Olympus Tough 1050SW

Tough but a little on the slow side.

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Olympus Tough 1050SW
  • Olympus Tough 1050SW
  • Olympus Tough 1050SW
  • Olympus Tough 1050SW

Pros

  • 3m waterproof and 1.5m shockproof, can survive in low temperatures, tap controls

Cons

  • Lots of chromatic aberration, extremely slow shot-to-shot and burst modes

Bottom Line

Unfortunately the Tough 1050SW is a bit of a step backwards in the otherwise excellent tough series. Its extreme levels of haloing are problematic and the overall performance is downright slow. The tap control system is pretty innovative, however, and the pictures are good aside from the chromatic aberration.

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It’s always a welcome surprise when we get a chance to really beat up on a product and that’s exactly what we do to Olympus' 'tough' range of cameras. The latest unit, the Tough 1050SW, is an upgrade to the Tough 850SW and provides a 10-megapixel sensor and a 3x optical zoom. It also features a funky new control mechanism known as tap control, which should prove popular with skiers (as will the fact that it can survive in temperatures as low as -10°C).

The 1050SW isn’t quite as tough as its predecessor, the Tough 1030SW. It is waterproof to three meters and shockproof to 1.5 meters, which makes it fine as a beach or pool camera but doesn’t quite give it the flexibility granted by the Tough 1030SW’s 10m water capabilities. Still it passed all the tests we could throw at it and is as sturdy as always. One small issue we had was that often when we dropped the unit the slide panel on the front would flip down, turning it on if it wasn’t already.

The other feature of note is the 1050SW’s tap control system. Primarily designed for skiers so they don’t have to remove their gloves, it allows several of the camera’s options to be tweaked just by tapping the edges. The sides correspond to flash and shadow adjustment, while tapping the screen brings up playback mode. From there you can tap the sides to scroll through pictures, which is a pretty intuitive way of scanning through a slideshow.

This functionality can also be activated by simply tapping the top of the unit twice, so you can switch it on and off without removing your gloves. We found it wasn’t quite sensitive enough on the default setting, but fortunately there is a calibration option and with a little tweaking it worked flawlessly.

Like its predecessors the 1050SW has a tiny lens. However there are trade-offs; namely, a huge amount of chromatic aberration. This camera was one of the worst we’ve seen recently in this regard, with significant detail loss in corners and a large amount haloing and purple fringing. Some of it isn’t noticeable at very small print sizes, but the fringing was bad enough to be visible regardless of magnification.

Aside from that issue our shots were crisp and clarity was as good as we’d expect from a 10-megapixel unit. Colour balance suffered a little, however, as there are no custom white balance or colour tweaking options. Reds were surprisingly accurate but greens and yellows were noticeably darker than they should have been.

Noise performance was pretty standard for a compact camera. Everything up to ISO 400 produces acceptable shots; however, at ISO 800 the noise jumps up significantly and by ISO 1600 images are a total mess.

Unfortunately in our speed tests the 1050SW was a disappointment. Shot-to-shot time was the big offender here, with a delay usually in excess of four seconds which is just inexcusable. The burst mode was also very slow, taking roughly a shot every two seconds. There is a high-speed option, but it reduces the resolution to 3 megapixels. Start-up time was pretty poor, too, at 3.5 seconds; there was a very minimal 0.05 seconds of shutter lag, however.

The unit’s features are pretty much what you’d expect. It has image stabilisation, face detection and shadow adjustment to achieve balanced exposure. Olympus’ panorama mode is also included which is a very funky and simple way of stitching together great pictures.

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