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Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS

12.0MP | 25-100mm (4X) Zoom | $329/£275/€336
>> Click to read full review

Olympus, along with Pentax, is one of the pioneers of the underwater/rugged camera. Its first camera, the Stylus 720 SW, was introduced back in 2006, and the rest is history. Many, many generations of rugged cameras later, the Tough TG-1 iHS arrived, and it brought something new to the genre: a fast, F2.0-4.9 25-100mm (equivalent) zoom lens. This was a significant improvement over the slow lenses normally found on tough cameras. Two other notable features were support for conversion lenses, and limited manual exposure control.

The Tough TG-2 iHS, which arrived in early 2013, builds on the TG-1's already impressive feature set and is even more waterproof and rugged, with a better-than-average depth rating of 15 meters (50 feet). The other hallmark features, listed below, remain the same.

Specification Highlights

  • 12.0 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • F2.0-4.9, 25-100mm lens (4X)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Waterproof to 15m, shockproof from 2.1m, crushproof to 100 kgf, freezeproof to -10C
  • 3.0 inch OLED display with 610,000 dot resolution
  • Aperture priority mode
  • Built-in GPS with landmark tagging, compass, manometer, and logging
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 1080/30p movie mode with stereo sound
  • 'Tap Control' for (limited) camera control when wearing gloves
  • Support for fish-eye and telephoto conversion lenses
The highlight of the TG-2's specification is undoubtedly its relatively fast 25-100mm lens. At wide-angle, the maximum aperture is F2.0, which is at least a full stop faster than what you'll find on most other rugged cameras.

A 'fast' maximum aperture lets in more light, which allows you to keep the ISO sensitivity down, which in turn keeps noise levels low (at least in theory). The Canon D20, for example, offers a longer zoom than the TG-2, at 28-140mm, but it is considerably slower at its wide and middle focal lengths, offering a maximum aperture of F3.9-4.8. So in the same shooting conditions, at wide-angle, the TG-2 will be able to correctly expose shots using lower ISO settings than the D20, which means less noise and better image quality. At the telephoto end of the lens, the TG-2's maximum aperture is a slightly more pedestrian F4.9.

Another unique feature of the TG-2 is the ability to add conversion lenses. The camera supports both telephoto and fish-eye lenses. As you'd expect, both of these lenses are waterproof.

The conversion lens adapter that comes with these lenses (and can be purchased separately) also allows the use of 40.5mm filters.

The only other rugged camera on the market to support a conversion lens is the Pentax WG-3, which supports a wide-angle lens, but lacks filter support.

Unlike some of its peers, which have - shall we say - rather unique designs, the Olympus Tough TG-2 is about as plain old rectangular as a camera can get. The only protrusions are the 'hump' on the top for the GPS receiver, and the large metal strap mount on one side. The camera lives up to the 'Tough' name that's emblazoned on its front plate, with a body made almost completely of metal. The TG-2 is available in black and and red colors, and those prone to losing their cameras may want to choose the latter, which is a lot more visible.

The TG-2 fits well in the hand, though the grip is small and a bit slippery.
Like its predecessor, the TG-2 has a 3-inch, 610k-dot OLED display, with brilliant color and a wide viewing angle - at least indoors.

While the TG-2's OLED display looks beautiful indoors, outdoor performance was lacking. It's nearly impossible to use in bright light, even with brightness cranked to the maximum setting. It was also very difficult to use when snorkeling.

Here you can see the TG-2's LED illuminator and built-in flash. The flash has a range of up to 7.9 meters, but that's at ISO 1600 - a sensitivity that you want to avoid.

One of the downsides of the TG-2 is that its flash is quite weak. Olympus quotes a maximum range of 7.9 m at wide-angle and 3.1 m at telephoto, but that's at ISO 1600, which is a sensitivity that's would result in noisy images. At the more reasonable sensitivity of ISO 400, the range is just 2 meters at wide-angle and 0.8 meters at telephoto, which isn't far. That's not to say that other compact cameras will be a lot better, but it's something to keep in mind if you take a lot of flash photos.

The flash can be used to wirelessly control an external flash - something that even some high-end compact cameras can't do. The TG-2 can work with Olympus' own RC wireless flash system, which transmits exposure information to the external flash (Olympus or Panasonic-branded). If you're using a third party flash, then it becomes a 'dumb slave' system, where the built-in flash simply triggers the external unit.

The TG-2 is one of the most rugged cameras on the market. It can go up to 15 meters (50 feet) underwater, can be dropped from 2.1 meters (7 feet), and can be crushed with up to 100 kgf (220 lbf) of force. It's also freezeproof to -10C (+14). If you want to take the camera even deeper underwater, Olympus's PT-053 housing supports depths of up to 45 meters (148 feet).

As with all underwater cameras, all of the doors have gaskets to keep out moisture and dust.

