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Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 puts new angle on rugged cameras

The TG-850 brings some firsts to the rugged point-and-shoot category to help beat out the stale competition.

Lori Grunin/CNET

For the past couple of years, there hasn't been much new in rugged point-and-shoots. Sure, they get a bit tougher year to year and they get the same feature tweaks that regular compacts get, but that's about it.

Perhaps the biggest feature improvement came from Olympus and Pentax when both added f2.0 lenses to their top rugged cameras. With the Stylus Tough TG-850, Olympus is continuing push in new directions for the category.

Though not a bright f2.0 lens like the one on its Tough WG-2 iHS, the 5x zoom lens on the TG-850 starts at an ultrawide-angle 21mm (35mm equivalent). That's currently the widest lens on any rugged compact, letting you capture much more of a scene.

The camera has another first for rugged compacts: a 3-inch 460K-dot-resolution LCD that can tilt up 180 degrees. The tilting screen gives you more flexibility for framing, but could also help you fight screen glare by allowing you to shoot at different angles. And, of course, if you want to get in front of the camera, lifting it up all the way lets you still see what you're shooting.

The TG-850 is waterproof down to 33 feet, shock-proof from 7 feet, crush-proof up to 220 pounds, freeze-proof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof. Those are just about the same durability claims Olympus made for the TG-830 that the TG-850 is replacing.

It still has a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor sitting behind the new ultrawide-angle 5x f3.5-5.7 21-105mm lens, but has an updated TruePic VII image processor. That's probably why it can now capture full-resolution photos in bursts of up to 7.1 frames per second and 1080p video at 60fps.

The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 arrives in March for $249.99.

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