Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Introduction

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 (also known as the Stylus Tough 8000) is the newest member of Olympus’ extensive range of shockproof and waterproof digital cameras. Successor to the Olympus mju 1030 SW model, the mju Tough 8000 increases the megapixel count to 12, incorporates sensor-shift image stabilisation, features an innovative “tap control” system, and adds a new Beauty mode to automatically touch up portraits. Waterproof to a depth of 10m, shockproof against falls to 2m, freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius and crushproof up to 100kg, the metal-bodied mju 1030 SW should survive pretty much anything that you subject it to. With a substantial price tag of £340 / $399, the Olympus mju Tough 8000 costs the same as many budget DSLR cameras. Zoltan Arva-Toth finds out if it’s worth investing in….

Ease of Use

Olympus used to denote their shock- and waterproof compacts with the SW abbreviation, but have recently took to calling them simply ‘Tough’. The official explanation was that some of these cameras were not only shock- and waterproof, but freeze- and crushproof as well, and they wanted to find a name that reflects this. Our humble opinion is that most consumers probably didn’t have the faintest idea of what the two letters stood for, and Olympus realised they needed a more self-explanatory name to raise awareness of their line of ruggedised cameras.

One of the first two models having the word ‘Tough’ in their name is the Olympus mju Tough 8000, called the Stylus Tough 8000 in North America. This camera shares a lot with its forebear, the mju 1030SW, which we reviewed almost exactly one year ago. Both have a 28-102mm equivalent internally stacked zoom lens, can withstand being trodden upon by individuals weighing up to 100kg, are shockproof if dropped from a height of up to 2m, waterproof to a maximum depth of 10m and freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius. The two models also share a 2.7″, 230k dot LCD and features like shadow adjustment and face detection. Neither camera gives you direct access to aperture and shutter speed.

What’s new, then? Just a couple of things, really. The mju Tough 8000 has “real” image stabilisation (of the sensor-shift variety), two million extra pixels on its sensor, an innovative “tap control” system for those wearing gloves, and a new Beauty mode to automatically touch up portraits.

From the outside the Tough 8000, which comes in a choice of platinum, black and blue colours, looks a lot like its predecessor. It is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, but weighs substantially more due to being made of (mostly) metal. The front plate is shiny and features a microphone, a flash, a LED and of course the lens, the latter of which is hidden behind a metal cover when the camera is not in use. On the top plate you find the shutter release and a rather small power button.

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Olympus mju Tough 8000
Front Rear

Most of the camera’s back is taken up by the 2.7″, 230,000-dot monitor which, in the absence of an optical viewfinder, serves as the only means of framing your shots. In the top right corner, when viewed from the back, we find the – rather small – zoom  rockers. Directly beneath them is a mode dial with positions for iAuto, Program, scene, Beauty, movie and playback modes (more on these in a minute).

In the bottom right corner, there is a button clutter that will be familiar to almost anyone who has ever handled a digital compact camera. This comprises a standard four-way controller with direct access to exposure compensation, flash modes, self timer and macro modes, plus a centered OK / FUNC button. Around this navigation pad are the usual Menu, Playback, Display and Delete buttons.

The right-hand side of the camera has a speaker, a wrist strap eyelet plus a multi-connector hidden behind a sealed door. The battery / card compartment – the mju Tough 8000 uses xD-picture cards but comes with a microSD adapter – opens to the bottom, with a tripod socket being positioned right beside it. The latter seems to be made of plastic, which is surprising on a camera that is mostly metal.

As noted earlier, the mju Tough 8000 is a point-and-shoot model with no user control over aperture and shutter speed. You do get a legion of scene modes (I counted nineteen), plus an iAuto mode that analyses the scene in front of the lens and automatically picks one of the five most often used scene modes based on this analysis. There is a P mode as well, denoted with a camera icon, which gives you control over things like white balance, ISO etc., though confusingly, some settings impose rather illogical limitations on others even in this mode. For instance, if you enable shadow adjustment – Olympus’ version of D-lighting or DRO, which lifts the shadows without affecting the highlights in a high-contrast scene – the AF mode inexplicably defaults to Face Detection, depriving you of the option to use Spot AF.

A number of settings are accessible via the centered OK / FUNC button that brings up a function menu, while others have dedicated buttons. One of the latter is exposure compensation (EC), which is available by pressing the Up button of the four-way pad. You do not simply set the amount of EC here, but you can also preview the effect in real time, in a multi-frame window. While this is cool, it is perceivably slower to load than the simple scales employed by other cameras.

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Olympus mju Tough 8000
Front Rear

Another feature having its own button is the macro mode. You can choose from a choice of normal macro, supermacro and supermacro with LED. The optical zoom and the flash are only usable in the first one – the lens is fixed at the wide end in the supermacro modes, and the flash is turned off. Since proper illumination of your subject might be a challenge when you are photographing it from a very close distance, an option is provided to use the LED sitting between the flash and the lens. This is one of the nice touches about the mju Tough 8000.

