Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS Review

October 20, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

In the last two weeks I have reviewed a couple monopods. First the Sirui P326 and then the Manfrotto 685B Neotec. This week I am going step away from support products and review a camera. At the start of the summer I got my first tough camera. So this week I will be reviewing the Tough TG-1 iHS by Olympus.

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As I like to do lets get the specs out of the way.

-      12MP

-      f2.0 (W) – f4.9 (T)

-      4x Wide Zoom (25 -100mm)

-      3.0” OLED Monitor

-      Waterproof to 40ft/12m

-      Shockproof to 6.6ft/2m

-      Crushproof to 220LB/100KG

-      Freezeproof to 14F/10C

-      Dustproof

-      Water-Repellent Lens Coating

-      Double-Lock Doors

-      Face Detect AF, IESP Auto, Spot AF, AF Tracking

-      Shutter Speed Auto: ¼-1/2000

-      Duel Image Stabilization

-      In-Camera Panorama (up to 10 frames)

-      Full HD Video with HDMI Output & Control

-      High-Speed Sequential Shooting (5 fps at 12MP)

-      Flash Modes (Auto, Red-Eye, Fill-in, Off)

-      Self Timer


-      GPS

-      Fisheye Converter Lens

-      Tele Converter Lens


The first thing I noticed when I took the camera out of the box was its weight. At 230g it is not the lightest P&S you will pickup. From what I have read this is normal for most tough cameras.


The camera looks and feels great. Many of the other tough cameras I have seen like the Canon are large and not that pretty to look at. I personally love the gunmetal silver look. This could be a drawback for some as there are no other colors available. On the right side of the camera is a strap holder. Olympus does give a nice wrist strap but I decided to go another way. I got a belt hook from Joann Fabric so I can just hook the camera to my belt when in the field.


The lens is in the center witch I like. I am not a big fan of putting the lens off to the side like some cameras do. I have also noticed this seems to eliminate the parallax found on other point & shoots. If there is parallax it is small enough that I cannot notice. At its widest point the 25mm gives a really nice landscape. The f2.0 gives great low light performance. Fully zoomed the aperture is 4.9 not bad for a P&S.


The flash is in the upper left corner. Standard placing for a center lens P&S. One of the things I would have loved to see with the flash is a secondary ring flash around the lens. This camera has a great macro mode but often you will get less then ideal lighting because of the lack of a ring flash. If you are a person that takes allot of macro maybe consider one of the tough cameras that offer a ring flash.


The battery and port doors have a dual lock system. They work well and in my test I got no water under them. The problem is under one of the doors is the proprietary charge port. The last thing I want is yet one more type of cable to remember to bring on a trip. The weird part is the port is bigger then a micro USB port. I could understand if there was limited space and they created their own small port but to make one larger just makes no sense.


The screen is big and bright but it got lost in bright sun. This is something I can live with considering the other benefits this camera offers. I would like a viewfinder but that might introduce parallax to the image.


The buttons on the back are small but I really have no problem operating them. That said the record button for video could be a bit easier to press. The buttons do get a bit harder to operate when wet.  When you press the power button the camera is amazing how fast it boots. You will only have to wait about 0.9 seconds to start taking a picture.


As the specs state you can get 5 fps at the full 12m with a max burst of 25 images. You will need a fast SD card as the buffer is small. I purchased a PNY Pro-Elite 16GB card for the camera. This card is rated at 35MB/s. With this card I can only get 7 frames before the buffer fills and the fps drops. After using the camera I have come to wish I purchased a faster card. UPDATE -- Today Best Buy had 600x cards on sale. I went and got one and now get full burst speed. The interesting thing is I get more then the 25 max burst that Olympus states.


The shooting modes are auto, P, action, low light and scene. You also get two custom modes and what Olympus calls the magic mode. Magic mode is nothing more then filters, similar to instagram.  Scene mode gives you some nice quick settings. A few examples are portrait, landscape, night scene, candle, fireworks, sunset, panorama and HDR. The panorama mode works well and takes a nice picture but the camera is painfully slow at stitching the pictures together. I used the fireworks mode to shoot the fireworks of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World and was pleased with the results. As you would expect is slows the exposure down to a couple of seconds so you will need a tripod or a way to steady the camera. I was not impressed with the HDR and think it could use some updates.


The biggest thing missing from the shooting modes is full manual mode, shutter or aperture priority. The only exposure controls you have are ISO and flash. In a few of my shots I really felt the camera picked the wrong aperture. I was able to play around to get a smaller aperture and more DOF by increasing the ISO.  Of course the problem with this is the increase in noise.


The work I do with video is always done with professional gear so most cameras really don’t compare. But I did play with the movie mode, as this camera will be with me in weather conditions I will not bring my professional gear into. The video is sharp and clean of noise. Since the zoom is done internally you can hear any zoom or zoom-out on your recording but it is low. My biggest complaint with the video mode is the microphones. They are on the top. This makes not sense. What engineer does not understand that most sound is directional? This means having the sound come directly into the mic instead of over them will create a much better product. I don’t understand why they could not find a way to put the mic’s on the front.


As the specs show there are two expansion lenses for the TG-1. A fish eye and teleconverter are available but pricy. Both of these require an adapter ring that is $40. The nice thing about these lenses is they are also waterproof and do not effect aperture in anyway.


Final conclusion.


This camera has some really nice features and some not so great limitations. It will not be the best P&S you can purchase but is very nice for a tough camera. During a trip over the summer my family had to wait out a hurricane. Normally I would have stayed in the hotel and shot some pictures from the hotel room. Since I had the TG-1 I had more freedom. Before things got to rough outside I went for a walk and had a great time shooting things I have never done before. This camera got completely soaked and I never had to worry about damage. I would never take my L glass and DSLR out in that type of weather. Also on a couple of hikes this summer I had to put my gear in my pack and put the rain cover on. It was real nice to still take some fun pictures with friends as we hiked in the rain.


My daughter is a dancer and at one performance this summer the convention center did not allow anything over a P&S in for pictures. I got there early to get in the front row and put this little guy in sport mode. While it is not the same as my 70-200L it did a nice job. I was able to get pictures that were acceptable. It froze the action nicely. In sport mode the camera selected an f/2 aperture and 1/500 shutter speed.


In the end I give this 3 ½ stars out of 5. Having a tough camera can really set you free to have some extra fun. When I did my review on Amazon at the start of the summer I gave it 5 stars but after using it for a summer I have come to realize how much I want at least aperture and shutter priority. In the end I would still purchase this again in a minute, as there is no other P&S that can go almost anywhere.


If you an you have any questions that I did not answer please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

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