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Olympus Mju Stylus Tough 8000 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 03/07/2009
Rating: Above Average
Author: Joshua Waller
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Read reviews on: Olympus mju Tough 8000


Introduction: Announced on the 7th of January 2009, the Olympus Mju Stylus Tough 8000 is one of Olympus' toughest compact cameras from their new TOUGH range and features a 12 megapixel sensor, a 3.6x optical zoom lens, a 2.7" screen, shadow adjustment, VGA video mode and an ultra tough body that's waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof and dustproof. It also features Dual Image Stabilisation (anti-shake sensor), Face Detection, and ISO upto 6400 (at 3mp). The Olympus Mju Tough 8000 is available from around £250 which puts it at the expensive end of the market for waterproof cameras. The camera is enclosed in a metal body and is available in black, blue or silver. The camera measures approx. 95 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 182g. excluding battery and memory card.

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"People who quickly get bored at home need an offroad camera like the TOUGH-8000, the high tech tool that fits into every bag. It is waterproof to a depth of 10 metres, shockproof to a height of 2 metres and includes a high precision 3.6x wide optical zoom. This makes it the ideal partner for expeditions into the mountains and the canyons. With the convenient TAP Control you can operate the camera by tapping the body. Furthermore, the TOUGH-8000 offers you Dual Image Stabilisation for perfectly sharp pictures when using maximum zoom or shooting in lower light. So the next time you plan your adventures, make sure to bring your camera because the action is wating to be captured by you."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus EVOLT E-410)


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, microphone, flash, LED, lens.


Top: power, shutter release.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 12 million pixel sensor
  • Wide angle 3.6x optical zoom (Equivalent to 28-102mm)
  • Face Detection
  • Dual Image Stabilisation (anti-shake sensor, high ISO)
  • 2.7-inch LCD screen, 230,000 pixels
  • ISO : Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / (3200 and 6400 at 3mp)
  • VGA, 30fps Video
  • HD Output : No
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • 2cm Macro mode
  • 45mb internal memory
  • Tough features: Shock-proof from heights of up to 2m, Waterproof up to a water pressure equivalent to 10m depth, Crushproof up to 100kg, Freezeproof up to -10°C, TAP control, Manometer
  • Scenes: Mode dial: Program, Intelligent Auto, Play, Video, Beauty, Scenes: Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Night and portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and snow, Snow, Pre-capture movie, Underwater snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro.
  • Histogram available: Yes (Record and Playback)
  • Exposure bracketing: No
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: No

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Handstrap
  • Instruction Manual
  • World Wide Warranty Card
  • CB-AVC3 (Audio/Video cable)
  • CB-USB6 (USB Cable)
  • LI-50B (Lithium-Ion Battery)
  • F-1AC (AC Adapter for battery charge inside the camera - compatible with µ TOUGH-8000)
  • OLYMPUS Master 2 (Software CD-ROM)
  • MASD-1 (microSD attachment)

Average box contents - The camera has a fairly large built in memory (45mb) however this will only let you take about 8 pictures at highest quality so the first thing you'll want to buy is a large memory card. Getting a case is also highly recommended.

Menu system: The function button gives you quick access to the most used options, such as image size, continuous shooting, ISO, white balance etc. Further options are available by using the buttons on the back. The menu system lets you change further settings - you shouldn't really need to change them - as you can access the common ones without going into the menu, which makes the camera quite easy to use. If you do go into the setup menu you will find the camera features an alarm clock! The camera also has a help button that explains each menu item. The playback menu is quite straightforward using icons to access each option. The menu system looks better than previous Olympus menus.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (12mp, 5mp, 3mp, 2mp, 1mp, VGA), aspect ratio (4:3 and 16:9 at 2mp), and compression (JPEG Fine or Normal). Higher quality images take more memory and more time to store, so this can affect shot to shot time. Although there are a good range of image sizes and compression options, not all of the advertised features can be used in the 12 megapixel mode.


Bottom - Battery (LI-50B, 3.7v, 925mAh) and XD memory card compartment, MicroSD Adapter, speaker, plastic tripod mount.

