Olympus has rebranded its SW series as 'mju Tough'. The mju Tough-6000 certainly lives up to its name. It's waterproof to a depth of 3m, shockproof from a height of 1.5m and freezeproof down to -10°C. If Captain Scarlet had stuck around long enough to buy a digital camera, it would have been this one.
The 6000 is available now for around £210.
It takes nerve to hold this camera out at arm's length and let go. The sound made by £210 of expensive optical engineering hitting the deck is enough to make your blood run cold. But the 6000 stands up to such treatment and more. It'll also survive being buried 1ft deep in wet sand by a small child and then being rinsed clean in the sea. If you then decide to do some snorkelling, it's perfectly capable of going with you.
Just don't go deeper than 3m. If that's your plan, you should go for the mju Tough-8000 instead, which is waterproof down to 10m.
The 6000 is practical, too. It's no bigger than the average compact, and slim enough to slide into a trouser or shirt pocket. You're not paying silly money for all this ruggedness, either -- it's not much more expensive than other 10-megapixel compacts with wideangle zooms.
The controls work well and they're easy to figure out. The buttons on the back are on the small side, though, so, if you're halfway up the north face of the Eiger and trying to press the buttons through three layers of mittens, it could get frustrating. But Olympus has also included a novel 'tap' control, whereby you tap the sides of the camera to activate various functions.
As an everyday camera, it works as well as any other compact. The colour balance, auto exposure and autofocus are all good. It's hard to find anything to dislike about this camera. You can even choose from a range of colours.
Close examination of the pictures suggests the 6000's definition is a little down on what you might expect from a 10-megapixel sensor, and certainly down on the latest 12-megapixel cameras. You won't notice it in normal-sized prints, but it's something to consider if supreme quality is what you're after.
The only other gripes are minor practical ones. Some rubber corners would have been welcome. This is a pretty hard-edged camera to be chucking around -- the camera might be fine afterwards, but you don't want dents in your floor or cracks in your paving slabs. Another issue is that, if you do want a properly ruggedised camera, you might as well go the whole hog and get the 8000 instead.
The Olympus mju Tough-6000 isn't some testosterone-pumped freak of a camera. It's a perfectly normal-looking, though stylish, pocket-sized compact that just happens to be able to survive extraordinary amounts of abuse. The picture quality is good rather than great, but, apart from that, it's a tempting buy for outdoor types.
Edited by Charles Kloet