Vincent Oliver tests the compact Olympus Tough TG-1 that takes great pictures and can withstand hard use
The 4.5-18mm (25-100mm equivalent) wide zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f/2-4.9, with the 4x optical zoom lens ideal for most situations, although I would prefer a slightly longer focal length. However, the camera also incorporates a digital zoom that increases the range to 8x (super resolution zoom) or 16x, with the zoom indicator on the monitor displaying which magnification is in use.
Build and handling
The Olympus Tough TG-1 is very easy to use, and I managed to find my way around within minutes without having to refer to the manual. The rear dial sets the shooting mode, which includes program, iAuto, low light, super sport, scene mode, magic filter and two custom settings.
Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t have a full manual setting. Other rear controls include a zoom rocker, movie record, playback, a navigation control with a central OK button and menu. Buttons are well placed even for big hands, and if the user’s hands are too big then the tap control can be used. This involves simply tapping the side of the camera to navigate through menus or images.
The Lithium-Ion battery is located on the camera base with the SD card slot. A USB battery charger is also supplied, with the battery charged in-camera. The USB and HDMI ports are found on the side of the camera, and both the base and side covers have a double-locking, watertight seal.
Program mode offers the most user-selectable options. These include flash settings, macro, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO from 100-6400, shooting rates from single frame to 60fps (although file sizes are 3MB or smaller at this speed) and file size (12M, 8M, 5M, 3M, 2M, 1M, VGA and 16:9). Settings that are set can be saved as Custom 1 or 2.
Of the other shooting modes, the scene modes offer several scenarios, including landscape, 3D and HDR. The inclusion of pet options is a little over the top. Panorama mode is well implemented, with the camera detecting the direction in which it is moved and displaying a small crosshair target. You just reposition the view until the floating dot aligns with the target and the next picture is automatically taken, then repeat the process for the third image. The 180˚ panorama takes a while to compile and doesn’t always align correctly.
There is a magic setting with 12 effects, from watercolour to punk art and line drawing, although the effects could easily be achieved in most image-editing applications. Also, the effect is saved over the original file and cannot be undone. I would much prefer the camera to create a second version of the file, leaving the original untouched. Curiously, the ‘drawing’ effect does give two shots, so perhaps the designer forgot to add this feature to the other effects. I would also have liked a black & white and sepia setting. The TG-1 also has GPS, with a database of more than 700,000 worldwide landmarks.
The TG-1’s lens can be converted to either a fisheye or a telephoto (both converters cost £129.99), while the converter adapter costs £19.99.
This image was taken using the camera’s super macro mode, enabling close focusing down to an impressive 1cm
Image quality is very good. Images are sharp and clean, although I feel that the camera applies too much compression, which can reduce the overall image quality even at the Fine setting. The super-resolution zoom produces good results, whereas the 16x zoom produces soft, mushy pixels.
HD movie capture is excellent, with three shooting modes: 1080p, 720p and VGA. Each generates smooth-playing video. The two macro settings produce great results and I really like the super macro with LED illumination. The camera has some difficulty with exposure – particularly when there’s plenty of white sky, which tends to be underexposed. The histogram and 3in OLED screen give sufficient information to allow the user to make any necessary compensation.
The Olympus Tough TG-1 produces consistently sharp photos with great colours. It’s not one of the cheapest compacts around, but it packs a lot of features, including GPS and underwater shooting capability. The camera is small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag, and produces great images in a wide variety of scenarios.