Battery usage: I managed to take around 180 shots, this is average for an ultra compact camera, and battery life will depend on the kind of use you make of the camera. The camera uses a proprietary battery type which is unlikely to be stocked in most shops so it may be worth buying a spare.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 1gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use XD memory cards, or with the provided adapter you can use MicroSD cards. Listed below are links to XD and MicroSD memory cards that will work with the Olympus Tough 8000:

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £8, 2gb (2000mb): £10.
Find the latest prices for MicroSD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £4, 2gb (2000mb): £4, 4gb (4000mb Micro SDHC): £6
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera switches on and is ready to take a photo in 2.4 seconds, which is slightly slow. Focusing normally takes less than half a second except in reduced light where focusing was sometimes unsuccessful. The camera shutter response when pre-focused was less than a tenth of a second and shot to shot time was around 2.5 seconds. In continuous mode I measured a delay of around 1 second between shots using XD type H memory. Hi Speed shooting mode shoots at roughly 6fps at 3mp for 16 or 17 shots. The cameras menus and zooming seem responsive and reviewing photos is quick. Moving around the different menu options is ok if you're used to Olympus menu layouts.


Back - 2.7" screen, zoom control, mode dial, menu, play, 4-way controller with middle OK / Function button, display and shadow adjustment buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, especially in the intelligent AUTO mode and has a number of scene modes that helps get good shots - intelligent AUTO mode will automatically select the correct mode based on subject. The built in guide is especially helpful, as it guides you through the steps needed to change settings and options, and previews the results on screen as you choose the options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial. The menus are responsive and are also fairly easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are fairly easy to access, mainly thanks to the large screen, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with the most commonly used options reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is good. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb, and the function button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt good for a compact camera, and although the front handgrip is an improvement over previous models - there is still little in the way of a hand grip at the front of the camera (just a slightly raised bar). The camera feels like a very solid, weighty, robust and well built camera (as you would expect considering the camera's ability to survive the elements!). The camera is easy to hold despite the small size, fits easily into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a number of colours. The buttons can sometimes seem a little bit small, and the labelling could be clearer.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Olympus Mju Stylus Tough 8000 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Flash photo (ISO125)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo, and skin tones are good. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, and there is little red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low and noise was acceptable. The camera occassionally struggled to focus indoors, due to there being no focus assist lamp, and occassionally group photos were out of focus.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 100 - ISO6400), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 12 megapixel Panasonic Lumix FX40 and Fujifilm FinePix F100fd.

Olympus Mju Tough 8000 (12mp) Panasonic Lumix FX40 (12mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Olympus Mju Tough 8000 on the left, Panasonic Lumix FX40 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F100fd on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Olympus Mju Tough 8000 (12mp) Panasonic Lumix FX40 (12mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)
 
ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO 80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - NA
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels (1s, Nightmode)
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
ISO2500 - Actual Pixels (3mp) ISO3200 - High sensitivity mode. (3mp) ISO3200 - Actual Pixels

Noise results: The Olympus 8000 shows slightly more colourful noise compared to the other cameras here, but also appears to have slightly softer images. The Olympus also underexposes these images due to the slowest shutter speed of 1/4 seconds when taking photos in normal mode. Normally in low light you would simply use the flash so this shouldn't case an issue, it just makes comparing the results with other cameras more difficult. Using one of the scene modes should enable longer shutter speeds (however ISO settings aren't available in the Night Scene mode).

Image Stabilisation: The camera features real image stabilisation, in the form of an anti-shake sensor in the Olympus Tough 8000. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. With image stabilisation switched on the images are sharper and clearer, and is much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. The camera's systems appear to work well, and it's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras.

Olympus Shadow Adjustment Technology: The camera features shadow adjustment technology, this brings out more detail in dark areas of photos, Olympus explain it as: "A technology designed to improve exposure for pictures with dark areas. Using a sensor that works much like the human eye, dark parts of a composition (e.g. a shadow under a tree) are identified and the camera then adjusts the exposure settings accordingly for those areas. The result is a more realistic and detailed picture.". Examples with this feature switched off and on can be seen below (Nb. examples shown from the Olympus Mju 1060 review):

Shadow Adjustment Off (ISO64) Shadow Adjustment On (ISO64)
Actual Pixels Actual Pixels

The effects can be seen quite clearly with the darker areas becoming brighter with the feature switched on - it can make it easier to see detail in the darker areas, however it does increase noise slightly as it is more visible.

Outside:

Bold Street Liverpool (ISO64) Sefton Park Trees (ISO64)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated, pleasing colours. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, with little or no chromatic aberations and purple fringing. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. Images are slightly soft, with some slight corner softness, but nothing too worrying.

