While the broad category of point-and-shoot cameras has taken a real hit in sales receipts over the last few years, one bright exception continues to be ruggedized, waterproof active-lifestyle cameras.
The reason is simple: They do double duty as normal walk-around point and shoots and are also perfect for taking to the beach, on the boat, on a hike or any other place you might think twice about taking an unprotected DSLR or compact system camera.
Active lifestyle cameras featuring waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof construction have been around for, well, decades. But over the past few years, this expanding sector has seen a remarkable transformation, with new or seriously updated models from virtually every major camera maker, including Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus and Sony.
The latest entries we cover here pack an amazing complement of high-tech features, including Full HD 1080p video capability, in fashionably rugged-looking or stylishly slim packages designed to appeal to hikers, travelers, boaters, beach babies, and the outdoorsy set. The latest models feature higher res sensors; bigger, higher res LCDs and OLED monitors; and enhanced waterproof ratings to appeal to scuba divers.
Positioned at the intersection of high style, high adventure and cutting-edge technology, these cameras deliver a satisfying combination of high-end performance and shooting flexibility that makes them a high-value proposition for consumers who want to go anywhere, in any weather, and create memorable images along the way.
Here’s a compendium of the most enticing adventureproof models your customers will be comparing before they swipe their credit cards. And the fact that most of them come in several delicious colors is another big plus when presenting them to folks who are fashion-conscious, female, young, or just young at heart.
Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS. Successor to the TG-1 iHS, the first waterproof camera with a fast, water-repellent f/2 lens (a 4x, 25–100mm equivalent f/2–4.9 zoom), this ruggedly handsome, 12 megapixel flagship of the Tough line is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to 7 feet, crushproof to 220 pound force and freezeproof to 14ºF. It features a 12MP backlit CMOS sensor, 3.0-inch 610k-dot OLED monitor, Full HD 1080p video capability at 60 fps with multi-motion movie IS, full-res burst capability of 5 fps (60 fps at 3MP), built-in GPS, e.Compass and manometer functions, and four underwater modes, including macro. It accepts Tough lens kits that maintain its waterproof rating: the telephoto lens pack ($129) extends the 4x zoom to 6.8x; and the fisheye lens pack ($139) converts the lens to 19mm equivalent and captures a rounded 130º angle fisheye-effect image. Plus, an optional underwater housing ($309) allows the TG-2 iHS to operate at depths of 135 feet. $349.99, in red or black. olympusamerica.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5. This indestructible-looking dude is waterproof to 43 feet, dustproof, freezeproof to 14ºF, built to survive a drop of 6.5 feet and is pressure resistant to 220 pounds. The TS5 incorporates: an upgraded 16.1MP CMOS sensor; a 4.6x, 28–128mm equivalent f/3.3–5.9 Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens; a large, high-res 3.0-inch, 460k-dot AR-coated LCD; optical image stabilization; and sonic speed AF claimed to be 28% faster than before. Plus it can capture Full HD 1,920×1,080 video in AVCHD/MP4 formats with stereo sound. Notable is the addition of built-in Wi-Fi with Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity that lets users transform their smartphones into the camera’s remote controller. And its unique quad indicator includes GPS, compass, altimeter and barometer functions to record altitude, barometric pressure and orientation data, with the barometer indicating depth when underwater. $359.99, in orange, black, blue or silver. panasonic.com
Nikon Coolpix AW110. With its adventureproof features, this camera will keep shooting as the adrenaline is flowing: it’s waterproof to 59 feet; withstands a drop of 6.6 feet; and handles temperatures as low as 14ºF. It features a 16MP CMOS sensor, a 5x, 28–140mm equivalent f/3.9–4.8 Nikkor lens and a 3.0-inch, 614k-dot OLED display. In addition to recording adventures in Full HD video, it also offers built-in Wi-Fi for instant sharing, a full-featured GPS with mapping, a points-of-interest function and an electronic compass. Lens-shift vibration reduction helps ensure photos and videos are steady, and when the subject is moving fast, motion detection automatically kicks in and selects a faster shutter speed and higher ISO to help get sharper, clearer photos. $349.95, in orange, black, blue or camouflage. nikonusa.com
