The Olympus commercial shows the mju 725 SW - a predecessor of my new mju Tough 6000
After having doubted a long time, I recently bought a successor for the trusty Sony DSC-U60 Waterproof Digital Camera. My Sony dates from 2004. In the dynamic world of digital camera's it's a real oldtimer with prehistoric specifications (2 MP, non-zoom, 1.0-inch LCD-monitor). I was always very pleased by the handling and the performance of the Sony. Despite its simple and basic design, it produces fantastic pictures. But - although 2 megapixel is enough for most purposes (web is not critical - printwork: pictures made with the Sony are published on the cover of Kanosport-magazine) - a bit more resolution would of course be welcome (just to be able to crop pictures without big loss of quality), as well as a zoom option, a decent burst- and video-mode (all features that the Sony lacks) would be.
Unfortunately Sony stopped making underwater-camera's after the DSC-U60. The only manufacturers that continued to put serious effort in developing a range of waterproof (WP) digital camera's are Pentax and Olympus. Though both offer better specifications and more sophisticated features, for a long time I wasn't convinced by the Pentax and Sony camera's. I know a lot of kayakers who are very content with their Pentax or Olympus WP-camera's. I examined a huge number of pictures taken with these camera's and found the picture-quality often disappointing (from a technical point of view..). I do suppose I am too critical ;-) And I hesitated a long time to replace the Sony. But I also noticed that more recent versions of the Pentax and Olympus camera's do perform better - and finally a recent comparison of the Pentax W60 and the Olympus Mju 1030 in a review on photo.net persuaded me to buy a new WP-camera. Getting hands on both the Pentax and the Sony, I finally decided to go for the Olympus - the main argument is the built-in lens cover: a big plus on the water because this cover prevents quite effective blurred pictures by water-drops on the lens.
At the very moment I decided to buy the Olympus mju 1030, Olympus released two new WP camera's: the mju tough 6000 and 8000. While the 8000 replaces the 1030, the 6000 inherits the specifications of the 1030: 10 MP, 28-102 mm eq. zoom range and some improvements like a larger built-in memory. The 8000 is upgraded to a 12 MP-camera, which is not actual an advantage on a compact-camera: the ridiculous race for megapixels is at the expense of the low-light performance of the tiny CCD's (resulting in a lot of noise in every setting above ISO 200)- and for sharpness/details lens quality is much more an issue than 6 or 12 MP is... Olympus claims the 8000 to be more waterproof than the 6000 (waterproof to a depth of 10 meters resp. 3 meters), but the construction of critical points (like the doors of the battery compartment and for the external connections) looks identical. I took the chance and saved 80 Euros and bought the Olympus Mju tough 6000.
First impressions after 4 weeks snap-shooting: Technically the Olympus is a brilliant camera and compared to the old Sony it's a giant step forward:
- a zoom range from really wide to light tele (much more versatile!);
- a large and bright LCD (composing is no guess anymore, even in sunlight!);
- impressive picture to picture speed in the burst mode (great to analyse kayak techniques!);
- a decent video mode (30 fps, VGA - almost 10 minutes on a 1 GB card);
- simple, direct and fast accessible menu's to adjust camera settings (flash-mode, ISO, exposure compensation etc.).
What I like less about the Olympus:
- the handling: it's OK but the ergonomics of the Sony are still unbeaten. In some aspect stylish design of the Olympus prevailed above function: buttons are tiny and the flat rectangular shape hinders a bit in one hand use;
- speed: actually I expected this to be better with such a modern camera, but start-up and focus-time aren't noticeably faster than those of the Sony. Pre-focused however shutter lag isn't noticeable.
- metering and exposure: this really is a bit of a disappointment because it affects picture quality. The Olympus can deliver really fine pictures, but sometimes pictures are seriously over- or under-exposed. Olympus programmed a complex Matrix-metering mode for exposure which I find up to now quit unpredictable. In P-mode under- and over-exposure are easy to correct with exposure compensation, but on the water I don't want to bother with that: I want good pictures right out of the box! While the Sony works fine in standard settings in 90% of the situations, I think the Olympus does in 70 %. In 30% of the other situation I had to tweak the camera-settings. I am working on getting a better understanding of the Olympus matrix metering, so I can anticipate -I am sure I can learn this - but this isn't what you expect on a point and shoot camera!
1. Perhaps I was to impulsive: shortly after I bought the Olympus, Panasonic, Canon and Fuji announced new WP camera's. From the information on the web the Canon and Fuji look very interesting to me: the Canon because of it's design that looks more ergonomically with curved shapes (and it looks like the lens is right in front of the CCD- which is a good premise for optical quality!). The Fuji because I was always very impressed by the picture quality of the Fuji digital camera's I've had...
2. On a budget? The Olympus 850SW is an interesting offer - it's a discontinued model - the predecessor of the Tough 6000 - now discounted at prices around 150 Euro. Biggest differences compared to the Tough 6000: only 8 MP (=no disadvantage!), zoom range 38-112 mm eq. (less wide angle), limited video and burst mode performance (only 10 seconds video in high quality mode).