It's worth mentioning that during our shooting, the TG-2 was the only camera with which we had issues with condensation. We cleaned and checked the seals in an indoor, air conditioned environment. When the camera went into the ocean, the inside of the lens was totally fogged up for about half an hour, before finally clearing. While we don't know how it got there, clearly some moisture had entered the camera. We should note, too, that we only had this problem once.

Shooting Modes

As we'd expect from a a consumer-level compact in 2013, the Olympus TG-2 has an 'intelligent' Auto mode, where the camera selects the correct scene mode for the situation. If you want to select scene modes yourself, there are plenty to choose from. There are four scene modes dedicated to underwater photography: snapshot, wide 1/2, and macro. Unlike most of the underwater cameras we've tested, there isn't a bluish color cast in our photos, which earns the TG-2 some points.

The TG-2 also has Magic filters (variants of the Art filters that can be found in its higher-end cameras), which lets you compose photos with special effects such as fish-eye, pop art, reflection, 'punk', and miniature.

The TG-2's main menu is packed with options, and Olympus smartly added descriptions of each of them at the bottom of the screen. The Function menu is your shortcut menu, and allows you to quickly adjust white balance, ISO, the self-timer, and more.

One of the nice features on the TG-2 is an aperture priority mode - something that's unusual on compact cameras. At wide-angle, you can select from F2.0, F2.8, and F8. At telephoto, your choices are F4.9, F6.3, and F18. Before you get too excited, though, the actual aperture of the lens is fixed at F2. Confused? Well, like many compact cameras, the TG-2 'fakes' its smaller apertures with the use of filters, which basically cut out light equivalent to shooting at smaller aperture settings. This is not a bad thing at all, since shooting at genuinely smaller apertures would result in lower sharpness due to diffraction.

Other manual controls include custom white balance and exposure compensation. You can also save your favorite settings to two spots on the mode dial.

GPS

The Olympus TG-2 has one of the more fully-featured GPS setups on the market. It'll record your location, your altitude or depth, direction (thanks to an e-Compass) and nearby landmarks. It can also track your path as you travel (at the expense of battery life, since the camera turns on every few minutes), which you can import into Google Earth. It also has a cool landmark locater, which is pictured below, and can display your location on a very zoomed-out map.

In playback mode (above left) you'll see your location and the landmark that the camera thought you were near (above right). If you keep pressing the zoom out button, you'll see your very-approximate location on a map (above right).

The TG-2 also doubles as a landmark locater. Select the landmark (which is Seattle's Space Needle in this case) and the camera will point you in the right direction (literally).

While landmark tagging is a nice idea in practice, in reality the camera often picks the wrong place (its small database doesn't help matters). While the TG-2 lets you change the landmark associated with a photo, you can't just remove it entirely if there's no match.

With GPS Assist data (which is loaded using bundled software), the TG-2 was able to figure out that it was on the roof of the DPReview headquarters in a very impressive 15 seconds. However, as with all cameras with built-in GPS, it struggled when in the big city. As you'd expect, the GPS doesn't work underwater, but at least the built-in manometer (pressure meter) will tell you how deep you are.

Movies

The Tough TG-2 can record 1080p video at 30 frames/second for up to 24 minutes, which is when the camera hits its 4GB file size limit. There are also 720p and VGA options available, with the former having a 29 minute time limit. Sound is recorded in stereo, and you can adjust the mic level (with low or normal settings). A wind filter is also available, though in practice it wasn't very effective.

The TG-2 can also record high speed video at 60 or 120 fps, though the resolution drops to 640 x 480 and 320 x 240. When played back at normal speed, everything appears to move in slow motion.

You'll find sample videos on the following page.

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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 10, 2013)

From this lineup, Lumix and Nikon are about the only ones you would not be ashamed of being seen as a user.

There rest are just Comedy Central.

.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

not even...
Nikon: Not good for: Frequent shooting in bright light, pixel peepers, or those who want long battery life
Panasonic Lumix: "Photo quality is typical for this class. Fine details are often smudged and chromatic aberrations can be strong at times." Not good for: Low light

0 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Aug 10, 2013)

does GoPro and Astac 7200 fit into this category ?

0 upvotes
Rod McD
By Rod McD (Aug 10, 2013)

Hi DPR, thanks for your review.

People buy these things because there's no alternative other than a bigger camera and a housing. I'd like to see a manufacturer opt for a new approach. Year after year your reviews (and others) comment on their small sensors and poor IQ. The internet is also littered with leak complaints and poor company response on guarantees.

There seems to be a view that wilderness/outdoor/water sport followers don't value better IQ, which is absolutely untrue. And that serious photographers should have a D4 in a housing. Try stuffing one of those in your life jacket. The middle ground - the old Nikonos - is gone.

We need a manufacturer to make a robust, WR, direct light path camera with an APSC sensor, a fixed 24-85eq zoom (or primes) and real "O" rings. One 25mm "O" ring cover could give access to an SD card, a shaped battery and USB plug. Add a decent grip. And useable with gloves please.