Fujifilm FinePix XP200. Styled in eye-catching contemporary fashion, the latest version of Fujifilm’s go-anywhere camera has an upgraded 16MP CMOS sensor (up from 14MP on the XP170) is now waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, freezeproof to 14ºF and dustproof. It’s claimed to deliver an ultrafast start-up and has two high-speed shooting modes: 10-fps continuous shooting mode at full resolution, and ultra-high-speed continuous shooting at 60 fps (70 frames, 16:9, S). It also has a new 3.0-inch, 920k-dot AR LCD and a Fujinon 5x, 28–140mm equivalent zoom lens with a hardened glass lens barrier and water-repellent coating. Other features include: Full HD 1080 video recording at a max rate of 360 fps; advanced image stabilization; tracking AF; auto scene recognition (SR Auto); 3D shooting; and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity that works with a smartphone/tablet. $299.95, in yellow, red, blue or black. fujifilmusa.com
Canon PowerShot D20. Canon’s distinctively styled, ergonomically contoured 12.1MP entry into the adventure-camera sweepstakes is waterproof to 33 feet, temperature resistant from 14º–104ºF and shockproof enough to handle a fall of 5 feet. It features a 5x, 28–140mm equivalent lens, a 3.0-inch Pure Color LCD with a delta dot pattern for enhanced performance, intelligent image stabilization, an underwater macro mode and built-in GPS. The D20 can shoot Full HD 1080p video at a cinematic 24 fps and has a wind filter feature and optical zoom while shooting for maximum movie flexibility. It can take up to 280 shots or play back five hours of video per battery charge: $349.99, in turquoise. usa.canon.com
Pentax Optio WG-3 GPS. The latest in Pentax’s successful WG line features built-in GPS in addition to being waterproof to 45 feet, shockproof up to a 6.6-foot drop, crushproof to 220 pound force and coldproof to 14ºF. This 16MP classic has a wide-aperture 4x, 25–100mm equivalent f/2–4.9 zoom lens, plus 7.2x digital zoom—providing up to a combined 28.8x intelligent zoom range (720mm) without loss of quality. A 3.0-inch, 460k-dot LCD, Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps and a 10-fps burst rate at 5MP are also featured. In addition, there are digital filters and a digital microscope mode, which uses six LEDs position around the lens to deliver soft, even macro lighting for subjects as close as 1 cm. Also included is manual focus with focus lock, compatibility with Eye-Fi wireless cards and two remote control receptors. Plus, a dedicated second front LCD shows compass direction, elevation or depth below water. $299.95, in green or purple. pentaximaging.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30. Svelte and slim with a thickness of only 0.6 inch and weighing in at a mere 4.4 ounces sans battery, Sony’s pocket-size gem with a sliding protective lens cover is waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof for falls up to 5 feet, dustproof and freezeproof to 14ºF. It provides an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, a 5x, 26–130mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar zoom lens, and a large 3.3-inch, 1,229k-dot OLED touch-screen monitor. It can capture Full HD 1,920×1,080 AVCHD video at 60i and shoot full-res bursts at 10 fps. Other features include: face, blink and smile detection; SteadyShot sensor-shift image stabilization; Clear Image Zoom tech for lossless doubling of focal length; and sweep panorama 360. A magnifying glass plus function and LED lights help capture intricate detail on subjects as close as one-third of an inch. $349.99, in black, orange, blue or pink. sony.com
Vivitar ViviCam F526. This perky looking little number is your basic splash-around beach camera at a price a teenager can actually afford. With the ViviCam F526 Dual LCD digital camera, they can also take self-portraits and include themselves in the shot. It features a resolution of 14.1 megapixels, 5x digital zoom, a front 1.8-inch LCD preview screen and a rear 2.7-inch LCD. The F526 is waterproof to 10 feet and accepts microSD memory cards. $49.95 in red, blue or pink. vivitar.com