Olympus TG-1 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Olympus Cameras / Olympus Point & Shoot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus Tough TG-1
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(25-100mm eq.)
Viewfinder: OLED
ISO: 100-6400
Shutter: 4-1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.0
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.1 in.
(112 x 67 x 29 mm)
Weight: 8.1 oz (231 g)
MSRP: $400
Availability: 06/2012
Manufacturer: Olympus
Full specs: Olympus TG-1 specifications
12.00
Megapixels
4.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Olympus Tough TG-1
Front side of Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera Back side of Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera Top side of Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera Left side of Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera Right side of Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera

TG-1 Summary

The Olympus Tough TG-1 waterproof digital compact camera looks and feels like it should -- rugged and ready to take on the elements. It's also incredibly fast -- in both the bright f/2.0 lens and in autofocus, startup and shot-to-shot times, but image quality suffers a little more than we'd like, with frequent underexposure and muted colors.

Pros

Quality, grippable design; Bright and fast f/2.0 lens; Speedy autofocus, startup and shot-to-shot times; Built-in manometer and GPS.

Cons

Wide-angle photos typically underexposed; Moderate pincushion and barrel distortion; Muted colors; OLED monitor clips highlights.

Price and availability

The Olympus TG-1 originally shipped at US$400; can now be found as low as US$309.

Imaging Resource rating

3.5 out of 5.0

This camera was featured in our Waterproof Camera Shootout 2012. To find out how it compares head-to-head with five other rugged, element-defying compact digital cameras, click here!


Olympus Tough TG-1 Review

by Daniel Grotta, and Shawn Barnett, with
Review posted: November 8, 2012

Olympus is something of a pioneer in the lifestyle camera market. For the last half-decade or more, the company's lineup has included rugged models with impressive waterproofing, coldproofing, and resistance to both drops and crushing. It's a niche that's really come into its own of late, with increasing competition as camera manufacturers seek ways to differentiate their products. (Smartphones aren't known for their ability to take punishment, after all.)

No matter the manufacturer, the marketing message for these solidly-built cameras has been much the same. Perhaps understandably, it's tended to focus on the ability to hammer tent pegs into frozen tundra with your camera, then lever them back out again, catching snapshots all the while. (OK, we're exaggerating just slightly, but you get the point.) Many models have rammed the message home with aggressive, angular styling that makes it clear: these are cameras for someone not afraid to get out and live life.

Overview. The Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS takes a new tack. While Olympus still makes it clear that this is a very rugged camera -- indeed, it has actually improved the water resistance significantly -- it is also emphasizing the imaging capabilities of its new model. Gone is the suggestion that you must trade off image quality and camera-like handling to achieve a truly solid build. The Olympus TG-1 looks more like a traditional compact camera, right down to the inclusion of a Mode dial, and its front panel sports a bright f/2.0 lens. The body is now said to be waterproof to 40 feet (seven feet deeper than previous Olympus models), shockproof to 6.6 feet, crushproof to 220 pounds, and freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C.

Inside, Olympus uses the same pairing of a 12-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor and TruePic VI image processor that we saw previously in the TG-820 iHS, but the sensor sits behind a new 4x zoom lens that's much brighter than that of its predecessor, at least at the wide-angle position. A little zoom range and a fair bit of telephoto reach have been sacrificed to achieve the new f/2.0 maximum aperture at the more generous 25mm-equivalent wide angle. The maximum aperture still falls rather quickly to f/4.9 at the 100mm-equivalent telephoto, unfortunately. The front element has a water-repellent coating, and focusing is possible to just ten centimeters in Macro mode, or one centimeter in Super Macro.

Although the processor is the same as that in the TG-820 iHS, Olympus shows confidence in the autofocus speed of the new TG-1, gifting it the same "Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology" (aka "FAST") autofocus branding as on recent PEN-series compact system cameras. The TG-1 also offers five frames-per-second burst shooting at full-resolution, for up to 25 frames. Like the TG-820, there's also a 60fps burst mode at reduced resolution of three megapixels.

Interestingly, the Olympus TG-1 accepts 40.5mm threaded accessories, and Olympus offers two conversion lenses. One is a fisheye converter (FCON-T01), although we don't have precise specs on this item yet. The other is a 1.7x teleconverter (TCON-T01), yielding an effective 6.8x zoom from the 25mm wide angle position (i.e.: a 170mm telephoto.) Both sell for about US$100 each, and a CLA-T01 adapter is needed (US$20) to mount them. Both accessory lenses are said to be waterproof to the same level as the camera body itself.

On the rear panel, the TG-1 now uses an Organic LED display, rather than the standard LCD of the TG-820. While OLED displays are typically more vivid, with better viewing angles and deeper blacks than standard LCDs, resolution of the TG-1's display is quite a bit lower than that of the previous model, at some 610,000 dots. (The TG-820 offered an unusually high 1,030,000 dots of resolution.)

