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When you hold the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000, you know immediately that this isn't your normal compact camera. Its visible screws, metal armor, and weatherproof gaskets protect a 12 MP sensor, 3.6X optical zoom, and 2.7" LCD monitor. Yes, the specs are good, but the design is what makes the difference here. This camera isn't just dunk-proof, you can take it diving to a depth of 33 feet. The Stylus Tough 8000 can also withstand cold environments (14 degrees f) and survive a drop from a height of 6 feet.

Olympus has had some fun with this theme of durability. They created a series of YouTube videos where the put the Tough 8000 in the hands of kids. You can watch Playground Proof, Ice Cream Proof, Fish Tank Proof, and a host of other "proof" episodes on YouTube. They're for smiles mostly, but they also make the point about how rugged this camera really is.

Shooting with the Olympus

The Tough 8000 zoom lens accommodates a wide 28 mm focal length and extends to 102 mm on the telephoto end, perfect for underwater on the wide end and portraits when zoomed out. To make the controlling the camera easier in extreme conditions, such as working in cold weather or snorkeling, Olympus included a nifty feature called Tap Control for some of the basic settings. When activated, one tap on the right side lets you change the flash mode, a tap on the left for Macro, tap the LCD to switch to Playback, and tap twice on top for OK. Unfortunately, the most obvious use for Tap Control -- to switch among Scene modes while underwater -- isn't included. So if I want to switch from Underwater Snapshot to Underwater Macro, I have to delve into the menu system.

As I mentioned, you can take this camera in the water with you. I took it along to the local pool and snapped away both topside and underwater. The results were fine, but the shots required work on the computer. I was hoping that the underwater scene modes would compensate more for the aqueous environment. For casual snapshooters, I'm sure the results will be fine. But more advanced photographers will probably relegate this camera into the "for fun only" category.

The Stylus 8000 has in-camera panorama stitching that lets you take 3 shots then meld them together into a single, extended-view image. My favorite of the trio of panorama modes is "Combine in Camera 1." You take the first shot, then pan in either direction slowing guiding a diamond shaped pointer to an onscreen target. When you reach the target, the camera takes another shot. Once you've completed the sequence, the Stylus 8000 builds the panorama and plays it for you on the LCD. The results were unpredictable in terms of accurate stitching, but when the Stylus 8000 nailed the sequence, it looked very good. And to tell you the truth, even some of the misfires made interesting compositions. This is one of my favorite features on the camera.

Bottom Line: This Is a Camera for Fun Times

What is remarkable about the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is that you really can take anywhere: from freezing ski slopes to the tropical waters of the Hawaii. The Tough 8000 provides the features you'd expect from a $399 camera, such as good resolution, crisp LCD, image stabilization, face detection, scene modes, movie capture, and exposure compensation. You don't have a tremendous amount of direct control over the settings in terms of aperture and shutter speed, but there are 19 scene modes and a host of other controls to help you adapt to just about any situation.

Overall image quality is fine as long as you don't push the camera to produce beyond its design. I made 13" x 19" enlargements from the 12 megapixel files, and they were OK, but I saw corner softness on only average detail. But I liked the 5" x 7" and the 8.5" x 11" prints much better. And I think that's where your expectations should be too.

This is a camera for fun times. You can put it in the hands of your kids without a worry. When you're on the go, grab the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000, and you'll have confidence that you can get the shot regardless of where you land.

Photos of underwater and panorama by Derrick Story with Olumpus Stylus Tough 8000. Click on them to zoom out to larger size.

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If the release of the Canon Digital Rebel T1i and the Panasonic GH1 are any indication of trends for 2009, HD video capture with our "still" DSLR cameras will soon be commonplace. I've been using the Canon 5D Mark II for a video project for The Digital Story, and am planning some fun tutorials on getting the most out of these types of devices.

But I have one simple reminder right now for those playing with video on their digital cameras (DSLR or compact): Don't forget to grab stills too.

Right after you shoot a video snippet, change modes and grab a few still shots too. If possible, even re-inact a scene or two. You can use these high resolution stills with the video, especially to cover mistakes and things that went wrong during the shoot, such as a misfocused moment or someone walking through the frame when they shouldn't have.

The nice thing thing about having a big high resolution still photo is that all of your options are open. You can animate it using the Ken Burns effect such as slowly zooming in or panning through the image. These effects are easy to achieve in iPhoto, Fotomagico, and iMovie.

So yes, have a great time shooting video with your still camera. Just remember to grab a few stills too. At some point, you'll be glad you did.

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Ready to make the move from iPhoto to Aperture? If so, I have a great tutorial for you. In iPhoto to Aperture: Going Pro, I show you everything you need to know to make a smooth transition from iPhoto to Aperture.

And if you're not sure that you should even attempt the move, then take a look at the free videos titled, Ten reasons to move to Aperture and Comparing the strengths of Aperture and iPhoto. They are both available on the catalog page.

