Performance (speed)

The Olympus Tough TG-2 does not disappoint in the performance department. It starts up in less than a second, and can take a photo a fraction of a second later.

Autofocus is extremely quick by compact camera standards. In good light and at wide-angle, the camera locks focus virtually instantaneously. When the lens is at the telephoto position, focus times are still well under a second. Even in low light - where many compact cameras struggle - the TG-2 keep focus acquisition speed under a second, regardless of the focal length.

You'll wait for just one second before you can take another photo. Adding the flash into the mix increases this delay to three seconds.

The TG-2 also offers impressive continuous shooting performance for a compact camera, with the ability to take up to 100 shots at a blazing 5.4 fps. If you don't mind lowering the resolution to 3 megapixels, you can shoot at 15 or 60 frames/second, which produces high-speed and slow-motion videos (respectively) when played back at normal speed.

The good news continues when you look at the TG-2's battery life. The camera, powered by a 4.6Wh battery, is rated at 350 shots using the CIPA standard, which is very good for this class. We were able to get through a day (or more) without issue. Do note that using the GPS - especially the tracking function - will decrease battery life considerably. The battery is charged internally, using an AC-to-USB adapter.

Image Quality

On land, the TG-2's photo quality is more than acceptable for a compact camera. Exposure was accurate though, like most compacts, the TG-2 will clip highlights at times. Colors are really 'punchy', which is a trademark of Olympus cameras. Photos are on the soft side - possibly due to the folded optics design - though you won't notice unless you're viewing them at 100%. There's some luminance noise at low ISOs, and the TG-2 tends to smudge fine detail in areas of high frequency and low contrast. You will encounter some chromatic aberration on the TG-2, though normally it's not a big problem.

Bright Light, Low ISO
The vivid colors on the TG-2 make Kaanapali Beach on Maui look even more spectacular.

ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/10
Like many compact cameras, Olympus applies a lot of noise reduction to photos, which smudges fine details like grass and shrubs.
Aside from some highlight clipping at the lower-left of the photo, the TG-2 photos are well exposed.

ISO 100, 1/800 sec, f/2.8
If you view photos at 100%, you'll notice that they're on the soft side. That said, if you're considering the TG-2 for large exhibition prints, you're probably not looking in the right place.

As is usually the case, image quality goes downhill as the sensitivity increases. The TG-2 does a respectable job at ISO 800, which you can still use for smaller-sized prints and web viewing. ISO 1600 is still usable if there's enough light, but if it's dark outside (as in the example below), it's best avoided. There's very little detail left at ISO 3200, so using this sensitivity isn't recommended.

It's worth mentioning that the TG-2's fast lens means that it won't need to increase the sensitivity as quickly as a camera with a slower lens (meaning most other rugged cameras). This is only true at wide-angle, though, as the lens isn't nearly as 'fast' at telephoto.

Low Light, High ISO
At ISO 800, there's a fair amount of detail loss, as some noise on the carpet that gives the appearance of false color. Still, it's perfectly usable for most purposes. ISO 800, 1/30 sec, f/2.0
When light levels drop, using high sensitivities (such as ISO 1600 in this case) isn't a great idea, as there's a lot of detail loss.

This photo also illustrates some very strong chromatic aberration on the extremely high-contrast edge on the right. Thankfully, this is the exception, rather than the norm.

ISO 1600, 1/6 sec, f/2.8

Since the TG-2 - like all rugged cameras - lacks a Raw mode, there's not a lot you can do to bring back detail or reduce all that purple.

One option for reducing highlight clipping is to use the camera's HDR mode. This takes three photos in a row - one at normal exposure, a second under-exposed, and a third over-exposed - and layers them together into a single image with more balanced contrast. At least, that's the idea.

HDR off, 12MP, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/8
HDR on, 2.8MP, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/8

As you can see, the HDR feature has reduce the highlight clipping at the top of the building on the left, and also turned the sky back to its natural blue color. The shadows have also been brightened, making an overall more pleasing image.

The TG-2 has a weak flash, and we had to increase the ISO to 800 to get something close to proper exposure.

There is some slight redeye in this photo, which the removal tool in playback mode was able to get rid of.

When you take the TG-2 underwater, you'll be pretty impressed. Not so much by the level of detail (photos can be a little noisy at ISO 200, which is the setting the TG-2 reaches for most, in our experience), but by the complete lack of a color cast, which plagues other cameras in this class. The TG-2's fast lens also allows for faster shutter speeds at lower sensitivities compared to underwater cameras with slower lenses. And you'll need those fast shutter speeds to cast those incredibly quick fish.

The TG-2 impressed us with its underwater white balance. Where many of its peers had noticeable bluish casts, the photos from the Olympus required no post-capture color adjustment.

ISO 200, 1/320 sec, f/6.3

Another thing we learned from real-world use of the TG-2 and its underwater compact peers is that it's best to shoot at wide-angle. The main reason is because the lens is much faster at wide-angle than it is at telephoto, and you want as much light as possible for underwater photos. Also, shooting wider gives you a bigger safety margin for framing, which is trickier underwater than on land.

Video Quality

As mentioned on the previous page, the Olympus Tough TG-2 can record video at 1920 x 1080 (30 fps) for up to twenty-four minutes. Below are three samples, taken both above and below sea level.

Sample Video 1

The first video shows off a rather strange (not to mention annoying) issue that we found with the TG-2. When panning, the image starts to get wobbly and choppy, which we attribute to the sensor-shift IS system going 'crazy'. We were able to replicate this problem several times.

1920 x 1080, 30p, 20 Mbps, 31.2 MB, 12 secs Click here to download original video

As you can see, it's not a very desirable effect.

Sample Video 2

Video number two, filled with Canada Geese, looks better, though if you watch carefully, you'll still see some of the wobbly effect that was really obvious in the seaplane sample, as the camera pans right at the beginning of the clip.

1920 x 1080, 30p, 20 Mbps, 31.5 MB, 12 secs  Click here to download original video

Even if you ignore the panning issues that we found, the TG-2's video quality is just average.

Sample Video 3

Our final sample video takes place a few feet underwater, where the author is chasing after a tropical fish. This video is wobbly as well, though that's due more to the photographer moving around to keep the fish in the frame than anything.

1920 x 1080, 30p, 20 Mbps, 24.8 MB, 10 secs Click here to download original video

The most impressive part of this video is that - like the still photos - there's no color cast to be found. You might as well turn off audio recording underwater, as there's nothing worth hearing.