Check out an examination of photo quality and capabilities of the Tough TG-1 iHS, Olympus' top 2012 rugged camera.
The Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS is capable of taking very good to excellent photos for a rugged point-and-shoot camera. Don't expect the photo quality of the XZ-1 in a rugged body, though.
These are crops from the center of our test scene at 100 percent. At its lowest ISO settings, the TG-1 seems to drift between oversharpened or soft and smeary. And really it continues that all the way up to ISO 800; above that things just gets soft and noisy. Unless you're a pixel peeper or need to make prints larger than 9x12, you should be happy with its results below ISO 400.
That's the case with many point-and-shoots, though. The TG-1's edge is the f2.0 lens, which keeps you from having to use higher ISOs when you have less light.
Colors from the TG-1 are pleasing and natural. The auto white balance seemed a little cool, but with the capability to save to custom presets at the push of a button as well as a handful of programmed presets, there are ways around it.
This camera is excellent for shooting close-ups. In its regular macro mode it can focus as close as 6 inches from a subject at the wide end, and 4 inches away zoomed in. Like most point-and-shoots, the results don't look great at full size, but at slightly reduced sizes they look very good.
In Super Macro mode, you can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject. Unfortunately, it uses the zoom lens to do this, so the camera can't use the f2.0 aperture and instead used f4.2 for this shot. If you end up needing more light (you can't use the flash for this mode), you can turn on the camera's LED light. Viewed at 100 percent, you'll see artifacts, but at reduced sizes -- 75 to 50 percent -- the results look very good for its class.
To help out the 4x optical zoom, Olympus includes a digital zoom option called Super Resolution Zoom. While the results aren't something you'll want to look at at 100 percent (top), they're fine at smaller sizes for prints and Web sharing and it bumps up the "zoom" to 6x (bottom).
In general, the lens quality on the TG-1 is very good; sharp at the center, and it only softens up a little at the sides and in the corners. However, that's where you'll find a lot of fringing if you're shooting a high-contrast scene, such as brightly backlit trees. Though this is a 100 percent crop from the photos on slide 6, it can be bad enough where you see it at smaller sizes. There was very minor barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, too.
The camera has four underwater scene modes: Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1 (landscapes), Underwater Wide 2 (action), and Underwater Macro (used here; there is no fish tank option). Each is set for the best color balance, exposure, and flash for the scene and Olympus' Tap Control lets you quickly switch to the appropriate mode with wet or gloved hands.
Olympus includes 12 of its Magic Art Filters for experimenting with. About half of them are available at full resolution, the rest at 5 megapixels, and all but two can be used for photos and movies. Clockwise from top left: Pin Hole, Fragmented, Dramatic, and Mirrored.
Also among the camera's many scene-shooting options is an in-camera panorama creator. Take a shot and slide the camera up, down, left, or right until the onscreen crosshairs are lined up with a target and the camera will fire off another shot. Do that once more and the camera will stitch together the three images. It takes a while to process the images, but the results are very good even at larger sizes.