Shutter speeds still top out at 1/2,000 second, with the slowest shutter speed of four seconds available in the Night Scene mode. For shooting nearby subjects in low light, there's both a built-in flash rated as good to 5.6 meters (ISO 800; wide angle), and an LED lamp that doubles as a macro / video light. Incidently, the TG-1's built-in flash supports Olympus' Wireless RC Flash System, which allows compatible remote slave flashes to be controlled from the camera, a rather advanced and unique feature for a waterproof compact. The Olympus TG-1 iHS' Intelligent Auto mode can now recognize thirty different scene types, and configures the camera appropriately. As with the TG-820, four different underwater shooting modes are available, including an underwater macro. (And if you really want to take advantage of the underwater capabilities, you can pick up a PT-053 underwater housing, which will allow the TG-1 to work down to depths of 45 meters or 147 feet!)

Some other features inherited from the earlier TG-810 model include a built-in GPS receiver, electronic compass, and manometer. Together, these can be used to geotag images with information regarding the location and direction from which they were captured, as well as an approximation of the altitude above (or depth below) sea level from the atmospheric or water pressure. The latter function can also be used to warn you when you're approaching the camera's maximum safe shooting depth. Additionally, you can record GPS track logs.

As with the earlier model, the Olympus Tough TG-1 also offers Full HD video capture. Videos are saved with H.264 compression in a .MOV container, with a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, and for movie mode only, the TG-1 offers a Multi-Motion IS mode that can better stabilize motion, allowing you to shoot while walking for example.

A few other changes from previous models include a new LI-90B lithium-ion battery pack CIPA-rated at 350 shots per charge which is much improved from 220, a significant reduction in available memory to just seven megabytes, and an increase in size and weight. Storage and connectivity are unchanged: Secure Digital cards including SDHC / SDXC types, combined USB / AV / DC input port, and a Type-D Micro HDMI port.

The Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS went on sale in silver only in June 2012, priced at around US$400. It currently can be found as low as US$300 at certain outlets.

Olympus TG-1 Shooter's Report

by Daniel Grotta and Shawn Barnett

The Olympus Tough TG-1 is a solidly built camera that screams quality and substance. We especially liked its camera-hugging vertical no-slip grip on the front, as well as its large metal post for attaching a wide hand strap. There's a bayonet mount around the lens, for attaching filters or auxiliary lenses, but the Olympus TG-1 looks naked unless you slip on the provided decorative lens bezel. The controls are clustered closely together, and easy to access. It's the only camera we tested that comes with a mode dial, though you'll have to dip into the menus to set most modes. The waterproof flaps on the side and bottom feature fail-safe locks, to prevent accidental opening. Alas, there's no separate battery charger included, so you must plug the Olympus TG-1 into an AC adapter to juice up the battery unless you buy the optional UC-90 charger (US$60).

Cool shooting modes!

Features, functions and modes. What impressed us most about the Olympus TG-1 is its f/2.0 lens, fastest of any camera in this shootout. This enabled us to shoot sharper, better-exposed available light candids, and gave us the ability to limit depth of field, for more natural looking portraits. Olympus bundles a wide array of features, modes, and special effects into the Olympus TG-1. It comes with a manometer (pressure gauge for depth/altitude) and warns when you're diving toward its maximum-rated depth of 40 feet. From the get go, the Olympus TG-1 was designed to be a system and not just a stand-alone camera. Once you remove the external bezel from around the lens, you can attach an adapter to mount Olympus' teleconverter or fisheye lens in front of the Olympus TG-1's main lens. And if you are a serious scuba diver, you can enclose the camera in an Olympus PT-053 underwater housing (US$310). While it costs almost as much as the Olympus TG-1 itself, this combination allows you to dive as deep as 45m (147 feet).


Display and menus. At 610K-dots resolution, with a glare-resistant coating, and boasting a state-of-the-art OLED, the Olympus TG1's viewfinder is bright and detailed. The screen has a fast refresh rate and little discernible ghosting. Displayed text is sharp, well formed and highly legible. In some ways, it was overly bright, slightly clipping the highlights and washing out midtones when viewing photos. What's more, the Olympus TG1's colors are unrealistic and oversaturated. Navigating through settings and modes, the sub-menus automatically roll out for easy selection. Good tactile feedback leaves no doubt what's selected. And like pro cameras, you can even program and save two sets of configurations with the Olympus TG1.

