Q: I want to buy a rugged stills camera that can take the shock of a fall when skiing. I've been taking my cellphone with me because it's older and I consider it somewhat expendable, but I still don't want to risk breaking it if I don't have to. Plus, I want to get something dedicated to the task. I also imagine that such a camera would be easier to operate with gloves on.
A: I will start with the suggestion that if you do not have a rugged case for your cellphone, getting one will bring you some peace of mind on the slopes. The Otterbox Defender series is a good choice, and they start at $69.99. (otterbox.com)
Olympus owns the overwhelming market share of the rugged camera market, and for good reason. No one else offers the same combination of ease of use, picture quality, advanced features and rugged construction as the Olympus Tough series cameras. It has been that way for years, and it will likely stay that way into the foreseeable future, especially with the company's support of winter sports and annual sponsorship of the Whistler World Ski and Snowboard Festival. These cameras and those who use them are extremely important to Olympus, and it shows.
The $449 Olympus Tough TG-5 has a fast f/2.0 lens for use in low-light situations, very rare for any compact camera. It also has a fog-free lens, perfect for use in cold weather. Though it is designed to be used primarily while engaging in action sports — skiing, hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and scuba diving up to 50 feet — the TG-5 is good enough to be your camera for birthday parties and vacations, too. There is far more to the TG-5 than I can discuss in a single column, including 4K video, 20-frame-per-second shooting and many available accessories, so I suggest a visit to getolympus.com to learn more.
If you do not have an action camera like a GoPro for your outdoor activities, for the price of an Otterbox case you can get a great companion to your Olympus TG-5. At only $69.99, the SJCAM SJ4000 action camera is one of my all-time-favorite budget buys. It has a built-in LCD screen for composition and playback, and it produces beautiful 1080p footage at 30 frames per second. It is compatible with the GoPro mounting system and includes lots of mounts and accessories, including a waterproof housing good to a 100-foot depth.
Warning: Counterfeit SJ4000s abound, so I suggest avoiding eBay and Amazon and getting one only from bhphotovideo.com because they stock the genuine model exclusively. I prefer the SJ4000 without Wi-Fi for the longer battery life and simpler operation.
This week I have the opposite of last week's closed-back, wireless Panasonic Retro Bluetooth headphones, with an open-back wired model. What both headphones have in common is they are gems that are not as well known as they should be.
The open-back Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones have airy, natural and clean sound quality that is quite similar to the Panasonic Retro headphones, but without the isolation of the closed-back earcups. Though they list for $169.95, they typically sell online for under $80. The sound, style and comfort would be competitive at $169, so getting them for half of that makes them quite a value. I will have a full review of the ATH-AD500X on my headphones website soon. (audio-technica.com)
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.