Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for TG-1_RIGHT.jpg
  • 12-Megapixel High Sensitivity CMOS imaging sensor
  • High Speed, Ultra Bright f/2.0 lens
  • TruePic VI image processor
  • 3.0-Inch LCD Screen
  • 4x Wide Optical Zoom lens: 25-100mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Dual Image Stabilization
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • Built-in GPS
  • Available Lens Adapters
  • LED video light
  • Waterproof to 40ft.
  • Dustproof
  • Can survive drops from 6.6 ft.
  • FreezeProof to 14°F
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
Pros
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • f/2.0 lens allows for shooting in lower light situations
  • "Tough" features: Waterproof, Dustproof, Shockproof and Freezeproof protect the camera as well or better than any other "lifeproof" camera
  • Great image quality 
  • Dual image stabilization keeps images sharp
  • 3.0-inch LCD screen is easy to see in all conditions
  • Amazing and class leading shooting performance
  • Excellent Battery Life
  • Stereo Microphone
  • HDMI output
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • Purple Fringing/Chromatic Aberrations seen in most images
  • Barrel Distortion at the Wide end of the zoom
  • GPS can be a little off from actual location
  • Adapter cover comes off the front of the camera easily
  • High levels of noise, even at the mid ISO settings
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.5 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 to 2/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.92 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.00 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  5.19fps 
  • Sequential flash burst = 1.33fps
  • High Speed Burst 1 = 15fps 3M
  • High Speed Burst 2 = 60fps 3M
  • All tests were taken using an PNY Pro Class 10, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS is the new leading "lifeproof" camera on the market (as of 9/2012). It's upgraded image processor, sensor, lens and abilities perform as well if not better than you will find anywhere else. 
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a "Lifeproof" camera that can withstand anything that you can. It is the leader in quality and performance while keeping in the same price range as the other top models. 
Olympus has taken the initiative and is the first to really beef up one of its "lifeproof" camera models. Enter the Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS, featuring unmatched ruggedness and image quality. A combination of a new high-speed f/2.0 lens, a 12-Megapixel, high-sensitivity backside illuminated CMOS imaging sensor and Olympus's TruePic VI imaging sensor combine to give you image quality that far exceeds any other "lifeproof" model. This high-quality image processor gives the camera the ability to capitalize on the other features, like faster AF and less noise in low-light situations. It also gives the Intelligent Auto mode more power and better, faster recognition of the current scene, super fast high-speed shooting, and the capability of stunning full 1080p HD video capture. You will also find all of the adventuring gizmos ike the GPS/Compass, Manometer and LED illuminator that can be very helpful along the way. In addition there are also several optional accessories, including wide and telephoto lens converters and an underwater housing that pushes the camera's operating depth from 40ft. to 135ft.

Looking closer at the "lifeproof" features, the TG-1 has been designed to work at depths of up to 40ft. underwater. The two camera compartments feature a dual-locking system to ensure that water stays out and that they cannot accidently be opened under water. The compartment doors are both lined with rubber gaskets to ensure that no water is able to sneak in. This also keeps dirt and dust out as well. A dual frame system means that the camera is as tough as any other that you will find. It can withstand falls from up to 6.6ft, and can withstand 220 lbs. of pressure without damaging the frame or the LCD screen. They have also prepared the camera for the cold, with the ability operate at temperatures as low as 14°F; meaning this thing is ready to hit the slopes with you as well.

All of these features are packed into a compact yet stylish camera body that is easy to handle and operate. One-handed operation is possible thanks to rubber grips around the camera, but with the zoom lever on the back, and the slightly heavier body (than most compacts) we have found that using two hands is a lot easier. 

A very high resolution, 610,000 dot, 3.0-inch LCD screen is responsible for viewing and composing all of your images. It is very easy to see in all lighting conditions. The new increased resolution has also allowed Olympus to improve the visual quality of the menu systems, which are also very responsive and easy to navigate. One thing that we did notice is that the lens ring turns very easily and with no way to lock it on, it could end up lost.

Our outdoor sample images show that the camera does an excellent job of capturing a lifelike image. We see good exposure for the subject and realistic colors, however, outside of the subject we did see a noticeable amount of overexposure in lighter areas such as clouds. We also noticed aberrations (purple fringing) in high contrast areas of several of our outdoor images and some barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. While these take away from the overall image quality, we did notice that shooting in the camera's HDR/Backlighting mode greatly helps with both of these problems and produces a better image. 

