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The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is a tough camera that can take some abuse and keep taking photos. However, the image and video it captures are of lackluster quality.
In the Box
- The Stylus Tough 8000 camera
- LI-50B Lithium-ion battery
- F-1AC power adapter
- USB cable
- AV cable (composite video & analog audio)
- Software CD
- MicroSD adapter
In our tests on the accuracy of the colors that the Tough 8000 captured, we found that it had decent, but unspectacular performance. We test by photographing a color chart and comparing the captured colors to the originals, and we found that most colors were reasonably accurate. This camera did have some issues with some colors, though: skin tones were a little bright, while other colors (such as greens and yellows) were a little muted. More on how we test color.
The Tough 8000 does not offer any color modes: all images are captured using the standard color settings that we tested above.
The Tough 8000 falls in the middle of the range for noise: there is definitely some noise in the images it captures, but it is not hideous. One thing that we did find in our tests is that the camera is applying a lot of nose correction in the images, which is a double-edges sword. Although this removes a lot of the noise, it also removes a lot of the detail in images, as you can see from the samples below, where the high ISO samples have a soft, blurry appearance. More on how we test noise.
Our first test looks at how the camera deals with two different amounts of light: 60 lux (equivalent to indoor lighting) and 300 lux (about the same as sunny day). We didn't see a huge amount of difference between the two lighting situations: in both, the amount of noise climbed as the ISO was increased, ending up at about 3.7 per cent for both. That's an acceptable amount of noise, but it comes at the cost of a significant amount of loss of detail in the images themselves.
If we compare the noise in the 3000 lux images to those found in other cameras, we can see that the Tough 8000 is a decent performer: it has less noise than the Pentax W80, but more than the Canon D10.
The Tough 8000 has an ISO range of 64 to 1600. Unlike most other point & shoot cameras, there are no higher settings that shoot at a lower resolution. You can set the ISO manually, or use the Auto setting. In addition, there is an option called High Auto, which sets the ISO automatically, but pushes it higher than the standard auto setting for faster shutter speeds. Below are sample crops of photos taken at all of the ISO settings that this camera supports.
NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.
We found a mixed bag of results in our tests on the resolution of the images that the Tough 8000 captured: the images had low distortion and chromatic aberration, but they also had problems with sharpness: we found that the images were rather soft across the zoom range. More on how we test resolution.
We found very little distortion in the images we captured across the zoom range: there was a slight amount of barrel distortion at the widest setting and a small amount of pincushion at the mid and telephoto ends, but these were relatively minor, as you can see in the examples.
The sharpness of the images captured by the Tough 8000 was disappointing; we found that the sharp edges of our test chart turned into soft, blurry messes, as you can see in the examples below. This was particularly pronounced at the edges of the frame, but the details in the middle of the frame were not that sharp either.
Chromatic Aberration ()
We didn't see much evidence of chromatic aberration in our test images, though; they were lacking the color fringes that indicate a problem with the lenses diffracting colors of light by different amounts.
Quality & Size Options
The Tough 8000 offers 7 different image resolutions (see below) and 2 different quality levels: Fine and Normal. There is no option to capture RAW images, which are the data captured directly from the image sensor. The capture resolutions also take a rather sharp leap from 12 megapixels down to 5 megapixels: there are no options in between these two.
The Tough 800 includes an sensor shift image stabilization system, where the camera shifts the image sensor to try and compensate for hand shake. We found that this was moderately effective: when we attached the camera to our stabilization test rig and turned this feature on, the captured images were a little sharper on average. So, it is worth turning on if you are shooting hand-held images, but leave it turned off if you are using a tripod. More on how we test image stabilization.
The movie mode of the Tough 8000 is a little disappointing: video is only captured at a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, and the video was jerky and grainy. The videos are captured as .AVI files with motion JPEG compression, which means that they can be imported into most video editing applications without problems. Mono sound is recorded with the videos from the small microphone on the front of the camera, but the sound quality is poor and it is rather easy to inadvertently block the microphone with the fingertips.
You can zoom in and out with the camera's 3.6x zoom lens before you start recording, but once you hit the shutter, the zoom is locked into the current position. The same is true of the auto focus; the camera sets the focus when you half press the shutter, but does not update it while videos are being captured.
