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On the Appalachian Trail with the Olympus Stylus Tough 6020

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To me, the essence of a camera or camcorder isn't what it does, it's what it allows me to do. I've always taken a camera on my yearly backpacking trips — it's an excellent way to share the experiences and memories of the trip with others, and remind myself where I've been. But the advent of a new generation of compact cameras with built-in camcorders has added an entirely new dimension to documenting my journeys. With the addition of only a few ounces of pack weight, these cameras not only let me take still images, but also record high-quality video footage..

I set out this May for a four-day hike on the Appalachian Trail with the Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 in my pocket. At left is a photo of me taken with the Stylus tough at the start of my journey (click on the image to enlarge).

The Stylus Tough was a good choice for the trip — since it's waterproof, I didn't have to worry about rain, sweat, or unfortunate accidents at stream crossings. And because it's shockproof, those occasional fumble-fingered moments on a rocky trail weren't anything to worry about.

The camera boasts a 5X optical zoom, augmented by a 5X digital zoom for a seamless total of 25X zoom — perfect when I wanted to focus in on distant objects. The image stabilzation circuitry for both still and video settings let me take blur-free images even when I was still breathless after a tough climb up a mountain.

What I really appreciated about the Stylus Tough was its simple menu system and automatic shooting modes. I like to keep moving when I hike, so taking time out to try to puzzle out how to change a setting isn't something I like to do. Not that I had to do much — I got excellent pictures for the most part just by sticking to the auto settings. The camera's 14-megapixel image sensor provided more than enough detail for my needs.

But as I said at the beginning, it's not what the camera does, it's what it allows you to do. When my trip was done I had 4 GB of memories ready to go — more than enough to have some fun with some editing software on my home computer. Take a look if you'd like — I documented the trip in Four Days on the Trail on YouTube, all with photos and video from the.Olympus Stylus Tough 6020.

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