Olympus Tough TG-6 First Look

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The Olympus Tough TG-6 (Available at B&H or on Amazon) is the little camera that could. I’ve had the previous two versions and enjoyed them. My TG-5 has been a real trooper. I’ve taken it to the Arctic where I stood on the bow of a boat, in 12 foot seas…I’ve taken it to the swamps of Florida where it was hot, humid and wet…I’ve taken it to the concrete jungles of Hong Kong to the tops of some of the tallest buildings in the world and I’ve taken it to the cobblestone streets of central Kiev – no matter where I have been, I always have the Tough camera with me and it is WAY better than you would expect it to be. It’s versatile, rugged but most importantly fun.

The main question I would expect is what are the differences between the TG-5 and the TG-6. It’s not a dramatically different camera by any means. It’s a small set improvements that are nice to have, but if you have a TG-5 you may not be tempted by the changes. However, for some people, the changes may indeed be worth it.

I’ll primarily build this post around talking about the differences. There’s plenty already written about the specs but I’ll briefly touch on them too.

Jeff's Dog Shot W/ TG-6 - Photo by Scott Bourne
My pal Jeff’s dog, photographed with the Olympus TG-6. I had the camera just a few inches from the dog’s head. The close-focusing distance on these cameras is amazing.

SPECS

*Waterproof (50 ft. / 15 m), dust-proof, shockproof (7 ft. / 2. 1 m), crushproof (100kgf), freeze proof (14°F/ -10°c), anti-fog

*High-resolution f/2 lens, maximum 8x zoom, true pic VIII, back illuminated CMOS Image Sensor

*Variable macro system comprised of 4 macro shooting modes, magnified shooting up to 1cm from the end of the lens

*5 underwater shooting modes including underwater microscope, 3 underwater white balance modes

*4K movie and full HD 120 fps high-speed movies can be recorded

BASICS

The TG-6 has a 12MP sensor that works better than I thought it would. Pictures have good, reliable, accurate color and are crisp with plenty of detail. The lens is a 25-100 35mm EFL and covers a nice range for the money.

The AF is contract-detect and works well. The tracking function even works. Where the camera shines is in its ruggedness and its ability to shoot macro or underwater subjects. Neither are in my particular wheelhouse, but I can appreciate that the camera has the capability.

Video is 4k or 1080p and looks fantastic. The controls take some getting used to. You cannot manually set the shutter speed. (More on that below.)

IMPROVEMENTS

The TG-5 is a great camera. But there’s always room for improvement. The TG-6 has better chromatic aberration control. It also has an improved menu system. I pretty much just set the camera to work with AUTO-ISO, at Aperture Priority and 99% of my shots come out exactly as I hoped. It is a set it and forget it kind of camera.

The macro capabilities of this camera are off the chain. The new Super Macro Autofocus and Manual Focus modes directly from the Quick Menu in Aperture Priority, Program Auto, or Movie Mode. Once focus is set to Super Macro, and as long as you zoom in to at least 1.2x, the camera can focus up to 1cm in front of the lens.

Another welcome change is that you can shoot video without putting the camera in Movie Mode. You can now use the 4K and high speed 1080 from the Quick Menu.

One of the big changes in the TG-6 is that you can set a minimum shutter speed. One criticism of the TG-5 is that you cannot manually set the shutter speed. This can be an issue if you need more shutter speed to freeze movement. You still cannot manually set the shutter speed on the TG-6 but you CAN set a MINIMUM shutter speed (1/500th of a second) – however, you must use Auto-ISO mode to take advantage of this feature.

If you’re worried about the Auto-ISO mode setting an ISO that is too high, the upper limit can be set to as low as ISO 400.

The TG-6 has some new underwater preset white balances. I didn’t test them out but in keeping with the camera’s allure for underwater shooters it makes sense.

There is also a new digital teleconverter but I prefer optical – I do notice the improved screen resolution over the TG-5. In fact it’s twice the resolution up to over one million pixels. The screen looks detailed and sharp and gone are the pixelated screens that were the only thing that bothered me about the TG-5.

CONCLUSION

For $449, I think this camera is a bargain. It can fulfill many roles. It can serve as a vacation camera, an action camera, an underwater camera, a macro camera and a video camera. I think it is the best camera in its class and the added benefit of now being able to shoot 4K where the TG-5 could only shoot 1080p makes it a real contender to replace more focused action cameras like the GoPro. While some wish that the camera had a true manual mode, I have never really cared about that. The kind of camera that this is dictates thinking about it like a super point-and-shoot. If you actually take time to read the manual and dig into all the TG-6’s capabilities, you can make some outstanding photographs with it. Highly Recommended!

DISCLAIMER: I am an Olympus Visionary. While I have tried to give my honest opinion regarding the TG-6, it’s important for me to disclose my relationship with Olympus in case that matters to you as a reader.


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