There are countless trends competing for attention in the gaming notebook and laptop space but not all of them are either useful or benefit the core gaming experience.
Olympus Mju Tough 8000
What's waterproof, dustproof, drop-proof and idiot-proof? The Olympus Mju Tough 8000 ruggedised digital camera.
- Waterproof, drop-proof, dust-proof, tap control, perfect for snow or beach adventures
- Images came out soft, noise and chromatic aberration noticeable when viewing at the full 12-megapixel size
The Olympus Mju Tough 8000 is great for all outdoor adventures, when all you want to carry is a compact digital camera and not have to worry about damaging it or carrying extra gear such as a waterproof enclosure.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
There's a lot to like about the Olympus Mju Tough 8000. It's a fully ruggedised camera for snow adventures, water sports and outdoor activities. It's waterproof, drop-proof, dustproof, and almost idiot-proof. It's an easy camera to use and you can use it just about anywhere without feat of damaging it.
Its rugged specifications are impressive for a camera that only costs $599: it can be taken 10m underwater, dropped from a 2m height and stepped on by a 100kg humanoid without sustaining any damage. Rubber lining on the battery and memory card and USB compartment doors keeps water from seeping in, and it does a fine job.
The case of the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 is shiny and very sturdy, but it's the internal frame that keeps the delicate components from being crushed and misaligned during arduous activities. These components include a 12-megapixel sensor (with sensor-shift technology to prevent images being blurred by shaking when you shoot them) and Olympus's Dual Super Aspherical Lens. This lens is a single element, rather than several elements, which allows the Mju Tough 8000 to be as small as it is, with a 28mm, 3.6x optical zoom that does not protrude from the body.
The body of the camera is 22mm thick, 98mm long and 62mm high. The lens is protected by toughened glass and a sliding metal door. The controls on the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 are simple to use. The thumb dial can be used to change modes (auto, intelligent auto, scene, beauty, video, and playback); a five-way controller and four buttons control the menu system, and there are zoom buttons instead of a zoom lever. (This is important from a design perspective, as sliding levers can feel rough when sand and other particles get in the track.) The shutter button is easy to press and has two distinct levels for focusing and shooting.
The only thing that could possibly improve the design of the camera is removing the metal lens lid and bringing the toughened glass closer to the surface; this would make it easier to clean after diving or messing around in the snow.
If you're using the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 while wearing thick gloves, tap control can be used to invoke some of its functions. You can enable tap control by double-tapping on the top of the camera body. A tap on the left brings up the macro shooting modes, while a tap on the right side brings up the flash options.
Despite having a 12-megapixel sensor, you won't want to crop into your images too close, but rather fill as much of the frame as possible. If you take a photo and then crop in to a specific detail, the picture will look soft and noisy, and some chromatic aberration will be visible. Zoomed out, images will look fine; they can be printed on 6x4in paper with good results.
There aren't any manual settings for the aperture size or shutter speed, but focus mode (spot, face detection, evaluative), white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed can be manipulated. We used the built-in scene modes, auto and intelligent auto modes to take our test shots, and obtained adequate results for the most part.
Overexposure was an issue with shots taken in strong light — for example, with the setting sun shining on the Sydney Opera House. Pictures taken underwater will look soft if there isn't enough light, but the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 does a good job in this environment overall.
Some lens distortion was evident on straight lines in wide-angle shots and chromatic aberration was noticeable in high-contrast areas — especially when white met black. The camera takes its best photos in bright light, as noise tends to be a problem in darker environments when the ISO speed is bumped up.
Colours looked accurate in most of our shots, with automatic white balance selected, but there is a cool feature in the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 that lets you see the result of four different white balance levels simultaneously on the LCD screen, and you can select which one is best suited to your subject. The same feature allows you to view four different exposure levels on the LCD screen simultaneously.
The 2.7in LCD screen is one of Olympus' HyperCrystal III models, which Olympus claims is the best screen available at the moment. The screen on the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 is indeed high in detail, rich in colour, and relatively viewable (compared to other point-and-shoot digital cameras) in bright sunlight.
This is essential, as the camera has in-built facilities for panoramic shots that rely on the screen's detail to be accurate. There are two modes to choose from: the first lets you line up three shots manually, while the second mode is automatic; all you do is move the camera until the reference dot on the screen hits the target, and the picture is taken without you even having to press the shutter button.
Depending on how straight you keep the camera, and if you use a tripod, panoramas can come out looking quite nice. Our hand-held ones consisted mostly of misaligned buildings and half-visible objects. In-camera panoramas will only work with xD cards, not miniSD.
Other creative features in the Olympus Mju Tough 8000 include Beauty mode, which softens up portrait photos in the camera in a bid to get rid of wrinkles and blemishes. It's great for users who don't want to use software for the same effect, but the end result is an image that is only 1.9 megapixels. Shadow adjustment is another feature that's available; it adjusts the exposure of foreground objects to make them visible when there is backlighting.
The bottom line is: the Olumpus Mju Tough 8000 is great for all outdoor adventures, when all you want to carry is a compact camera and not have to worry about damaging it or carrying extra gear such as a waterproof enclosure. Don't expect stellar images from it and don't take photos with the intention of cropping them to bring out fine details. That being said, it will take decent quality photos in all situations and it's very easy to use.
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