Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on April 3 2009

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Here’s my review of the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000, a shock, water, freeze and crushproof digital camera with 12 megapixels of resolution. Along with the review, I’ve got the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 photo gallery posted as well.


DPInterface Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 Review

Brad Soo – April 3rd, 2009 (Updated April 14th, 2009)

olympus s8000t intro

The debut of the Stylus Tough 8000 this year marks Olympus’ rebranding of the Stylus SW series cameras to the Stylus Tough name, so to “reflect the nature of Olympus’ rugged cameras”. Yes, the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is another one of their rugged cameras; being water, shock, crush and freezeproof.

The Stylus Tough 8000 is the highest resolution rugged camera that Olympus has to date, with 12 megapixels of resolution. It also features a 28 mm wide-angle zoom lens, 2.7 inch LCD and it slips into your pocket with ease. There’s also Tap Control that we first saw on the Stylus 1050SW, beauty mode and an Intelligent Auto mode which automatically detects and picks a scene mode.

While you could toss them around and bring them to the very ends of the earth and still operate in extreme conditions, I wasn’t impressed by the image quality of the old Stylus SW cameras. With a new year, new name and a new sensor and features, will the Stylus Tough 8000 change any of that?

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is also known as the Olympus Mju Tough 8000. Because the Stylus Tough 8000 and Stylus Tough 6000 are so similar, you’ll probably notice a lot of familiar-sounding text in this review too.

Size and Weight

(219.3) 103.6 x 66.9 x 48.8 mm (190 g) – Canon PowerShot D10
(172.2) 92.0 x 59.6 x 20.6 mm (110 g) – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP
(179.5) 97.5 x 60.0 x 22.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S60**
(181.1) 95.3 x 63.4 x 22.4mm (149 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
(178.2) 95.0 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm (182 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
(184.4) 98.3 x 63.1 x 23.0 mm (163 g) – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
(180.4) 99.0 x 56.0 x 25.4 mm (145 g) – Pentax Optio W60*
(172.0) 97.9 x 57.8 x 16.3 mm (124 g) – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card
*Waterproof only
**Non-rugged camera

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 is one of the smaller yet heavier (because the camera is built like a tank) rugged cameras in the group. The Stylus Tough 8000 has dimensions comparable to that of your average compact camera.

Box contents

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000’s box contents are pretty average:

  • LI-50B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • microSD to xD-Picture card adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software disc (Olympus Master)
  • User’s manual

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 doesn’t come with a memory card but includes 45 MB of built-in memory. The internal memory serves well as reserve or album memory… otherwise, for normal picture taking purposes, go out there and get at least a 2 GB memory card. The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 supports xD-Picture cards natively and microSD cards via the included adapter. I’d recommend sticking to microSD cards since xD-Picture cards are not used in any other electronic devices other than Olympus and Fujifilm cameras (in other words, it’s a memory card format that is quite proprietary) and microSD cards are available up to 16 GB.

220 shots – Canon PowerShot D10
200 shots – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP
140 shots – Nikon Coolpix S60**
230 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
240 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
340 shots – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
205 shots – Pentax Optio W60*
200 shots – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard
*Waterproof only
**Non-rugged camera

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 uses the familiar LI-50B lithium-ion rechargeable battery. With its ability to last for 230 shots per battery charge (CIPA Standard), the Stylus Tough 8000 is about 10% above average compared to other rugged and slim cameras. Only the Panasonic TS1 aka FT1 outperforms it and everything else by a sizeable margin.

Accessories

There are various camera cases and an AC adapter available to the Stylus Tough 8000 but obviously no lens attachments or filters. The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is rated waterproof to 3 m; if you want to go deep sea diving, you should consider the external waterproof case for bringing the camera as deep as 40 meters. The last accessory for the camera is various neck straps for hanging the camera around your neck.


Camera Tour

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 looks a whole lot like last year’s Stylus 1030SW, with its no-nonsense, rugged design with some subtle changes here and there. Build quality is very good and the camera feels absolutely solid in hand – the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is shockproof up to 6.6 feet (2.0 meters), waterproof to 33 feet (10 meters), freezeproof down till -10 degrees Celcius (14 degrees F) and also crushproof to 220 pounds (100 kg) of pressure.

