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On the Appalachian Trail with the Olympus Stylus Tough 6020

Ken Nail has written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. He's an avid music listener, whose favorites are classical and film music. When not chained to a desk, Ken spends most of his time training for triathlons and marathons, and likes getting outside for backpacking, downhill skiing, and bicycle touring. He attended West Virginia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History.

More from Ken Nail

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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