My initial, quick outing with the Tough 3000 for the First Look review on this site found the camera producing nice images and autofocus times that were "OK" along with middle-of- the- road shutter lag. The images part of this equation has generally held up, but things aren't quite so rosy on the AF and shutter times.
Even with all the extraneous start-up screens disabled, the Tough 3000 takes about 3.4 seconds to display a focus point. It took me 4.4 seconds to get off a first shot, and single shot-to-shot times ran about 4 seconds. Continuous shooting at full resolution ran 0.4 fps; a high speed option produced a 2.4 fps rate (about twice what Olympus claims) but at 3 megapixel resolution. All these times were with a class 10 SD memory card. AF acquisition times ran 0.86 seconds with shutter lag coming in at 0.12 seconds.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Casio Exilim EX-G1||0.01|
|Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP||0.06|
|Canon PowerShot D10||0.08|
|Olympus Stylus Tough 3000||0.12|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Casio Exilim EX-G1||0.20|
|Canon PowerShot D10||0.36|
|Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP||0.41|
|Olympus Stylus Tough 3000||0.86|
|Canon PowerShot D10||∞||1.2 fps
|Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP||3||0.8 fps
|Casio Exilim EX-G1||∞||0.5 fps
|Olympus Stylus Tough 3000||∞||0.4 fps
* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
The shutter lag is probably the more noticeable of the two - the Tough 3000 monitor goes black, followed by the shutter firing noise when you initiate the full push of the shutter button. I got fooled once before by a camera with a similar sequence - it seemed slow, but apparently the capture was initiated immediately and the blackout and noise were after the fact. The Tough seems a bit slow and the stopwatch says it is. The AF acquisition time was a surprise - after more than a week shooting the camera the times do feel slower than that first quick series of shots, but I would have guessed more in the area of 0.6 seconds.
With a base ISO sensitivity of 64 it was not surprising to find the range of the built-in flash is not great. Olympus didn't mention range in the camera's press release, in-camera manual or the downloadable instruction manual found on the Olympus website. You'll gain range as you increase ISO sensitivity, of course, but noise becomes a consideration. The Tough 3000 uses a CCD type sensor, which as a class are generally considered to offer somewhat inferior high ISO noise performance to CMOS sensors. Olympus considers 400 and up as "high" ISO in the Tough 3000.
Flash recycle times ranged from 4.5 to 5.5 seconds with a fully charged battery. One nice feature is that the Tough 3000 will allow you to acquire focus with a half push while the flash is recharging so you can be ready to shoot again as soon as the flash is back to full power.
Power management is a bit awkward with the Tough 3000. Battery life is listed as 160 shots so multiple spares are a minimum for all-day shooting sessions. Initially, the shoot for the first impressions review on this site indicated the camera might fall well short of the published figure. Now, after shooting the Tough 3000 for over a week it appears the battery life meets the specs. The camera's battery "fuel gauge" seems to be reading low and starts flashing the red low battery icon as soon as the power level drops below 2/3. There is a "power save" option in the setup menu that is off by default - enabling it is a good idea, although it results in the monitor being blacked out after 10 seconds. Pushing the shutter button or any of the camera back controls brings the monitor back up in about 1 second.
Recharge time for a fully depleted battery is 2.5 hours, and the Tough 3000 battery must be charged in the camera via USB connection as it comes packaged from Olympus. This means you can charge via computer or an included AC adapter, but either way the camera becomes a paperweight during recharging periods. Unless, of course, you choose to purchase the optional $40 lithium-ion battery charger that handles this task with the battery out of the camera. It's the charger I wish Olympus would have included with the camera and first thing I'd buy if I owned a Tough 3000.
The Tough 3000 displayed slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom. Corners were soft and there was some chromic aberration (purple fringing) present in some high contrast boundary areas - visible at 100% enlargement in some instances. Telephoto was distortion-free and fairly uniformly sharp across the frame; purple fringing was present but to a much lesser degree than the wider end of the lens.
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