Rugged, waterproof, active lifestyle cameras are a niche market success story. That’s because they do double duty as normal, broad-spectrum point-and-shoot cameras and are also perfect for taking skiing, surfing, to the beach, on the boat or any other place you might think twice about bringing an unprotected DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Active lifestyle cameras, typically featuring waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof construction, have been around for decades. But over the past few years, this expanding market sector has seen a remarkable transformation, with new or updated point-and-shoot and mirrorless models from virtually every major camera maker, including Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Ricoh, Panasonic, Olympus and Sony.
Most of the models detailed here pack an impressive complement of high-tech features, including Full HD video capability, into fashionably rugged-looking or stylishly slim packages designed to appeal to hikers, travelers, boaters, beachgoers and off-road enthusiasts.
The top models include such features as high-res sensors, bigger, higher res LCDs, OLED monitors, built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, and enhanced waterproof ratings to appeal to even scuba divers. Situated at the intersection of high style, high adventure and cutting-edge technology, these cameras deliver a satisfying blend of high-end performance and shooting flexibility. All of which makes them a high-value proposition for consumers who want to go anywhere, in any weather, and bring back memorable images.
Going into 2016, here are our editors’ picks for the most-enticing, adventure-proof models your customers will be asking about in the New Year and beyond. The fact that many of them come in a range of delicious colors is another big plus in an age when everyone wants to flaunt their own style.
Our Selection of Adventure Cameras
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4. This crisply styled, waterproof, adventure camera incorporates a fast, water-repellent f/2 lens (a 4x, 25–100mm equivalent* f/2–4.9 zoom). The flagship model of the iconic Olympus Tough line also sports a 16 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch BSI (backside-illuminated) CMOS sensor, the latest, high-tech TruePic VII image processor, sensor-shift image stabilization and built-in Wi-Fi. New features to the Tough line include its ability to shoot in RAW format and its AF target selection function.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 50 feet; shockproof to 7 feet; crushproof to 220 pounds-force; and freezeproof down to 14º F.
It also features: a 3.0-inch, 460K-dot OLED monitor; Full HD 1080p video capability at 60 frames per second (fps) with multi-motion movie IS for smoother video; full-res burst capability of 5 fps (60 fps at 3MP); interval shooting; microscope mode; built-in GPS, e-Compass and manometer functions; and four dedicated underwater modes, including macro. It comes in red or black, $379.99. olympusamerica.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS30. This sleek, compact P&S provides a 16.1MP, 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor and a Lumix DC Vario 25–100mm, 4x optical zoom lens. An optical, 5-way Mega OIS image stabilization system helps capture sharp, shake-free images and videos even in low light, while a digital intelligent zoom function extends the lens’s effective reach to 8x.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 26 feet; shockproof to handle a 5-foot fall; dustproof; and freezeproof to 14º F.
In addition, a bright 2.7-inch, 230K-dot TFT LCD screen facilitates composition and image review. A 23-zone autofocus system with AF tracking plus quick AF delivers fast, precise autofocus with a wide variety of subjects. Other features include: intelligent auto mode automatically selects the optimum scene mode for the shooting situation; an 8-fps burst rate; creative control mode that enables time-lapse sequences in standard and panorama formats; an advanced underwater mode to compensate for lost red tones; and 720p HD video capture in the MP4 format. Black, blue or red, $99.99. panasonic.com
Nikon Coolpix AW130. Designed with plenty of attitude but still stylish, the Coolpix AW130 features a 16MP, low-light CMOS sensor; a 5x, 24–120mm f/2.8–4.9 Nikkor zoom lens; and a 3-inch, 910K-dot OLED monitor with antireflection coatings and six brightness adjustments. Add to that hybrid vibration reduction (lens shift and electronic VR for movies), built-in Wi-Fi with NFC for image transfer and remote operation via a smartphone, GPS functions and an electronic compass.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 100 feet; shockproof to 7 feet; and freezeproof to 14º F.
Other niceties are: Full HD 1080p video capture at various frame rates with stereo sound; special effects; 20 scene modes, including underwater scene; and a map display on its LCD with points of interest. A handy action control function lets shooters control selected functions one-handed by shaking the camera! Orange, black, blue and yellow, $349.95. nikonusa.com
Fujifilm FinePix XP80. With vibrant, contemporary styling, the FinePix XP80 is Fujifilm’s toughest camera for extreme weather. The dustproof, go-anywhere P&S features a 16.4MP BSI CMOS sensor; a 5x, 28–140mm zoom lens; optical image stabilization; and a 2.7-inch, 460K-dot LCD.