We found that the colors that the Tough 8000 captured in videos were not impressive; although the camera avoided the oversaturated colors that we often see in video captured by cameras, we found the same problems with some colors (such as yellows and oranges) being rather inaccurate. More on how we test video color.
We were also not impressed with the sharpness of the video that the Tough 8000 captured: they lacked detail, and even small amounts of movement caused the image to break down into a blurry mess. More on how we test video sharpness.
Accessing the playback mode of the Tough 8000 is very simple: you just hit the playback button above the directional control. In playback mode, there are 4 different view for looking at images (see below), as well as the ability to view up to 30 thumbnails on the screen at once. A calendar view is also available, which allows you to choose images by the day they were shot.
On individual images, you can zoom in up to 10x, which is more than enough to check if an image is in focus.
A basic selection of image editing features are available on the Tough 8000, but there are some odd omissions. You can save a smaller version of a photo (at either 640 by 480 or 320 by 240 pixel resolution), but you can't resize it. You can crop an image, but only to one of a number of preset sizes of cropping frame. You can edit the colors of an image, but only to change it to black and white, sepia or to increase or decrease the saturation. None of these tools are particularly useful: it's better to ignore them and edit the images on computer.
The Tough 8000 also includes a number of editing tools under the rather unfortunate title of 'Beauty Fix'. These claim to produce clearer skin, add a sparkle to the eye or to add a dramatic eye. You can see examples of these in the controls section of our review.
Direct Print Options
The Tough 8000 has two approaches to printing: you can flag images for later printing using DPOF, or connect the camera directly to a printer using PictBridge. Both of these features worked without major issues in our tests.
There is no viewfinder on the Tough 8000: everything is done through the LCD screen.
On the back of the Tough 8000 is a 2.7-inch LCD screen with a 230k pixel resolution. That's enough to get a decent preview of the image, but it does not look as sharp as it does on cameras with larger or higher resolution screens, such as the Panasonic ZS3.
To the left of the lens is the flash of the Tough 8000. This flash is rather small, but the fact that it is set away from the lens helps to minimize red-eye. We found that it was reasonably powerful, illuminating objects out to 10-11 feet. It does seem to take a fair time to recycle, though; we typically had to wait 4-5 seconds before we could shoot again.4 flash modes are available in most shooting modes: Auto, Red-eye, Fill in and Flash Off.
The LED next to the flash is a separate light source that is used in the cameras Super Macro LED mode to illuminate small objects for better shots. This should be used with caution; the LED is very bright.
The 3.6x zoom lens of the Tough 8000 is built into the camera body: it does not protrude from the camera when in use. When it is not in use, a metal cover slides up from underneath to protect the front element of the lens.
The lens has a focal length of 5mm to 18.2mm, which is equivalent to a focal length of 28 to 102mm,. That's a decent wide angle, but the telephoto end is shorter than most of our comparison waterproof models: the Canon D10 has a 5x zoom. And if you don't need a waterproof camera, it's much shorter than the 12x zoom offered by cameras like the Panasonic ZS3.
The power source of the Tough 8000 is a small Lithium Ion battery that fits into the battery and memory card compartment on the bottom of the camera. This battery (model number LI-50B) holds about 925mAh of charge, which translates into a reasonable battery life. Olympus quotes it at around 250 shots, and this feels about right; we found in our tests that it lasted for a couple of days of serious use.
While many other manufacturers are moving over to using SDHC cards, Olympus is steadfastly sticking with the xD PictureCard format on their point and shoot cameras. This means that the cameras are slower (xD cards can't copy data as fast as SDHC cards) and have a lower maximum capacity (2GB, while SDHC cards are available in sizes of up to 16GB). A 2GB xD PictureCard will cost you about $17, and can hold up to 348 images, or about 18 minutes of video.
Perhaps sensing which way the wind is blowing when it comes to memory cards, the Tough 8000 also comes with an adapter that allows you to use MicroSD memory cards in the xD PictureCard slot. This does work with the newer MicroSDHC memory cards as well: Olympus claims that cards of capacities of up to 8GB have been tested with this; they have produced a list of tested cards here. An 8GB MicroSDHC memory card will cost about $20.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
The Tough 8000 has a single connection to the outside world: a single port under a latched cover on the right side of the camera body. This provides a USB connection and a composite video connection, and both cables are included. The port is a proprietary one, though; if you loose the included cables, you'll have to buy a new set from Olympus.
