Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for TG-850_BLK_ADD1.jpg
  • 16-Megapixel BSI CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch Tilting LCD Screen
  • 5x Optical zoom lens: 21-105mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Lens-Shift optical image stabilization
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • Waterproof to 33ft.
  • Dustproof
  • Can survive drops from 7 ft.
  • FreezeProof to 14°F
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion battery
Pros
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • "Tough" features: Waterproof, Dustproof, Shockproof and Freezeproof protect the camera
  • Lens-Shift I.S. helps steady the camera while on the move
  • Nice, Bright 3.0-inch Tilting LCD allows you to use the camera at just about any angle. Great for Selfies.
  • Good shooting performance
  • Good Battery Life
  • HDMI output
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • Overall image quality is lacking. Very blotchy at all ISO settings, even in bright light.
  • Screen can be hard to see underwater.
  • Missing GPS and WiFi, which are commonly found on "Tough or Lifeproof" cameras.
  • Small flash does not cover much distance.
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.0 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 3/10 to 5/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.62 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 0.96 seconds
  • Sequential burst 1=  1.88fps - 9 images
  • Sequential burst 2 = 7.50fps for 6 images
  • High Speed Burst 1= 19.97fps 3M
  • High Speed Burst 2= 59.00fps 3M
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1, 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 Stylus TG-850 is a compact and versatile "Tough" digicam. It has been built to go anywhere that you can go. It is easy to use and performs very well, but it lacks in image quality.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an affordable "tough" camera that is great around pools and kids. It is also reliable enough to put into just about any situation, no matter how tough on the camera.
Tough and affordable, the Olympus Stylus TG-850 is a great family camera. This cameras sports some top of the line components from Olympus, like their 16-Megapixel BSI CMOS imaging sensor and TruePic VII processor. The body of the camera is designed to be waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and freezeproof, allowing you and your family to take it and use it anywhere you find yourselves.

Unique to this tough camera is a tiltable 3.0-inch LCD screen, which adds a great deal of versatility to the operation of the camera. With all of these great features, the camera is still incredibly easy to use. iAuto, scene and art filter shooting modes allow anyone to point-n-shoot to capture the most creative images possible. The TG-850 is available in 3 eye-catching colors: Black, Silver and White.

The TG-850's tough features allow the camera to go anywhere and shoot in just about any situation. It is waterproof to 10m/33ft, making it a must have for exotic vacations or just sitting around the pool. The rubber gaskets and seals that keep out the water also keep out dirt and dust. With the LCD screen closed, the camera is also ready to take a beating. It can survive falls from up to 7ft, or up to 220lbs of pressure applied to it with no problems. However, the LCD is not likely to survive this if it has been tilted away from the camera. Finally the camera has also been designed to withstand cold temperatures, meaning that it is ready to hit the slopes or just spend a day in the back yard building a snowman. 

Handling the TG-850 is easy with one hand or two. A simple design and body shape with a comfortable thumb-grip allows you to wield the camera with no problems. The on-the-body controls have been kept simple and easy to use, letting you change them, even in more stressful shooting situations.

Composing and viewing your images is accomplished with the 3.0-inch, 460k dot tilting LCD screen. The screen tilts a full 180° up and down. This assists you in shooting over or around objects, removes glare from the screen or even takes all of the guesswork out of capturing selfies. 5 adjustable levels of brightness allow for easy viewing in all lighting conditions, from direct sunlight to shooting at night.

Our outdoor image samples show us what looks like excellent overall image quality. Great exposures and vivid colors lead the way when viewing the images on the LCD or computer screen. We see things a little differently when we zoom in to 100% with a computer. Once we have zoomed in, we see that the images are not near as sharp as they originally looked. To try to hide the image noise that would be present, the images are very blotchy and lack fine detail, even at the lowest ISO settings.

Assisting you with your image composition is the internal 5x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent of 21-105mm. This lens also allows for one of the best macro shooting modes of any point-n-shoot camera we have seen. It is capable of shooting as close as 1cm, and this mode produced the best images that we were able to capture with the camera.

Looking at our indoor samples, we see the same thing as the outdoor samples. Olympus has gone overboard trying to cover the image noise and have taken the fine detail out of the image and replaced it with color blotches. These images look more and more like they are coming from an out-of-date cell phone camera than from their mid-range tough digicam. On the other hand, the image color and exposure do look good. Helping with your low-light and indoor shots is a small built-in flash unit. This flash is not very powerful, but it works well when shooting close to your subjects. It is also a big help shooting underwater where light does not travel as well, but again, you need to get as close as possible to get the best results. 

Our portrait shots are where the camera seemed to struggle the most. The camera's face detection software worked very well, quickly detecting and following the faces that appeared within the frame. However, this is where the image quality really shows through, as you lose way too much detail in the subjects' faces. Our large group image really showed this, with the camera in iAuto, 90% of the faces were detected by the camera. The camera chose not to use a flash with the final result not even coming out print-worthy.

To assist you with your creative shooting, Olympus has included an entire Art-Filter shooting mode. There are several filters that give your images very creative looks, much like you will find on your Instagram app. Outside of the Art filters you will also find an HDR scene mode as well as a few portrait enhancement and panoramic shooting mode as well. 

Thanks to the dedicated video recording button on the back of the camera, it is always ready to record with just one push of the button, no matter what shooting mode the camera is currently in. The camera is capable of capturing full 1080p HD video as well as lower resolution videos with much higher frame rates. Our video samples looked very good, with excellent exposure and great color. Our movies played back very well on the LCD screen, computer and HDTV via an HDMI cable. The audio was the only drawback, capturing all wind noise. It was a windy day and this will happen with any digicam that you are using. Finding a better position is about the only way to get rid of this type of noise. 

Powering the TG-850 is a 3.7V, 925mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Olympus claims that the battery is capable of supplying up to 300 shots on a single charge. During the course of our tests we were able to capture over 250 images (several testing the burst shooting) as well as several short movies with power to spare. This should give you the confidence that the camera will be operable through a full day of shooting and adventuring. With the included quick charger, it is easy to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times. This is a good idea if you will be traveling with the camera, because you never want to miss part of the adventure because of a dead battery. 

Bottom Line - The Olympus Stylus TG-850 is a tough and compact digicam designed to survive just about any situation you find yourself in. It has a great set of basic features and is very easy to use. Unfortunately, the lack of image quality really takes away from the overall experience. With a MSRP of US $229.99, you will be better off spending a little more for a higher quality "tough" camera that has the image quality and extra features to document your adventures. You may want to look at the Nikon CoolPix AW110 or AW120 instead.


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