Handling and operation. Despite being stiff and requiring a little thumb power to turn, the Olympus TG-1's Mode dial simplifies the task of easy access to a wide array of options and settings. Each Mode automatically displays both sub-menus and a concise, helpful explanation of what that mode is and does. Program Mode allowed us to customize some settings, such as ISO and white balance, but there's no Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority or Manual Mode, so we didn't have any control over f-stops or shutter speeds. Most of the Olympus TG1's buttons are conveniently placed and give good tactile feedback, though shooting one-handed is possible only if you don't need to access the 4-way or Menu buttons. As mentioned above, it also permitted us to program and save two customized settings. The Olympus TG1 boots up rapidly, has quick and accurate focus, as well as a decent recycle time. Its burst mode of 5fps isn't shoddy either. We also liked that its zoom speed is slower and more precise than the other waterproof cameras. Our only real quibble: the metal shutter button should be covered with no-slip plastic.


Performance and image quality. The Olympus TG-1 proved the easiest camera in our shootout to handle and shoot underwater. Nevertheless, our test shots were usually underexposed. Auto ISO remained at 100. We considered the underwater stills only Fair. Video was clear and in-focus, but underexposed. We judge the underwater video as only Fair.

Wide and tele lakeside shots had decent contrast and good exposure, though they weren't terribly vibrant. While not notably sharp or crisp, the images were more detailed than most others we tested in the shootout. We also liked that the telephoto image was properly exposed for the light levels. We rate the Olympus' image quality at wide and telephoto Good to Very Good.

Wide Angle
Telephoto

 

Terrestrial
Above water
Underwater
The Olympus TG-1 across a variety of shooting situations

 

Olympus Tough TG-1 Lens Quality

The Olympus Tough TG-1 features a 4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 25-100mm zoom on a 35mm camera.


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at lower left
Tele: Sharpest at center
Tele: Slightly softer, lower left

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Olympus Tough TG-1's zoom shows some blurring in the corners of the frame compared to center, which extends a small way in toward center and may be noticeable in some shots. At telephoto, corners only slightly softer than the center of the frame, and less intrusive.


Wide: Moderate pincushion (top) / barrel (bottom) distortion; noticeable
Tele: Practically no visible distortion

Geometric Distortion: The Olympus Tough TG-1 produced moderate pincushion distortion along the top edge (~0.5%) and moderate barrel distortion (~0.4%) along the bottom edge at the maximum wide-angle setting. We've seen this asymmetrical distortion before, but not to this extent. At telephoto, there was a tiny amount of pincushion is present (<0.1%), which isn't noticeable.


Wide:
Moderate
Tele:
Moderate but dull

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, though pixels are a tad bright. Telephoto shows less noticeable distortion, as coloration is a little more muted.


Macro
Macro with Flash
Super Macro
S-Macro LED

Macro: The Olympus Tough TG-1's standard Macro mode captures a very sharp image with strong detail, and manages to do so without any noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 1.29 x 0.97 inches (33 x 25mm), which is quite good. Flash exposure isn't very bright, though the exposure is at least even. Super Macro mode gets amazingly close, so close that our standard area of measurement for coverage area is cropped. When using the TG-1's S-Macro LED mode, minimum coverage area is 1.75 x 1.31 inches (45 x 33mm), with good exposure. (Click on the images at right to see a larger version, then click again to see them full-size.)


 

Olympus Tough TG-1 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: OLED Monitor
Tele: OLED Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Olympus Tough TG-1's OLED monitor showed about 101% coverage at wide-angle and at telephoto, which is pretty good, if just a tad loose.


 

Olympus Tough TG-1 Image Quality


Color: Mean saturation is more conservative than most cameras (only 4.3% oversaturated versus the typical ~10%), with bright yellows and aqua desaturated. Strong reds and blues are oversaturated, though not as much as we're used to seeing. Unfortunately, the TG-1 does not offer a saturation adjustment, though some scene modes boost saturation. Hue is skewed slightly for colors like yellow, orange and cyan, though less than the average amount. Dark skintones are on the warm side, while lighter skin tones are pretty close. Overall, very good hue accuracy, though less saturated than typical compact cameras, making some images look muted.


Auto WB:
Too warm
Incandescent WB:
Good, a hint green
 
Manual WB:
Also good, though cool

Incandescent: Manual and Incandescent white balances both handled our incandescent lighting pretty well, though the Incandescent mode produced a very slight green cast. Auto produced a stronger warm cast.


Horizontal: 1,800 lines
Vertical: 1,700 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,700 vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,500 lines per picture height.


Wide: Ineffective
Tele: Good
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows the Olympus TG-1's flash fairly ineffective at the rated wide-angle distance of 18.3 feet, despite the ISO boost to 800 and the use of spot metering. It's interesting that the camera chose f/2.8 instead of the maximum f/2.0 aperture here. The telephoto test came out bright at 7.2 feet, though ISO was again upped to 800.

