The original mju range was Olympus' flagship film compact and offered weatherproof protection. That was transferred to digital cameras, after overcoming the problem of heat dissipation from the electronics and sensor, with the launch of the mju 300. Olympus has taken this a step further with its recent SW range, with cameras offering full waterproofing, shock proofing and even freeze proofing. The marketing team has brought the range under the Tough moniker, highlighting the robust build of the cameras.
The 1030 SW is the latest in the Tough range and allows underwater shooting up to 10m, or 40m with the optional underwater housing. It is also shockproof and can be dropped from a height of 2m without suffering undue damage, while its crushproof credentials allow it to withstand up to 100kg. To top that lot off the case is also scratchproof. Finally it's freeze-proof to a temperature of -10°C. All in all, on the surface this could be the perfect camera for the extreme sport enthusiast, or for a family with excitable kids.
Inside the tough casing, which incidentally comes in a choice of three colours - platinum, black and British green - is a 10.1MP sensor allowing low light shooting with a top ISO speed of ISO 1600. The True Pic Turbo III processor offers the same processing engine as that of the Olympus E-3, and controls colour rendition, sharpness and noise reduction as well as faster processing for multi-burst shooting. This in particular is impressive at 5.2 frames per second for 11 frames in 3MP High Speed mode. Sequential mode at full resolution offers a more pedestrian 0.7fps over 7 frames.
The lens is a folded optical design, meaning its zoom is situated internally and doesn't extend from the case, using a periscope-like design. The zoom covers the equivalent of 28-102mm, making it one of the wider zooms on the market.
Image stabilization isn't incorporated in the lens or the sensor, instead the camera uses digital image stabilization, adjusting the ISO range to compensate for the danger of camera shake in low light.
Olympus has packed the camera with a whole bunch of features, including 24 scene modes, nicely illustrated in the menu with examples of the type of photography they are designed to deal with. This makes it a useful camera for those that aren't into photography but just want to get the best pictures they can in the circumstances. Incidentally there's a choice of 3 underwater modes, verifying the cameras waterproof capabilities.