The W90
The W90

What’s the best point-and-shoot camera for extreme environments?

I love going to Burning Man but the environment just destroys all my point-and-shoot cameras. Dust gets in there and after a few days the pictures start getting blurry and a few days after that the moving parts stop moving. The reason I have sacrificed these point-and-shoot cameras is because the best shots are at night, turning on the flash just lights up the dust in the air and not the environment, and I like keeping the camera in a pocket so if I'm running around its not flying all over the place. Do you know of an indestructible camera that takes awesome night shots, if not a moderately priced sacrificial camera that takes great night shots where fire and glow sticks are the main source of light? -Daniel Long Beach, CA

The W90
Doug Gantenbein

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I’m not sure I see the point about the flash—most cameras allow you to turn the flash entirely off—but I do see the point about the dust. (Editorial aside: Are the pictures getting blurry, or is it just you due to absorbing too much Burning Man “atmosphere”?)

The W90

The W90 The W90

Two things you can do. One, find a more dust-proof camera. Two, figure out a way to protect an existing camera.

As for dust-resistance, probably your best bet is the Pentax Optio W90 ($300), a camera that’s designed to be dustproof(ish), waterproof (to 20 feet), and shock-resistant. It’s also a nice little camera, with a 12.1-megapixel resolution, 5x optical zoom, 720p HD video, and a compact body. The Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 ($300) has similar specs.

Still, given the conditions in which you are working, I think it prudent to do some extra armoring of your camera. In short, by a waterproof (and hence, dustproof) case. This needn’t be a big deal. The Aquapac Mini Camera Case fits most compact digitals, as a clear-view lens cover so your pictures look good, and has a clear back panel so you can see your LCD viewfinder. And it costs only $35. The DicaPac Underwater Case is very similar but has a better lens cover (hard polycarbonate). The sizes start at $35. In either case, if the camera cover gets dusty/dirty, you just rinse it off! Pretty convenient. And your camera will return intact, even if you do not.

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