Adventures specs include: waterproof to 50 feet; shockproof to 5.8 feet; and freezeproof to 14º F.
Also provide are: a burst mode button for shooting at up to 60 fps; underwater and underwater macro modes; interval shooting; Full HD 1,080p movie capture, even underwater; and Wi-Fi for one-touch transfer. Using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app and the XP80’s Wi-Fi button, users can shoot remotely and select images/movies to be transferred to smartphones, tablets and computers. Plus, an action camera mode turns the XP80’s lens into a fixed 18mm for hands-free shooting with the camera mounted. Blue, yellow, graphite or purple, $179.99. fujifilmusa.com
Canon PowerShot D30. Canon’s ergonomically designed, distinctively contoured, 12.1 megapixel D30 features a 5x, 28–140mm f/3.9–4.8 optical zoom lens; a 3-inch, 461K-dot Pure Color LCD with a delta dot pattern for enhanced performance and sunlight mode to reduce glare; intelligent image stabilization; and built-in GPS.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 82 feet; shockproof to 6.5 feet; and temperature resistant from 14º F to 104º F.
The D30 can capture Full HD 1080p video at a cinematic 24 fps, and it has a wind filter feature and the use of its optical zoom while recording for maximum movie flexibility. It can shoot up to 280 shots or play back five hours of video per battery charge. The camera also boasts low-light shooting performance via Canon’s HS (high sensitivity) system. Blue, $299.99. usa.canon.com
Ricoh WG-30W. An upgraded and rebadged version of the popular Pentax Optio WG-3, this latest iteration of the very successful, uniquely styled WG line continues the tradition with waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and coldproof construction. This classic has a 16MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor; a 5x, 28–140mm zoom lens; and a newly designed image processor to enable low-light sensitivity up to ISO 6400.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 40 feet; shockproof to 4.9 feet; dustproof; and temperature resistant from 14º F to 104º F.
New to the WG series is built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing wireless image transfer and remote control of camera functions via smart devices. And in digital microscope mode, users can position the six LED macro lights around the lens barrel to help capture the tiniest details. Other features include: a 2.7-inch, 230K-dot LCD with antireflection coating; high-speed Full HD video capture in MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 formats; slow-motion capability; and a built-in micro-HDMI port for output to HDTVs and other compatible devices. Orange or black. $279.95. ricohimaging.com
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-860. Incorporating the same 16MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor as the Tough TG-4, it marries the sensor to a 5x, 21–105mm f/3.5–5.7 lens and a TruePic VII processor. This more economical, slimmer alternative has a 3-inch, 460K-dot LCD that tilts 180º and a front face button that make capturing selfies easy. The TG-860 records Full HD 1,920×1,080 video at 60 fps, and its sportcam mode provides four video options, including movies at 120 or 240 fps and a time-lapse movie mode.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 50 feet (up from 33 feet); crushproof to 220 pounds-force; shockproof to withstand a 7-foot drop; and freezeproof to 14º F.
Other features are: Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities; a sport-burst mode to capture sequential images with a shutter interval from 0.05–60 seconds; interval settings; intelligent auto; scene modes; handheld starlight mode; panorama mode; an AF illuminator; and metal construction. Black, orange or white, $279.99. olympusamerica.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30. This fashion statement is slim, with a thickness of only 0.6 inch and a weight of just 4.4 ounces sans battery. Sony’s pocketsize gem has a sliding, protective lens cover for outdoor shooting. It employs an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, a 5x, 26–130mm Carl Zeiss Vario-R Tessar lens and a large 3.3-inch, 1,229K-dot OLED touch screen. The TX30 can record Full HD 1,920×1,080 AVCHD video at 60i and capture full-res, 10-fps bursts.
Adventure specs include: waterproof to 33 feet; shockproof to handle falls of 5 feet; dustproof; and freezeproof to 14º F.
It also features: face, blink and smile detection; SteadyShot sensor-shift image stabilization; clear image zoom for lossless doubling of its focal length; and 360º intelligent sweep panorama mode. A magnifying glass function plus LED lights help capture intricate detail on subjects less than an inch away. Blue, black, orange and pink. $229.99. sony.com
*All lens focal lengths are 35mm equivalents.