Digital Camera Home > Fun in the Sun

Fun in the Sun: Conclusion

Seven waterproof digital cameras

<<Fujifilm Z33WP

Conclusion

When I started working on this project, I envisioned a meandering feature exploration where I could simply highlight unique features of these waterproof cameras and be able to say, "You pick; they're all great in one way or another, because they're waterproof!" Well, as usual, it's not that easy. As a reviewer, I inevitably find stuff you should know about before committing your dollars. That's why you come here: to read what people who've had time with the cameras experienced.

Well, we have had a lot of time with these cameras, playing at the beach and the pool for a good and varied experience.

The preceding overviews only touched on a few basic points. I'm intentionally leaving out a lot of information about things like face detection, scene modes, and other special features for a very good reason. When I go out with my family to play in the pool or at the beach, I don't think about the 18 Scene modes or the special gee-whiz capture modes. I do what you do. I shout, "don't dunk your brother," put the camera in Program or Auto, then I point and shoot and try to have fun. So I wrote these overviews with those facts in mind, sticking to what you need to know about how these cameras will perform in the conditions you're likely to encounter on a water-bound adventure in daylight conditions. Feel free to see the associated reviews for actual test results and more information about special features (in some cases).

Still, I also know that we're each looking for something a little different from a waterproof digital camera, so I'm breaking down my recommendations into three categories: Capture speed, Image quality, and Value.

Image quality

Pentax Optio W60

At the top of the image quality heap, we have the Pentax W60, a camera whose stock, unfortunately, is running thin at Web retailers. Its optics and sensor quality are good, just about good enough for daily carry. Its major flaw was the shutter button, which was difficult to press, though it was likely damaged during our testing, so we're pretty sure you can ignore that. Though the Canon D10 is actually sharper and higher res in the center of the frame, the Pentax is significantly sharper in the corners, and overall sharpness wins the day.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

Next I recommend the Panasonic TS1 whose corner sharpness ironically isn't quite as good as the Olympus 550WP (whose downfall is more about noise processing than optical flaw). The center and corner sharpness are good enough for daily use, and image processing handles noise well, retaining plenty of detail, even at its 12-megapixel resolution. It's also fast, which puts it in the Capture speed category as well.

Olympus Tough 8000

The Olympus Tough 8000 is also a clear leader in the overall image quality column. On both the Tough 8000 and Tough 6000, there was one corner that was softer than the others, but in general image quality was good. What keeps the Tough 6000 off the top lists is the terribly slow image capture speed.

Canon PowerShot D10

The Canon D10's image quality is excellent in the center, but corner softness encroaches quite far into the frame. That'll be less important for diving, for which the Canon D10 was built. Just about everything else about the Canon D10 is a home run, so as long as you're okay with soft corners, you'll be very happy with the PowerShot D10 as a solid watersport camera.

Capture speed

Pentax W60

The numbers don't lie, so once again the Pentax W60 has the lowest autofocus shutter lag of the bunch at 0.39 second.

Panasonic TS1

The Panasonic TS1 has an autofocus shutter lag of 0.44 second.

Canon D10

The Canon D10's autofocus shutter lag is only a little slower at 0.47 second.

If you're one to prefocus then shoot, the order changes: TS1 (0.011), Z33WP (0.037), Tough 8000 (0.052), D10 (0.071), and W60 (0.098). That really is splitting hairs, though, so considering the image quality ranking, and that AF speed is a greater factor in the overall experience, we'll weight our results based on the first order above.

Value

True value can be had in two categories. If you're looking for the greatest ruggedness in a camera, check the Durability section. For the most value, see Cost.

Durability

Olympus Tough 8000

In terms of most ruggedness for the dollar, the clear winner is the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000. It has the specs to speak for it, plus the image quality is quite good. Among the three others starting at $399, the Tough 8000 is voted most likely to survive and come back with the images.

Canon PowerShot D10

After that, the prize goes to the Canon D10, which is freezeproof, droppable, and submersible; and with just a little help will even float.

Panasonic TS1 and Pentax W60

The Panasonic TS1 and Pentax W60 come in after that, with excellent image quality, solid build and freeze resistance.

Cost

Olympus Stylus Tough 6000

Though I called the Tough 6000 out for poor performance in the autofocus shutter lag department, if those items don't bother you, the images of the Tough 6000 are pretty good at their lowest ISO settings, especially at the $260 price point online. Add its waterproof, shockproof, and freezeproof capabilities, and it's a good camera to have when the going gets tough.

Fujifilm Z33WP

Our low-cost speed leader is the Fujifilm Z33WP. So long as you know the images are only for 4x6 printing and Web posting, the Fujifilm Z33WP is a very good value, serving as a second or third camera in the arsenal reserved just for water fun adventures. Its major advantages are fast autofocus, and a good daylight LCD; it's major dissuading is a lens that produces very soft corners -- a flaw that you won't notice at 4x6, but that increases at higher ISOs.

Olympus Stylus 550WP

The other low-cost camera in our roundup offers noticeably better image quality than the Z33WP, but at the expense of maddeningly slow shutter response. Image noise is also a problem, but optically, the Olympus 550WP is the number two sharpest lens in the roundup, right behind the Pentax W60. It's too slow for use by -- or shots of -- kids, but if more of your subjects are either relatively static or posed, the Olympus Stylus 550WP is an inexpensive option for water-centric adventures you'd not want to risk a dry land digicam on.

 

 

<<Fujifilm Z33WP

Follow Imaging Resource:

Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate