Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 Digital Camera Review
By Sandy Berger on September 23, 2009
Would you believe – a small digital camera that is waterproof to 10’ (3 meters), shockproof to 5’ (1.5 meters) can withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius), and takes great pictures? That is what Olympus promises with their Stylus Tough 6000 digital camera. So we took a close look at the Stylus Tough to see how it delivered on these promises.
As shown in Figure 1, the Stylus Tough-6000 comes in a typical blue Olympus box. Inside the box, as shown in Figure 2, you will find the Olympus Stylus Tough- 6000 camera, the lithium-Ion battery (LI-50B) and charger (LI-50C), a USB cable, an audio/video cable, a wrist strap, a microSD adapter, a small manual, and an Olympus Master 2 Software CD.
With only 42 MB of internal memory, you will want to purchase a memory card along with the camera. This camera uses xD-Picture Cards, which is a dying medium that very few devices use anymore. Although they haven’t yet changed their camera to a more popular media card, Olympus seems to realize the datedness of the xD-Picture card because they include a microSD adapter in the box. In our testing both the microSD card and the xD-picture card worked well.
Please note that the microSD card adapter is the small orange adapter shown in the middle of Figure 2. It comes in the blue paper folder that contains the instruction manuals and is easy to overlook if you do not completely empty the envelope.
At 3.8" x 2.5" x 0.88" (95.3 mm x 63.4 mm x 22.4 mm) and 5.3 oz (149 g) without batteries and memory card, the Stylus Tough 6000 is small and light enough to carry in your pocket, but it has a sturdy look and feel. The case is aluminum, but the edges are protected by a tough black plastic-type material. Most of the camera is black and silver, but as shown in Figure 3, the front and one side are nicely accentuated in a color. Our review unit was bright yellow. The camera also comes in bright blue, bright orange, and white.
The top of the Stylus Tough-6000 is shown in Figure 4. In this Figure you can see the small round on/off button and the larger rectangular shutter button. One great feature of this camera is that there is a distinct tactile difference between a half press and a full press of the shutter. So you can easily tell when you have locked in the autofocus with a half press and are ready to commit to taking the shot by pressing down fully.
All of the other camera controls are on the back of the camera to the right of the screen, as shown in Figure 5. At the top is the zoom control. The camera has a 3.6x optical zoom and a 5x digital zoom.
Under that is the mode dial and below that is a cross-shaped control pad. The upper portion of the cross controls the exposure compensation. The right position controls the flash, the bottom sets the self-timer, and the left controls the macro mode. The center button is marked OK/Func. It confirms the choices. Around the cross-control are four buttons marked Menu, Play, a button marked OR/ trash, and a button marked Disp. The Display button toggles between different display information including a histogram. The OR button will erase in the playback mode, and otherwise can perform a shadow adjustment, and put the camera in panorama, multi window mode, or tap mode (more on the tap mode in the next section).
The mode dial has six settings: Photo, auto, play back, scene, movie, and beauty. Each function is pretty self-explanatory except for the beauty mode. This is a special mode that finds the person’s face and smoothes out the skin. Although it sounds good, we were disappointed in the results. If you are dealing with photographing someone with teenage acne, you will still be using a computer for retouching.
The scene mode has 20 settings including indoor, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, beach & snow, smile shot, underwater snapshot, underwater wide 1, underwater wide2, underwater macro, pre-capture movie, snow, portrait, landscape, night scene, night & portrait, and sport. Once you turn the mode dial to SCN, you can scroll through the choices by using cross-control. As you scroll through each of these, the camera tells you the best use for each right on the screen.
Movie mode takes AVI movie with sound at 640x480 or 320x240 at 30/15 frames per second. Optical zoom is not available in movie mode. If you plan on taking movies indoors, you will need some good lighting as the movies tended to be dark. Also the camera comes with the default video resolution and frame rate of QVGA at 15 FPS. You can take much better videos if you reset that to VGA at 30 FPS.
As shown, it Figure 6, this camera, like many others, is very icon based. If you have used other digital cameras, you may be familiar with the typical flower that is used for the macro mode or the icons that are used for the flash modes, but you may not recognize other icons like the hand shown in Figure 6 that represents the image stabilization. While the 85-page instruction manual that comes with the camera explains the camera use, we found no concise explanation of the icons, which would be a nice addition to the documentation.
The right side of the camera, shown in Figure 7, has a small door that opens to reveal the USB/AV port. The USB cable for hooking the camera up to the computer is included, as is the AV cable for showing your pictures on a television. Like the rest of the camera, the door is very sturdy and snaps shut. Just to the right of the USB door is the microphone.
