Round Up: Rugged cameras for spring and summer

by Reads (234)

Spring break season is underway, and summer vacations are just around the corner. While many of us are still shaking off the winter chill, pool weather is on the horizon. Whether you’re headed to the beach or the ski slopes this spring and summer, you’ll want a camera that can withstand some rough handling. Now might be a good time to invest in a shockproof, freeze-proof, and waterproof camera. Here’s a look at the latest offerings for adventurers and spring breakers alike.

Sony Cyber-shot TX5
The Cyber-shot TX5 isn’t officially released until April, though we already had some hands-on time with Sony’s first rugged point-and-shoot at PMA 2010. The TX5 is the least tough-looking of the newest rugged cameras. Like Sony’s T series Cyber-shots, it has a
sleek-and-slim aesthetic. For style-conscious spring breakers, the Cyber-shot TX5 promises the durability of its more rough-and-ready peers.

Sony Cyber-shot TX5

The TX5 claims waterproof functionality up to 10 feet underwater, so it won’t get you much farther than snorkeling. The camera body is shockproof up to a five foot drop, and is sealed against dust for safe use in the sand. Optical SteadyShot image stabilization aims to minimize blur due to camera shake. It will record 720p HD videos, and it’s the only rugged camera to date offering a 3.0-inch touch-screen on the back panel. Other neat features include Sweep Panorama Mode, which gives the camera useful potential in and out of the water.

We haven’t reviewed it yet, but our initial experience with the camera proved it is fairly responsive. Although it’s not released yet, you can pre-order it on for $350.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2
The Lumix TS2 is a successor to the TS1, and is a fairly slim and boldly-colored rugged point-and-shoot. It’s the opposite of the slender Sony TX5 in terms of style; it’s offered in highlighter hues and protected by black rubber padding. It uses a 14.1 megapixel CCD sensor and offers a wide angle 28mm lens with a 4.6x zoom reach. With waterproof functionality up to 33 feet, it’s the most water-friendly of the crop.

Panasonic Lumix TS2

Like the TX5, the Panasonic TS2 also offers optical image stabilization, a good feature to have on board in dim light or when shooting at full telephoto. The TS2 will also be equipped with a small LED light. Panasonic claims that the light will help cut through murky water for better underwater photos. The Lumix TS2 is being introduced for $400.

Olympus Stylus Tough 3000
Olympus has a steady foothold in the rugged camera market with several of its Stylus Tough models at price points ranging from
$229.99 for the Tough 3000 to $400 for the Tough 8010. The 3000 offers 720p HD video recording, a 3.6x optical zoom lens, and a selection of in-camera Creative Art Filters.

Olympus Stylus Tough 3000

It’s nice to see sensor-shift stabilization is present even at the lowest price point of Olympus’s Tough camera offerings. Spending a bit more on a Stylus Tough will get you a longer optical zoom range or waterproof functionality to greater depth; the Stylus Tough 8010 will go up to 33 feet underwater. But for a rugged camera at the baseline of Olympus’s Tough crowd, it offers a lot of bang for the buck.

Fujifilm FinePix XP10
The FinePix XP10 borrows its playful design from Fujifilm’s Z series cameras. It offers many of the same features as the waterproof FinePix Z33WP, a camera we reviewed last year, though the 12.2 megapixel sensor resolution is higher than the Z33WP’s 10 megapixels. The XP10 features a 5x optical zoom Fujinon lens covering a range equivalent to 36-180mm.

Fujifilm FinePix XP10

It will be offered in various sporty colors including pink and green. Those who want to step away from the traditional designs of tough cameras will find the XP10 an attractive option. It does not, however, provide mechanical or optical image stabilization.

Pentax Optio W90
The Optio W90, announced just after PMA 2010, certainly looks like a tough camera. It offers a 5x wide angle zoom lens and will be available with black or green accents. It also records HD video at 720p.

Pentax Optio W90

An interesting addition is a LED lamp similar to the one that the TS2 uses, though the W90 uses the light to brighten a dark macro shot, which Pentax calls Digital Microscope mode. Pentax claims the W90 will focus as close as 1 cm for close-up shots of small objects. The Optio W90 offers Pixel Track Shake Reduction, a digital means of image stabilization that sharpens blurry images on a small scale.

Comparison Shopping
Take a look at the head-to-head table below for some specs from each system. We’ll update this page as we review the cameras. Wherever your destination this year, there will be plenty of photographic opportunities to capture. With a rugged camera that’s ready for action, you can record those memories and keep them intact.

Model Sensor Type Resolution

Focal Range

LCD Waterproof Dustproof Shockproof Freezeproof
Lumix TS2
14.1 28-128mm 2.7-inch 33 feet yes 6.6 feet 14 degrees

Cyber-shot TX5

10.2 25-100mm 3.0-inch 10 feet yes 5 feet 14 degrees

Olympus Stylus
Tough 3000

12.0 28-102mm 2.7-inch 10 feet 5 feet 14 degrees

FinePix XP10

12.2 36-180mm 2.7-inch 10 feet yes 3.3 feet 14 degrees

Optio W90

12.1 28-140mm 2.7-inch 20 feet yes 4 feet 14 degrees
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