Olympus Tough TG-320

The TG-320 is a tough camera that takes decent photos for sharing online. What's most concerning is that it leaked slightly when used underwater.


6.0
CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Design and features

While it's not the flagship tough camera in the Olympus range — that's left to the TG-820 — the TG-320 is still designed to withstand the elements. The TG-320 is cased in a plastic exterior, which is rigid enough to survive some rough treatment, so it comes as some surprise to feel that the camera only weighs in at 155 grams.

Painted in a bright blue or red finish, the TG-310 is easy to see in all conditions, and it comes with a wrist strap in the box. The camera's rugged credentials read like so: waterproof to 3 metres, drop proof from 1.5 metres and freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius. Elsewhere, the figures are a little less interesting, with a 3.6x optical zoom opening up to 28mm at its widest. The lens has a maximum aperture range of f/3.5-5.1. There's a 2.7-inch LCD screen at the rear, sporting a relatively low resolution of 230,000 dots.

It comes with a double-locking door to protect the SDXC card slot, battery and mini HDMI from being water damaged, although the rubber seal is rather small, compared to those we've seen on other rugged cameras.

On the topic of rubber, the rear buttons are coated in a rubber-like plastic, with a small instant-on recording button, a four-way directional pad and a zoom rocker all bedecked in this outfit. There's a small speaker also located at the back.

Along with the regular intelligent automatic mode, the camera comes with a range of scene modes, panorama mode, 3D mode and program auto-recording. The TG-310 also has magic filters, which is the Olympus terminology (in its compact range at least) for artistic filters, such as pop art, fish eye and soft focus. There are eight magic filters all up, and, rather confusingly, the camera limits the output resolution to 5 megapixels when shooting with them.

Anyone wanting to create underwater cinematic masterpieces will be a tad disappointed, with only 720p HD video recording on board. The TG-320 comes with in-camera battery charging, through a particularly long cord that is constructed from the proprietary USB cable, the power adapter and the power cord.

Compared to

Olympus Tough TG-320 Panasonic Lumix FT20 Nikon Coolpix AW100 Sony Cyber-shot TX20
14-megapixel CCD sensor 16-megapixel CCD sensor 16-megapixel CMOS 16-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 921,6000-dot LCD
Waterproof 3m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m
3.6x optical zoom 4x optical zoom 5x optical zoom 4x optical zoom
No GPS tagging No GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.31.60.4
    Sony Cyber-shot TX10
  • 1.420.5
    Olympus Tough TG-320
  • 1.61.80.1
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1.90.81
    Panasonic Lumix FT10

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot TX10
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 0.5
    Olympus Tough TG-320

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The TG-320 has a high-speed sequential-shooting mode that reduces the resolution to 3 megapixels and takes 3.5 frames per second. Note that the performance comparison is against two older models (Panasonic, Sony) rather than the newer models in the comparison table above. We'll update this review once we've tested the newer models.

Image quality

The TG-320 delivers images that are fine for a camera of this class, particularly for sharing online at reduced resolutions. Photos at 100 per cent magnification look over-processed and slightly crunchy, a trait that we have seen on other tough cameras before. When shooting in automatic mode, colours are slightly muted and not as saturated as they could be. There are, of course, artistic filters to augment the colours, should you desire. The TG-320 is at its best when underwater, as it delivers punchy blue tones. The screen is also relatively easy to see underwater.

As the lens is mostly exposed to the elements, it is easy to smudge it, resulting in smeary-looking photos. Even when the lens is clean, it exhibits some lens flare and halation on images.

The built-in panorama mode works a little differently to other cameras that you might be used to with this feature. You first need to press the shutter and hold it while you move the camera along an axis, matching up the level indicator with the level from the previous shot. The resulting panorama looks fine at low resolution (as you can see below), but when enlarged looks rather soft.

Click the image above for the full-sized version of the panorama straight from the TG-320.
(Credit: CBSi)

Rather worryingly, though, the TG-320 might not be as water tight as we are led to believe. More than six hours after dunking the camera about 30cm into water to test its credentials, we opened the double-locking door to remove the memory card and found some water lurking inside. It wasn't enough to cause any damage, but the rubber seal itself was still wet and water had dripped down the side near the card slot.

Video quality is patchy at best. The image does not appear clear, and not having a wind-cut feature available means that there's plenty of wind noise to be heard.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 80

Exposure: 1/250, f/6.3, ISO 80

Exposure: 1/30, f/3.5, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/5, f/3.5, ISO 200

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The TG-320 is a tough camera that takes decent photos for sharing online. What's most concerning is that it leaked slightly when used underwater.

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