Ergonomics are a mixed bag – the camera is pretty easy to hold but many of the buttons are difficult to press. As usual, I’m ranting about the “button cluster” around the area of the navigation pad where it’s too easy to unintentionally press more than one button due to their small size and close proximity. Olympus has helped slightly by including Tap Control though, where certain camera functions can be operated easily when wearing gloves.

The Stylus Tough 8000 comes in a smaller assortment of colors versus its sibling, the Stylus Tough 6000. The colors available are blue, black and silver. Needless to say, you’re looking at the silver Stylus Tough 8000.

olympus s8000t front

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 has a 3.6X zoom lens with a wide-angle component to it. The lens is equivalent to 28 – 102 mm (which underwater scenery and landscape lovers will appreciate) and has a slow aperture range of f3.5 – f5.1. Olympus includes sensor-shift image stabilization on the Stylus Tough 8000 which moves the sensor around to compensate for camera shake and reduce blur.

To the left of the lens is the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000’s LED lamp which can be used as external lighting for low-light, movie and macro shooting. Beside the LED light is the built-in flash. Flash power here is a little above average; it covers a range of 10 cm to 4.0 m at wide-angle and 30 cm to 2.7 m at telephoto. Do note that ISO 800 was used to obtain those numbers so the range may drop if you decide to use lower ISO values. To the upper right of the camera’s front is the microphone for recording sound.

olympus s8000t back

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 has a 2.7 inch Hyper Crystal III LCD with 230,000 pixels. Olympus promises better visibility in various conditions. And yes, visibility is good in both low-light and bright light. The Stylus Tough 8000 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder; but neither do any other rugged cameras in the market.

Now, we’ll take a look at the Stylus Tough 8000’s controls. There’s the zoom controller at the very top, followed by the camera’s mode dial and mode indicator (which doubles as the camera’s activity indicator light). Here is what’s on the mode dial:

  • Program mode
  • Scene mode
  • Beauty mode
  • Movie mode
  • Playback mode
  • Intelligent Auto mode

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Beauty mode (complete with a “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired mirror and theme)!
The screen overlay doesn’t look different from normal shooting though

There are two new modes on the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000: Intelligent Auto detects the scene you’re shooting and automatically picks one of five scene modes (Portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, sport). Beauty mode removes blemishes in your people photos and makes their skin look better.

There’s the navigation pad with four buttons surrounding it; where it’s sometimes difficult to press a button without bumping into the nearby buttons. Let’s check out that navigation pad anyway:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 exposure in 1/3 step increments)
  • Down – Self-timer (Off, on – 12 seconds)
  • Left – Macro (Off, normal macro, super macro)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, auto with redeye reduction, on, off)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

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The function menu

The function menu on the camera is brought up by pressing the center button on the navigation pad:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, outcast, tungsten, fluorescent 1,2 & 3)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, high auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Drive mode (Single-shot, normal burst, high-speed burst)
  • Metering method (ESP, spot, face detection)
  • Image size and compression

Surrounding the navigation pad are the MENU, Playback, DISPLAY and OR buttons. The DISPLAY button toggles the LCD’s on-screen information display; hold the button down and it will activate the camera’s LED illuminator on the front. It also brings up help tooltips about shooting functions in the menu system.

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The “Olympus Recommended” menu

What is OR? It’s the new “Olympus Recommended” button. It allows you to quickly access panorama shooting, toggle Tap Control, Shadow Adjustment and Perfect Shot Preview (more on these features as we go on).

olympus s8000t top

At the top of the Stylus Tough 8000 are its power and shutter buttons.

olympus s8000t side

Nothing here except the camera’s speaker.

olympus s8000t port

On the other side, you’ll find a wrist strap loop and a single connector port. This port is used for both USB and A/V out connectivity and the cover over it is well sealed to keep dust and water out.

olympus s8000t bottom

And lastly, there’s the tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment over here at the bottom of the Stylus Tough 8000. You won’t be able to swap memory cards here because of the tripod mount location.

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Now let’s talk about the Stylus Tough 8000’s Tap Control. It’s a unique feature which allows you to select or change settings just by tapping the sides of the camera (this does not mean the LCD is a touchscreen though, it is NOT). It’s a very useful feature on a rugged camera, considering the places that you could bring the camera to (diving, skiing, surf boarding anyone?), because it makes operation easier when wearing gloves or if you’re not bothered to peck at the small buttons on the back of the camera.

