Olympus’ latest range of Tough digital compacts are, says Olympus, designed to provide rugged good looks with great image quality. The Olympus Tough TG-260 sits within the latest Tough set of cameras, below the higher specified TG-820 and the TG-320 – we find out if it is any good.
Available in five colours that include a vivid green, a ho hum black, an intense reddish pink, an electric blue (tested here) and bright white, the 12-megapixel model is certainly rugged, though it lacks the all-metal bodywork of its higher specified sibling, the TG-820, with plastic forming the back and sides. This is most noticeable when using the camera’s port hatches; one on the side for the HDMI/USB port cover and the battery/memory card cover on the camera’s base.
The hatches lock (which is brilliant) and have effective dirt and water seals, but their plastic-ness is at odds with the rest of the camera making them feel unduly flimsy.
Olympus Tough TG-620 Review – Features
As well as the ruggedised build and the backlit 12-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, you get a 5x F/3.9 to F/5.9 optical zoom lens with a focal length range of 28mm to 140mm, in 35mm film format terms. The lens sits at the top left (from the front) of the camera body and is pretty useful though the aperture range is rather limiting in darker conditions. The lens lacks a protecting slide away shield but is sat inside a recessed frame that helps protect it from the knocks and bumps it’s sure to get if used as the designers intended; when swimming, hiking, climbing and so on.
A small flash unit sits alongside the lens, central on the camera’s face and is accompanied by a LED lamp that can be used when shooting in certain modes, such as when shooting in the camera’s excellent super macro setting and it helps get extra lamination onto very close subjects as a result. I found it to rather overpowering however for said macro work, which is a shame.
You have dual image stabilisation (optical and software) to help deal with camera shake and subject blur while the camera’s TruPic VI image engine (initially developed and used in the companies D-SLR models) and Olympus’ iHS (Intelligence, High Sensitivity and High Speed) technology combine well and are designed to help you get better shots in less than ideal circumstances for the former and make the camera very responsive in the latter.
This combination, designed to improve low-light performance and speed and enhance scene and subject recognition makes it great for fast-moving subjects, night or low light scenes (such as those I have taken within a local church) and it seems to work well too. The TG-620 is able to shoot 1080P HD videos and Olympus’ clever Magic Filters that can be used when shooting stills to add pizzazz and fun effects to your shots can also be used in video capture too.
The autofocus is indeed fast, as is the overall performance, and the camera has a neat HDR Backlight Adjustment system that combines a series of separate photos to give a better exposed final image, and it works well, particularly in situations where, for instance, you’re shooting strongly backlit subjects. It’s less successful for moving subjects however where you can get blurring on swaying tree branches and plants, for example.
Other neat kit that comes within the TG-620 includes a 3D photo mode, Face detection AF that actually works well and 18-scene modes that include the usual suspects such as portrait and landscape as well as Pet detection modes for dogs and cats. The AF is supported by iAuto and AF tracking systems while soupier resolution zoom helps take better digital zoom shots, but only just. You also have EyeFi memory card compatibility and the SD format cards, slot alongside the Li-ion rechargeable battery, that is still going strong after a week’s work that includes much video and still shooting and reviewing too.
The camera’s 3in 460k dot, HyperCrystal screen is very nice to use and provides a clear crisp view in all but the very brightest of direct sunlight; there’s no optical viewfinder.
Olympus Tough TG-620 Review – Handling
The Olympus Tough TG-620 is certainly compact and easily pocketable; the on/off switch is recessed on the top plate, next to the large shutter release. Further along, toward the right hand edge of the camera we find a small, plastic zoom rocker and it is this where my first foible rears its head. The shape and position of the zoom switch is logical but it’s too fiddly to use, difficult to manipulate using the camera one handed and should either be slightly bigger (more proud of the camera’s surface) or less stiff in use.
The camera’s menus are typical of Olympus compacts, offering a comprehensive set of features and modes from the Menu button as well as having direct access to shooting settings from the display while snapping by oppressing the OK/Jog button.
The OK/jog button is prominent and while it’s size makes it better to use wearing gloves, say, it is sluggish to use in menus and settings, where there seems to be a distinct delay between moving the OK button and that being reflected in a menu or setting change.
The playback button allows viewing of your pictures and videos with the camera is switched off while the clever ‘?’ button activates the guided help system for photos and video or, when the camera is off, activates a cool date and time display while last up there’s a small direct video record video button, protected by a small shield, is, like the lens zoom lever, rather too fiddly to operate, particularity wearing gloves, than is ideal.
The other thing that always mystified about by the Tough cameras and similar cameras from other makers is their lack of negative buoyancy. If you don’t wear the camera strap and you drop the camera when, say, snorkelling in deeper water, you’ll just have to watch it sink out of site unless you grab it quick.
Performance and Verdict
Olympus Tough TG-620 Review – Performance
The Olympus Tough TG-620 is capable of making well exposed images while colour capture is very good indeed. The 28-140mm zoom lens is capable and produces plenty of detail at both the wide and tele ends of its range although I noticed some slight softening in the corners at the full zoom end of the lens and there’s some purple fringing visible in high contrast areas.
The three close-up shooting modes of macro, super macro and super macro LED allow a closest focus distance of an impressive 3cm in super macro mode but using the LED light resulted in over bright hot spots on some of my larger small subjects.
Image noise at ISO 100 is impressively absent, but at ISO 200 it starts to appear, subtly at least. At ISO 400 it increases slightly while ISO 800 the noise processing makes images softer and at ISO 1600 noise and its removal makes images more grainy still and reduces both detail and colour vibrancy suffers a tad too. Noise quickly increase at ISO 3200 and 6400, but image are nevertheless (almost) usable but are better left for use for the web.
The best colour comes when using the Landscape mode, with superb blues and greens; skin tones in Portraits are excellent too, Sport mode gets access to faster shutter speeds tanned boosted ISO and works well, the camera’s fleetness of foot making it ideal for fleeting subjects.
In terms of white-balance the auto setting is bait hit a miss in mixed lighting with orange colour casts being noticeable. Overall however, the auto setting does a good job overall but the best colour and white balance came by using the correct white balance setting for the ambient lighting, as you’d expect.
When shooting video, I found the HD quality to be acceptable if slightly granular, not all Magic filters can be used when shooting video but overall I found the video quality to be rather good for this type of camera as is its value.
Olympus Tough TG-620 Review – Verdict
If you‚’re the outdoors type, snorkel or climb, run in the rain or cycle everywhere and want to snap or shoot video as you go, cameras such as the Olympus Tough TG-620 make it possible. And it provides great image quality and can cope working underwater and in freezing conditions. One thing I always dislike on cameras such as this is shellack of negative buoyancy, so if you drop it underwater and don’t have it strapped to you, it’ll sink like a stone.
However, the picture quality and the TG-620’s other rugged merits, make it worth considering if you are on a tighter budget (than the Olympus Tough TG-820 allows) but still want plenty of great features and image quality to boot.