Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
    Olympus TG-830 275 pixels.jpg
  • 16 megapixels
  • 5x optical zoom lens (28-140 mm)
  • 3.0-inch LCD screen
  • Waterproof to 33 feet
  • Shockproof to 6.6 feet
  • Freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit
  • TruePix VI image processor
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in e-compass
  • 11 Art Filters
  • Full 1080p HD video
Pros
  • Tough and waterproof features are nice to find in this price point
  • Camera has a well-built, sturdy feel
  • Very easy to use camera, including brief on-screen explanations of most features
  • Olympus recently dropped the price on the TG-830
  • Built-in LED helps with extreme low light and underwater photos
  • Small rubberized handgrip makes it easy to hold and use this camera
  • Lens housing is completely contained inside the camera
  • Mode dial is a helpful feature
  • Camera's two compartments include double-lock mechanisms to maintain water-tight seal
  • LCD is a high quality screen
  • Built-in GPS and e-compass are nice features to have in a tough camera designed to be used in harsh outdoor conditions
  • Shortcut menu makes it easy to change shooting modes
  • Camera offers full HD video mode and an HDMI port
Cons
  • 5x optical zoom lens is well below average in today's market
  • Very few manual controls
  • Button labels are tough to see because of lack of contrast in the text
  • Control buttons are too small to be used comfortably
  • Zoom switch is a little awkward to use versus a zoom ring
  • Some image softness near edges of photos
  • Auto white balance setting sometimes struggles with skin color in fluorescent lighting
  • Noise at higher ISO settings is quite noticeable
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.3 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay without flash = 5.0 seconds between frames with minimum review time On (2.1 seconds with review turned Off)
  • Shot to shot delay with flash = 5.1 seconds between frames with minimum review time On  (2.3 seconds with review turned Off)
  • Continuous Mode (Low) = 12 frames in 5.1 seconds @ 16M
  • Continuous Mode (High) = 12 frames in 1.7 seconds @ 16M
  • High-Speed Mode = 25 frames in 1.1 seconds @ 3M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The sturdy Olympus TG-830 iHS camera provides good protection against harsh photographic environmental conditions, but it's also a surprisingly good camera in terms of performance; especially compared to its similarly priced peers, both those with and without tough features. It includes advanced features like a built-in GPS and an LED. The biggest drawback for this camera is its very small 5x optical zoom lens. You won't be able to make extremely large prints with this camera, and its control buttons are too small to use comfortably, but if you can put up with these drawbacks, the TG-830 offers a very nice value in the tough camera marketplace.
Pick This Up If...
You're looking for a good value in a sturdy, waterproof camera and you want some nice add-on features like a built-in GPS, but you don't mind a small zoom lens.
Even though it's priced like other typical beginner-level fixed lens cameras, there isn't much that's typical about the Olympus TG-830 iHS digital camera. This "tough" camera will work well in harsh environments, but it also provides surprisingly good image quality and performance levels.

Olympus recently reduced the price on the TG-830 iHS to an MSRP of $249.99, which when coupled with all of the strengths of this model make it a pretty nice choice for those seeking this type of waterproof camera. There are a few drawbacks to the TG-830, but if you can live with those features, you're going to find a good value among beginner-level tough cameras.

Certainly with its small image sensor, this camera isn't going to create images that you can print sharply at large sizes. However, the TG-830 does a much better job with its image quality than many similarly priced models, and you'll be able to make average sized prints with this 16-megapixel camera. Colors are bright and outdoor results are especially good. You may notice a few problems with odd skin colors in indoor photos as the automatic white balance setting sometimes makes an error, especially with fluorescent lighting.

Images are pretty sharp, as long as you keep the subject in the center of the lens. You may notice some softness at times on the edges of scenes.

You can shoot at four aspect ratios with resolutions ranging from 16-megapixels to 0.3-megapixels, which is a pretty good set of options. 

If you shoot at a high ISO with the TG-830, you're going to notice some significant noise issues. ISO settings up to 6400 are available, but you'll probably want to stick to ISO 1600 and lower for better image quality.

As it should be with a tough camera, the TG-830 iHS has a very sturdy look and feel. Some waterproof and tough cameras in recent years have started to resemble very thin, lightweight cameras, but personally I prefer that a tough camera have a bit of heft to it; so I liked the feel of this camera. I don't want my tough camera to have a flimsy feel. The TG-830 is still pretty thin at 1.1 inches, which is nice.

With a rubberized and slightly raised right-hand grip, this camera is easy to hold and use. The camera is available in red, blue, black, or silver bodies.

Olympus has included a pair of double-lock mechanisms on the camera's two compartments, which allows it to remain sealed from water damage when shooting underwater photographs. This is a great feature, as even if one of the switches is inadvertently unlocked or fails, the camera will remain waterproof, as the second switch will maintain the lock. It is a little bit of a hassle to unlock both switches to gain access to the battery compartment or the USB compartment, but it's better to suffer a little bit of hassle than have water leak into the camera because of a malfunctioning single lock design.

For a beginner-level tough camera, the TG-830's list of protective features is good. It can be used in water depths up to 33 feet and it can survive a fall of up to 7 feet. These aren't the best tough features that you're going to find in the market, but they are very good for a waterproof camera in this price range.