Here are the tap functions of each side of the camera:

  • Double tap top – OK/Select
  • Tap left side – Macro setting
  • Tap right side – Flash setting
  • Tap back surface – Enter playback mode

Tap Control is well-implemented and responsive to use; though it’ll certainly be nice if Olympus allowed you to customize the function that each ‘tap’ performs… but right now, isn’t it brilliant, you have THREE ways to enter playback (mode dial, button and tap control)?

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

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The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 shows everything from exposure and shooting details to a live histogram and 3 X 3 gridlines. You can even view atmospheric pressure and altitude on the display. The only thing missing on the Stylus Tough 8000’s display is a battery indicator.

The image resolution options available on the Stylus Tough 8000 are 12 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, 1 MP and VGA. There’s also two image compression options available; Fine and Normal. A 16:9 widescreen image option shot at 2 megapixels is available too.

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Hit the MENU button of the Stylus Tough 8000 and the camera brings up the Olympus grid of menu icons leading to different areas – this time the icons are a lot more colorful and attractive than on previous Olympus cameras. Under this main menu, you can change image resolution, reset settings, enter the camera or setup menu, panorama mode, scene modes and turn off all camera sounds.

Let’s head on to the Camera Menu which contains vital shooting settings (some of which are already accessible via the Function Menu actually):

  • White balance, ISO, drive and metering mode – I’ve talked about these when discussing the Function menu
  • Fine zoom and digital zoom – Digital zoom lowers image quality as usual by using digital magnification while fine zoom crops your pictures instead
  • AF mode – iESP (multiple point), spot, face detection/li>
  • Sound memo (On/off)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization (On/off)
  • Shadow Adjustment (On/off)

There are three things I want to talk about here: panorama shooting, Shadow Adjustment and Perfect Shot Preview. The camera has two panorama modes: In-camera option allows you to take up to three pictures before the camera automatically stitches them into a single panorama, while normal mode allows you to take up to TEN photos but they need to be stitched manually on your computer using the included Olympus Master software.

Shadow Adjustment allows you to brighten dark areas in your photos and improve contrast slightly; as with D-Lighting, iContrast, Intelligent Exposure, etc on other cameras. The catch here is a slight increase in noise levels and a longer wait while the camera is processing the shot. Perfect Shot Preview splits the screen into 4 different displays that allow you to “preview” the different effects of settings all at once.

Like other Olympus cameras, the Stylus Tough 8000 has two macro modes. Normal macro mode isn’t very impressive as it allows you to go as close as 10 cm to a subject at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto. Super macro is much better; it lowers minimum focusing distance down to 2 cm but locks the lens position at wide-angle.

In terms of control and operation, the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is entirely point-and-shoot with no manual controls to be found anywhere. The scene modes available are: portrait, landscape, landscape + portrait, night scene, night + portrait, sport, indoor, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, beach and snow, pre-capture movie, underwater snapshot and underwater wide 1 & 2 and underwater macro.

As you can see, there’s quite a handful of scene modes (and many underwater ones) on the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000. There’s no Smile Shot here, unlike the Stylus Tough 6000 I reviewed two weeks back…

Video Recording

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Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 has a run off the mill VGA movie mode which records 640 x 480 videos with sound at 30 FPS; with the option to extend recording times by lowering the frame rate to 15 FPS, lower resolution to QVGA (320 x 240) or both.

Other than that, there’s nothing else to talk about here. Exposure is automatically adjusted as expected and you can switch on the LED lamp on the front of the camera. Video and audio quality were decent… but if you’re thinking of recording high-def underwater videos, today just ain’t your day.

Performance

All performance testing of the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 was performed using a 1 GB Type M Olympus xD-Picture card.

