Olympus Tough TG-850 review

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I’ve recently reviewed Olympus TG-3, the more expensive waterproof Olympus camera and it turned out to be a solid although far from perfect performer. Now, it’s time for the cheaper one – the TG-850. The differences at least in theory, are not that big: both cameras seem to share the identical image sensor and features, but the TG-850 has 60p video (TG-3 does 30p) and tilt-LCD what is unheard of in waterproof cameras.  It also has a bit wider lens (21-105mm vs. 25-100mm on TG-3) but TG-3 offers much brighter lens (F/2 on wide angle), can withstand diving to 15m vs. 10m on TG-850, has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS and can accept fisheye and telephoto converters. Keep reading to find out how it performs in real life situations.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: Waterproof compact
  • Dimensions: 110 x 64 x 28 mm (4.33 x 2.52 x 1.09″)
  • Weight: 218g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm), 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Image stabilization: Yes (on the sensor)
  • Lens: 21-105mm (35mm eq.), F/3.5-5.7, internal zoom
  • Dust and moisture protection: Yes (Waterproof to 33ft/10m; Crushproof to 220lbf/100kgf; Shockproof to 7ft/2.1m; Freezeproof to 14°F/-10°C; Dustproof)
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Continuous shooting: 7 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 460,000 dots
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (60p, 30p), 1280 x 720 (60p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
  • Connectors: mini USB 2.0, micro HDMI

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Build quality is on a high level just as one might expect from waterproof camera. TG-850 is made from a combination of tough looking plastic and metal front plate. The camera is relatively heavy for its size and left me with confidence regarding the amount of abuse it should handle.

Buttons are somewhat small and squishy but this is expected for a waterproof camera. Their placement is logical and I had no problem finding the right control when needed.

Tripod mount is placed on the far right part of the camera and is made from plastic.

OLYMPUS TG-850  LCD

3-inch LCD with 460,000 dots is tilt-able what is previously unheard of in waterproof cameras mainly due to problems tilt mechanism would cause in waterproofing. Olympus is the first one that made is successfully and I’m happy to report it works as it should. Water did not come inside the camera. Tilt hinges are very firm and it seems camera will not mind even if it is dropped on open LCD, but this is something I did not test. :)

Viewing angles are good but overall image quality is only average. Compared to LCD units on more expensive cameras this one lacks in details, dynamic range and color reproduction. There are far worse, but there is also a lot of better ones.

OLYMPUS TG-850 LENS

The lens has 5x optical zoom: 21-105mm in 35mm equivalent. 21mm is extremely wide for a compact camera and there is very few of them who have such wide angle. Sadly, this is a bit too much for a internal zoom lens design (optics is placed horizontally in camera and a small mirror reflects light near the top) and the image quality on wide angle is bad. Corners are visibly blurry and suffer from chromatic aberrations. As you zoom in, image quality improves.

OLYMPUS TG-850 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

Small sensor (1/2.3″ – 6.17 x 4.55 mm) has 16 megapixels half of which are too many. Only thing stronger than noise is the noise reductions which completely blurs fine details in images even on base ISO values. Olympus TG-3 has the same problem but not to such extent. Combined with the blurry lens on wide angle, images can look really bad. To tell you the truth, photographs from this camera look bad when viewed on my 24″ monitor, and when you zoom into them it’s a disaster. Just take a look at image samples at the end of this review and you will see what I’m talking about.

OLYMPUS TG-850 MEMORY AND BATTERY

Olympus TG-850 uses Li-Ion battery strong enough for around 200 shots what is an average for this type of camera. It supports standard SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. Battery and memory card as well as micro HDMI and USB connectors are placed in the same compartment on the right side of the camera. USB connector is not of the standard kind – you need a special Olympus cable in order to transfer photos if not using card reader.

MENUS AND RESPONSIVITY

Menu system is identical to what other Olympus cameras have. It is logical and easy to understand. Quick menu with often used options is also available. The camera has a range of various “Art” filter use of which will make the LCD very laggy.

AUTOFOCUS

Auto focus is one of the better features of this camera. It is fast and focuses under a second in good light. Low light conditions will require up to 3 second but this is still acceptable for a compact camera.

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