The Olympus mju Tough 6010 is a 12Mp ruggedised camera aimed at extreme sports fans and others who want to capture their moments of sporting glory for posterity.
It's thus much more solid than the average compact camera, but this means the Olympus mju Tough 6010 isn't exactly light. The 6010 model weighs 149 grammes - and that's without the battery. With it, we're talking 180g.
While the Olympus mju Tough 6010 isn't anywhere near the sort of bulk of a digital SLR camera, for a compact model it's positively leaden. Canon's Digital Ixus cameras, for example, weigh 85g. It's also important given that these cameras are designed for action - you'll certainly notice that bulk if you're taking the Olympus mju Tough 6010 with you when snorkelling.
The Olympus mju Tough 6010 is waterproof down to 3m but there's a waterproof case that can be bought as an accessory if you want to take it diving. This allows you to take shots as far as 40 metres underwater. Olympus also describes this point and shoot camera as being freezeproof - something we verified by placing it in a domestic freezer for half an hour. Sure enough, no harm had come to it or the photos stored on its xD card.
Given the claims of being ‘drop-proof to 1.5m' we also ensured we gave the Olympus mju Tough 6010 a bounce or two, casually dropping a handbag containing it off a shoulder and sweeping it off a desk where it was sat charging up. Whether it would fare quite so well should you come a cropper charging down the piste is probably a matter for you to test for yourself.
So what of the photos it takes? We were pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the photos we got. We took some shots of butterflies on a large buddleia bush from a distance of 3m. Even with the 3.6x zoom in use (and using a small tripod or windowledge for support) we were able to take steady shots that reproduced the intricate patterns of the butterflies' wings and the flowers they'd alighted on.
The lens has been miniaturised so it doesn't protrude from the Olympus mju Tough 6010's exterior (a protective measure), which makes the results even more impressive. For everyday shooting on a well-lit day the colour reproduction and balance were spot on.
On what was an exceptionally sunny day, we weren't surprised to find some very slight fringing around the edges of the flowers, but we've seen far worse examples. The detail of the Olympus mju Tough 6010's 12Mp sensor meant that we had to look hard to find even this defect.
When we tested the Olympus mju Tough 6010's mettle in other challenging light conditions we found it compensated extremely well in a gloomy room. We shot some ornaments that were backlit by a blaze of sunshine but the Olympus was able to bring out the subject's detail and tone down the background glare.
We also found the Olympus mju Tough 6010's flash effective - at times it flared perhaps too much.
Similarly, we were able to get extreme close-up shots of a colourful insect on an outdoor table and found the Olympus mju Tough 6010 able to compose and pre-focus the shot using the 2.7in LCD as close at 2ft. In this instance, however, we needed the steadying assistance of our Gorilla mini tripod as the stiffness of the camera's shutter lead to inevitable camera wobble. You can switch on one or both image stabilisation features if you choose, but they don't work by default and we didn't find they made a huge difference to the sharpness of the shots we took sans tripod.
However, we routinely found the overly stiff shutter release an issue when using the Olympus mju Tough 6010, but this is presumably a trade-off with the need to protect the camera from water and other corrosive elements. It did make for some tricky moments when we came to take some shots underwater, but as long as you have a firm grip and are able to hold yourself sufficiently still to take a clear shot that isn't marred by the swish of the water around you, it soon becomes easy enough.
If you tire of being an all-terrain action hero and are feeling less than intrepid, you can instead get creative with your photography in other senses. Olympus includes art filters on its Tough cameras. Using these you can get zany fisheye lens effects, go all Technicolor with vibrant pop art filters or add some frames and other supplementary effects to otherwise standard portraits. These are fun but not a big selling point for the Olympus mju Tough 6010 - a camera that trades on its street-tough credentials.
If you intend to make full use of a ruggedised camera's abilities to cope with extremes of temperature you'll need to ensure the memory card is also rated for exposure to such temperatures. Cheaper, no-brand memory is likely to be less reliable in this regard.
Olympus has seen the writing on the wall when it comes to memory card types and sensibly equips the Olympus mju Tough 6010 with an SD card slot and provides an adaptor for its favoured xD cards - ideal for existing Olympus camera owners who can therefore use the memory cards they already have.
There's one curiosity about the Olympus mju Tough 6010 that we didn't quite understand and that's the option to invoke a tap-screen menu that allows you to alter some settings - such as the flash - but not to take any photos. The inclusion of this feature didn't seem to make much sense given the lengths Olympus has gone to to ensure the 6010 lives up to its hard as iron billing. We'd rather Olympus had made more of the action mode and enabled continuous shooting at more than 3Mp.
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