Yes it would be bigger and cost more. But worth every cent.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
Treeshade
By Treeshade (Aug 10, 2013)

Most of these cameras are not only water-proof but also shock-proof - they are not just for diving, but also for skiing, skating, mountain-biking, etc.. It would be really difficult to shock-proof an APSC standard zoom.

Imagine the thickness of a 58mm fliter that would not break when dropped to the ground with a 1kg body crushing it.

But I agree that it would be fantastic be have, for example, a weatherproof tough X100s.

1 upvote
breth
By breth (Aug 10, 2013)

Agree with Rod. I can't be completely sure, but I believe there is a good market out there for a WR aps-c sensor serious compact. Not only would it be the backpacker's ultimate camera for convenience, I think that perhaps it would also interest streetshooters who like to get photos in the rain, or other less than perfect conditions.
If Ricoh-Pentax would use their expertise in designing cameras like this, I see no reason why a serious WR compact would not be a hit. A WR Ricoh GR would perhaps not have to be much bigger than it already is - and even if it would be, it still would be very attractive to a lot of backpackers.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd settle for a waterproof RX100.

it would seem like a reasonable compromise.

2 upvotes
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd even be happy with a waterproof DMC LX7. But even this seems highly unlikely to happen...

2 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I completely agree with all these comments. A waterproof and ruggedized Ricoh GR or Nikon Coolpix A would be a great outdoor sport camera. Also, Nikon wants to revitalise the Nikon 1? Bring out a fully waterproof and shockproof model with a couple similarly toughened primes to match. It's already got the great autofocus that would be good for skiing etc. Nikonos reborn!

2 upvotes
LaFonte
By LaFonte (Aug 10, 2013)

It is extremely expensive to make waterproof "real" camera that would withstand more than a year of use. On all professional equipment you have to regularly change the o-rings and take pretty good care of the housing. A grain of sand can make waterproof camera no longer waterproof.
All of those small wp cameras are basically with planned 1 year obsolescence. They are cheap inside so if they start leaking, then you throw it away and get new one. Many of those would leak after some time, some even after first dip :-)
You definitely don't want a wp expensive camera like rx100 or x100 and nobody will make it. If you need wp you will buy a marina case that is probably more expensive than the camera itself, but it will protect your equipment.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Sony rx100 option here below.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/909217-REG/Ikelite_6116_10_Housing_For_Sony.html

0 upvotes
tiberius_dinu
By tiberius_dinu (Aug 10, 2013)

I have bought the Lumix TS5 and I'm very pleased with it. The image quality is as good as it can be in this class but would not care more about. I do shoot Canon 6D but I can not take in the water or running or snorkeling. The video is as advertised and it looks awesome and that was one of te reasons I opted for TS5. I had no issues with the wifi and it connects smoothly to my ipad, iPhone and the LG android I'm using. Neat to be able to control the zoom and the settings in the camera remotely.

Thanks for the reviews I did follow them and it did help me.

Cheers

T

2 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Would have liked to have seen some mention/discussion of options out there using dedicated or aftermarket housings in conjunction with standard compact cameras. Ie. Can u get a better performing camera + housing for not much price difference?

1 upvote
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

This is the review you should have made to begin with instead of giving every single rugged camera its own review. Why do you assign these cameras for review rather than the many mirrorless cameras you have skipped or may be about to skip over like the GF5, G5, GF6, G6, E-PL5, NEX-5R, NEX-3N, just off the top of my head. Not a single one of your six individual rugged reviews got even 100 comments. I guarantee you that any one of the cameras I mentioned would get more than 100 comments if it was still the current model.

5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 10, 2013)

We don't judge success by comments - if we did, every other news story would be about Adobe Creative Cloud.

16 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

Simon Joinson himself said that you judge success by traffic and I'm sure there's a strong correlation between number of comments and number of page views.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

bah! come on!
no harm was done.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

We're talking about cameras that should have been reviewed and weren't, not whatever your definition of "harm" is.

0 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I doubt there is a correlation between comments and page views. Most page views surely come from people who are not registered members of the site. DPReview reviews cameras that will generate more page hits, so why budget DSLRs are reviewed in a timely fashion and also consumer friendly cams like these rugged cameras (summer's almost over though, these are a bit late I'd say).

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

If you honestly think that a review with 50 comments and a preview with 700 comments are equally likely to have the most page views between the two, you are completely delusional. More likely is that you just don't understand correlation very well.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 11, 2013)

Barney makes a good point. A doorstop from Nikon will generate 10 times more comments than an unusual or outstanding camera from a small fry like Ricoh.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 11, 2013)

Nikon Coolpix AW110 Review: 77 comments
Ricoh GR Review: 214 comments
Panasonic GX7 First Impressions Review: 702 comments (and counting)

Want to try again?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 29 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 12, 2013)

Mikhail - please stop it.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 12, 2013)

Can you be more specific? What I've done here is to refute people's factually inaccurate statements, is that not allowed? Or if I have myself said anything inaccurate in this chain of replies, please explain that as well. Thank you.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 123
12