Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS review: Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS

A removable lens surround lets you attach converter lenses. Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

The controls are too tightly spaced on the TG-1.

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.

Lots of automatic shooting options to choose from on the TG-1 iHS Sarah Tew/CNET

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 slideshow.)

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.

Conclusion: Recommended
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.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(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)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4
Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
Pentax Optio WG-2

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Typical continuous-shooting speed  

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