The tough is waterproof to a depth of about 33 feet, which means it can be used for most types of diving. It might be fine going deeper, but that's the maximum depth that Olympus guarantees it to.
The Tough 8000 is designed to withstand being dropped onto hard surfaces from heights of up to 6.6 feet.
The Tough 8000 can keep taking photographs in temperatures of down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (around -10 degrees Celsius), so it would be fine on the ski slopes.
The Tough 8000 focuses on the automatic modes, with the most automated being the iAuto mode. Selected from the mode dial on the back of the camera, this mode puts every setting except image size and quality into an automatic mode, turning the camera into a literal point & shoot. For those who want a bit more control, the program mode allows the user to set white balance, ISO, shooting mode, metering and image size and quality, although all of them can be set to auto if required.
Auto Mode Features
Focus - There are two standard focus modes on the Tough 8000; iESP, a spot focus mode and a face detect mode. The ESP mode automatically picks the subject by scanning the frame for high-contrast objects, while the face detect mode scans for faces and uses them. There is no manual focus available; it has to be done automatically.
Three macro modes are available: Macro, Super Macro and Super Macro LED. The normal macro mode can focus down to a distance of 3.9 inches, while the Super Macro mode can focus right down to a distance of 0.8 inches. The Super Macro LED mode focuses down to the 3.9 inch distance, but turns on an LED light next to the flash to help illuminate small objects.
Exposure - The Tough 800 allows you to apply up to 2 stops of exposure correction either up or down, measured in one third of a stop steps. Unusually, the camera shows you a preview of the image with the exposure correction applied, making it easier to choose the appropriate correction. Another feature that can help is shadow adjustment, which looks for faces that are lost int eh shadows and tries to brighten them. There is no option for automatically bracketing exposures, though.
Metering - There are two metering modes on the Tough 8000: ESP and spot metering. ESP is an evaluative mode that tries to balance the metering for the entire frame, while the spot metering mode measures just the center of the frame.
White Balance - Preset white balance options are available for sunny, cloudy, tungsten, daylight and three fluorescent presets. An auto option is also available, but there is no custom or evaluative option.
Aperture - The 3.6x zoom lens of the Tough 8000 has a rather limited aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.1 at the wide end and f/5.0 to f/7.1 at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
Shutter Speed - The shutter speed range of the Tough 8000 is from 4 seconds down to 1/2000 of a second. That's a decent range for a point & shoot that should allow it to capture everything from snoozing whales under moonlight to sharks leaping into a bright blue sky. However, there is no option to manually control the shutter speed: the camera is always the one to pick the setting, depending on the selected scene mode.
Self-Timer - Only one option is available for the self-timer; a 10 second delay. There is not option for a shorter or longer delay, or for shooting a series of shots at pre-set intervals.
In addition, the Tough 8000 offers 19 scene modes, including the usual options of portrait, landscape, and night scene. The more unusual options include three underwater modes (two for wide angle shots and one for macro) and a pre-capture mode that captures 2 seconds of video before you press the shutter button.
The Tough 8000 includes a number of picture effects designed to improve the quality of captured images. These fall into two groups, called Perfect Fix and the rather oddly named Beauty Fix. The Perfect fix processing has two components: shadow fix and redeye fix. The first of these attempts to bring out shadow detail in images, while the second removes red eye in images. The Beauty Fix processing tries to do three things: clear the skin, add a sparkle to the eyes and to make eyes more dramatic.
The Perfect Fix processing can be applied to any photo, but the Beauty Fix effect only works with faces: if it cannot detect a face in the image, it fails. In our test shot above, the Perfect Fix made the image look much worse, as it artificially boosted the brightness of the black background. However, it might be a good thing to try if you shoot photos in low light, as it could pull out some shadow detail. The Beauty Fix did make skin look smoother, but we didn't see any noticeable effect from the sparkle and dramatic eyes effect: perhaps my eyes are already sparkling and dramatic enough.
There are two drive modes on this camera: the standard drive mode and a high-speed mode that lowers the resolution to 3 megapixels. The standard mode can shoot continuously to the capacity of the card, but the high speed mode is limited to a burst of12 images before it has to slow down and write the images out to the memory card.
Shot to Shot ()
We measured the speed of the standard drive mode at just under 1 frame a second, and the high speed mode at just under 5 frames a second.