Of particular interest is the Display button, which let you cycle through various sets of overlaid information, including compositional grid-lines and a live histogram – though sadly, not both at the same time. The former is a useful tool to help you with composition, but can be used to line up your verticals and keep your horizon straight too. The latter is a great help in getting the exposure right.

Now, all these buttons are tiny, just like they were on the mju 1030 SW. Given that this is a camera that can be used at temperatures as low as -10 degrees Centigrade, when people tend to wear gloves, this can be a problem. Olympus have realised this, and introduced a second way of affecting changes to settings – the so called “tap control system”. If enabled, this ingenious solution allows you to change the flash and macro modes, confirm settings and toggle between record and playback modes, as well as flip through already captured images by lightly tapping the camera on the sides, top and back plates. My only gripe is that sometimes a screen will come up, saying, “Tap the camera body to operate the camera”, even when you have done just that. Specifically, I always bumped into this screen whenever going from record to playback – a minor but recurring annoyance, made worse by the fact that the screen would remain on for 3-4 seconds. I have found no way to get rid of this screen, except by turning off the tap control system altogether. A firmware fix would be most welcome.

The camera’s performance was OK for its class. Start-up took just over a second, not much longer than with the manufacturer’s DSLRs. Committing 12-megapixel Fine JPEGs to a Type M xD card required nearly four seconds. While you did not have to wait this long to take the next picture – shot-to-shot times averaged 2 seconds in single-shot mode –, you could not enter playback until the camera finished writing the just-captured image to the card. In addition, the mju Tough 8000 has two different sequential shooting modes. The “regular” burst mode is around 1 frame per second, but there is a high-speed version that allowed me to capture 13 photos in less than 3 seconds. The downside is that this latter mode limits the resolution of just 3 megapixels. As regards the auto-focus, its speed was acceptable for a camera in this class, but I wasn’t always happy with the way it worked.

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Olympus mju Tough 8000
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

There are three types of AF available in Program mode, Face Detection, iESP and Spot. Face Detection worked as long as the faces were well lit and not positioned at too sharp an angle, but struggled otherwise. When no face could be detected, the camera would default to iESP, an AF mode where “i” stands for “intelligent”. In this mode, the camera picks an AF point on its own – but alas, not too intelligently. It has happened to me that the camera was in supermacro mode, and iESP still picked a point in the – rather distant – background. Spot AF was, at least, reliable, but as noted earlier, it is not selectable when you have the shadow adjustment feature turned on – which I found strange and annoying at the same time. Also, there is no way to manually select an off-centre focus point.

Like all digital compacts – and now an increasing number of DSLRs –, the mju Tough 8000 can capture movies besides stills. The movie mode is a fairly standard 640×480 or 320×240 pixels at either 15 or 30fps – not bad, but nothing to write home about either. Also, if you are using Standard or Type M xD-picture cards, then the maximum clip length is a measly 10 seconds when a combination of 640×480 pixels and 30fps is chosen. This limitation does not apply when using a Type H or M+ card. By default, sound is recorded with your videos, but you cannot use the optical zoom. With underwater movies, this is reversed: no sound is recorded, but you get to use the zoom. There is a special function in movie mode, called DIS. It continuously steadies the image while recording a video clip. This is different to the IS mechanism used for stills, but works well nonetheless.

The mju Tough 8000 has one feature that is quite unique, especially for its class: pixel mapping. Unfortunately, the manual does a poor job of explaining what this is, even though it’s quite simple. Digital camera sensors contain millions of pixels and usually there are a few that do not work. These are referred to as “stuck” or “dead” pixels, and their numbers might increase somewhat during the camera’s lifespan. These can be seen as tiny bright white spots in an image. These pixels can be mapped out, but most manufacturers require you to send your camera in to a service centre for this, and perhaps also to pay a fee. Users of the Olympus mju Tough 8000 can do this themselves simply by activating the Pixel Mapping function from the menu. The whole thing takes less than half a minute.

In use, the mju Tough 8000 worked well in all circumstances, including extensive use in a pool. Underwater images came out a little less contrasty, sharp and detailed than “normal” shots, and the camera did not fully compensate for the predominant blue cast either, but it was still thrilling to be able to use it in situations when other cameras would have had to be left at home. If you would like to know how the images turned out under “normal” conditions, just read on…

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 produced images of good, though not outstanding, quality during the review. The lens clearly struggled to keep up with the extreme pixel density of the sensor, and this resulted in slightly soft details and some blurriness in the off-centre areas of the frame. In consequence, you will likely find that the images allow somewhat smaller enlargements than could be expected on the basis of the pixel count alone. At medium to high sensitivity setting, the maximum print size is further limited by noise. To be fair though, most compact camera owners are not likely to print big anyway, and as long as you limit yourself to smaller print sizes, you may even find ISO 800 shots usable, particularly if taken in neutral light. Automatic white balance works quite well, especially under natural and fluorescent light, though it leaves a tad too much warmth in images taken in incandescent lighting. Shadow adjustment works well and can come in handy when dealing with high-contrast scenes.

