Tough… But Is That Really Enough?

 

Olympus TOUGH TG-810

Olympus TOUGH TG-810

Olympus’ latest TOUGH TG-810 camera wins full points in terms of ruggedness, but is it a good camera in the first place? Shridhar Kunte finds out.

With worldwide compact camera markets becoming increasingly competitive, every manufacturer is trying to attract customers by going the extra mile. The new Tough TG-810 is pepped with GPS, an electronic compass and a manometer (air/water pressure gauge). It also supports 720p HD video recording and a two-shot 3D option that can be used underwater.

Features
What makes the TOUGH TG-810 stand out is its ability to survive extreme weather conditions and shoot at depths of up to 33 feet under water. It can survive a 6.6-foot drop onto a hard surface and can resist 100 kgs of weight. It can also operate at -10 degree Celcius, where most other cameras will fail. A water-repellent lens coating prevents water droplets from remaining on the lens. It is fully sealed against particles and dust. It is also scratch resistant up to degree.
The TG-810 offers an effective resolution of 14-megapixels and has a 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The SDHC/SDXC card slots are compatible with Eye-Fi cards that adds Wi-Fi capabilities to the camera. Additionally, a high-resolution 920,000 pixel 3-inch LCD, sensor shift-based, focus tracking, in-camera panorama, and scene modes for shooting above or below water completes the list.

Handling
With its aluminium chassis, the camera feels superbly solid in the hand. All the switches and ports are fully gasketed against the elements. A well-designed, double locking mechanism seals off the battery and memory card compartment.
Despite the 5x zoom range, there is no lens extension thanks to the folded, periscope-like construction of the lens. A sliding cover protects the lens. Yet, one must be careful to wipe off water or blow off the dust particles to prevent them from being trapped below the cover when the camera is switched off.
The small size of the camera and the superb sealing may make it a bit difficult to operate all the controls, especially if you have large hands. The 4-way navigation button at the back is designed differently from most other compact cameras; the OK button at the center works like a joystick. The selection of the shooting modes is done through the menu. There is no mode dial.

Performance
I ended up shocking the other BP team members by tossing the camera at them and repeatedly dropping it from shoulder level. I kept the camera in my deep freezer for half a day. It came out shooting. I stood on it for a while. The camera weathered all of this with ease. The question is… does it perform equally well in other areas?
Focusing speed under normal light is not the best among compact cameras, but it is accurate. I tried some underwater shots in a fish tank; the 28mm wide helps but the water needs to be clear for good shots.
Unfortunately, anything from ISO 400 onwards suffers from noise, compression artefacts, oversharpening and softness at the same time. So shooting above this is not recommended. The colours, optics and tonal range are quite good. The IS does a good job up to 1/10sec. There is no manual exposure mode but the live histogram and the exposure compensation function helps.
There are eight interesting Magic Art Filters to select from. The 720p video capture with mono audio is of a reasonably good quality.

Conclusion
The Olympus TG-810 is available for Rs. 20,999. If you are serious about outdoor adventure sports, then this is the camera for you. The trade-off is between all the extra features of this camera and the image quality it delivers. And that said, there are less expensive all-weather cameras available from Nikon and Panasonic, albeit with fewer features.
If you are looking for a general purpose camera for regular day-to-day shooting, there are plenty of other more practical options in the market today.

 

Tonality and colours are good but there is a visible loss of details even at ISO 400. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/11 (ISO 400). Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

Tonality and colours are good but there is a visible loss of details even at ISO 400. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/11 (ISO 400). Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

Final Ratings
Features
Optical zoom and IS supported whenshooting movies
26/30

Performance
Above average video quality with averagequality still images
19/30

Build Quality
Metal chassis, complete weather sealing
15/15

Ergonomics
No real grip, compact form factor
11/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, 75 service centres
6/10

OVERALL: 77%
Value For Money: 3/5 stars

 

Tags: Shridhar Kunte, Camera review, January 2012, Olympus TOUGH TG-810, weatherproof camera, shockproof, 3D photography