If you're after a tough camera, you might want one that looks the part too. The Olympus mju Tough-8000 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1 do the business, but they'd look equally at home in a cocktail bar as under the waves. Canon's chunky PowerShot D10, though, looks like it actually belongs underwater.
The D10 is available for around £300.
This isn't just a super-slim camera with armour plating. The D10's fat little body houses a standard (that is, extending) zoom lens, albeit one shielded from hostile environments by a glass panel clamped down by what look convincingly like Allen keys.
That makes the body thicker, but arguably it's worth it, because the D10 has a very sharp lens. Put the D10's pictures alongside those of the 8000, for example, and the difference in fine detail is quite striking when the pictures are magnified.
The body as a whole is all curves and rounded corners, and the aquamarine-silver colour scheme is just wonderful. You may not find the D10 in a wide variety of colours, but it doesn't matter, because it looks great as it is.
Round the back, Canon's ditched its rotary controller (presumably because it can't be waterproofed) and resorted to conventional directional buttons that do all the same jobs but with half the fuss. The buttons are chunky and clearly marked, and the combination of white icons on grey plastic makes them far easier to see than the embossed markings on the 8000 and FT1's buttons.
According to Panasonic, the LCD is twice as bright as a normal display, making it easier to see in difficult conditions. It's also covered by 2mm of Perspex for added protection.
With a depth rating of 10m, the D10 can dive as deep as the 8000, and that's as far as any current mainstream camera can go without a dedicated underwater housing.
It's handy for general use, too. You get the obligatory face-detection and auto-scene-detection modes. The good news about the latter is that the camera can select the best mode from all 18 available, and not just a limited subset, as with many cameras from other manufacturers.
However easy it is to get swept along by the D10's chunky chic, you're going to spot some flaws sooner or later. The lens is sharp, but it's a bog-standard 3x zoom with no wideangle capability and, judging by our test shots, some serious barrel distortion at shorter focal lengths.
Then there's the chunky body. That should make the D10 easier to get a grip on than slimmer underwater cameras, right? Not exactly. If anything, the tapering curve of the body makes it harder to hang on to -- not easier. The D10 has a slightly more plasticky feel than the 8000 and FT1, too. It also has a lower shockproof rating -- Canon quotes 1.22m, which is not far behind the FT1 (1.5m) but some way behind the 8000 (2m). The D10 is a great camera for diving, then, but not so good for chucking about.
Canon has a knack for working up ordinary technology into great-looking products, and that's never been truer than with the PowerShot D10. Let's face it: 12 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom are ordinary, but the outlandish styling, classy colour scheme and 10m depth rating mean the D10 just about pulls it off.
Edited by Charles Kloet