Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 16-Megapixel BSI-CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch, 460,000 dot LCD Screen
  • Screen tilts a full 180°
  • 5x Optical zoom lens: 21-105mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Lens-Shift Optical Image Stabilization
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • GPS
  • WiFi
  • Art Filters
  • Waterproof to 50ft.
  • Dustproof
  • Can survive drops from 7 ft.
  • FreezeProof to 14°F
  • Crushproof up to 220lbs
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • "Tough" features: Waterproof, Dustproof, Shockproof, Crushproof and Freezeproof protect the camera
  • 3.0-inch LCD screen is easy to see in most shooting situations
  • LCD screen makes it easy to shoot from awkward angles and great for selfies
  • Lens-Shift O.I.S. is very helpful when shooting on the move
  • Great shooting performance
  • Super Macro gets you closer than ever
  • External Flash capability
  • WiFi and GPS add sharing and locations to your adventures
  • Very Good Battery Life
  • Competitively priced
  • Noticeable noise in all images at all ISO settings
  • Small, weak built-in flash
  • Screen can be hard to see underwater
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.3 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 to 3/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.58 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.02 seconds
  • Sequential 1 = 2.78fps
  • Sequential 2 = 8fps for 8 images
  • High Speed Burst 1 = 20fps 40 images total (1920x1440)
  • High Speed Burst 2 = 54.55fps 60 images total (1920x1440)
  • 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 TG-860 is an incredibly tough compact digicam that is ready to stand up to whatever situation you find yourself in. iAuto allows anyone to shoot with it, and the built-in WiFi allows you to share from just about anywhere.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a camera that can take a little punishment and still get the job done. It is also perfect for homes that have kids and/or a pool.
The newest addition to Olympus's "Tough" camera line is the TG-860. An upgrade to the TG-850 that was released last year, Olympus has kept some of the great features from the TG-850 and added several more from the TG-3 (their top tough camera at the time of this review).

Overall the design has stayed the same; including the 180° tilting LCD screen, 5x optical zoom lens, 16-Megapixel BSI CMOS imaging sensor and lens shift image stabilization. Within the camera they have added WiFi with remote control capabilities, and additional Fn button and improved its seals to allow it to go to depths of up to 50ft. It has remained just as easy to use as well, featuring great automatic shooting modes and one of the best Super Macro modes you will find on any camera. This new camera is available in three attractive colors: Orange, Black and Gray.

Making the TG-860 and the other Olympus "Tough" cameras stand out is their ability to take a beating and withstand elements that a normal compact digicam would have no chance in. Solid construction, and internal zoom lens and rubber gaskets keep water and dust out the cracks and ports of the camera. With the battery, outputs and memory card all behind the same door; the latch and lock give you the confidence to take the camera into the water knowing that it is sealed. Besides the water, the camera is built to handle drops, support weights of up to 220lbs, and can operate in frigid temperatures. It's the perfect camera for your next adventure.

Just a little larger than an ultra-compact digicam, the TG-860 is a little bulkier and could be uncomfortable in a small pocket. It is still plenty compact to carry in a small bag, and again, there is no worry of it getting knocked around a little. It is easily handled with one or two hands, letting you shoot on the go with ease. All of the controls are well spaced and easy to use, although you may find some difficulty if wearing gloves. The 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen tilts a full 180° to assist you in shooting at tough angles and taking "selfies". Brightness and the angle of the LCD can be changed to assist you in different lighting conditions. Underwater you have to be looking directly at the screen to see it, if you are off to the side a little the picture disappears.

Our outdoor images show good exposure and great colors in both iAuto and Program shooting modes. Looking at 100%, we see that even at the lowest ISO settings, the images are grainy due to the very small, 16-Megapixel imaging sensor. This dulls the finer details within the image and may even be noticeable if you plan on making large prints. Overall this is good image quality for a compact digicam and will produce excellent prints 8x10 and smaller.

Composing your images is accomplished with the internal 5x optical zoom lens. With a 35mm equivalent of 21-105mm, it is better suited for closer subjects, but can bring distant subjects a bit closer. You also have several digital zoom options to choose from, just remember that using them can degrade image quality.

Looking closely at our indoor samples lets us see how the image quality fairs as the ISO setting rises. This shows us how the camera will perform in less than perfect lighting situations. As the ISO goes up, the noise increases quickly. By ISO 400, you can already see the fine details within the image fading away. At the highest ISO settings, the images actually look like bad cell-phone photos. Thankfully, Olympus has included a small built-in flash unit to help in lower lighting. Our samples show that the flash helped to fill the surrounding light instead of providing the main source. With our M&M Man shot, it actually led to a higher ISO setting than the image without the flash in iAuto shooting mode. This is the opposite of what we are looking for from a flash unit. The TG-860 also provides wireless flash capabilities so that you can add a powerful external flash unit.

The TG-860 detects and follows any faces that appear in the image frame. This assures that your subjects will always be the focus of your images no matter what shooting mode you are in. While the camera follows the faces within the frame, it constantly adjusts the focus and exposure settings to for the faces. Overall our faces were well exposed within our sample images, not showing any redness in the eyes of our subjects from the built-in flash unit.

Shooting underwater is very easy as long as you are looking directly at the LCD screen. If you hold it off at an angle at all, the image will disappear. Just make sure that the camera door is closed tightly and locked. Face detection works just as well underwater as it does above, even with our subjects wearing goggles. Our samples were taken indoors, in a well-lit pool and they came out pretty well, but full of noise. Since light does not travel as well in water, the camera will work much better outdoors in bright sunlight. This goes for the flash as well. Its range will be much shorter underwater than above, so keep very close if you are going to use it.

For more creative shooting, the TG-860 features 7 "Art" filters that automatically apply the filters to your images in the camera. While shooting with the LCD screen, you will actually be able to see what your images will look like before capturing them. These filters are very similar to what you will find on a smartphone camera, but the image quality from the TG-860 will be much better. Add the built-in WiFi and you can send these images directly to your phone and share them just about anywhere. A few of the art filters can be seen on our samples page.

Capturing video is a snap with the TG-860, thanks to its one-touch recording in any shooting mode. The dedicated video recording button on the back of the camera means no taking time to change shooting settings, just press the button to record. For shooting on the move, or in and around the water, Olympus has equipped the camera with lens-shift optical image stabilization to help keep your movies steady. Our sample movies play back smoothly on the camera, computer and HDTV with an optional HDMI cable. They also show the camera's ability to move smoothly and take on the elements all at once.

Powering the TG-860 is a 3.7V, 925mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. While testing the camera we were able to capture approx. 100 images and a few short videos on a single charge, while using the internal GPS about half of the time. If we were to turn this off, we would expect to get a better battery life. Just remember that running the GPS and WiFi will drain the battery much faster. The battery charges via USB inside the camera, allowing you to pack the camera into less space. Unfortunately the camera does not use a standard Micro USB connection, so you will always have to have the included USB cable. An adapter is also included, but the camera can charge through a computer USB port as well.

Bottom Line - Olympus's TG-860 is a great update the TG-850, increasing its toughness and adding some great features. Falling in between the 850 and the TG-3, it offers many features from their flagship Tough camera, at a lower price. The addition of WiFi and GPS really complete what Olympus started with the 850. The new sports mode adds to the overall performance; but the image quality shows a little more noise than we would like to see in all lighting and shooting conditions, but is still great for producing smaller prints. With a MSRP of US $279.99, this is a great addition to the adventurous photographer or anyone with a pool or kids.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.