Waterproof Digital Cameras At PMA 2010

2010 PMA Events Featured News Point and Shoot Underwater

Waterproof Digital Cameras At PMA 2010I take a lot of pictures outdoors in nasty weather and rugged environments so I pay close attention to outdoor-friendly digital cameras. 2009 was the first year that anyone besides Pentax and Olympus introduced waterproof digital cameras and I got excited and wrote the 2009 PMA waterproof camera report. Since last spring, the “rugged” point-and-shoot category has really exploded, with almost everyone making a waterproof, shockproof pocket camera of some sort. The 2010 PMA tradeshow saw three new companies – Samsung, Casio and Sony – introduce outdoor-friendly waterproof, and shockproof point-and-shoots. This year, HD video also appeared on many waterproof digital cameras for the first time. In 2009, only the Panasonic Lumix TS1 offered 720p HD video. Olympus, Samsung, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic and Pentax all offer waterproof cameras with HD video now.

For me, the most interesting new waterproof cameras are the Fujifilm FinePix XP10, the Pentax Optio W90, the Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 and the Sony Cybershot TX5, all of which are shockproof and freezeproof as well as waterproof. In the “other” category, there’s also the Liquid Images dive mask with a built-in waterproof digital camera and Kodak’s Playsport waterproof, pocket-sized HD video camera. I should also mention that Olympus finally let go of the xD memory format and their latest Stylus Tough waterproof cameras now use SD memory cards. So if you were hesitant about buying an Olympus waterproof point-and-shoot because of the xD memory cards, there’s no need to hold back anymore.

Pentax Optio W90 waterproof, shockproof digital camera

Pentax was the first camera company to introduce a serious waterproof digital camera, the Optio WP, which I reviewed in 2005 (Pentax Optio WP Pro Review). I’ve lost track of how many waterproof cameras Pentax has put out now, but suffice to say, the new Optio W90 is one in a long, long line. I think they really outdid themselves with this one. It is, by far, the best looking outdoor camera Pentax has made and it’s got everything you could ask for in an outdoor camera – it’s waterproof to 20 feet and shockproof for up to 4-foot drops. Of particular interest are the triple macro LED lights around the lens, 720p HD video, built-in Eye-Fi Wi-Fi capability and an optional waterproof remote control.

Pentax Optio W90 Hands-On & Video >>
Pentax Optio W90 Announcement >>

Fujifilm XP10 waterproof and shockproof digital camera

I’m really pleased Fujifilm stepped it up with their second waterproof camera, the FinePix XP10. The FinePix Z33WP Fujifilm introduced last year was a simple waterproof point-and-shoot designed more for style than performance. The new Fujifilm FinePix XP10 is more of a serious outdoor camera. Fujifilm calls it “Four-Proof,” meaning it’s waterproof (10 feet), shockproof (3 foot drops) and freezeproof (14 degrees Fahrenheit). Camera aesthetics aren’t usually important to me, but the XP10′s stainless steel body is really solid and very handsome – the product images in the original press release really don’t do the camera justice. I especially like the industrial look of the raw steel model.

Fujifilm FinePix XP10 Announcement >>

Sony Cybershot TX5 Waterproof Camera Demo

Sony’s new CMOS-sensor, touchscreen display Cybershot TX5 is part of their pocket-sized T-Series – not where I would have expected them to debut their first waterproof camera. However, the T-Series cameras already have an internal zoom lens design, a requirement for waterproof cameras and it makes sense for Sony to capitalize on that design. Sony claims the TX5 is “the world’s thinnest and smallest certified waterproof” point-and-shoot camera available now.” It’s certainly thin, but I don’t know about “smallest.” The word “certified” might be the critical part of that sentence. As far as outdoor cred goes, the TX5 is waterproof to ten feet and it can take drops of about five feet. I believe the TX5 is the only waterproof point-and-shoot with a touchscreen display or a CMOS sensor, which Sony says delivers better low light image quality. The camera captures still images at 10 frames per second and has Sony’s cool Sweep Panorama mode, which allows you to essentially wave the camera around and have panorama photos assembled in-camera. And of course, it has 720p video, too. This is an exciting new camera for Sony and I’m really interested in checking it out.