Noise

There are 6 ISO settings available on the Olympus mju Tough 8000. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Sharpening

Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web – Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can’t change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M Fine (4.57Mb) (100% Crop) 12M Normal (2.45Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 offers a Super Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 2cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The flash settings on the Olympus mju Tough 8000 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Off – Wide Angle (28mm)

Fill-in – Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Off – Telephoto (102mm)

Fill-in – Telephoto (102mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Red-eye reduction settings caused any red-eye.

On

On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Olympus mju Tough 8000’s maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which is disappointing news if you’re seriously interested in night photography, as it doesn’t allow you to capture enough light in most situations. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 160. I’ve included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/10th / 28mm
1/4th / 102mm

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus mju Tough 8000 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 15.5Mb in size.

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Product Images

Olympus mju Tough 8000

Front of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Front of the Camera / Lens Open

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Isometric View

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Isometric View

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera / Camera Menu

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

 

Olympus mju Tough 8000

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Top of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Bottom of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Side of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Side of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Front of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Front of the Camera

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Memory Card Slot

 
Olympus mju Tough 8000

Battery Compartment

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Specifications

Image Sensor
Effective pixels 12 Megapixels
Filter array Primary colour filter (RGB)
Full resolution 12.7 Megapixels
Type 1/2.33 ” CCD sensor
Lens
Optical zoom 3.6 x (WIDE)
Aspherical glass elements 2
Focal length 5.0 – 18.2 mm
Focal length (equiv. 35mm) 28 – 102 mm
Structure 10 lenses / 8 groups
Maximum aperture 3.5 – 5.1
Digital Zoom
Enlargment factor 5 x / 18 x combined with optical zoom
LCD
Resolution 230000 dots
Monitor size 6.9 cm / 2.7 ”
LCD type HyperCrystal III LCD
Frame assistance Yes
Brightness adjustment +/- 2 levels
LCD backlight boost Yes
Focusing System
Method TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection
Spot focusing Yes
Face Detection AF Yes
Standard mode 0.5m – ∞ (wide) / 0.5m – ∞ (tele)
Makro mode 0.1m – ∞ (wide) / 0.3m – ∞ (tele)
Super Macro mode Closest focusing distance: 2 cm
Light Metering
ESP light metering Yes
Spot metering Yes
Histogram in shooting mode Yes
Exposure System
Shutter speed 1/4 – 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Night scene)
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps
Enhancement function Image Stabilisation Mode
Shadow Adjustment Technology
Advanced Face Detection Technology
Exposure Modes
i-Auto Yes
Programme automatic Yes
Beauty Yes
Scene Modes
Number of scene modes 19
Portrait Yes
Landscape Yes
Night Scene Yes
Night Scene with portrait Yes
Sports Yes
Indoor Yes
Candle Yes
Self-portrait Yes
Sunset Yes
Fireworks Yes
Cuisine Yes
Documents Yes
Beach and Snow Yes
Snow Yes
Pre-Capturing Movie Yes
Underwater Snapshot Yes
Underwater Wide 1 Yes
Underwater Wide 2 Yes
Underwater Macro Yes
Sensitivity
Auto AUTO / High AUTO Automatically selected
Manual ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White Balance
AUTO WB system Yes
Overcast Yes
Sunlight Yes
Tungsten Yes
Flourescent 1 Yes
Flourescent 2 Yes
Flourescent 3 Yes
Internal Flash
Working range (wide) 0.1 – 4.0 m (ISO 800)
Working range (tele) 0.3 – 2.7 m (ISO 800)
Sequence Shooting
Sequential shooting mode (high speed) 5 fps / 11 frames (in 3MP mode)
Sequential shooting mode 1.0 fps / 21 frames
Image Processing
Pixel mapping Yes
Noise reduction Yes
TruePic III Yes
Distortion compensation Yes
Function Processing
Panorama Yes
Movie Processing
Image Stabilisation Mode Digital Image Stabilisation
Image Editing
Black & White Yes
Sepia Yes
Resize Yes
Trimming Yes
Attach a calendar Yes
Correction of saturation Yes
Beauty Fix Yes
Red-eye reduction Yes
Shadow Adjustment Yes
Movie Edit
Index Yes
View Images
Calendar Yes
Index 4, 9, 16, 25 frames
Zoom 1.1 – 10 x
Slide show Yes
Rotation Yes
Image protect mode Yes
Histogram in playback mode Yes
Voice playback Yes
View Movie
Frame by frame Yes
Fast forward Yes
Reverse playback Yes
Voice playback Yes
Still Image Recording
DCF Yes
EXIF 2.21
PIM III
DPS PictBridge
DPOF Yes
Movie Recording System
Recording format AVI Motion JPEG®
Sound recording Yes , format: WAV
Movie quality 640 x 480 / 30 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity (10s with 30fps when xD standard type is used)
640 x 480 / 15 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
320 x 240 / 30 fps Up to card capacity
Note: maximum file size 2GB
Voice Appendage
Recording format Wave format
Recording length 4 s
Memory
Internal memory 45 MB
Image Size
12M 3968 x 2976
5M 2560 x 1920
3M 2048 x 1536
2M 1600 x 1200
1M 1280 x 960
VGA 640 x 480
16:9 1920 x 1080
Menu
Menu languages in camera 39 languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese (BR + PT), German, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Korean, Simple Chinese, Traditional Chinese,Thai, Arabic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Indonesian, Hebrew, Malay, Vietnamese)
Interface
Speaker Yes
DC input Yes (CB-MA1 required)
Combined A/V & USB output Yes
USB 2.0 High Speed Yes
Other Features
Mechanical Image Stabilizer Yes
Shock resistant Shock-proof from heights of up to 2m *
Waterproof Waterproof up to a water pressure equivalent to 10m depth **
Crushproof Crushproof up to 100kg ***
Freezeproof Freezeproof up to -10°C ***
Tap Control Yes
Pre-Capturing Movie Yes
Perfect Shot Preview Yes
Self timer 12 s
In-Camera Panorama Yes
Advanced Face Detection Technology Yes
Menu guide Yes
LED Illuminator Yes
Manometer Yes
* Equivalent to MIL Standard (Olympus test conditions)
** According to IEC standard publication 529 IPX8
*** According to Olympus test conditions
Size
Dimensions (W x H x D) 95 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm
Weight 182 g (without battery and card)

