Olympus TG-5 Image Quality Comparison

We've decided to do something a little different here than our usual image quality comparisons, since we don't test many cameras with tiny 1/2.3"-type sensors these days (not many are being produced). So below we compare the TG-5's JPEG image quality to that of its predecessor's, the TG-4, at all shared ISO settings as the usual ISOs we compare don't perform well with tiny sensors. And below that, we compare the TG-5's default noise reduction to its lowest setting at all ISO settings, to give you an idea of how much noise is present.

NOTE: For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Olympus TG-5 and Olympus TG-4 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Olympus TG-5 to any camera we've ever tested!

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at Base ISO

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 100
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 100

Here at base ISO where noise is lowest, we can see the TG-5 actually retains better detail in the mosaic crop even though its resolution is lower at 12MP instead of 16. Detail is pretty much a wash in our tricky red-leaf swatch, though, however the TG-5 does a little better in the pink fabric. Luminance noise is higher from the TG-5 as can be seen in flatter areas, however chrominance noise is very well-controlled from both cameras. Despite not being as saturated as most cameras, the TG-5 does show more pleasing, warmer colors and a slightly crisper image overall, however sharpening halos around high-contrast edges are more noticeable

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 200

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 200
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 200

Both cameras show a step down in image quality already here at ISO 200 with higher noise and more smudging due to stronger noise reduction, however the TG-5 continues to offer slightly better detail and colors.

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 400

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 400
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 400

Here at ISO 400, the trend continues with the TG-5 retaining more detail than the TG-4 with less smudging, however its area-specific noise reduction does appear to the blurring some areas in our mosaic crop more than others which looks a little strange. The noise "grain" from the TG-5 in flatter areas is much finer and more consistent, though. Color and contrast remain better as well, so overall the TG-5 comes out ahead again here.

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 800

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 800
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 800

Both cameras really start to struggle here at ISO 800, with high noise and smudged details. The TG-5 still produces a finer, tighter noise "grain", lower chroma noise, as well as better color and contrast, but fine detail is also softer and more blurred. We'd still give the edge to the TG-5, but it's getting tough to pick a definitive winner here and at higher ISOs.

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 1600

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 1600
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 1600

ISO 1600 looks like a mess from both cameras when viewed at 100% like this. Both luma and chroma noise are lower from the TG-5, however almost all fine detail has been more heavily blurred to the point that it looks out of focus. The TG-4 shows slightly better detail, but appears much noisier with rougher edges and noticeable chroma blotching. Color is cooler and much more desaturated from the TG-4 as well.

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 3200

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 3200
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 3200

Similar to what we saw at ISO 1600, the TG-5 continues to produce lower noise and better color, but softer detail. Both are pretty awful at ISO 3200.

Olympus TG-5 vs Olympus TG-4 at ISO 6400

Olympus TG-5 at ISO 6400
Olympus TG-4 at ISO 6400

ISO 6400 is mushy mess with fine detail obliterated by very heavy noise and strong blurring. The TG-5 however still produces better color while the TG-4 has become very desaturated and dark, with an almost scorched look.

Overall, there is an improvement in image quality over the TG-4 with better detail at lower ISOs as well as better contrast and color across the ISO range, however we had hoped high ISO performance would be better given the TG-5's larger pixels and newer, more powerful image processor. Both cameras support RAW mode so you should be able to do better with them than in-camera JPEGs with some careful processing, but unlike the TG-5, the TG-4 does not support burst mode when shooting RAW files, so keep that in mind.


TG-5 Adjustable High ISO Noise Reduction

The Olympus TG-5 is the first in the series to offer adjustable high ISO noise reduction, which Olympus calls "Noise Filter". There are four available settings on the TG-5: "Off", "Low", "Standard" and "High". The crops below compare the default "Standard" noise reduction to the lowest "Off" setting.

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at Base ISO

ISO 100, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 100, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 200

ISO 200, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 200, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 400

ISO 400, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 400, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 800

ISO 800, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 800, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 1600, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 3200, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 6400, Noise Filter="Off"

Olympus TG-5 Default NR vs Lowest NR at ISO 12800

ISO 12800, Noise Filter="Standard"
ISO 12800, Noise Filter="Off"

As you can see from the crops above, the lowest noise reduction setting allows a lot more luma noise to remain, however it still does a pretty good job at controlling chroma noise. Fine detail is better preserved at the lowest setting with much less smoothing, but the amount of luma noise is so high that it's arguable it's a useful setting even at low ISOs, unless you're looking for a very grainy effect.


Olympus TG-5 Print Quality Analysis

A good 13 x 19 inch print at ISO 100, a good 8 x 10 at ISO 400, and a good 5 x 7 at ISO 800 and ISO 1600.

ISO 100 prints are quite good at 13 x 19 inches. There is a nice amount of fine detail and the colors are well represented throughout. For a rugged camera with a small 1/2.3"-type sensor, we like what we're seeing here at base ISO with the prints. The 16 x 20 inch prints here can definitely be used for wall display purposes and less critical applications as well.

ISO 200 requires a reduction in print size to 11 x 14 inches in order to satisfy our requirements for passing the "good" seal. Most all contrast detail is now lost in our target's tricky red-leaf swatch, but otherwise this 11 x 14 inch print is quite good and pleasing in most respects.

ISO 400 yields a good print at the common size of 8 x 10 inches, with enough fine detail to pass our good grade while offering worthwhile color representation. The 11 x 14 inch prints here have a bit of noise in flatter areas of our test target, but are not too bad and can certainly be used for less critical purposes.

ISO 800 delivers a 5 x 7 inch print that very much passes our good seal. The 8 x 10's here are slightly muted, with a bit too much noise to pass muster, but a reduction to 5 x 7 tightens the overall print quality up nicely.

ISO 1600 also yields a 5 x 7 inch print that passes our good grade. Colors are still well represented across the spectrum and there is just enough detail to make the cut, with no apparent noise at this size.

ISO 3200 just passes the grade, delivering a good 4 x 6 inch print. It is ever-so-slightly muted due to "gain-strain" at this sensor size, but otherwise it passes the test.

ISOs 6400 and 12,800 do not yield usable prints and these gain settings are best avoided for all printing purposes.

The Olympus TG-5 performs as expected in the print quality department given the relatively small sensor. A very good 13 x 19 inch print can be attained while shooting at base ISO, and this is a nice feat in general for a rugged waterproof camera. And yet if you intend to print 8 x 10's you will for sure want to remain at ISO 400 and below, as anything higher will simply not yield good results while printing at 8 x 10 inches. Given the larger pixels courtesy of the move back to 12 megapixels from 16MP in the TG-4, we'd hoped for better high ISO performance as compared to the predecessor, but the sensor size really limits the performance potential above ISO 400, regardless of the slight increase in pixel size.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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