You rarely hear the phrase “point and shoot” camera anymore. It’s a segment that is dead or nearly dead to some people due to the uptake of good cell phone cameras. People don’t want to carry a separate device for their casual photography.
But you DO hear phrases like “adventure cameras.” or “action camera.” While photographers seem less willing to buy and carry a dedicated point and shoot model, high interest in cameras that can go on nearly any adventure with you (hiking, skiing, boating, parachuting, etc.) are very hot.
GoPro helped introduce this concept and I have used cameras like the GoPro but found them too limiting. I always wanted a small camera that could do “GoPro-like” things but also function like a normal camera, with both great still and video capability, but using traditional mounts for instance instead of a proprietary mounting system that is expensive and hard to manage.
The Olympus Tough TG-5 Digital Camera is just such a camera. It works like a normal point-and-shoot when you want a point-and-shoot, but it also can handle more extreme shooting situations. It’s also much better than any cell phone camera I’ve tested.
I’ve been working with this camera for 18 months and I have a good sense of its performance over the long-haul. Even though it’s not “new” it’s still one of the best cameras of its kind I have ever used. And it’s 10% cheaper now than it was when it launched.
UNDERWATER & MORE
The camera is rated for underwater use, as well as tested to withstand falls and crushing, and is hermetically sealed against dust and moisture for assured use in trying conditions. Making use of these stats, a Field Sensor System incorporates GPS, a manometer, compass, and a thermometer for recording the details of your environment and embedding this data onto your photos and movies. Using built-in Wi-Fi and the OI.Track app, the recording log data and the imagery can be shared to a mobile device for compositing and sharing online.
TOUGH IS IN THE NAME
Olympus uses the word tough in the name of this camera because, well it is indeed tough.
Let’s look at the design spec:
- Waterproof-rated to IPX8 for use underwater to depths of 50′ / 15m
- Freezeproof to temperatures as low as 14°F / -10°C
- Shockproof to falls from 7′ / 2.1m high
- Crushproof to withstand up to 220 lbf / 100 kgf of pressure
- Dustproof-rated to IP6X to protect the internal components of the camera
It has even been sealed with double-pane glass to prevent fogging and condensation. It can be operated using gloves and all the controls are very accessible in nearly any situation.
EVALUATING JUST THE CAMERA
Regardless of the toughness of the camera, it needs to be a great camera to meet my needs. This is a great camera. Let’s start with the lens. It’s a built-in 4x optical zoom lens that covers a 25-100mm equivalent range and has a bright f/2 maximum aperture to suit working in low-light conditions.
I found the lens to be very sharp at all focal lengths once stopped down to around f/4 and even at f/2 it’s acceptably sharp on the corners and very sharp in the center.
The ergonomics are good too. The lens sits at the center of the body, unlike other tough cameras that place it in a corner, so there’s room for a mounting ring for accessory lenses and flashes
The 12MP sensor is remarkably noise-free and the image quality is very good for such a small camera.
Here are the basic camera specs in one place for you…
- 12MP BSI CMOS Sensor
- TruePic VIII Image Processor
- Olympus 4x Optical Zoom f/2 Lens
- 25-100mm (35mm Equivalent)
- 3.0″ 460k-Dot LCD Monitor
- Water, Crush, Shock, Freeze & Dustproof
- 4K Video Recording and Full HD at 120p
- Built-In Wi-Fi, GPS, Field Sensor System
- ISO 12800 and Up to 20 fps Shooting
- Pro Capture Mode & Variable Macro System
Photography is supposed to be fun. Especially adventure photography. Being able to carry this little guy everywhere and not worry about it being dropped or getting wet, helps increase the fun quotient.
Speaking of fun there are several cool fun features and scene modes in the Tough TG-5.
Scene Modes include: Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Portrait +Landscape, Hand-held Starlight, Nightscape, Portrait + Nightscape, Children, Sport, Candlelight, Sunset, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Panorama, Live Composite, and Backlight HDR.
Autofocus is very good with 25-active AF points. The face detection works very well. The macro mode is crazy good and there’s even 4K video!
After more than a year of carrying this little guy everywhere I go, I am convinced that I can’t live without it. On a regular basis, I have used this camera when I travel. On my last trip to Hong Kong, I used it exclusively and was constantly amazed at the pictures I could make using the Tough. It survived the test of time.
While it’s on the high-end price wise, I still think the Tough TG-5 is a good buy because it doubles as a point-and-shoot as well as an action camera. The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder and frankly I miss that. The rear screen is good but like all cameras with rear screen-only viewing, it can be hard to see in super bright light. There is no full manual mode which doesn’t personally bother me because this is a fun camera meant to carry everywhere and enjoy. I have made serious photos with this camera but didn’t miss manual mode a bit because I was too busy playing with all the fun scene modes and art filters.
Hands-down, this is the best rugged action-style camera you can buy and it’s been recognized by many in the media as an editor’s choice for a reason. It’s fun, light-weight, compact, and very functional. It will probably outlast me which is why it gets my best rating HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Disclaimer – I am an Olympus Visionary
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