Sunday, March 01, 2009

Olympus mju Tough 6000 - first impressions

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 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).


Anonymous said...

Olympus Stylus Tough-8000 12 MP Digital Camera with 3.6x Wide Angle Optical Dual Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7-Inch LCD

dsi r4 said...

I took this camera on holiday knowing it was going to be a wild one!!! It was!! And this camera lived a hard life and can up trumps everytime.
My low light shots were excellent and didn't suffer from any of the issues the previous review is complaining about.

dsi r4

Anonymous said...

It was specially registered at a forum to participate in discussion of this question.