Olympus Tough TG-2

The toughest camera on the market gets an updated feature set, while image quality and performance remain the same as its predecessor.


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Olympus broke new ground in the rugged camera wars with last year's TG-1. With a bright f/2.0 lens — almost unheard of on regular point-and-shoots, let alone tough ones — the camera merged decent image quality with enough guts to withstand real action photography.

Design and features

This year's TG-2 looks rather similar on the outside to its predecessor, but boasts incremental rugged credentials. Now, the camera is waterproof to 15 metres, shockproof from 2.1 metres, freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius, crush proof to 100kgf and dust proof.

Waterproof sealing has been applied to almost every component of the camera, with an additional water-repellent coating on the lens element. This should ensure that water droplets stay away from photos when pulling the camera in and out of the ocean. An optional case can extend the camera's waterproof credential to 45m underwater. Other extras include a waterproof fish-eye converter and a teleconverter.

In terms of appearance, the TG-2 looks a bit like a brick with a porthole at the front. That appropriately nautically themed comparison actually houses the bright 24mm wide-angle lens, with an aperture range of f/2.0-4.9. The lens is specified at 4x optical zoom, though it's extendable into digital zoom if desired. A special microscope mode lets the photographer focus as close as 1cm from the subject, using the full extent of the zoom to get anywhere from 7x to 14x magnification.

The super macro mode on the TG-2 lets you get nice and close to subjects. At the top, a regular photo of the subject without macro, and below, an image taken at 4x zoom with super macro, around 1cm from the subject. Super macro picks up details that a regular photo might not pick up.
(Credit: CBSi)

Dual-locking doors cover the battery and SD compartment, as well as the HDMI and USB out. There are rubberised grips at the front and rear, while the back panel also houses a bright, 3-inch OLED screen. Next to it, a small assortment of buttons and dials control the majority of camera functions. A mode dial switches between intelligent auto, program, super macro, scene, aperture priority and magic filter modes, plus two custom slots.

Not dissimilar to the art filters that appear on the Olympus range of interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs), the TG-2 comes with 11 magic filters that apply different effects to photos in real time. These include pop art, pin hole, fish eye, soft focus, punk, sparkle, watercolour, reflection, miniature, fragmented and dramatic.

A selection of magic filters on the TG-2.
(Credit: CBSi)

Unlike other cameras on the market that are equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, the TG-2 unfortunately has to make do with Toshiba's FlashAir cards. These are similar to Eye-Fi cards that contain a wireless adapter, as well as storage space in an SD card. The FlashAir implementation lets you transfer photos and videos to mobile devices using a dedicated app.

As well as full HD video at 30p, the TG-2 comes with high-speed recording at 120fps or 240fps, which lowers the resolution to VGA or 240p, respectively, without sound. Image stabilisation is available during video recording, but needs to be activated from the menus before filming.

Nikon Coolpix AW110 Olympus Tough TG-2 Panasonic Lumix FT5 Sony Cyber-shot TX30
16-megapixel backlit-CMOS sensor 12-megapixel backlit-CMOS sensor 16.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
3-inch OLED screen (614,000 dots) 3-inch OLED screen (610,000 dots) 3-inch LCD screen (460,000 dots) 3.3-inch touchscreen (1,229,760 dots)
5x zoom, f/3.9-4.8 4x zoom, f/2.0-4.9 4.6x zoom, f/3.3-5.9 5x zoom, f/3.5-4.8
18m waterproof, 2m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof 15m waterproof, 2.1m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof, 100kgf crush proof 13m waterproof, 2m shockproof, -10 degrees Celcius freeze proof, 100kgf crush proof 10m waterproof, 1.5m shockproof, freeze proof
GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer GPS, compass GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer No GPS
Built-in Wi-Fi Eye-Fi and FlashAir card compatible Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC No Wi-Fi

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 0.80.30.05
    Olympus Tough TG-2
  • 2.30.50.1
    Nikon AW110

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 6.8
    Olympus TG-2
  • 6
    Nikon AW110

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The TG-2 has three continuous shooting modes: regular, as measured above, takes photos at full resolution; while continuous high 1 and 2 modes snap photos at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels. Continuous high 1 can snap 14 frames per second, up to a maximum of 100 shots in one burst. Continuous high 2 manages 60 frames per second, again stopping at 100 shots.

Autofocus on the TG-2 is quick and mostly accurate. While it's not going to match the speeds of an ILC or SLR, this camera does a very respectable job of locking on to focus, especially for a tough camera.

Olympus rates the battery at 350 shots.

Image quality

With a similar lens and sensor configuration to the TG-1, it's no surprise that image quality is pretty consistent between the two models. Colours on default settings and automatic modes are vibrant. The lens is sharpest at the centre, which is typical of pretty much all tough cameras. There is drop-off toward the corners of the frame; again, not unexpected.

Inspecting images at full resolution shows that the TG-2, like the TG-1, likes to over-process images somewhat, though it is hidden well by the camera's sharpening technique. Chromatic aberrations are visible, however, which appear as purple fringing on areas of extreme contrasts.

Automatic white balance (AWB) on the TG-2 is fairly accurate in outdoor conditions, but does tend to be a little warm when shooting under artificial or indoor light. The AWB also adjusts to underwater environments to make colours appear more vivid and true to life. The camera delivers its cleanest images when shooting up to and including ISO 200. At ISO 400 and above, noise starts to become noticeable on images, especially when inspecting them at 100 per cent magnification.