Zoom: This lens provides a 3.6x optical zoom starting at 28 zooming to 102mm (35mm equivalent) allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle 3.6x Optical Zoom Full Optical and digital zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas (although some of the sky is overexposed) - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation, or alternatively the Shadow Adjustment Technology can help preserve detail in the shadows.

Lens noise and zoom: The zoom is fairly quiet in operation and provides zoom from 28 - 102mm in 9 steps.

Other Image Quality issues: some purple fringing was visible in the usual high contrast areas / other Chromatic aberration was not noticed.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO200)

The closest the camera lens can get to the subject when taking macro photos is around 10cm on normal macro mode - using the super macro mode lets you focus the camera on a subject around 1cm away from the front of the lens. Colour and detail are good - however the lack of manual white balance can hinder your results indoors.

Video mode: The camera has two video modes 640x480 at 30fps or 15fps and 320x240 at 30fps or 15fps. The videos are recorded with sound as AVI files. Digital image stabilisation is available while recording videos. The zoom can be used before recording but not during. Sound quality was quite low.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality was slightly disappointing with a lot of the shots overly soft and lacking details. However saying that, colour was good with good skin tones, and pleasing outdoor colours. Noise levels were fairly low but at the expense of detail. Red eye in photos was generally low, however focusing in low light was sometimes a problem due to the camera lacking a focus assist lamp. It has a good success rate at taking shake free photos due to the built in image stabilisation. There are a wide range of picture resolutions available and a few compression options, and a 16:9 mode is available. Auto white-balance was generally good however there was no manual white balance mode. The camera gives good control over image quality, and allows some changes to the image afterwards, including shadow adjustment and red eye fix. Purple fringing was average. (7/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera features a very robust, compact metal body, that is crushproof, waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and dust resistant! It also features things you may not need such a Manometer, and an LED illuminator (light), which can be used with the 2cm super macro mode, and Tap controls. The camera is available in black, silver or blue and is compact and stylish. The camera has a very good 2.7" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera feels very well built, and is fairly comfortable to hold. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, built in guide, and built in help system, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good.The camera speed seemed a little slower, with a slightly slow switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, although continuous shooting could be quicker and flash recharge time is slightly sluggish unless you use the continuous mode which speeds it up. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit every person, such as face detection focus, shadow adjustment, numerous scene modes, good video mode, excellent macro mode, a wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens, etc. It's also good to see Olympus are supporting MicroSD memory cards with the provided XD adapter. The only thing I'd say this camera was missing, is custom white balance. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Olympus Mju Tough 8000 from around £250 is priced at the higher end of the market for a waterproof camera. You should also consider the Olympus Mju Tough 6000, Canon Powershot D10, Panasonic Lumix FT1, Pentax Optio W80, and Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP. (7/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Olympus Mju Tough 8000 packs a lot of features into a very small package... yet I feel that they've gone too far by trying to cram a 12 megapixel sensor into such a small camera - the Olympus Mju 1030 worked perfectly with a 10 megapixel sensor with good image quality and was a suprisingly quick camera - in the Tough 8000 image quality is overly soft, and the camera felt kind of sluggish. Not what you want from a premium camera. The lack of focus assist lamp was also another problem, as was the lack of a manual white balance mode.

If you want one of the toughest compact cameras available then this is probably as tough as they come. However, this year Olympus have to compete with Canon, Panasonic and Fuji (as well as Pentax) as they are all offering waterproof cameras. I suspect a number of these will offer better image quality than the Tough 8000. The Olympus Tough 8000 is a very good camera on paper but the image quality lets it down, and therefore it's difficult to recommend.

Olympus Mju Stylus Tough 8000 Rating: Above Average (7.6/10)
Available for £250 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Good colour - good skin tones
  • Wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens
  • Good 2.7 inch screen
  • Ultra compact, stylish metal body
  • Includes face detection and anti-shake technologies
  • Fairly Quick - with some very quick continuous shooting modes (at 3mp)
  • Intelligent Auto mode
  • Excellent built in help and guide
  • Updated menu easier to see and use
  • Probably the toughest waterproof /shockproof / freezeproof camera currently available

What I don't like:

  • Average battery life
  • Menu system could still be simpler to use
  • Lacks manual white balance
  • No focus assist lamp - indoor photos can be out of focus!
  • Image stabilisation doesn't work in video mode (only digital)
  • Takes XD memory cards - slow, and max size 2gb
  • Soft images

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Olympus Mju Stylus Tough 8000 Sample Photo Gallery.

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