It's also very nice to have a built-in GPS unit with this camera, making it easy to pinpoint your location, even when you're out hiking in a remote area. Another nice feature is the built-in e-compass with the TG-830 iHS, which helps you stay on your path. If you choose to use the camera as your only compass, just be sure you bring an extra battery on your trip, as using the GPS and e-compass will drain the battery pretty quickly.

Looking at the front of this waterproof model, you'll quickly notice that it has a significantly different look than most beginner-level cameras, with the tiny lens housing in the upper right corner. The lens housing remains contained inside the camera at all times, even when you're using the optical zoom, which helps the TG-830 to maintain its waterproof seal.

Unfortunately this design also leads to this camera's largest drawback, which is its 5x optical zoom lens. This is a below average feature in today's digital camera marketplace, as even the least expensive digital cameras seem to have at least a 5x optical zoom. Most cameras in this price range are going to offer a 10x zoom or greater. With a camera that's designed to be used in harsh outdoor conditions, most photographers will want to have a large zoom lens to possibly capture images of skittish animals over a distance. The TG-830 can't fulfill this need, though.

Even though this camera has some really nice features for a sub-$250 model, the small optical zoom lens is going to limit the potential photographers who will look at purchasing this model. Unless you really need the TG-830's waterproof features, it's tough to recommend this camera for everyday photography because of the small zoom lens.

I also was disappointed with the size and labeling of the control buttons on the back of the camera. The buttons are pretty small, which can make it tough to press them properly when you're using the camera in a harsh environment. And there isn't enough contrast in the labels, which makes it very difficult to identify the different buttons in a low light situation. 

Olympus did include a mode dial with the TG-830, which is great to find with a camera in this price range. The labels on the mode dial aren't easy to see, as they're light gray against a dark gray dial. As you turn the mode dial, an explanation will appear on the screen identifying each mode. In fact the TG-830 displays quick explanations of many of the camera's features as you press various buttons and choose different options, which is very nice for beginners.

If you can find the right buttons in low light, you're going to be very pleased with the performance of the TG-830 iHS. The flash unit produces photos of a good quality, and the camera responds very quickly after each flash photo. Having a built-in flash in the center of the camera is pretty rare with a point-n-shoot model, so this design likely helps to explain the good flash photography results with this model. Olympus also included an LED light alongside the flash, which helps to provide additional illumination for photos in dark conditions, such as you may find in underwater scenes. 

Using the LED for extended periods of time will drain the battery quickly, though, which adds to the battery life problem that this camera has. Olympus estimates that the TG-830 can shoot 300 photos on a single battery charge, but my tests showed closer to 175 to 225 photos per charge. Your real-life battery performance will depend on how you use the camera, though.

The TG-830 has very little shutter lag, and the shot to shot delays are minimal for a camera in this price range ... as long as you turn off the image review function that is. Reviewing a photo can add as much as 3 seconds to the shot to shot delays. It's unfortunate that Olympus didn't provide a menu control option that would allow you to shorten the review time without shutting it off completely. 

Olympus also included a few different burst mode options, all of which respond quickly. You can shoot at full 16MP in burst mode while still receiving extremely fast performance. The company credits its iHS technology for providing top-end performance results, as iHS makes use of a high-end image processor that improves the camera's speed and performance, even in low light.

Movie recording performance is pretty good with the TG-830 iHS, and Olympus included a dedicated movie button to simplify the process of recording video. You can shoot in full 1080p HD resolution, and there's an HDMI slot tucked in behind one of the locked compartments for downloading these high resolution movies quickly; an optional cable is required.

Another great feature on this camera is the 3.0-inch LCD screen, which is extremely bright and sharp. Unlike many cameras at this price point, you won't notice many problems with screen glare while shooting in bright sunlight with the TG-830. This is an above average LCD screen for this type of camera.

Bottom Line - I remember testing and reviewing the first few iterations of the Olympus tough camera series several years ago, and those cameras were poor performers that carried price tags that were far too high. They had limited tough capabilities, and the photographic features were severely lacking. Times have changed. One of the latest Olympus tough cameras, the TG-830 iHS, only resembles those older models in looks and basic design. This camera provides surprisingly good performance levels, both versus other tough cameras and versus others point-n-shoot models in its price range. The TG-830 works quickly with very little shutter lag and minimal shot to shot delays. Image quality is also pretty good with this camera, especially considering it has a very small image sensor, although you may notice some odd skin colors when shooting under fluorescent lighting and some softness at the edges of the scene. For a camera in its price range, Olympus included some very helpful advanced features with the TG-830 iHS, including a built-in GPS unit, an e-compass, double-locking switches on the memory card and USB compartments, a built-in LED light for additional illumination in underwater scenes, and an above average LCD screen. There are other tough cameras on the market that can work in deeper water than the TG-830's 33-foot depth limitation. And there are other non-waterproof cameras in this price range that perform better than the TG-830. However, you aren't going to find many other cameras that can combine the tough features and performance included in this model at this price. If you can live with a couple of significant drawbacks -- a small 5x optical zoom lens and poorly labeled control buttons that are too small to be used comfortably -- the Olympus TG-830 iHS is going to provide a very good value to those seeking a beginner-level tough camera. Because of the small zoom lens, it's difficult to recommend this camera as a good model for everyday photography, but if you need tough features in your camera, this Olympus model is a good budget-priced performer in today's market.

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