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Group test: Waterproof Compact Cameras

August 2011 | By Scott Everett, Barney Britton

It's summer in the northern hemisphere, and no doubt a lot of people reading this will be enjoying the hot weather, planning trips to local beaches and lakes. In our recent group test of compact 'travel zoom' cameras we covered 14 of the most versatile compact cameras currently on the market in terms of zoom range, but maybe some of you want something a little more rugged. Perhaps you want something you can even take into the water, as you take a refreshing dip, or maybe you're the adventurous type, and just want something that you don't need to worry about if it gets dropped or banged against a rock.

That's where waterproof compact cameras come in. Like travel zooms, the waterproof/rugged market has expanded considerably in recent years, and most of the major manufacturers currently offer at least one camera in this class.

The appeal of waterproof compact cameras is obvious - you don't need to worry about protecting them from the weather, they can withstand a bit of rough treatment, and if you take a dip in the water (deliberately or accidentally) they can carry on shooting. The outdoor shot on the left here is from the Pentax WG-1 GPS, and the underwater shot was taken on the Sony Cyber-shot TX10.

The test cameras

For this group test we have selected six cameras, one from each manufacturer that currently offers a 2011 waterproof/rugged model in their range. These six models do not comprise the entire range of current waterproof/rugged cameras currently available (Olympus, for example, currently markets three rugged compacts) but they represent a good cross-section of the market in terms of style, specification and cost. Some of the cameras covered in our 2009 group test of compact waterproofs are still available, but we have not re-tested them here.

Crucially, (and unlike the still-available Canon Powershot D10) all of the cameras in this group are genuinely 'compact'. Some, like the Olympus Tough TG-810 and Pentax WG-1 GPS are pretty chunky, but all are small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, and a couple - the Ricoh PX and Sony Cyber-shot TX10 - rival many conventional ultra-compact models for size and style.

Key Spec compared

A couple of years ago, we'd have expected waterproof compact cameras to offer relatively conservative, 'last-generation' feature sets, but in most respects these cameras are in-line with their more conventional counterparts. The lowest resolution sensor on offer here is 12MP, from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3, and the highest is 16MP, from the Ricoh PX. All of these cameras offer impressively versatile lenses, too, all starting from a genuinely wide wideangle setting of at least 28mm (equivalent).

Only LCD screen and video specifications look a little dated. Only two models - the Olympus Tough TG-810 and Sony Cyber-shot TX10 - offer LCD screens larger than 2.7in, and of a resolution greater than 230k dots. Both offer 3in LCD displays of 920k dots - a significant step up. Of the six cameras in this group, four offer the now-standard 720p video at 30fps, but the Panasonic TS3 and Sony TX10 go one step further, boasting full-HD, 1080i video recording. In terms of price, these six cameras range from less than $200, in the case of the 14MP Fujifilm FinePix XP30, to almost $400, in the case of the Olympus Tough TG-810.

 

 

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 • 1/2.3' CCD
• 14.2 MP
100-
3200
28-140mm
(5x)
sensor shift • 2.7'
• 230k
SD/SDHC
SDXC
5m/ 16ft • 720p
• 30fps
$193
Olympus Tough TG810 • 1/2.3' CCD
• 14.0 MP
80-
1600
28-140mm
(5x)
sensor shift • 3.0'
• 920k
SD/SDHC
SDXC
10m/ 33ft • 720p
• 30fps
$349
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 • 1/2.3' CCD
• 12.1 MP
100-
6400*
28-128mm
(4.6x)
Lens • 2.7'
• 230k
SD/SDHC
SDXC
12m/ 39ft • 1080i
• 60i
$275
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS • 1/2.3' CCD
• 14.0 MP
80-
6400*
28-140mm
(5x)
Digital • 2.7'
• 230k
SD/SDHC
SDXC
10m/ 33ft • 720p
• 30fps
$301
Ricoh PX • 1/2.33' CCD
• 16.4 MP
100-
3200
28-140mm
(5x)
sensor shift • 2.7'
• 230k
SD/SDHC 3m/ 10ft • 720p
• 30fps
$249
Sony Cyber-shot TX10 • 1/2.33' CMOS
• 16.2 MP (BSI)
125-
3200
25-100mm
(4x)
Lens • 3'
• 920k
SD/SDHC
SDXC/MS/MS DUO
5m/ 16ft • 1080i
• 60i
$329

Battery lives quoted in the review are supplied by the manufacturers, based on standardized CIPA tests. The figures, unless otherwise specified, are based on the use of the LCD screen.

*highest ISO settings only available at reduced resolution

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Comments

SixOfNone

Really 39ft ... you call that waterproof... LOL ... in my first Padi open water dive I went to 60ft.

0 upvotes