Olympus Tough TG-3 review

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Olympus has quite a good reputation when it comes to waterproof cameras. Theirs Tough line models have proven numerous times in real life being able to survive really harsh conditions. TG-3 is the latest top of the range model, and beside the usual specifications like back illuminated 16 megapixels sensor or full HD video offers impressive resistance to abuse: this little fellow can survive diving up to 15m (50ft), is shockproof when dropped from the height of 2m (7ft), can survive being crushed by a force of 100kg, and will happily keep shooting at -10°C.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: Waterproof compact
  • Dimensions: 112 x 66 x 31 mm (4.41 x 2.6 x 1.22″)
  • Weight: 247g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm),16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • ISO range: 100 – 6400
  • Image stabilization: Yes (on the sensor)
  • Lens: 25-100mm (35mm eq.), F/2-4.9
  • Dust and moisture protection: Yes, waterproof up to 15m (50ft), shockproof up to 2m (7ft), crushproof (100kg), freezeproof to -10C
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Continuous shooting: 5 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 460,000 dots
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (30p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
  • Connectors: USB 2.0, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi built-in

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Build quality is superb and that is expected from a waterproof camera. TG-3 really looks like it can withstand a lot of abuse: it is heavier than similarly sized non-waterproof cameras and body materials are of above the average quality.

Controls on the back have a well defined “click” when pressed – this is important since most waterproof cameras have spongy feel on buttons due to rubber seals.

The camera can be bought in two color variations – black and red and both can be good from different points of views. The black one will not attract attention of potential thieves, but the red one will be great when used in wilderness or underwater since it would be easier to find if lost.

The camera is easy to use: it comes down to mode dial, quick menu and main menu, all easy to understand if you have a brain cell or two. For those of you who think you know what you are doing, there is a wireless external flash remote control option built-in (yes, TG-3 is one of the rare compacts that can do it) and interval shooting.

TG-3 has built-in GPS for photo tagging (no maps or navigation), WiFi, digital compass and barometer which doubles as an elevation sensor.

OLYMPUS TG-3 LENS

The lens has 4x optical zoom (25-100mm in 35mm eq.). This is enough for most casual shooters. The lens has a decent aperture of F/2 on wide angle but is falls down to F/4.9 on maximum optical zoom what is not that great for darker environments.

Generally speaking, the lens is quite good. It is sharp on both extreme zoom positions although it is hard to tell how sharp actually since the main limitation to image quality is the noise reduction which blurs all the fine details; this is a regular problem on most small-sensor cameras.

Main surprise on this camera for me was the macro mode. It is labeled as “Microscope” on mode dial what looked like an empty marketing term for a first glance, but after I tried for the first time… whoa! This camera can focus up to 1cm on any zoom position and you really can get an astounding macro images. At such close focus range the main problem actually is how to light your subject since the cameras makes a shadow, but practice makes perfect. Here are two shots as examples what can be shot with the TG-3. I haven’t seen macro like this in any other camera!

This camera also supports add-on lenses (converters). Three types of converters are supported: wide angle, fisheye and tele-converter and each of them will set you back for an extra $100. In my opinion, the fisheye is the only one that is worth having especially for underwater shooting (tried them two years ago with the TG-2).

Below: Olympus TG-2 with fish-eye converter

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