Below are a few comparison shots showing how the TG-2 stands up to another tough camera in its class, the Nikon Coolpix AW110. Unless otherwise specified, these comparison images were taken from the same vantage point at the same time, using the camera's automatic settings.

Compared to the Olympus TG-2, the AW110 produces a flatter image with less contrast. You can boost the vibrancy and saturation in post-processing, but this is the result straight out of the camera.
(Credit: CBSi)

Underwater, the results start to level up a bit more. Apart from the obvious differences at the wide angle (Nikon is 28mm, Olympus is 25mm), colour rendition is similar. The Olympus pumps up saturation in the blue channel a touch more than the Nikon.
(Credit: CBSi)

With both lenses zoomed in to their telephoto reach, the Nikon's lens loses some detail thanks to over-processing. Chromatic aberration is kept to a minimum on both, though the Olympus does exhibit it more than the Nikon does. At a reduced web resolution, the difference is not really noticeable.
(Credit: CBSi)

Many users reported issues with a ticking noise permeating the audio track of videos taken with the TG-1, the previous flagship tough camera from Olympus. While we didn't experience any similar problems during our review period with that camera, it seems as if the problem has crept its way onto the TG-2. Unfortunately, the ticking isn't easy to predict. Sometimes it is present, and other times it is not. Overall, the general pattern is that the ticking continues for around 10 seconds from the start of filming, and then stops. If you find yourself with a ticking TG-2, it is definitely worth swapping for another unit.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/160, f/4.9, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/500, f/3.2, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 100

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

Like all tough cameras, compromises have to be made somewhere to compensate for all the toughness. In the case of the TG-2, its Achilles' heel is video, which prevents the camera from being a complete winner.

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underwaterdoug
3
Rating
 

"dont waste your money"

underwaterdoug posted a review   
Australia

The Good:movies

The Bad:NO good under water

I am very disappointed with this camera, I only got because of the good cnet review.
I have taken hundreds of underwater pictures and only a couple have come out ok. after a while the back screen goes all white under water and you cant see anything. Its Ok for taking pictures out of the water but that is not what I want it for. MY old Fuji xp at half the price takes better underwater pictures. It has one postative in that it takes good movies underwater.
don't waste your money on this.
Oops , the first one I got the label dropped off the dial and I had to take it back for a replacement.

normalguy
1
Rating
 

"unusable in sunlight"

normalguy posted a review   
Australia

The Good:a typical modern point and shoot. works well

The Bad:Why do all you reviewers not tell the truth. That is, you cannot see the LCD screen when in sunlight. This simple truth that the reviewers are well aware of makes these rugged cameras a dismal failure. Spew out all the specs and image quality blah blah blah but ignore thw fact that not only does the user have to point and hope, they also can not change any settings because they cant read the screen in daylight. I own a brand new Olympus TG2 and it is unusable because of this

Why do all the company reviewers not tell the truth. That is, you cannot see the LCD screen when in sunlight. This simple truth that the reviewers are well aware of makes these rugged cameras a dismal failure. Spew out all the specs and image quality blah blah blah but ignore the fact that not only does the user have to point and hope, they also can not change any settings because they can't read the screen in daylight. I own a brand new Olympus TG2 and it is unusable because of this.
The fact it works okay when the sun is down or covered is pretty much irrelevant to me because I wanted it for holidays in the sun and snorkelling. (In the sun). It is so unusable I believe I should be refunded my money for false advertising.

 

EngH posted a comment   

Before you consider buying the TG-2, read this review about its predecessor TG-1. May be I had a bad experience or bad luck but its still relevant if you wanna switch.

The TG-1 was a piece of crap! I bought it when it 1st came out back in summer 2012, got the housing, tele-lens, fish-eye lens etc…
I brought it with me to Bali for a vacation and the 1st time I went into the pool with it, water seeped through into the battery/SD card compartment. R u kidding me? Olympus fixed it but I never entered the pool with it again without the housing, which was really stupid.
A couple months later, the camera couldn’t be switch on! After I pressed the power button, it switches on but somehow fails to boot-up… it made a funny cranking sound and then drops dead. This happened every single time I pressed the On/Off button, even today.
Since my 1 year warranty has expired, I refuse to fork out more money to fix this piece of crap. I hope olympus reads this and that the TG-2 was launched to remedy all the problems of the TG-1.
I’m really disappointed with the TG-1 and I’ll prob go back to my with Canon D-10, which was problem free for 4 yrs before I made the worse decision in switching to the TG-1.

 

roeljohn posted a comment   
Australia

Thanks for this blog post. People nowadays much prefer to buy online. Different online camera store Australia have been widen the market for selling from amateur to professional cameras.




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User Reviews / Comments  Olympus Tough TG-2

  • underwaterdoug

    underwaterdoug

    Rating3

    "I am very disappointed with this camera, I only got because of the good cnet review.
    I have taken hundreds of underwater pictures and only a couple have come out ok. after a while the back sc..."

  • normalguy

    normalguy

    Rating1

    "Why do all the company reviewers not tell the truth. That is, you cannot see the LCD screen when in sunlight. This simple truth that the reviewers are well aware of makes these rugged cameras a dis..."

  • EngH

    EngH

    "Before you consider buying the TG-2, read this review about its predecessor TG-1. May be I had a bad experience or bad luck but its still relevant if you wanna switch.

    The TG-1 was a p..."

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