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka OIympus Mju Tough 8000 boots up quickly in just 1.5 seconds. Autofocus times are good, with focus times averaging 0.2 to 0.4 seconds at wide-angle/good lighting up to 0.8 to 1.5 seconds in dim conditions. Speaking of low-light focusing, it was just so-so… and you’ll have to toggle that LED illuminator yourself to help the camera to focus, since the Stylus Tough 8000 lacks a real AF-assist lamp.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.0 seconds, fairly good (just)
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds on average

The Stylus Tough 8000 has a so-so full-resolution burst mode which takes pictures at 1 frame per second. Somehow I suspect Olympus stuck a faster-clocked processor here, since the Stylus Tough 8000 has both higher resolution AND shoots faster than its sibling, the Stylus Tough 6000. If you want to shoot even faster, there’s a high-speed burst mode which shoots at 5 frames per second though resolution is lowered to 3 megapixels.

The zoom lens here operates from wide-angle to telephoto in a tad below 2 seconds. The camera managed to shut down instantly since all it needs to do is close the lens barrier. The Stylus Tough 8000 performs well for a compact camera with decent shot-to-shot times and burst mode (remember this camera has 12 megapixels!); but take note the Stylus Tough 8000 isn’t THE fastest rugged camera around.

Image Quality

And now we reach the part where the Stylus Tough 6000 and Stylus Tough 8000 are different. The former has a 10 megapixel sensor, while the latter over here has 12 megapixels. Let’s find out how image quality turns out with that extra resolution:

iso64

ISO 64 (f3.5, 1/4 sec)

iso100

ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/6 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/10 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/25 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/40 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f3.5, 1/100 sec)

As far as I can tell, the Stylus Tough 8000 starts out with very clean images at ISO 64. You’ll notice a little grain appearing at ISO 100 but nothing to be concerned about. At ISO 200, there’s some visible noise appearing, but compare this to the Stylus Tough 6000’s ISO 200 crop and you’ll notice the Stylus Tough 8000 has lower apparent noise since there’s stronger noise reduction here.

By ISO 400, noise levels on the 12 megapixel sensor here become worse than that of the 10 megapixel one. You may want to stick to small printing and display when using ISO 400 here on the camera. At ISO 800 and 1600, you’ll notice a progressive drop in terms of color saturation. At this point, noise levels are high with much loss of detail, and image quality becomes unusable. If you’re comparing the two siblings (Stylus Tough 6000 and 8000), now is the time to compare the crops here against those of the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000!

chart

Since the Stylus Tough 6000 and 8000 share the same 3.6X zoom lens, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they display similar traits in these areas. There’s moderate barrel distortion, low pincushion distortion and a slight touch of edge softness here. The good thing here is chromatic aberration (color fringing) levels were very low, most of the time, they’re not visible unless you pixel-peep often. I didn’t find any issue with redeye since the camera removes any visible redeye automatically (and there’s even a tool in playback mode as well just in case).

The Olympus Stylus 8000’s image quality is usable if you’re shooting mostly in well lit conditions. There’s a bit of distortion and edge softness here, which isn’t something new on cameras with high-resolution, small internal lenses but it shouldn’t be a concern for most people. The REAL issue here is high noise levels, where the Stylus Tough 8000 uses noise reduction quite a bit at ISO 200 and struggles to cope with noise at ISO 400, 800 and 1600. It’s best you stick to the three lower ISO settings, and use ISO 400 only for emergencies.

Photo gallery

Wanna check out full sized photos? Visit Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 aka Mju Tough 8000 photo gallery!


Playback

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The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 shares the same very good playback mode of its 10 megapixel sibling, the Stylus Tough 6000. In playback, you can perform print marking, slideshow, voice clip attachment, image cropping, resizing and rotation. Photos can be magnified by 10X so you can inspect the little details in them.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos, by date in calendar view or in sets of 4, 9, 16 or 25 thumbnails. There are a handful of useful editing functions too, including a redeye removal tool and Shadow Adjustment edit under the “Perfect Fix” section in playback. You can also opt to turn your pictures into sepia or black and white ones; and adjust their saturation.

And just in case you forgot to use Beauty Mode when taking your picture, there’s a Beauty Fix tool in playback. You can apply things like Clear Skin (removes blemishes and such), Sparkle Eye, Dramatic Eye or all of the three effects [palm-faces self]. While your results may vary, depending on the person/portrait’s face, rest assured you’ll get some interesting (and gimmicky) results every time.