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Conclusion

The Olympus mju Tough 8000 is a special camera. Built to resist a fall of two metres, the pressure of ten metres of water, the weight of a corpulent man and the cold of a Continental winter, it is a camera that you can take pretty much anywhere. From beaches to swimming pools, rainforests to deserts, coral reefs to mountain tops – you name it. Places and conditions in which shooting with a regular camera would be foolish or downright impossible. The mju Tough 8000 is tough, without a doubt.

But it’s a pretty nice “normal” point-and-shoot too. Its 28mm equivalent wide angle makes it a lot more versatile than many other compacts, and its legion of scene modes will help you get a good shot no matter what your subject is. The usual caveats apply of course. Like most digital compacts, the Olympus mju Tough 8000 likes good light and isn’t really well suited to low-light photography. In addition to that, its extreme pixel density pushes its folding optics to their limits and beyond, meaning you don’t get as much detail as you would expect based on its high pixel count. But if you are not one of those that make big enlargements out of their digital photographs, you will be unlikely to be seriously disappointed by the images, particularly those taken at base ISO. They stand up to being printed at normal sizes pretty well.

Obviously if you are a real stickler for image quality and / or manual controls, then the mju Tough 8000 is probably not going to cut it for you. As of this writing, one well-known online retailer has the Olympus E-420 DSLR with kit lens for just $30 more than the mju. That combination will undoubtedly give you much more control and – the somewhat lower pixel count notwithstanding – considerably better image quality too. But it won’t take nearly as much beating as the 8000, neither will it be readily usable for underwater photography without a special housing. So as always – know your requirements, and decide based on the Sample Images as well as what you have read in the other parts of this review if the Olympus mju Tough 8000 meets them or not.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus mju Tough 8000.

Canon PowerShot D10

Canon PowerShot D10 Review thumbnail

The Canon PowerShot D10 is an all-action compact camera that will cope with just about everything that you throw at it. Water, dust, freeze and shock proof, the new Canon D10 is a distinctively designed 12 megapixel camera with a difference. Find out if the $329.99 / £379.00 / €449.00 D10 makes the perfect summer camera by reading our expert review.

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus mju Tough 8000 from around the web.

cnet.com.au »

Unlike the casing of one of its predecessors from last year, the Tough Smart 1050SW, the Tough 8000 definitely looks like the sort of camera you could put through a car wash, slam up against a wall and drop from a considerable height without damaging as much as a fingernail. It takes its stylistic cues from the Tough Smart 1030SW, sharing a similar sort of aesthetic and build quality. The lens at the front of the camera is protected by a sliding metal cover which makes a satisfying sword-like swoosh sound as it retracts into the body, but this is as exciting as it gets — at least on the outside.
Read the full review »

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

Olympus mju Tough 8000 Review Image

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