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You could build a house out of a collection of the brick-like TG-810. That is to say, this camera is built for tough environments and can withstand pretty much anything you choose to throw at it (within reason, of course).
Like the other Tough cameras in the Olympus lineage, the TG-810 inherits a rugged metal chassis, held together by big screws and hinges every which way. Weighing in at over 220g, it's a hefty beast that means serious business. Waterproof to 10m, shockproof from 2m, freezeproof to -10 degrees Celcius and crushproof to 100kg, this is the most rugged camera around. Controls come in the form of small buttons down the back of the camera, as well as a shutter-button and power-button at the top of the camera. The lens is 28mm at its widest end, and is an internal zoom design that reaches 5x optical.
A control nub sits at the base of the back panel, acting as a joypad to navigate through menu structures which, we're pleased to report, have been given an overhaul from previous Olympus systems. To fit in with its rugged description, the TG-810 has a dual-locking side flap that covers the area used to store the battery and SD memory card. It's also home to the proprietary USB connector and a micro HDMI port, the first time we've seen one used on a digital camera.
The 3-inch screen at 920,000-dots is a great way to compose and review images because of its high resolution. Also present are a range of magic filters such as pop-art, fish-eye, pin-hole, sparkle, soft-focus and a curiously named "punk", which we were hoping would go all Young Ones on photos and add Mohawks and piercings. What it really does is change the colour of the image to hot pink and highlight contrasting areas in black. The TG-810 is also compatible with Eye-Fi cards and has a macro LED light for use underwater and on land.
Other features like 3D photography are also on the TG-810, a slightly gimmicky way of keeping up with the Joneses. There's also an electronic compass available, accessible by pressing down on the joystick when the camera is turned off. The joystick is quite difficult to use, particularly as when pressing down to choose a selection often registers as a left or right click, inadvertently changing selections. A built-in manometer (when activated in the menus) shows the current pressure on the screen, as well.
|Olympus Tough TG-810||Panasonic Lumix FT3||Sony Cyber-shot TX10|
|14-megapixel CCD||12.1-megapixel CCD||16.2-megapixel Exmor R|
|3-inch LCD (920,000-dot)||2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (921,000-dot)|
|Waterproof 10m, shockproof 2m||Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m||Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m|
|5x optical zoom||4.6x optical zoom||4x optical zoom|
|28mm wide-angle||28mm wide-angle||25mm wide-angle|
|GPS tagging||GPS tagging||No GPS tagging|
|HD video (720p)||HD video (1080i)||HD video (1080i)|
Olympus rates the battery at 240 shots.
Olympus has done a lot of work to make the images produced by the TG-810 cleaner and nicer than those from any of its predecessors. Exposures seem more accurate and noise, while still an issue, doesn't plague shots as much as it used to.
That said, you might find it difficult to make enlargements from the 14-megapixel photos, as at full-magnification there is still evidence of over-processing. Given the positioning of the lens, it is easy to let a finger obstruct part of the image if you're not careful with how the camera is held. Automatic white balance is mostly accurate outdoors, and overall lens quality is decent. Sharpness drops off to the side of the frame quite dramatically. Images taken without flash in dark situations often suffer from camera shake, and images over ISO 400 are very noisy.
The GPS takes an absolute age to find and locate a signal. While it is supposed to display location data on-screen, particularly when photographing landmarks, we found that the camera wouldn't even identify and lock on to a signal when taking an image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Unless you want to leave the camera switched on for a lengthy period of time to obtain a signal, we suggest avoiding this camera if geotagged images are important to you.
The flash is bright and illuminates the scene most at the centre, with noticeable drop-off towards the edges of the frame. 3D-mode takes one image and then provides a faint outline of it on the screen for you to line up the second frame, which it will stitch together with the first image to create an MPO file, viewable on a 3D TV or photo frame.
An example of an image created using the "punk" magic filter on the TG-810. No prizes for guessing what ad we were trying to recreate. (Credit: CBSi)
Video quality is the worst part about the TG-810, as the autofocus is twitchy, the sound is shallow and the image is slightly fuzzy. On the plus side, you can record video in most of the magic filters to apply different effects. The TG-810 produces MP4 video files.
Exposure: 1/80, f/14, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/200, f/4.4, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/125, f/11, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/30, f/11, ISO 100
Tough as old boots and about as heavy to match, the TG-810 is packed to the brim with features to complement its waterproof credentials. Just don't expect the GPS to work as promised.