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The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 tells you pretty much everything about your photos: shooting details, exposure information (with shutter speed and aperture value) and a histogram. You also get two bonuses: the atmospheric pressure and altitude of the photo taken are shown as well.

Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is one of the more hardy rugged cameras in the current market. This little 12 megapixel camera is waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof. So you can definitely bring the Stylus Tough 8000 on your next visit to Alaska or sit down and have lunch without having to pull the camera out of your back pocket first.

There’s a 3.6X wide-angle zoom lens and a sharp, bright 2.7 inch LCD display. An LED lamp on the front helps to provide illumination for movies, low light and macro shots. Despite the very good build quality and nice design, the Stylus Tough 8000 still suffers from button clutter on the back. Olympus’ well-implemented Tap Control helps (especially when wearing gloves) but does not solve the issue of small, cluttered buttons entirely since it doesn’t cover all of the camera’s functions.

In terms of shooting, the Stylus Tough 8000 does have a rich point-and-shoot feature set but no manual controls. There are plenty of scene modes, Shadow Adjustment, redeye removal and two panorama mode options. The movie mode here is, in fact, nothing spectacular – just plain ol’ VGA recording at 30 FPS.

Performance-wise, the Stylus Tough 8000 is around average in terms of speed. There is nothing in particular that screams ‘blazing fast’, but things aren’t sluggish either, considering the 12 megapixel files the camera needs to process. Battery life of the Stylus Tough 8000 is around 10% above the group average.

Yet another camera in 2 weeks is let down thanks to its ‘high resolution’. The 12 megapixel images produced by the Stylus Tough 8000 show little resolution improvement over 10 megapixel sensors… And in fact, noise levels are higher than that of the camera’s 10 megapixel sibling.

Bottom line is, the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 has little to offer over its 10 megapixel sibling (higher resolution, crushproof, marginally better battery life [4%], better burst and shot-to-shot) while compromising image quality thanks to the added resolution. You might as well have a look at the Stylus Tough 6000 or competing rugged camera instead, unless you’re in desperate need of the “crushproof” part of the camera.

What’s hot:

  • Extremely rugged: waterproof, drop proof, freezeproof and crushproof!
  • LED illuminator is handy for macro/low-light shooting
  • Tap Control for eases operation with gloved hands
  • Above average battery life
  • Nicely viewable LCD screen
  • Intelligent Auto mode and built-in help tooltips for shooting functions
  • Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment and useful set of playback editing tools
  • Decent image quality till ISO 200; ISO 400 for emergencies

What’s not:

  • Lack of manual controls
  • Some edge softness; noisy pictures at ISO 400 and above
  • Small, cluttered controls
  • Sub-standard low-light performance (focusing and high ISO)

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB xD-Picture or microSD card


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8 Comments

  1. Rob April 14, 2009 Reply

    The Tough 8000 is waterproof to 10m not 3m, and safe beyond that depth by some margin :-)

  2. Brad April 14, 2009 Reply

    Hi Rob, sorry about the little typo there; made a correction in that statement. Thanks for pointing it out =)

  3. Jess April 17, 2009 Reply

    Hi, does anyone know how to make tap control work whilst looking through the pictures?

  4. Jess April 17, 2009 Reply

    Oh right, only got the camera this morning so have spent most of the day playing on it!
    Just found out that if you tap the screen when you are taking pictures then it goes onto a preview mode, where if you tap the sides of the camera it flicks through the images.
    This is definitely the coolest camera yet!

    • Muhammad September 12, 2012 Reply

      Yes. It has holes on the side for the microphone. It will rorecd sound under the water as well. If you are making a movie. It is really neat. This is the 2nd one I have owned. My 1st one we gave to my son. he loves it. So we now have 2 under water ones and we take it in the water ALL the time. You totally should go in the water with it. You will love it even more!

  5. Rich May 15, 2009 Reply

    The article states that you can get a MicroSD memory up to 16gb. But I have found no indication that the Tough 8000 is compatible with SDHC. Has anyone tried a microSDHC card larger than 2gb in a Tough 8000, and does it work?

  6. raymund June 4, 2009 Reply

    does this camera has date/time imprint? thanks

  7. mike July 12, 2009 Reply

    Cool. I was looking at the difference between 6000 vs 8000. because of this, i will buy the 6000. great job.

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