Tough cameras are unlikely to win any beauty pageants, given their rugged, bulging construction — but the TG-820, in its cherry-red finish, certainly spices up the category. Featuring a sliding metal flap, which covers the 5x optical zoom lens, the front panel is utilitarian and industrial in appearance. The lens zooms internally, so no part of the element protrudes out from the camera's body.
Certainly, you can expect nothing less than total protection, given that the camera can withstand drops from up to 2 metres, is crush proof to 100 kilograms, waterproof to 10 metres and freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius.
Other Olympus cameras in the same range as the TG-820 come with backlit-CMOS sensors, which this rugged version also shares; rounding out at 12 megapixels, with a native ISO range from 100 to 6400.
Around the back, the TG-820 houses an impressively bright, high-resolution, 3-inch LCD screen, which makes reviewing images particularly pleasurable. Buttons and dials at the back are kept to a minimum and are a little small, which might present a problem when used in a cooler climate with snow gloves. Fortunately, it comes with tap control, which allows you to hit the sides of the camera and register certain functions, removing the need to press the small buttons.
Inside the dual-locking flap sits the battery compartment, along with the SD card slot. There's also a micro-HDMI port and a USB connection, which is also used to charge the battery with the provided adapter.
Shooting modes are predominantly automatic, with intelligent auto, program, scene, beauty, panorama and magic available. Magic filters are creative effects that the camera applies to photos, and the TG-820 has 12 of them available: pop art, pin hole, fish-eye, drawing, soft focus, punk, sparkle, watercolour, reflection, miniature, fragmented and dramatic.
Some examples of the TG-820's magic filters. Clockwise from top left: dramatic, fragmented, fish-eye and reflection.
Controlling the camera is simple enough for beginners, though it may take a while to get accustomed to the zoom rocker, which is rather small and located at the top of the camera, right next to the shutter button. There's also an instant-on record button, which is next to the LCD screen, flanked by a rather large metal holder, used for attaching the wrist strap.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The TG-820 has several continuous shooting modes: regular continuous, which takes photos at the full 12-megapixel resolution (as timed above); and Hi 1/Hi 2 modes, which reduce the resolution to 3 megapixels, but at a faster rate. Regular continuous mode sees the TG-820 take six shots in quick succession, before slowing to process them and then proceeding at a more leisurely 0.9 frames per second.
Olympus rates the battery for 220 shots.
For everyday snapshots, the TG-820 is a fine, tough camera. Colours are punchy and bold, and the dynamic range is not too bad, either. Lens sharpness drops off towards the left side of the frame, though, and shots taken in ample daylight appear just a touch soft at full magnification.
Noise control is where the TG-820 struggles, with the camera often increasing the ISO sensitivity in automatic modes when it doesn't really need to, just to get a clear shot. That said, if you can manage to keep the camera under ISO 400, you shouldn't have too many issues.
A shot taken in ample daylight, but the flash decided to fire. As you can see from the 100 per cent crop, at a high ISO sensitivity (the camera decided that ISO 1250 was appropriate) there's a lot of noise.
The 5x optical zoom lens means you can get quite close to a subject. Depending on the ambient light, the camera may try to increase the sensitivity to maximise the chance of getting a steady shot, which can make images at the extreme appear quite noisy.
The lens exhibits a fair degree of chromatic aberration, and struggles to render the detail between areas of high and low contrast. This is really only an issue for anyone wishing to make enlargements of prints taken on the camera, or when viewing at full magnification.
The TG-820 records in full 1080p video. Colours on the video image are good, but, overall, the footage looks noisy and mushy. The TG-820 suffers from twitchy autofocus during filming, as the camera tries to continually focus on certain subjects. You can use the optical zoom while filming.
Exposure: 1/160, f/3.9, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/100, f/4.8, ISO 320
Exposure: 1/25, f/3.9, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/20, f/3.9, ISO 800/p>
The TG-810 is a fine, tough camera, if you need the meanest, most rugged model out there. Its high ISO performance leaves a lot to be desired, but it's perfectly suitable for the most extreme circumstances for photography.