Composing your shots is accomplished with a f/2.0-4.9, 4x optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 25-100mm, you have an excellent wide end for landscape and underwater shooting. The telephoto end is decent, but with the addition of Olympus's 2x Super-Resolution Zoom pushing it to 200mm, you will be able to get a bit closer to distant objects. If this is not enough, don't forget about the lens converters, both waterproof up to 40ft; they can give you a fisheye view or increase your optical zoom to nearly 7x (almost 175mm). 

Like mentioned above, the TG-1 iHS boasts built-in GPS. We tested the camera with the GPS Landmark feature turned on, which most of the time labeled us as being at a landmark that was up to 6 miles away. You are able to set your own landmarks, which would be great for your favorite shooting locations. 

Looking at our indoor samples, we can really see the overall quality of the image the TG-1 is able to capture. Here we get a look at all of the fine details in our samples, and how well the camera can handle them. First we still noticed a little purple fringing along the base for the flag, both with and without the flash. Other than that, we have a well exposed, sharp image with accurate colors. We also see a great deal of detail at both ISO 100 and 200. Unfortunately that detail starts to disappear and noise starts to appear at ISO 400. With the iHS system introduced on this camera, we were hoping to see better image quality at the higher ISO settings than what it produced. ISO 800 is very noisy, and anything above that really isn't acceptable. 

To help you illuminate subjects in low-lighting, Olympus uses a combination of a LED light and compact flash unit. The LED is used to assist with low-light focusing as well as a movie light. It can also be turned on by itself to be used a flashlight. The compact flash unit has a range of approx. 18.3ft. at ISO 800, giving you the ability to light a small room with ease.

Shooting with the camera in portrait mode was very easy, thanks to its face detection software. The TG-1 quickly detected any faces within the frame and followed them with ease as long as they remained somewhat visible. It also did an excellent job exposing for the face within the image, keeping the face as the main priority. Colors and skin tones were kept looking natural, and there was no redness within the eyes of our subject when shooting with the flash.

Underwater shooting with the TG-1 is very easy. You can either set the camera to one of the several underwater shooting modes, or if you are capturing portraits, it is just as easy to keep it in iAuto mode. Our samples were both taken with the camera in iAuto mode, one with and one without the flash. Color and white balance both look good, but the flash shot is sharper with the faster shutter speed. The low-light lens and flash make it possible to capture excellent images as long as the subject is close to the camera. Light does not travel as far underwater so the flash range is considerably shorter. The dual locking system and rubber gaskets on the battery and I/O doors are as secure as any we have seen, and after our testing we saw no traces of water or dirt that could have snuck into the camera.

The TG-1's backlit CMOS sensor and faster image processor also work great with the camera's video recording capabilities. It allows for an excellent looking video, with good exposure and color, that plays back smoothly on either a computer or through the camera. It's low-light lens also helps to keep noise out of your movies in lower lighting. Audio is recorded with a built-in stereo microphone giving you better sound than what is found on most digicams. It also features a digital wind cut feature to reduce the amount of background/wind noise that you will hear in your movies. Viewing you movies is also a snap, whether watching them on the LCD screen, downloading them to your computer or viewing them on any TV with included A/V cable or optional HDMI cable for viewing on your HDTV. 

Powering the TG-1 is a 3.6V, 1270mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Over the course of our tests for the review, we captured over 200 normal test shots, several short videos, and over 200 more images while testing the burst modes; without coming close to draining the battery. It also falls right in line with Olympus's claim of up to 350 images on a single charge, which is very believable. This is an excellent feature for this type of camera, seeing as how it will be used in places where charging or even changing a battery could be difficult or impossible. Keeping a second battery charged and available is still a good idea for long trips. 

Bottom Line - Olympus's Tough TG-1 is the new standard for 'lifeproof" compact digicams. As one of the toughest cameras that we have seen, thanks to its dual frame body, the TG-1 is definitely worth a look if you in the market for this style of camera. It also leads the way in external accessories and converters to add additional versatility. Image quality is as good as we have seen in a "Lifeproof" camera, however we were a bit let down in some areas; specifically image noise and lens aberrations. Shooting performance was also great, with the camera out performing most compact digicams. With a street price of $369.99 USD, it falls right in line with the Panasonic Lumix TS-3 and the Canon PowerShot D20 in both price and features; while outdoing them in the performance department.



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