Rugged or waterproof compact cameras allow you to take photographs in places that you wouldn't dare use a normal camera. They are a great choice for beach holidays and ideal for families with children that might want to have a go at taking a photograph. Here are some of the best around.
Canon PowerShot D20
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
Canon's rough-and-ready PowerShot provides a good range of beginner-friendly photography features, as well as advanced camera technologies. Along with intuitive point-and-shoot modes, there's a selection of underwater shooting options to make aquatic photo capturing a stress-free experience. Some handling issues – both underwater and on dry land - take a bit of the shine off this camera's overall performance. But what this compact lacks in speed, it makes up for in image quality.
The build quality and ability of this camera to produce consistently well-exposed, detailed images can't be faulted, and additional features such as built-in GPS and Full HD video mode broaden the Canon D20's appeal. It's got a lot to offer, but if you're after an everyday rugged all-rounder, some similarly priced rivals may offer a more comprehensive package.
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor, 4.6x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 2.7-inch screen
One of the higher-priced rugged compact cameras, the Panasonic FT4 is a feature-packed compact with a superb level of protective attributes. Waterproof to a depth of 12m, the Panasonic Lumix FT4 enables you to explore greater depths than with many if its competitors, plus it's shockproof if dropped from a height of up to 2m, and freeze-proof down to -10C (14F).
Built-in GPS, plus a compass, altimeter and barometer all add to the Panasonic Lumix FT4's appeal for adventure-bound photographers, while Full HD movie recording and a respectable all-round image performance makes this a decent choice for active families in search of a reliable camera, with the ability to take more punishment than your average compact.
Read our Panasonic FT4 review
Sony Cyber-Shot TX20
Specs: 16.2MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor, 8x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
This svelte little camera is worlds apart from many of its rivals in terms of looks. The Sony TX20's petite profile - being just 17.9mm thick – coupled with its sleek lines makes this camera perfectly pocketable. The sliding front cover is designed to offer some added protection for the lens when the camera's powered down, and has the added bonus of ensuring that the front panel remains perfectly flat when not in use.
The touchscreen interface may not be for everyone, and it limits this rugged camera's usefulness when trying to operate it with gloved hands, but its general responsiveness impresses, and the on-screen controls make the Sony Cyber-Shot TX20 simple to operate. It may not be as rugged as some of its beefier rivals, but the Sony TX20 is a solid choice for photographers who want extra peace of mind - and style - when out and about.
Read our Sony TX20 review
Fujifilm FinePix XP170
Specs: 14MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 2.7-inch screen
In spite of its lower price point, the Fujifilm Finepix XP170 is brimming with impressive features, including a very good Full HD movie mode, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. Distinctive, chunky styling ensures a firm grip on the camera, and added extras such as an LED light aid low-light shooting.
It's not perfect in every aspect, but the Fuji XP170 impresses with its ability to reproduce lifelike, faithfully coloured images – including seamless auto-stitched panoramas – and with its extensive battery life, despite some of the potentially power-sapping features it has to offer.
Specs: 12MP 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
This budget-busting rugged compact camera may stretch your resources, but with the technology and features the Olympus TG-1 has to offer, it more than earns its price tag. In addition to some seriously impressive rough specifications, the Olympus TG-1 boasts a fast f/2.0 lens, built-in GPS and little added extras such as a removable lens surround that enables you to attach optional accessories.
No-nonsense styling and an innovative Tap Control feature combine with artistic options such as Olympus's popular Magic Art filters to produce a camera that's as tough and practical as it is creative. A top-notch macro mode, great handling and decent image quality under a range of conditions sweeten the deal.
Read our Olympus TG-1 review
Nikon Coolpix AW100
Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch RGB CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
Nikon's first 'All-Weather' compact camera boasts a decent range of automated features that make it simple to pick up and start shooting with right away. Although its launch price of £329.99 in the UK and $US379.95 in the US puts it towards the top end of this sector of the market, you can currently pick up the Nikon Coolpix AW100 online for around £100/$US80 less, thanks to its having been around for a little while.
Nonetheless, Full HD movies, built-in GPS and a digital compass, plus useful 'Action Control', are all features that ensure the Nikon AW100 can hold its own among its contemporaries. Overall, it's an attractive prospect that strikes a good balance between rugged features and everyday performance.
Read our Nikon Coolpix AW100 review