The Tough 8000 is a chunky camera, but it fits well into the hand, with the raised ridge on the front of the case providing something for the fingertips to grip. This is good, as the shiny metal coating of the case can get very slippery with sweaty or wet fingers. We also found this metal finish to be rather prone to getting scratched; even after light use, our review model had several prominent scratches on the front of the camera body.
Buttons & Dials
The shutter and zoom buttons are well placed, with the index finger falling naturally onto the shutter button. The zoom buttons are rather small, but fall naturally under the tip of the thumb. It is also possible to turn the mode dial with the thumb, meaning that you can change the shooting mode while shooting one handed. However, accessing the other controls (including the menu to choose the scene modes) requires two hands.
The Tough 8000 does provide an alternative way to navigate through the touch control feature. When this is enabled, you can access a number of features by tapping a side of the camera body. Tapping the back puts you into playback mode, while tapping the left side enables the macro setting and the right the flash. You can then navigate the options with single taps, and two taps on the top of the body selects the chosen option. The idea is that you can control the camera while wearing gloves, and it works well, as far as it goes. However, it does not allow you access to all of the features; if you want to control anything other than the macro and flash, you have to use the small OK button to navigate the
The menus for this camera are broken down into two sections: the function menu accessed by pressing the OK button, and the main menu that comes from the menu button. The function menu allows you to control options such as the ISO speed, drive mode, metering pattern, etc. This is pretty straightforward to navigate; the directional keys move up and down and left and right select the options for the chosen setting, which is shown at the bottom of the screen.
The main menu system for the Tough 8000 is rather more awkward to use. The large icons make it mostly obvious how features are divided, but the features themselves are scattered across several sub-menus that aren't logically structured. Image size and quality get a top-level option of their own, but the image stabilizer feature is buried near the bottom of the camera menu.
Manual & Learning
An 84-page manual is included with the Tough 8000 (in both English and Spanish) which covers the features of the camera in resonable detail. It doesn't really explain the more complex features well, though: some (such as the image stabilization and the shadow adjust feature) only get a short explanation that doesn't really help the user to understand what they do.
Canon PowerShot D10 Comparison
In our tests, we found that these two cameras performed quite similarly. Both had adequate color and reasonable noise performance, but the Fuji did slightly better on our resolution tests, which look at how well the camera can capture detail.
The Olympus is a much tougher camera, though; the company claims that it can handle drops from up to 6.6 feet high, water to a depth of 33 feet and temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The Fuji can handle water to a depth of 10 feet, but they make no claims on temperature or drop resistance. Basically, the Olympus is far more likely to survive rough treatment than the Fuji, but this might be overkill for some users. The Fuji will undoubtedly survive a day at the beach, but the Olympus will survive a day at the beach followed by a bit of diving, a climb up a mountain and a fist fight at a bar afterward. Whether the Olympus is worth the extra $150 depends on what your idea of fun is.
Pentax Optio W80 Comparison
Both cameras are equally priced, leaving a little change from $300. The Canon D10 is the winner in our performance tests, though; it scored better on our tests of color accuracy, noise level and resolution. The only area where the Olympus had an advantage was in image stabilization, where the Stylus Tough 8000 was a little better at correcting for camera shake. Overall, though, the Canon was the better performer, with sharper images and better color.
Both are also equally tough, handling water to a depth of 33 feet, temperatures down to 14 Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius) and handling a drop from up to about 6 feet. This means both should be able to survive your outdoor adventures: they would be at home snorkel diving, skiing, mountain climbing and generally boldly going into the great outdoors.
The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is the more expensive camera by a significant amount. But it's also tougher, putting up with deeper drives (33 feet). Neither camera had a huge advantage in performance: we found that both had only lackluster performance that didn't measure up to some of the other waterproof cameras that we have tested.
There's no doubt that the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is a tough little camera. It can handle water to 33 feet, be dropped from 6 feet and temperatures down to a chilly 14 Fahrenheit and still keep taking photos. So it would not have a problem surviving your most extreme adventures.
The problem is that the images it takes just aren't that good. We found lackluster performance in our tests, with images that lacked detail, were rather noisy and which had some inaccurate colors. Other cameras at similar prices (notably the Canon D10) take better pictures and are just as tough.