus splash screen when you switch on the camera can be disabled, but the time to first picture was still around four seconds in our tests, as was the delay between shots.

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