The 10-megapixel Stylus Tough-6000 uses a 1/2.3” CCD to take good all-around photos. Maximum apertures are F3.5 (W) / F5.1 (T). The photos are crisp and clear with good color representation. This camera has a good macro mode and a super macro mode. The camera also has an LED illuminator which you can employ by pressing and holding the DISP button after you turn on the LED feature in the menu. This could be useful in the macro mode, but it created somewhat uneven lighting. Taking photographs in the document mode created especially clear images.
Although within acceptable ranges, the Stylus Tough-6000 is no speed demon at starting up and focusing. However, if you learn to routinely half-press the shutter button to prefocus, you will be able to eliminate much of the shutter lag. And, as stated earlier, the tactile response of the shutter button makes this easier than it is on many other point-and-shoot cameras.
The Stylus Tough-6000 has dual image stabilization. This is a combination of true mechanical image stabilization and what Olympus calls "Digital Image Stabilization", which increases the ISO sensitivity to freeze motion. ISO sensitivity ranges from a low of ISO 50 to a maximum of ISO 1,600 equivalent.
This camera also has Advanced Face Detection that tracks up to 16 faces and automatically focuses and optimizes exposure. The Smile Shot feature detects a smile on your subject’s face and automatically fires off three consecutive shots to capture that perfect smile. It also has a self-timer and in-camera editing for cropping, resizing, red-eye fix, and other editing.
The camera has a Li-ion rechargeable battery. Figure 8 shows the bottom of the camera. The door on the right is hinged near the edge of the camera. As shown in Figure 9, it opens to show the battery and memory card. You will also see the tripod mount in the center of the camera. The memory card door will not open with a tripod attached. If you use a tripod and want access to be able to remove the memory card you will not be happy with this arrangement.
In most cameras, you can only insert the battery in the correct position. This is not true with the Stylus Tough. You can insert the battery the wrong way and the only indication that you have done so is that the camera will not turn on. The obvious correction is to reinsert the battery properly.
Olympus rates the battery life at 230 shots. This will vary depending on how much you have the LCD on and how much you use the flash and the movie mode. In any case, most people will find the battery life adequate for a full photography session. You can purchase an additional battery if you need a prolonged shooting time. The included battery charger, shown in Figure 10, has electrical prongs that fold into the charges for easy portability. ..a feature that we would like to see in more cameras.
This camera also has an In-Camera Panorama that allows you to press the shutter button and slowly pan across the panoramic scene. It will automatically capture three images and stitch them together in the camera. Using it takes a little getting used to, but it works quite well. You can also use the included Olympus Master 2 software to create panoramas in the computer.
The software is a photo uploading, editing, organizing, and printing program. As shown in Figure 11, it includes detailed instructions on how to use the software and can handle most normal editing, organizing, and printing chores.
The Stylus Tough-6000 lives up to its rugged name. All the doors and openings have special waterproof seals. The durable metal body is built to be shock-absorbing. Although we didn’t get as tough as the boy in the commercial who uses the camera like a fetching stick for his dog, we did put it through some rigorous testing. Even after numerous freezings, droppings, and dippings in water, the camera remained completely unaffected.
As you can see in Figure 12, the lens does not protrude from the camera body. It is further protected by a sliding brushed metal door that appears and disappears automatically, further protecting the lens from harsh conditions. In Figure 12 you can also see the flash and the LED light.
The Tough’s 2.7” HyperCrystal LCD screen is crisp and clear. It is especially clear in bright sunlight and doesn’t have a glare, making this a good camera for outdoor activities.
This camera is waterproof to about 10’ (3 meters) making it a good poolside or water sport camera. The underwater pictures are bright and clear. Be advised though, that underwater the flash is slow. The slow shutter speed may hamper the photographer in fast action shots.
Whether you are using the camera underwater or on a ski slope wearing gloves, you will be impressed by the feature that Olympus calls "Tap Control". You simply tap the camera to make it perform certain tasks. For instance, tapping the right side of the camera adjusts the flash mode. Tapping the left side cycles through the Macro modes. Tapping on the screen switches to the Playback mode and tapping on the top confirms the selections. It’s a great feature that works amazingly well. You can even turn the tap feature on and off by tapping twice on the top of the camera.
Olympus Stylus Tough-6000 main specifications include:
This is not the most expensive waterproof and shockproof camera, but it performs admirable for the average outdoor enthusiast at a very reasonable price. Picture quality is good. The screen is fantastic in bright sunlight. And the waterproof and shockproof qualities live up to their hype. The tap function works quite well making the camera good for cold weather or underwater photography. The camera is good-looking and easily pocketable.