Olympus Tough TG-1

Want the meanest, toughest camera on the market? The TG-1 fits the bill, as long as you're not too fussy over perfect image and video quality.


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Design and features

Olympus has a strong heritage in tough and rugged cameras, so it's not surprising that the TG-1 is the biggest, boldest and meanest version yet. The physical size of the TG-1 overwhelms pretty much every other camera of its type on the market, which makes it ideal for many applications that don't require a dainty touch — think ploughing around in the snow or frolicking on the beach.

A suite of double-locking doors reinforce just how much harsh treatment this camera can take. They cover the battery and SD card slots, as well as the HDMI and USB ports. Everything else is exposed to the elements, including the front lens element, which sits flush in the middle of the camera body. What's most exciting about the lens is its wide maximum aperture at f/2.0, which goes far and above any other camera of its type on the market. For underwater photography, and especially situations where there's not that much light, a wide-open aperture helps gather as much light as possible to take a clearer shot, without increasing the ISO sensitivity too much.

Around the front of the lens element is a removable cover, revealing an area in which you can attach an optional adapter. This is used to clip on a range of different converter lenses, such as a fish-eye and telephoto extender, which can both go underwater as deep as the camera itself.
(Credit: CBSi)

The TG-1 is the toughest camera on the market, at the time of writing. Think waterproof to 12 metres, shockproof from 2 metres, freeze-proof to -10 degrees Celcius and crush-proof to 100kg. There's also a GPS for tracking adventures, and a compass to keep you positioned.

Buttons and dials are surprisingly small, given the stature of the camera. At the back is a mode dial giving access to automatic, scene, low-light, sports/fast-moving action and program modes, plus magic filters to add creative effects to shots. It's a camera designed for people who just want to point-and-shoot, rather than fiddle with more manual control options. Tap control, which helps assist users with snow gloves, is available on the TG-1, activated through the menus.

A selection of some of the magic filters on the TG-1, including pop art, pin hole, fish-eye and reflection.
(Credit: CBSi)

The 4x optical zoom is controlled by a slender zoom button at the back, with a record button that activates full HD 1080p video recording. There's stereo audio recording, thanks to the microphone at the top, though do beware not to cover it when holding the camera, or when using ski gloves.

Lacklustre screens are common on tough cameras, except in the case of the TG-1, which offers a reinforced 3-inch OLED screen. It's reasonably bright, and the higher-than-average resolution makes taking and reviewing images much easier than on other models. Indeed, the only camera in this class with a screen that matches the TG-1, is the Sony TX20.

Compared to

Olympus Tough TG-1 Panasonic Lumix FT4 Sony Cyber-shot TX20 Nikon AW100
12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS 12.1-megapixel CCD 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS 16.0-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS
3-inch OLED (610,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch touchscreen (921,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
4x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 4x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080i) HD video (1080p)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.41.50.4
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 1.62.60.5
    Canon PowerShot D20
  • 1.61.80.1
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1.810.3
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 2.11.20.3
    Olympus Tough TG-1

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 5
    Olympus Tough TG-1
  • 2.7
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1
    Canon PowerShot D20

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Image quality

In most shooting situations, the TG-1 delivers good photo quality. Colours are particularly vibrant, and exposures are generally on the mark when shooting outdoors. For small prints and web use, the images delivered by the camera won't present any issues. Though, looking a little closer reveals a little softness and a slight smeary effect when zooming in to 100 per cent magnification. It's a problem even at low ISO sensitivities. Higher up the ISO range, things start to become very messy. In contrasty situations, particularly when shooting indoors, the TG-1 does have a tendency to blow highlights a little.

As there's no real manual controls on the camera, you can't force it to use its widest maximum aperture of f/2.0 to achieve shallow depth of field effects. Instead, it only really uses this widest aperture when there's a small amount of light.

The super sport mode works really well in tracking moving subjects, taking a burst of shots for as long as you hold down the shutter button to capture the action.
(Credit: CBSi)

Video quality is only just OK. The image is somewhat sharp, but there's a lot of graininess over the frame. The most annoying part is that the audio is affected by the zooming of the lens. So when zooming in or out, you can hear the movement of the lens, and it also softens the rest of the audio track too.


Underwater, the TG-1 performs pretty well, though, like many other underwater cameras, the default settings and automatic seem to be tweaked to over-saturate the blue channel. This comes through especially when shooting outdoors on sunny days, as in one example (seen further above in this review) the sky looks excessively blue.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/800, f/3.5, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/800, f/2.8, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/100, f/2, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/80, f/2.8, ISO 100

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The TG-1 is the best tough camera from Olympus yet. The total redesign over previous models, as well as a whole new suite of internal specs, ensures that many of the issues that plagued previous cameras in the range are no longer a problem. The f/2.0 lens is the standout feature on this model, though it's a shame that you can't force the camera to use this aperture in everyday shooting situations.



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coolbeet183
6
Rating
 

"good, but not as good as the panasonic FT3"

coolbeet183 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:feels nice and solid, lens whic can be added, fish eye etc

The Bad:noisy video, not manual controls

ive upgraded fom the Panasonic FT3 after loosing this it. Wante to try a different camera. The olympus feels nie ad strong and hopefully doesnt leak like my old panasonic.
Olympus doesnt have video light, dosnt allow you to change video settngs, doesnt have adjustable shutter opening times, noisy video when zooming, and just doesnt perform as good as the panasonic.
reason for going with the TG-1 is the addition of lenses, i got the fish eye and its great.

i should of stayed with my panasonic..

 

PatrickVeitch posted a reply   
Australia

I had a FT3 too, and liked it apart from a couple of quirks:

1. The camera has a dreadful tendency to fog. Discovered this on a trip to Thailand the hard way - a sea kayaking trip only yielded a handful of useable shots due to the lower half of the lens being fogged for a few hours.
2. It creates .MTS videos which live five directories down the directory structure of the formatted SD card. If you use an iMac, it won't find these files - you'll need to manually navigate to the correct directory to copy them. You'll also need to transcode if you want to use them in iMovie.

Unfortunately it died on me just a month ago, after just over a year of use, with water ingress around the flash - not through the door, which was locked as always. Turns out it's a not uncommon problem with Panasonics. Still, plenty of people I know love theirs, so maybe I just got a duff copy. Something to bear in mind, though.




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User Reviews / Comments  Olympus Tough TG-1

  • coolbeet183

    coolbeet183

    Rating6

    "ive upgraded fom the Panasonic FT3 after loosing this it. Wante to try a different camera. The olympus feels nie ad strong and hopefully doesnt leak like my old panasonic.
    Olympus doesnt hav..."

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