For those of you who don’t want to trawl through a whole load of my wafflings I’ll make this really easy and put my verdict at the top and waffle on about the reasonings afterwards.
Olympus Tough: Rubbish, hated it when it worked and now it doesn’t even work, what ever you do don’t buy one.
Pentax W90: Love it, it does exactly what I need an outdoor point and shoot camera to do i.e. take decent shots come rain or shine, kayaking or climbing and live easily and happily in the top of a rucsac, in a jacket pocket or in the front of my buoyancy aid so its handy for when I need it. I would definitely recommend one.
If that’s all you wanted to know then I’d stop here. If you want to know why I’ve come to this conclusion then read on:
I brought the Olympus as I needed a camera for a sea kayaking trip I was planning. I looked into my different options and based on the reviews I saw I came to the conclusion the Pentax was a better camera but I couldn’t find one out here in Dubai so plumped for the Tough instead. I liked how tough it felt and I liked how deep it was rated. How disappointing it was neither.
In use I found a series of problems. One of the most annoying was the lens cover. When using the camera in a wet environment everytime you turn it on or off the moving lens cover smears a few drops of water over the lens. Because the lens is tucked inside the housing a bit its quite difficult to get at it to wipe it clear. This made for lot of blurred photos.
Next problem was it never really felt waterproof. I didn’t ever use it diving, where it would have been down to its rated depth, but even so I would find tiny drops of water inside the battery and sd card case every now and then. This meant I never had any confidence in it.
Next up was the mild corrosion that developed. The cosmetic stuff on the main case wasn’t a problem it was the bits that formed on the ‘doors’ to the various compartments, e.g. battery and usb slot compartments. The corrosion caused the ‘doors’ to bind making them difficult to open when needed and also pushing then slightly out of line again reducing my confidence. I don’t know what cause the corrosion, yes I was using it on the sea but I’m pretty good at rinsing my kit in fresh water as soon as I get the chance.
Whats next? Image quality I think. Well I’m no perfectionist but I thought it was pretty crap. Even in the best of light the photos were noisy and this made it impossible to zoom in or crop them down. In anything less than good light it was shockingly bad. When I did the sea trip I actually brought the camera for I actually took a second (non waterproof camera) for use whenever I could because I wasn’t happy with the Olympus. I only used it when on the water.
Anything else ? Yep plenty unfortunately. The fact it couldnt take standard SD cards was frustrating, it was heavy because of all that steel making it uncomfortable to carry in a pocket and then to top it all it started corrupting photo files after taking a few shots. Basically the camera lasted about 7 months of not particularly hard use. Sure it wasn’t kept in it box in a dark dry cupboard but I didnt exactly test it to its so called ‘Tough’ name.
Piece of crap if you ask my opinion, dont get one. Was there anything good? Well the menu system worked pretty well, thats about it!!!
So I replaced it with the Pentax. I brought it from Manchester Airport Duty free back in September and to date its been excellent.
First of all there is no lens cover so its easy to wipe it clean and once it is there is no lens cover irritatingly smearing water back across it.
Next- it feels really robust and waterproof. It feels like a camera I can depend on to just keep working. Its lived in my buoyancy aid pocket for both sea trips and white water. I’ve taken it snorkelling as well as out and about in the hills and I dont give it a second thought, exactly as it should be for a roughty toughty outdoor camera.
Next- corrosion – there isn’t any. The casing is make of plastic and rubbery plastic and on close examination (as I’m writing this just to check) I cant see anything. Its been used on the sea plenty and its fine, better than fine actually, its good.
Image quality. Its satisfactory. Small compacts like this are never going to have great image quality, the size of the chip is just too small. But the Pentax is noticably better than the Olympus. I rarely use my small Canon Powershot 720 now although it does produce much better quality images. The Pentax is the camera I instinctively pick up and take with me.
So anything else? Well again yes there is plenty but this time its stuff I like. I like the size, weight and feel of the camera. The plastic body makes it much lighter feeling than the Olympus, its also softer and warmer. Its much easier to carry in a pocket. It takes a standard SD card which makes it compatible with other electronics I’ve got. I really like the really close up macro options, this has made for some great photos. Finally I like the HD video option and HDMI output although I don’t seem to use them much
Anything I don’t like? Well the camera preset programme options and menu I’m not particularly keen on, it feels a bit difficult to set it up the way I want it to work. i’m normally pretty easily pleased on that front in that I’ll stick it on auto and use it for 99% of the time like that. Auto on the Pentax does a couple of things that I cant seem to turn off and doesnt do a couple of things I’d like it to.
Then there are a couple of things that the Olympus didn’t do either like charge from a USB input. I need to carry a special charger for it and take out the batter to charge it. There are probably really good reasons for this but for a camera that I’m using while ‘out and about’ quite a bit it is a faff.
In-camera charging using a usb lead has got to be the way forwards for compact cameras especially with the mobile phone manufacturers agreeing to work towards a common standard for chargers probably based around the USB plug system. Unviversal charging systems will affect purchasing decisions in the future for sure.
So I’ve been using the Pentax w90 for about 6 months and I’m really happy with it. I had the Olympus Tough 8010 for 7 months before it stopped working properly but I wasn’t happy with it right from the start. If your looking for an outdoor camera its obvious which one I’d recommend based on my experience.
There are plenty of reviews of the 2 cameras from camera experts if you want that perspective. I’d definitely recommend a search on google (Click here for “pentax w90 vs olympus tough review”) before you finalise your decision.
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