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Olympus revamps outdoor-ready line with three models
by David Rasnake -  1/6/2009

Olympus has been a key player in developing rugged pocket cameras for a long time, and today they've served up three new outdoor-ready models in a completely overhauled branding scheme.

SW series gets tough with all-weather Stylus Tough models
The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 and Tough 6000 are the latest cameras to join what was previously known as the Stylus SW series. Under the old nomenclature, SW apparently stood for shockproof and waterproof, and while the names have changed, Olympus's new Tough models carry forward these characteristics – as well as freezeproofing and, in the case of the Tough 8000, crushproofing – into the new line.

Olympus Stylus Tough 8000

Updates to the Stylus 1030 SW and 1050 SW, respectively, the 12 megapixel Tough 8000 and 10 megapixel Tough 6000 share a 3.6x zoom lens and a 2.7 inch variant of Olympus's latest HyperCrystal III LCD.

Olympus Stylus Tough 8000

The Tough 8000 is the more heavily ruggedized of the two: according to Olympus, the new model can be operated underwater down to 33 feet, withstand drops of up to 6.6 feet, hold up weights of up to 220 pounds without being crushed, and survive at temps down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000

The Tough 6000 shares the 8000's waterproofing, freezeproofing, and shock resistance, but is only rated for drops of 5 feet or less, and water at depths of up to 10 feet.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000

Both models also incorporate the Tap Control interface first seen on the Stylus 1050 SW. With Tap Control, the cameras can register taps on different camera surfaces, allowing users to tap on the screen, for instance, to jump into playback mode, or tap the camera's right side to change flash modes. It's an innovative idea for outdoor enthusiasts especially, and we'll be interested to see if Olympus has incorporated a wider range of control functions into the system this time around.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000

The other big news where the series formerly known as SW is concerned is the addition of mechanical image stabilization to both new Tough models. Previously, Olympus's rugged compacts had been without optical/mechanical stabilization, with users being forced to settle for a noise-adding ISO boost stabilization method instead.

We're betting that most Stylus Tough buyers are shopping primarily for ruggedness, but just the same, it's nice to know that the new models also pack the full slate of Olympus's picture capture technologies. For evening out backlit scenes, there's Shadow Adjustment Technology. A redesigned face detection promises to make quick work of setting exposure and focus when shooting group shots. Intelligent Auto mode even "thinks for you," according to the press release, selecting the most appropriate scene preset for a given shooting situation. And the list goes on. Suffice it to say that the new models bring all of the latest auto-exposure bells and whistles to the table.

Stylus 550 WP provides budget-friendly waterproof alternative
Using water-resistant technologies developed for the Tough models, Olympus is also offering a waterproof-only 10 megapixel ultracompact – the Olympus Stylus 550 WP.

Olympus Stylus 550 WP

Built from a slightly toned down version of the Stylus Tough 6000's spec sheet, the 550 WP can be safely submerged down to depths of 10 feet – just like the Tough 6000.

In terms of hardware, the 550 WP offers up a more modest 3x zoom lens and a 2.5 inch LCD in place of the Tough model's higher-priced hardware. Likewise, there's no mechanical image stabilization in this application.

Olympus Stylus 550 WP

The 550 WP does, however, serve up many of the processor-side goodies from its more costly brethren, including Intelligent Auto mode, the Perfect Fix shot correction system, and face detection.

Pricing and availability
The Stylus Tough 6000 should hit store shelves this month, but buyers will have to wait until February for the Tough 8000 and 550 WP. The premium Tough 8000 carries a suggested retail price of $399.99, with the 6000 coming in a full $100 cheaper.

Most impressive of all, though, is the Stylus 550 WP's $199.99 suggested price. If you've been waiting for a simple, low-cost compact with few frills that's ready to pack along on a rainy hiking trip or a day at the beach, it looks like the 550 WP might just be the ticket.

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000/8000 Specifications

Sensor 12.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD (Tough 8000); 10.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.3" CCD (Tough 6000)
Zoom 3.6x (28-102mm) zoom, f/3.5-5.1
LCD/Viewfinder 2.7", 230K-dot HyperCrystal III LCD
Sensitivity ISO 64-1600 (Tough 8000); ISO 50-1600 (Tough 6000)
Shutter Speed 4-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Program, Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization, Beauty Mode, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Snow, Pre-Capture Movie, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Smile Shot (Tough 6000)
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3
Metering Modes Digital ESP, Spot, Face Detection AE
Focus Modes iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF
Drive Modes Not Specified
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in, Off
Self Timer Settings
Not Specified
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card, MicroSD (with adapter)
Internal Memory
45MB (Tough 8000), 42MB (Tough 6000)
File Formats JPEG, AVI
Max. Image Size 3968x2976 (Tough 8000); 3648x2736 (Tough 6000)
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Lithium-ion rechargeable
Connections Multi-Terminal (USB, A/V out, DC in)
Additional Features TruePic III processor, Face Detection, Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology

Olympus Stylus 550 WP Specifications

Sensor 10.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD
Zoom 3x (28-102mm) zoom, f/3.5-5.0
LCD/Viewfinder 2.5", 230K-dot LCD
Sensitivity ISO 64-1600
Shutter Speed 4-1/1000 seconds
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Program, Digital Image Stabilization, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Underwater Snapshot
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3
Metering Modes Digital ESP, Face Detection AE
Focus Modes iESP Auto, Face Detection AF
Drive Modes Not Specified
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in, Off
Self Timer Settings
Not Specified
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card, MicroSD (with adapter)
Internal Memory
Not Specified
File Formats JPEG, AVI
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Lithium-ion rechargeable
Connections Multi-Terminal (USB, A/V out, DC in)
Additional Features TruePic III processor, Face Detection, Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology