Testing the heck out of this camera: Olympus Stylus TOUGH

Milo is testing the new camera
Milo is testing the new camera

When I saw one of the youtube ads for this indestructible Olympus camera a few months ago I thought, “yeah right” and by that I mean “no flipping way.”

Maybe Olympus could get adorable preschool-like actors to put the camera through its paces on a gentle rubberized-mat surface, but could it really stand up to my life? I take hundreds of pictures every month and always have my camera on-hand. In the past two years, we have damaged 2 cameras and 1 cell phone from pretty normal wear-and-tear:

  1. One cell phone was grabbed, slurped, and chucked to the ground my Milo when he was 9 months old. I’m not sure which act did the most damage, but the screen was fried and not reparable.
  2. One camera had to be sent back to the factory from being carried around in the bottom of my sandy, crumb-filled purse. There was no specific incident. But c’mon. Now, I use protection.
  3. That same camera had to be sent back into the factory for repair when it was thrown from a grocery cart by a kid. Those kids are mighty quick.

So, let’s just say I was skeptical going into this test.

Olympus sent me a camera for a six-week in-home loan aggressive test session. The first thing I did was hand it over to Holden on his play yard at school. His preschool yard has none of that rubbery stuff, it has sand, woodchips, and cement.

He’s handled a camera before and figured it out pretty easily. Holden took adorable pictures of his friends, his feet, his pocket, his brother, his dad’s back bicycle tire (while in the trailer), and my butt. In addition to the cute pictures we never would have seen otherwise, he also took a lot of pictures of “nothing” (or perhaps my adult eyes just don’t appreciate all his many talents).

Photo by Holden, view from bike trailer
Photo by Holden, view from bike trailer
Milo's cheek as seen in the trailer. Artistic?
Milo\’s cheek as seen in the trailer. Artistic?

So, the next day, I gave it to Milo, the less-experienced two year-old for a test drive. Nearby parents were aghast that I would hand over such a nice camera to the boy covered in finger paint. I had to explain that we were testing this supposedly indestructible camera so they wouldn’t think of me as a Bad Parent or, worse, Careless with Money.

Milo did not let me down. He rubbed it into the sand and wood chips; he smeared mashed banana onto it (that one made me feel like he was trying a little too hard); and he seemed to be dropping it on purpose. The camera kept on ticking.

How a two year old sees his parents
How a two year old sees his parents

Ok, so I was definitely convinced that the Olympus Stylus Tough camera would handle any normal wear and tear. That’s huge. If that’s all you care about. Stop right now and go buy one. Let me tell you what else I liked and didn’t like.

What I liked:

  • Kid tough. I was absolutely convinced that the toughness claims are genuine and consequently grateful that the slightest incident would not send this camera back to the factory.
  • Water-proof. We were able to bring this camera into the bathtub, swimming pool, and through the rain. When you’re taking cute pictures of kids all the dang time, it’s nice to not have to worry about a little slobber. We put it under water and too some pictures at the pool yesterday.
  • Nice wide display. Do you need me to describe this?
  • Looks cool. I like the orange they sent us and the sexy blue one too. It is compact in my hand (and in my sandy purse).
Holden's buddy under water
Holden\’s buddy under water

What I didn’t like:

  • A whole new mess of cables, batteries, and image cards. Is nothing standard? After about six years of going back and forth between Nikon and Canon, we have a large array of memory cards and cables not to mention batteries and chargers. And they are all different on this camera! Argh. I had to bust out my labeler just to keep track. My geeky husband reports that most cameras now do use a standard SD card and mini-usb cable and the Olympus stuff is really non-standard stuff.
  • No auto-rotate. This may seem like a petty complaint, but here goes. My current camera and my iPhone both know when I’m taking a vertical picture. The camera knows to auto-rotate the image on the camera display and once imported. I appreciate that. This funky Olympus does not do that for me.
  • Slooooooow. I found the camera to be very slow to take pictures. Cuteness would pass right before my eyes and transition into meltdown before the picture would take. With adults, rather than 1-2-3 and click, it was more like 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and click (or press and click and press again!). Super frustrating. I don’t know whether this was because I’m doing it wrong or because the battery was tired, but I expect it to just work!

Bottom line:
I was surprised and impressed by this indestructible camera. I very much enjoyed testing the heck out of it and will be sad to send it back. The Olympus tough camera has become the go-to in my family because it can be easily shared among all of us (even in the swimming pool). I will miss it.

When our existing camera dies a natural death (hastened by the quick hands of Milo, no doubt) I will strongly consider buying an Olympus Stylus Tough. I hope that when that day comes, the camera will have improved on my few dislikes.

I found this wrap-up video today. If I had seen it first, I may have let Milo test the camera even harder:

Disclosure: Olympus sent me this camera for a 6 week loan.