Auto flash produced somewhat dim results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining minimal ambient light with the 1/60 second shutter speed and ISO at 400. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
 
1,600
3,200
6,400

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is fair, though already a hint soft, at ISO 100 and 200, with noticeable disintegration at ISO 400 (though details are still distinct). Chroma (color) noise doesn't interfere with color balance strongly until ISO 6,400, and luminance noise also remains fairly well controlled. Noise suppression is the stronger evil here, smudging detail as the sensitivity increases. See Printed section below for how this affects printed images.


Printed: Good 13 x 19-inch prints; ISO 1,600 shots produce a good 5 x 7; even ISO 3,200 shots are good at 4 x 6.

ISO 100 shots are good at 13 x 19, but to the trained eye they seem a bit over-processed (if you don't have a trained eye, you're likely to be pleased). We were hoping for a little better from the TG-1, but compared to others in our shootout, it still earns a "good" rating when printed at 13 x 19 inches.

ISO 200 images also look processed, enough so that we prefer the 11 x 14-inch print.

ISO 400 images look good at 11 x 14 as well.

ISO 800 shots look good and clean at 8 x 10, with only the slightest hint of noise in the shadows.

ISO 1,600 shots are decent at 8 x 10, though detail in some solid colors starts to disappear, including reds, yellows, and greens. We'll call 5 x 7 good here.

ISO 3,200 images look good printed at 4 x 6 inches.

ISO 6,400 does not yield good prints and is best avoided.

With so many comparisons made to the excellent Olympus XZ-1, we really expected better print quality from the Olympus TG-1. Still, it does a good job with most subjects, and makes a usable print at all but the highest ISO setting.


 

Olympus Tough TG-1 Performance


Startup Time: The Olympus Tough TG-1 takes only 0.9 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's pretty quick.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.32 second at wide angle and 0.31 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.040 second, not the fastest, but not slow either.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is very good, capturing a frame every 0.80 second in single-shot mode. The Olympus TG-1's full-resolution continuous mode is rated at about 5 frames per second for 25 frames, and you can shoot 3-megapixel images at up to 60fps.


Flash Recycle: The TG-1's flash recycles in about 2.9 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is quite zippy.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled which is excellent, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Olympus Tough TG-1's download speeds are quite fast. We measured 9,329 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The Olympus TG-1's battery life has a CIPA rating of 350 shots per charge, which is excellent, much better than average for a waterproof compact.


 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Li90B)
  • F-2AC power adapter
  • A/V cable
  • USB cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Instruction manual and quick start Guide
  • Olympus software CDs

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 16GB should be a minimum.
  • Small camera case

 

Olympus Tough TG-1 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Solidly built camera that screams quality and substance
  • Good grip makes it easy to handle and shoot underwater
  • Bright, fast f/2.0 wide-angle lens with slow, precise 4x zoom
  • Equipped with a physical Mode dial
  • Large (3-inch), bright (perhaps too bright!) 610K-dot OLED display
  • Good autofocus speed
  • Rapid startup and shot-to-shot time
  • Excellent Macro performance
  • Available teleconverter and fisheye converter lenses
  • Waterproof to 40 feet
  • Full 1080p HD video with stereo sound
  • Built-in GPS and manometer
  • Best-in-class battery life
  • Test shots were almost consistently underexposed, except at telephoto
  • Not much telephoto reach (100mm equivalent)
  • Maximum aperture falls rather quickly to f/4.9 at telephoto
  • Moderate distortion at wide angle
  • OLED monitor tends to clip highlights and washout midtones, plus colors are unrealistic and oversaturated
  • Images have muted colors overall
  • Auto white balance much too warm in incandescent light
  • No raw support (somewhat disappointing at this price point)
  • No manual or priority exposure modes
  • Fairly ineffective flash, despite specs
  • Separate battery charger is optional

 

Better in most ways than other recent Olympus Tough cameras, the TG-1 features a strong, ergonomic physical design and impressive speed. The Olympus TG-1 boasts a fast maximum-aperture f/2.0 lens, and the images we took with it demonstrated strong detail and decent print quality -- even as ISO rose. However, distortion shooting at wide angle was a bit of an issue, and in our tests the TG-1 struggled to maintain good exposure. The Olympus TG-1 is fast to start up, fast shot-to-shot, and even its flash recycles quickly. If speed and print quality are important, the TG-1 is a top choice among rugged, waterproof compact digital cameras. However, the underexposure problem is a major issue, which is why we couldn't rank the Olympus TG-1 any higher. Though the Olympus TG-1 is a step up from other recent Olympus waterproof cameras, it doesn't quite earn a Dave's Pick.

 

Olympus TG-1

Your purchases support this site

Buy the Olympus TG-1
Print the overview page for the Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera reviewPrint this Page

Follow Imaging Resource

Purchase memory card for Olympus Tough TG-1 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate