Olympus Mju Tough 6010 rugged digital camera

This rugged digital camera surprised us during our tests in dim lighting

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Olympus Mju Tough 6010

Pros

  • Versatile and tough, surprisingly usable ISO 1600 pictures

Cons

  • Soft images, no AF assist, slow performance

Bottom Line

Olympus' Mju Tough 6010 is a rugged camera that can be operated in almost any conditions. It doesn't snap particularly crisp images even in ideal conditions, but if you can live with this there is only a small loss in quality at higher ISO ranges.

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The Olympus Mju Tough 6010 is a 12-megapixel compact digital camera with a 3.6x zoom lens. It's a ruggedised camera that can survive a 1.5m drop, a stint in -10 degrees Celsius, or a dunk in water up to three metres deep — perfect for travellers, fans of extreme sports or anyone with butterfingers. It maintains the good build quality and all-weather performance of earlier Olympus Tough models, with image quality that is acceptable but unspectacular apart from good low-light performance.

The Olympus Mju Tough 6010 is waterproof and fully functional at up to 3m depth.

As an incremental update to the well-regarded Olympus Mju Tough 6000, the Mju Tough 6010 is a pleasing camera to hold in the hand; it is solidly constructed and doesn't feel flimsy or hollow. Weighing 149g it's not particularly heavy, so you won't notice it in a jeans or jacket pocket. The lens' front element has a brushed metal sliding cover protecting it from scratches or damage — this zips out of the way when the camera is switched on. The rest of the camera is simple and utilitarian, with a mix of glossy and matte plastic covering all surfaces. The buttons on the top and rear of the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 are slightly too small for our liking; it's too easy to accidentally press two buttons simultaneously on the rear panel when using your thumb.

However, if this annoys you, the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 can also be operated by hitting the top, sides and front of the camera. This helps you use the camera while wearing bulky ski gloves and when you're in dark environments. The secondary control system isn't particularly refined but it offers an easy way to review photos and change simple settings on the move.

The Olympus Mju Tough 6010 captures vibrant images with slight oversaturation.

The camera's menu system is gaudy and low resolution but it is clearly laid out and understanding its advanced features involves only a gentle learning curve. That said, advanced features are few and far between on the Mju Tough 6010, which is aimed at point-and-click amateurs rather than photography enthusiasts. White balance, autofocus and metering adjustments can be made, and applying exposure compensation is relatively easy. The Olympus Mju Tough 6010's ISO ranges from 64 to 1600, with individual low and high auto ISO options.

The dial on the rear of the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 provides access to the usual settings you'd expect from a compact digital camera: there's a simple point-and-capture iAuto setting, a 640x480 VGA movie mode, a program setting, a scene mode selector, and, oddly enough, a specific option for beauty photographs. If you're a photographic amateur that wants to take fashion photographs from the top of Everest, this camera has been made just for you. [Actually temperatures at the top of Mt Everest are significantly lower than -10 degree Celsius this camera can survive — Ed.]

The Olympus Mju Tough 6010 is annoyingly slow to start up, requiring just over two seconds from hitting the power button to being capture-ready. Shutter lag is also painful at almost a second between hitting the shutter and capturing an image. It means this camera is not especially good for impromptu wildlife or sports photography. The Mju Tough 6010 can capture an unlimited amount of photos at five frames per second, albeit at a reduced 3-megapixel resolution. There's no AF assist lamp, so the camera may hunt for focus in low light.

Image quality from the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 is acceptable for amateur snaps. In ideal lighting conditions images have reasonable detail and would suit printing at up to A4. Close inspection shows significant smudges and noise reduction occurring even at ISO 100 — this camera is not one you would pick if you were looking for pixel-level detail. Slight oversaturation makes images vibrant and colourful. While image quality isn't stellar at the best of times, there isn't as significant a drop-off at higher ISOs as we expected. ISO 1600 is the camera's highest setting and while the entire frame is riddled with interpolation noise, this is mostly luminance noise rather than chrominance — bearable variations in brightness rather than unsightly purple or green spots. If you don't mind the obvious film-grain look, images are fine for printing at A4.

The Olympus Mju Tough 6010 has clean ISO 100 images, but mediocre edge definition.

At ISO 1600 the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 displays significant luminance noise but little chrominance noise.

If you're an avid outdoors person or traveller you'll find something to appreciate in the Olympus Mju Tough 6010, whether it's the rugged and capable body or versatile low-light performance.

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Read more on these topics: rugged gear, digital cameras, photography, Olympus

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