Sony Cybershot TX5 Announcement >>

I’ve had the most experience with the Olympus waterproof and shockproof point-and-shoots. I reviewed their first, the Stylus 720 SW, back in 2006 and I’ve had one along for bike rides and powder days ever since. The camera I’ve used the most, the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW has been dropped, muddied, taken to the waterpark and used for many powder day ice beard photos. It’s been my go-to point-and-shoot for a couple of years and I’ve come to really trust the Olympus waterproof shockproof cameras. So I’m anxious to get my hands on their latest and greatest – the Stylus Tough-8010. It has more zoom, 720p video, real image stabilization, auto focus tracking, it’s drop-proof (shockproof) from 6 feet, waterproof to 30 feet and it can take 220 pounds of crushing force (see Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 Torture test video, above) if I fall on it – which I will. One of the things I like most about the Olympus Stylus Tough cameras is they fit in my pocket easily. Some other “rugged” cameras are too big to actually fit in a normal-sized pocket.

Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 Hands-On Preview >>
Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 Announcement >>

Waterproof cameras have a come a long way since Pentax introduced the OptioWP in 2005. It was a 5-megapixel camera, waterproof to 5 feet with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 400 and a 3x 38-114mm (equivalent) zoom lens. The new “rugged” cameras can withstand drops of 3 to 6 feet (shockproof), have 10+ megapixel sensors, optical image stabilization, HD video, true wide-angle lenses, usable sensitivity to ISO 400 or 800 and we’re starting to see HD video now, as well. Waterproof, shockproof point-and-shoots are more than just novelty cameras now. There’s a huge selection compared to a few years ago when there were just a couple of models from Pentax and Olympus. Personally, I can’t live without one. For mountain biking and skiing I won’t accept anything less than waterproof and shockproof. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the new waterproof cameras announced this year at PMA and CES have noticeably improved image quality and performance and I’m looking forward to better quality video, too. I’m currently packing the new Casio Exilim EX-G1 on my bike and the skis so keep your eyes open for photos and a review on that camera.

Nikon is now the only major camera maker that hasn’t introduced a waterproof camera. You know we love you, Nikon, and you don’t want to miss the party! There’s still room for one more in the hot tub!

New Waterproof Digital Cameras At The 2010 PMA Tradeshow:
Casio Exilim EX-G1
Fujifilm FinePix XP10
Kodak Playsport
Olympus Stylus Tough-8010
Olympus Stylus Tough-6020
Olympus Stylus Tough-3000
Panasonic Lumix TS2
Pentax Optio W90
Samsung AQ100
Sony Cybershot TX5
Note: Some of these cameras were introduced before the 2010 PMA tradeshow but they were new since the PMA 2009.

More 2010 PMA Tradeshow Coverage >>

Outdoor And Waterproof Digital Cameras Guide >>

Related Content:
Outdoor And Waterproof Digital Cameras Guide
Digital Cameras Forum
Digital Cameras User Review Categories
All Waterproof Digital Camera News & Articles

Liquid Image Digital Camera Mask

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of PhotographyREVIEW.com and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Raymond says:

    I was mostly interested in the ‘shock’ proof aspect of a camera than the waterproof. But they usually go hand-in-hand. Is that correct? What’s the rock-solid shock proof camera out there?

  • Photo-John says:

    Ahh – thanks for the question, Raymond. I did neglect the shockproof features, I think. Not all waterproof cameras are shockproof but as far as I know, all shockproof cameras are waterproof. The shockproofing is generally in the range of 3 to 6 feet with 5 or 6 feet spec’d on the more expensive cameras. Basically, they can be dropped from the height spec’d without being hurt. And I have tested that plenty of times. It’s definitely nice to have the shockproof feature – especially if you want to carry the camera in your pocket on your bike or something like that.

    As for which shockproof camera is best? I’m honestly not sure. I haven’t actually heard of any shockproof camera failing because it was dropped. I’ve heard of lots of cameras failing because they leaked while they were underwater, though. I think that if a camera has a shockproof spec, it should be pretty able to withstand anything we can throw at it. I’m sure they aren’t completely indestructable. But I think we’d have a hard time breaking them in normal use. I’m actually working on an Olympus Stylus Tough demo video from the show where they talk about falling on cameras. You might like that. Keep your eyes open. Hopefully I’ll have it posted within the next couple of hours.

    I realize I didn’t give you a recommendation. That’s tough since this is something I can’t truly test without intentionally breaking cameras. And like I said, I haven’t actually heard of any shockproof camera being damaged in a drop. The shockproof models I would personally be most interested in are the Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and the new Fuji. Those cameras look and feel the most solid to me, although other cameras do have the same shockproof specs.

