There's more to the lens than just the big aperture, though. Around the 4x 25-100mm zoom lens, Olympus built in a removable surround that allows you to attach an adapter for converter lenses. A fish-eye lens for dramatic wide-angle shots as well as a telephoto converter lens are available to extend the optical zoom from 4x to 6.8x. Both lenses can be used down to 40 feet.
What I also like is that the lens is centered on the camera. With only a couple of exceptions, the internal zoom lenses on rugged cameras put the lens in the top left corner (right, if you're facing the camera) of the body, making it all too easy to end up with fingers in your shots.
Its larger size makes it easy to grip and shoot, even when your hands are wet or cold. Olympus kind of jams all the controls together, though; the only stuff that's on top is the shutter release and power button. Mostly it's just a bit difficult to press the top directional on the control pad, so it's not the end of the world.
There are a couple other minor annoyances like that, though, which combined might be enough to put you off buying it. The stereo mic, while good, is all the way on the left side of the body on top, making it easily covered with a finger when holding the camera. There's room behind it, and a rubber grip for your thumb down the left side of the sharp and bright 3-inch OLED display, so there are ways around it.
The camera's battery charges in camera via USB, but while most manufacturers have switched to Micro-USB, Olympus still uses a proprietary multi-input jack requiring a special cable.
Lastly, while the interface is fine and most important settings can be changed quickly, Olympus buried the power for the GPS deep in menu system, which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't continue to track your movement when you turn the camera off. Olympus used a new lithium ion battery that's supposed to handle running the GPS better, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to easily turn it off.
Again, none of these are deal breakers for me, but the combination might be enough to warrant a pass on the TG-1 for you.
|General shooting options||Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400|
|White balance||Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Underwater, Manual 1 and 2|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Magic Filter, Scene, Super Sport, Low Light, Custom 1 and 2|
|Focus modes||Face/iESP Auto, Spot AF, AF Tracking|
|Macro||6 inches (Wide), 4 inches (Tele); 0.4 inch in Super Macro|
|Metering modes||Digital ESP, Spot|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||25 shots|
The TG-1 iHS is geared for snapshooters. For the most part it's all about scene modes and automation, so if you're after a lot of fine controls, it's not for you. That said, the Program mode gives you control over ISO, white balance, AF, exposure, and metering, and you can set up two custom profiles for groups of settings you regularly use. Olympus' iAuto works well, too, recognizing up to 30 different scenes including underwater and backlit subjects.
For those times when you're feeling a little more creative or would just like to play with what might otherwise be a boring shot, Olympus includes 12 of its Magic Art filters. It's a nice mix including standards like Pin Hole, Fish Eye, and Watercolor as well as a few standouts such as Reflection, which mirrors what ever is in the top half of the frame to the bottom half; Fragmented, which splits your photo into a bunch of smaller tiles; and an artsy HDR option called Dramatic. (You can see examples in this.)
Worth mentioning, too, are the macro options on this camera. If you like shooting close-ups -- in or out of the water -- the TG-1 is an excellent choice.
Olympus has been making rugged cameras for a while now, and while the durability claims have been some of the toughest available, the cameras themselves have been behind competitors newer to the market like Panasonic and Canon. The Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS is out in front, though, with interesting and useful features, fast performance, and very good photo and video quality for a rugged point-and-shoot. Oh, and it's one of the toughest cameras available, too.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|