Every summer as you pack your bags for the beach, gear up for a festival or saddle up for a barbecue, you look at your camera and think one of two things depending on what you own: it's either too big and chunky to take, or it's too small and fragile to expect to get back. Olympus has a fix for this in the form of the TG-1 Tough camera: the perfect summer sidekick.
What Is It?
The Olympus Tough TG-1 is a life-proof compact camera that can stand up to a bunch of abuse. For $499, you get a 12-megapixel compact shooter that can withstand 12-metres of water, 100-kilograms of force and a two metre drop. It sports a reinforced 3-inch screen, a built-in GPS module and 4x optical zoom.
The images that come out of the TG-1 Tough aren't about to make you throw out your Canon or Nikon DSLR, nor are they enough to knock something like the OM-D EM-5 off its perch, but the images that come out of it are seriously impressive for a 12-megapixel compact.
The colours are crisp, there's no indication of noise even in lower light situations and the time to first shot is swift.
The video performance is also impressive, with the Tough TG-1 capturing footage at beautiful 1080p at 30 frames per second. That's not going to rival the GoPro HD3 Black Edition, but that's ok. It can be easy to cover the stereo mics with your finger as you capture footage like I did (whoops), so watch out for where you're holding it as you grab footage.
You buy this camera because you know that, eventually like all things, it's going for a swim. We dunked it in a fountain and belted it under a jet, and it's still going strong.
As far as using the camera is concerned, your life is made easier by little rubberised tabs wherever your finger lands, making it easier to hold even when wet or gritty.
The built-in GPS module is relatively light on your battery (which already lasts for ages), and it's a welcome addition for those who love to get off the beaten track to grab photos.
Finally, dual-locking doors are the smartest inclusion of all on the TG-1 Tough. Every door -- be it the memory card/battery bay or the HDMI/USB bay -- has a dual-locking mechanism which means you won't knock it open by accident.
The TG-1 has a sleek design, but the On/Off button on the top of the unit isn't nestled at all, meaning it's easy to turn on by accident. I wandered around for a lot of the day with the camera on in my bag. It'll cost you battery and you'll be annoyed with it when you figure it out. Thankfully, the weight of the TG-1 means keeping it in your pocket isn't exactly cumbersome.
The TG-1 doesn't have it where it counts when it comes to zoom performance. The 4x optical zoom is a welcome addition, but it just doesn't go far enough to make any measurable difference on the photos your taking. 12-megapixels, however, should make cropping an image later to get closer a cinch.
Finally, I see no point building the minuscule internal memory it has into the TG-1. It takes SD-HC cards which are cheap and inexpensive, so why have an internal memory at all?
Should You Buy It?
Every summer outing can be made better with the carefree application of a good camera for capturing awesome memories.
You need something not too heavy, not too light, but still tough and life-proof enough to withstand the metric tonne of sand, surf and beer that will inevitably end up in it. The Olympus Tough TG-1 has all this and more.
It's easy to use, reasonable on the hip-pocket and a perfect addition to any summer outing.