    I hope that helps. Let me know if you have more questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

  • Raymond says:

    Thanks John. I’m mostly interested in a durable camera I can throw in my Camelbak for a mountain bike ride. In the rain, in the snow, that kind of ‘shock proofing’. I have an Olympus C7070, though it’s somewhat durable, I still treat it like a baby. Especially in a wet environment. It’s also pretty bulky. I’m in the market for something that can slide in my pocket. Take it out during a down pour and have a quick responsive shutter. I’m looking forward to your Olympus Stylus Tough demo. That was actually in my short list.

  • Photo-John says:

    Raymond – I just added a whole bunch of stuff to the article, including some shockproof specs and an Olympus Stylus Tough-8010 “torture test” video that demonstrates the extreme end of the abuse the rugged point-and-shoots can take.

  • kombizz says:

    I like this helmet camera. It might be strange, but I am sure it is ideal for kind of work I do under the shower.

  • Phil says:

    Any thoughts on the image quality? How good are they compared to non-proofed cameras?

  • Ernie says:

    Very interesting and enlightening read. I got my wife an Olympus SW850 for a few hundred bucks last Feb (2009). Since then, she’s been piling up the pics with anything from snorkeling shots to super-macro orchid shots with some remarkable depth of field. The time has come, however, to get my 12-year-old daughter a digital point-and-shoot of her own. I was wondering if you could recommend a weather-proof (and if possible also drop-proof) camera that is more comfortable on the wallet. It will be her first camera and though I wouldn’t want to turn her off with a cheapo camera, I don’t want to break the bank as well. Thanks in advance.

  • Photo-John says:

    In my experience, there is an image quality compromise with the waterproof and shockproof cameras. However, personally, I’ve found it’s more than worth it since I just don’t take the better cameras out in the rain, the snow or to the waterpark. I’m hoping this new batch of cameras has better image quality. But I’m not that concerned since I’ve discovered that a lot of the time, when I have a choice between a camera with better IQ and one of the “rugged” cameras, I take the waterproof and shockproof model.

    For more general info on waterproof and shockproof camera, I encourage you to read my Outdoor And Waterproof Digital Cameras Guide. It adresses things like the image quality compromise and the failure rate of cameras in the water. This is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time on.

  • mark gamba says:

    Great article. It would be very helpful to have a chart comparing and contrasting each of these cameras and their various features. Mega pixels, card type, zoom range, focus range (or does it shoot macro), max depth, low light capabilities, drop height, lens quality or at least manufacturer, etc.

    Thanks for everything you do!

  • rhoward says:

    Informative article. We use an array of cameras for our action sports photography and videos. Recently we used the new Sanyo Dual Cams to create a series of mountain biking, skiing, and surfing videos. While the Sanyos did not produce the results of either our Panasonic P2 HD (roughly $7K) video camera or stills as good as a high-end DSLR, the results – including from the waterproof models – were amazing given the price points ($299 – $599), small form factors, low-cost memory, and rugged construction.

    For comparison, this video and the stills were all sht with Sany Dual Cams: http://www.youtube.com/user/epicwaysports

    This video was shot with a full sized, $7K, Panasonic P2: http://www.youtube.comn/user/bikeskills

  • Johnson says:


    Panasonic states in their fine print that if the camera is dropped they no longer will back it as waterproof.

    Which I think is BS because that is what it’s designed to do…. but I see their point because there is no way to tell what kind of drop happened.

    I figure most cameras that leak, have been dropped.

  • Gerrie says:

    Hi, im looking for a camera for CAVING
    for Caving i require a camera with great flash and what ever else that makes a camera take great pictures in the night
    what cammera will be best for that?

    maybe you can also include the night capability for cameras in future reviews
    i expect alot of Dustproof waterproof mudproof kinda buyers also to be Cavers

    thanks for great reviews

  • Photo-John says:

    I think any of this cameras will work reasonably well for caving – as long as you remember that they are point-and-shoot cameras. That being the case, the flash is not great on any of them. Don’t expect it to work from more than about 10 feet and definitely don’t expect it to light up a whole big cave. I already noted in this article that there is some image quality compromise with the waterproof P&S cameras and that means poorer low light (night) image quality. The bottom line is, if you want to shoot in low light, you really need to have the best possible equipment. These cameras are great as pocket point-and-shoots. But for really demanding photography you should be looking at digital SLRs.

