If you were to drop a DSLR into a stream it would be toast.

So if you're thinking of journeying into a steamy jungle or snorkelling in a tiger-infested mangrove swamp, you might want to use something a bit tougher and lighter.

In the past, waterproof cameras were hideously expensive behemoths with bulky underwater housings that could only be used by Jacques Cousteau. The Olympus mju 1030 SW looks set to change all that.

Ultra-tough camera

Amazingly, this is the only digital camera fully waterproof to a depth of ten metres without an external housing.

It'll withstand up to 100kg of weight or a drop from two metres. And, as if that weren't enough, it can function in temperatures as low as -10˚C. It even has a 2.7-inch LCD and a 3.6x optical zoom lens.

Now you'd probably expect that such a tough beast would be a bit unattractive and slightly Rubenesque in its proportions. Not a bit of it. The mju 1030 SW slips neatly into any pocket and feels beautifully made.

Rubber seals keep dust and moisture at bay, while a trio of torque bolts secure the coloured accented front panel. By the way, before you ask, the mju 1030 SW is available in silver, black or green.

Point and shoot

Using the camera is child's play. Simply turn it on, point it at your subject and then press the shutter. It couldn't really be much easier.

A small mode wheel or dial at the rear of the camera, next to the impressive LCD screen, offers the choice between Auto, Program, Movie, Scene and Low-light modes.

It's a slightly fiddly dial and if you happen to be wearing thick gloves to keep out the cold, you could find it a problem.

The zoom buttons and other controls are a bit tiny too, but that's the price you pay for a camera that's tough but eminently pocketable.

Underwater photography

Powering up is nice and snappy. You can be in picture-taking mode within half a second.

Press the display button and you can toggle between a clear screen, a grid or a live histogram. That live histogram could come in pretty handy underwater where exposures can be notoriously tricky.

However, don't worry too much as there are four special underwater scene modes for you to choose from.

The other feature we like is the built-in depth gauge. You can calibrate the gauge yourself and then when you do slip into the water it will give you an on-screen read-out showing the depth at which you're diving.

Remember, you have ten metres of depth to play with, which is good going for a compact that's unencumbered by an expensive waterproof housing.

Plentiful features

Obviously, with this type of camera there's very little point in having Aperture or Shutter Priority modes.

However, you do have exposure compensation, 24 scene modes, flash settings, macro and a self-timer.

There's almost everything you'd need but for a physical anti-shake device.

Good quality images

So… how does this little bruiser of a compact camera perform? Not badly is the honest answer.

Naturally, you can't expect SLR quality and with the lack of proper image stabilisation the auto ISO can soon stray into higher noise levels.

Without real image stabilisation the camera shake starts to become a problem at any speed lower than 1/30s.

For when you're macro shooting there's a neat LED lamp that's positioned next to the built-in flash. This can be turned on for illuminating close-up shots.

Shutter lag is fairly minimal, which is just as well if you're trying to catch pictures of fish underwater.

Ultimate compact

Although the image quality isn't anything to get very excited about, this is the sort of compact camera that will enable you to take pictures in places that are normally inaccessible to regular camera users.

That sort of flexibility is a pretty good trade-off and marks the Olympus mju 1030 a tough camera to beat whenever you find yourself in a tight or a wet corner.

Via PhotoRadar