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'Waterproof' Camera Group Test (Q2 2009)

june 2009 | By Don Wan

Waterproof Camera Group Test
Group 7: 'Waterproof' cameras [updated]


It's summer in the northern hemisphere, and as the weather heats up, many readers will be heading to the nearest beach or river bank to cool down and relax. In these situations it's nice to have a camera that you don't have to worry about getting wet, and can maybe even take into the water with you. Manufacturers have offered underwater housings for compact cameras (as well as DSLRs) for some time, but with the high price and significant extra bulk of these accessories, a more compact and sometimes cheaper option could be a waterproof or water resistant camera.

Waterproof digital cameras have existed since 2002, and they have been progressing along much the same lines as any other type of compact camera, with higher resolution sensors, faster processors, wider angle lenses, built in image stabilization, and larger and higher resolution LCD screens. The current generation of waterproof cameras all feature non-extending lenses (they have internal zooms to ensure nothing can get inside), and some are even shock and dustproof, extending their 'adventure activity' credentials. But while new features such as HD video, fast shooting speeds, and larger range zoom lenses have made their way into many other compact cameras this year, they have yet to make much of an impact in this class (except for the very latest Pentax W80 and Panasonic FT1).

Waterproof cameras present an attractive proposition, especially during the summer months when taking a conventional camera to the beach is a risky undertaking (and you can't use one in the water without expensive add-ons). With higher and higher resolution sensors, and more and more features, waterproof cameras are a serious option if you want to carry just one camera for all your summer needs.

Of course, even if you're not going swimming, a waterproof camera has benefits for anyone shooting in challenging environments (from the odd rain shower to skiing down the alps), or for anyone who wants a camera that won't complain if it's not treated with due care and attention. As the resolutions and zoom ranges increase, a waterproof camera is not necessarily just a specialist tool and can be your one and only compact camera. In this test we are going to look at seven of the current waterproof cameras to see how they perform underwater, what they are like to live with and which has the best image quality.

The test cameras

In this group test we have selected seven cameras from the current range of waterproof cameras. These are the D10 from Canon (the company's first waterproof digital camera), the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1/FT1 (also a first from this company), the W60 from Pentax (which is the latest in a long line of waterproof compacts dating back to 2002), the Pentax W80 (W60 replacement), two new cameras from Olympus and the latest W33 from Fuji.

  • Canon PowerShot D10
  • Fuji FinePix Z33WP
  • Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 (mju Tough 8000 in Europe)
  • Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 (mju Tough 6000 in Europe)
  • Pentax Optio W60
  • Pentax Optio W80
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 (DMC-FT1 in Europe)

All but one of the group of cameras in this group have compact pocketable dimensions, with only the Canon D10 being a little too irregular in shape (and too thick) to fit comfortably into ordinary sized pockets. five of the cameras in this group feature wide zoom lenses that start at 28mm (Olympus Tough 6000, Tough 8000, Pentax W60, W80 and Panasonic TS1), four incorporate built-in image stabilization (the Canon D10, Panasonic TS1 and the two Olympus Tough models), and two can be taken as deep as 10 meters underwater (D10 and Tough 8000). Resolutions in this group range from 10 MP to 12 MP (more than enough to make a nice 8x10 print), all can reach high sensitivities of at least ISO 1600, and all feature video recording (with the Pentax W60, W80 and Panasonic FT1 capable of producing 720p HD video movies).

Key Spec compared

The majority of these cameras have specifications that would have been impressive two years go, but the latest generation of compact cameras put these to shame. The Panasonic and latest Pentax are the only cameras to offer the wide-angle lenses and 30fps HD video that you'd expect of a contemporary compact. Then again, the current generation of compact cameras would stop working if you drop them in a bathtub.

 

 

Canon PowerShot D10 • 1/2.3" CCD
• 12.0 MP
80-
3200*
35-105mm
(3x)
Lens • 2.7"
• 230k
SDHC/
SD
10m/ 33ft • 640x480
• 30fps
$320
Fuji FinePix Z33WP • 1/2.3" CCD
• 10.0 MP
64-
1600
35-105mm
(3x)
None • 2.7"
• 230k
SDHC/
SD
3m/ 10ft • 640x480
• 30fps
$185
Olympus Stylus Tough 6000 • 1/2.3" CCD
• 10.0 MP
50-
1600
28-102mm
(3.6x)
CCD • 2.7"
• 230k
xD/Micro SD 3m/ 10ft • 640x480
• 30fps
$270
Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 • 1/2.33" CCD
• 12.0 MP
64-
1600
28-102mm
(3.6x)
CCD • 2.7"
• 230k
xD/Micro SD 10m/ 33ft • 640x480
• 30fps
$330
Pentax Optio W60 • 1/2.33" CCD
• 10.0 MP
50-
6400*
28-140mm
(5x)
None • 2.5"
• 230k
SDHC/
SD
4m/ 13ft • 720p
• 15fps
$240
Pentax Optio W80 • 1/2.33" CCD
• 12.1 MP
64-
6400*
28-140mm
(5x)
None • 2.5"
• 230k
SDHC/
SD
5m/ 16ft • 720p
• 30fps
$300
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 • 1/2.33" CCD
• 12.1 MP
80-
6400*
28-128mm
(4.6x)
Lens • 2.7"
• 230k
SDHC/
SD
3m/ 10ft • 720p
• 30fps
$320

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.

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*highest ISO settings only available at reduced resolution

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