  • Kelly says:

    The TX5 is not Sonys first waterproof camera, they also had the Sony DSCU60 2.0 Megapixel Digital Camera, I believe it was in 2003-2004.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks, Kelly. I admit, I was not paying a whole lot of attention to digital cameras 2-megapixel digital cameras back in 2003 and 2004. Anything below 3-megapixels was always below the useful threshold for me. But it’s always good to have some perspective. And for what it’s worth, the TX5 is my favorite waterproof point-and-shoot right now. Sony is having a hard time getting me to give it back :-)

  • Ella says:

    Hi am am going up to the barrier reef and i want a camera that will go as deep as possible, but one that gives a clean, clear and crisp picture, and one with preferably video too. i’ve been looking around, i was looking at the panasonic lumix DMC TX1 but it doesn’t go very deep. i am also looking at the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW and the Olympus SW850. i have no idea what else there is but if you could give me ideas for the best camera you know, that would be fantastic. also i don’t want one that breaks the bank. thank you so much!

  • Miss GB says:

    Oh no!! I’ve been reading and googling for the perfect all-weather camera… here are some considerations:
    - withstand up to 10 meters depth, shockproof, and dust proof

    1. Canon D10 –> said as the best in the class for picture quality
    2. Olympus 8010 –> got all the specs, but the noise is just horrid
    3. Panasonic TS2 –> the fine print just makes it ‘all-weather’ with condition
    4. Sony TX2 –> John seems very fond of it (and he is a very credible source!!) – but it is only up to 3 meters deep T_T

    I want to buy one for my outdoor adventurer boyfriend :)


  • Kaz says:

    Hey, I’m really looking for a camera with great picture quality, I want one that is also waterproof/shockproof etc but this is almost secondary and I would almost be willing to give up on these features if the picture quality just doesnt cut it, but really would like them if it doesnt compromise the camera too much. Basically which would you say has the best photo quality and how much is it a step down from its non waterproof counterpart?

  • Photo-John says:

    Based on my experience so far, the Canon PowerShot D10 has the best image quality of all the waterproof cameras. It is a compromise compared to better non-waterproof point-and-shoots, though. It’s also too big for my taste. I want point-and-shoot cameras to fit in my pocket. Right now my favorite waterproof camera is the new Sony TX5. The image quality isn’t as good as I’m used to. But it’s better than the new cameras from Pentax and Olympus and I love the camera design and performance. Here’s my complete review:

    Sony Cybershot TX5 Waterproof Camera Review >>

    And if you want to look at some high-res sample photos from the Canon PowerShot D10, here’s our studio sample photo page for that camera: http://gallery.photographyreview.com/showgallery.php?mcats=518&si=&what=allfields&name=&when=0&whenterm=&condition=and&crproducts=439372%3ACanon+PowerShot+D10|

  • Quintina says:

    I don’t do much outdoor stuff but am going snorkelling in Nov. WOuld like your recommendation on a quality vs. price waterproof camera – best bang for my buck, so to speak. Also, I hear there’s a difference for salt water vs. lake water in the waterproof category? Haven’t seen anything on it yet, but was told. Please confirm.


  • Canon PowerShot G11 10MP Digital Camera, Features & Specifications says:

    I’am From Indonesia.. I Like Your Post for Waterproof Digital Cameras At PMA 2010.

  • TJ Baker says:

    I’ve been doing a bit of research and had my “priorities” all laid out before i started. Foremost, after many skiing, kayaking, and hiking disasters… as far as a new camera goes, i need it waterproof and rugid in everyway. I was looking for big zooms, fast speeds for shooting moving objects, optimal low light capabilities (we moonlight often) and lastly, i wanted the best picture quality possible- in this order. I had no idea what i would find. Thanks to you, I now have a spread sheet and a pretty good grasp on what the possibilities are in this catagory of cameras. I also know now why I cant have everything I want.
    That said, I’d still like to be a little closer to rugid camera nirvana someday, and since we’re so close to the end of the year my questions to you are- what do you anticipate the next upgrades to be? Will we see improvements particularly in zoom and speed? And do you think the improvements in the areas i mentioned above (dont care much about all the other bells and whistles) will be enough to warrant waiting for the next crop?

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for your article on waterproof cameras which has been very helpful for a beginner like me. Have you done any investigations into how water proof casings can transform high image quality point and shoot cameras into underwater cameras? Or how they stand up to shock, etc? I have seen some very good images from canons that using canon casings to enable hight quality cameras to work underwater.

    What is the advantage of the waterproof camera compared to a water proof casing?

  • Ana says:

    My photographer mate is beginning to enjoy kayaking with me, but not a good place to take his DSLR or M9. Any suggestions of a waterproof point and shoot (not to many $$) he might enjoy?

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