Olympus Tough TG-3
Category: Waterproof / Rugged Compact Camera
Olympus Tough TG-3 (con't)
The TG-3's photo quality is about average for a compact camera. While the lens is sharp, noise reduction is pretty heavy-handed, which can smudge away the details in your photos. Corner blurring was generally not an issue, and the lens stays sharp at its telephoto end.
The camera does a pretty good job at higher ISOs, so using ISO 640 is 'safe', as long as you're not inspecting photos at 100% on your computer screen.
|The high contrast areas of the image - such as the boats and pier - are sharp. However, noise reduction makes the trees and water look almost fake. ISO 100, 1/800 sec, f/3.5, 38mm equiv.|
The good news about how the TG-3 performs underwater is that there's no blue color cast. The bad news is that the camera tends to underexpose by a fair amount. In its underwater scene mode, the TG-3 rarely kept the aperture wide open, instead using apertures like F5.6 and F6.3.
|One of very few properly exposed underwater photos from the Olympus Tough TG-3. ISO 160, 1/400 sec, f/6.3, 100mm equiv.|
If you're comfortable with manual controls, then you may want to throw the camera into aperture priority mode and keep the lens wide open. The underwater white balance mode should keep color accurate. If you want simpler operation, you may just want to bump up the exposure compensation 1/3 or 2/3-stop while you're out swimming.
The TG-3 records 1080/30p video with stereo sound, which is average spec these days. Although the camera has some manual control, movie recording is 100% point-and-shoot.
Sample 1 - underwater
Unfortunately there were no fish available for this rather shaky sample (sorry), but it still gives you a quick look at what the TG-3 can do underwater. Unlike with still photos, the TG-3's videos have a bluish cast.
Sample 2 - on the beach
The sample video below illustrates two things. First is that the video quality isn't so hot, especially when it comes to sharpness. You'll also notice that there's a lot of wind noise, despite having the wind filter enabled.
The Olympus TG-2 was our favorite in last year's roundup, and the TG-3 is even better. It retains the same fast lens (at wide-angle), aperture priority mode, and 5fps burst mode as its predecessor, but adds a much improved 3" display that's bright and easy-to-see outdoors, plus Wi-Fi with remote capture. The body is one of the most rugged out there, and the 'tap control' features allow for basic setting adjustment while wearing gloves. Battery life is also best-in-class.
The first negative covers all four cameras in this roundup, and that's smudging of fine detail by noise reduction. While exposure is fine on land, the TG-3 underexposes underwater, so using exposure compensation is a must. The camera's aperture priority mode is appreciated, though you can only select from three values at any one time. Finally, some users may find the zoom controller to be a little fiddly.
While it's the most expensive camera in the roundup, the TG-3 has a lot to offer. We think that spending the extra money is worth it, given its nice lens, usable LCD, and great battery life.
Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
The Olympus TG-3 is a very solid and capable rugged camera that offers a fast lens (at wide-angle), an excellent LCD, fast performance, and top notch battery life. Image quality isn't great when viewed at 100% - and exposure needs to be watched underwater - but most people will be happy with the results.