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Leopard users receive a nice bump in Raw support with the latest Mac OS X 10.5.7 update. In addition to a slew of security fixes, network performance improvements, printing, and more, the are 14 additions to the supported Raw formats list. This additional Raw support is automatically tapped by Aperture, iPhoto, and Preview.

Additions in 10.5.7 include:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 50D
  • Canon PowerShot G10
  • Epson R-D1x
  • Pentax K2000/K-m
  • Leaf AFi-II 6
  • Leaf AFi-II 7
  • Leaf Aptus-II 6
  • Leaf Aptus-II 7
  • Leica M8.2
  • Nikon D3X
  • Nikon Coolpix P6000
  • Nikon D90
  • Sony DSLR-A900

I was disappointed that Raw support for the Olympus E-30 and some of my other favorite devices was not included in this update. But if you're working with one of the cameras in the list above, then you finally have fine-tuned Raw support in both Aperture and iPhoto.

You can grab Mac OS X 10.5.7 using Software Update on your Mac, or get it on the Apple Download page.

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What can you do with a couple of ladders, 8' pole, and bed sheets? Among other things, you can create professional portraits. In this Digital Photography School article titled, Shooting Portraits like a Pro On a Tight Budget, LA photographer Alexis Godschalk describes how she got started in portrait work with a rig just that just about anyone can cobble together. She provides sample portraits that she captured with this set up.

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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Canon Blogger features a handy tutorial titled, Shooting Tethered with Canon Gear, where Jason Anderson explains how to use the EOS Utility when your Canon is connected to the computer. This is a particularly handy technique when working in the studio where you want to control the camera and see the results directly on your Mac or PC.

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You really can take the "work" out of digital workflow. In my upcoming Santa Fe Workshop, Beginning Workflow with Adobe Lightroom (July 19-25, 2009), we explore the entire Lightroom toolbox then create a workflow that is customized for your needs. Since we're working in the stunning Santa Fe environment, we'll go on location go capture images that you will use while designing your post production approach.


If you've never attended a Santa Fe Workshop before, there are other benefits you might be interested in. First of all, it's a week where you focus only on your photography. No business meetings, household chores, or other daily obligations. Also, the digital lab we work in provides each attendee with his/her workstation with calibrated monitor, powerful computer, software, and printer. During many of the evenings we gather with other photographers for presentations, food, and the exchange of ideas. Santa Fe Workshops provide a total experience for passionate photographers.

During the week, I'm also going to show how to integrate Photoshop CS4 tools into the Lightroom workflow. Bridge and ACR provide some handy on-the-fly alternatives that give you maximum flexibility when working efficiently with your images.

It's a great week. You can register now online, or call call (505) 983-1400, ext. 11 for more information.

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Among the thousands of photographs posted in the Flickr community, what are the most popular DSLRs, compacts, even cameraphones used to capture them? If you shoot Canon, for example, how do the Rebels stack up against one another? How do the different brands compare? All of this and more can be discovered on the Flickr Camera Finder page.

As you drill down, you'll be able to compare basic specs, get Flickr stats, view graphs, and see actual images captured with the devices. The Camera Finder provides an informative snapshot about the cameras we're using to make all of these great images.

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"Workflow" is the kind of word that makes most hobbyist photographers cringe. But the fact of the matter is, if you've taken great photos with your digital camera, don't you want to find the easiest way to organize them and share with others?

If this sounds appealing to you, then you might be interested in my workshop this coming weekend titled, I've Taken Great Photos, Now What?. You'll learn about the coolest photo management applications including Adobe Lightroom, Apple iPhoto, Photoshop CS4, Photoshop Elements, and Apple Aperture. We'll build a workflow tailored specifically for your needs. And by the end of the day, you'll see that managing your images can be as fun as taking them in the first place.

The workshop begins at 10 am on Sat. May 9 at Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, California. You can sign up for the class online, or call for more information at 707-527-4372. The course fee is $63.

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Chase Jarvis Photography

"The best camera is the one that's with you," writes Chase Jarvis (hmmm, where I have heard that before!). He takes photos everyday with his iPhone, processes them on the device, then shares online. Chase maintains a gallery of his favorites on his site.

There is so much good work you can do with these types of devices: iPhone, Nokia, Blackberry, Sony, and on and on. I think mindset has much to do with success. Take a look at Chase's work, and you'll see what I mean.

iPhone App Reviews and Camera Phone Tips

A Look Inside Shutterfly for iPhone

Flickr Tip: Manage Permissions During Mobile Workflow

Cropulater Brings Picture Cropping to the iPhone

Panorama 2.1 for the iPhone

FotoTimer Provides Self-Timer for the iPhone

HP iPrint App Makes Printing Easy from iPhone or iPod touch

True Photo App for iPhone: CameraBag

"Exposure" (Now "Darkslide") Puts Flickr on Your iPhone

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