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Olympus TG-820 Tough Digital Camera Review

olympus20120501da.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker

 

In theory at least, the entire Olympus Tough range presents a host of compact cameras that are versatile, seemingly unbreakable and solid both literally and in terms of their overall performance. Fact is, in reality they are exactly this and as expected the TG-820 is no exception.

Imagine a compact camera that’s as tough as its name implies: scratchproof, waterproof down to 10m, shockproof from up to 2m, crushproof to forces of up to 100kg and freezeproof to minus 10-degrees celcius.

It has a 12mp backlit CMOS sensor, an image processor originally intended for digital SLRs, it captures full HD videos at 1080p and offers a 5x optical zoom 24-140mm lens along with dual image stabilisation – among other things.

Now imagine that not only does such a camera exist but that it’s on the market for less than $400.00. Gasp. Surely not, right?

Wrong.

Introducing the Olympus TG-820. Strap yourself in because this rugged little unit will take you on a wild point-and-shoot photography ride be it through water, snow, sunshine, rain or from heights. And not only will the TG-820 survive it will absolutely thrive in said conditions along the way.

 

Appearance & Functionality


Tough by name of course implies tough by nature and indeed the TG-820 looks like a compact camera that means business: it has a brushed metal face (available in blue, black, silver or red) complimented by black and silver/metal design accents and a thick (26mm) boxy body that weighs in at a decent 206g.

olympus20120501db.jpgCertainly the TG-820 is the fat kid in the sub $400.00 compact camera class but what it adds to your pocket or bag in weight, it also adds significantly in value.

In terms of functionality the TG-820 is pleasantly easy to use. It powers on in the blink of an eye and is ready to shoot immediately after. Users can select from one of the primary shooting modes: program, iAuto, beauty, scene, magic or panorama and where required or relevant delve further into the selectable options within those for greater control.

Depending on the chosen primary mode users then have the ability to change settings such as flash function, white balance, exposure compensation, self-timer, macro mode, white balance and ISO etc.

The process of scrolling through and selecting options is intuitive and fairly speedy and no matter what shooting conditions you’re in be they on land, in the water, indoors or outdoors there is a host of options available to help optimise the resulting images.

The 5x optical zoom lens is safely housed in the body of the TG-820, which is absolutely essential for a camera designed for the rough and tumble of an adventurous life – particularly given the vulnerability of external and multi-tiered lenses to damage from knocks and drops etc. The almost flush exterior of the TG-820 however allows for maximum portability and ease-of-storage.

A multidirectional double lock system is in place to help secure, waterproof and weather seal the battery/card/connector cover to ensure it can’t be accidentally opened and thus compromised in transit or during use.

The buttons, zoom switch and mini control stick on the TG-820 are smaller and positioned closer together than perhaps they could be given the likelihood that a great portion of its target market will be sport, travel and adventure lovers who may often be wanting to use the unit whilst wearing gloves.

To help counteract this the TG-820 offers ‘tap control’ which can be turned on or off and allows users to cycle through and select shooting modes and settings by tapping on the camera’s top, sides and screen.

The tap control function is more sensitive and effective than one might guess and while it helps solve the glove-wearing issue it’s not something one might utilise much during normal operation.

For general use, the tiny size of the buttons makes operation somewhat less easy particularly when referring to the shrunken zoom switch with its very slight and verging on difficult-to-perceive tilt, hard edges and almost prickly feel.

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality


Overall image quality is quite impressive with the TG-820 particularly considering the reasonable price tag. Images are sharp, clear and nicely contrasty and colour is rendered quite accurately – including skin tones.

olympus20120501dc.jpgSpeaking of, ‘beauty mode’ can do a real number on one’s skin and facial features if you’re not careful to control and customise the settings, which fortunately can be easily done and up to three custom sets of your favourite settings saved for future application.

Varying degrees of skin softening and brightening can be done along with an amount of blemish and puffy eye fix. When properly controlled it can do a nice job – assuming the airbrushed look appeals to you – though be careful to watch the way the feature enlarges a subject’s mouth. It can be a little disconcerting.

If in doubt, switch into the portrait scene mode (just one of an impressive 23 available), which will do a gentler, subtler job of ‘beautifying’ your subject.

Some of the other available scene modes include landscape, sport, night scene, cuisine, indoor, candle and sunset along with a 3D scene mode that shoots images specifically for viewing and coming to life on 3D compatible TVs or monitors.

Without doubt the most impressive (and I would bet oft-used) scene mode newly available however is the ‘backlight HDR mode.’ This is the mode so many compact cameras have been struggling without and could certainly benefit from.

For all of those shooting situations in contrasty lighting conditions (with bright highlights and deep shadows) simply switch into HDR mode, point, shoot and let the TG-820 do all the hard work in-camera.

Upon pressing the shutter three images are taken in quick succession (and presumably at three different exposures) and automatically combined to bring details back into the highlights and pull information from the deepest shadows to render a much more balanced and evenly exposed image.

For a camera company to offer this sort of technology within the simplicity of a point-and-shoot framework is to show both high levels of initiative and excellence. Well done, Olympus. Well done indeed.

An impressive ISO range from 100-6400 is also available and while the thought of a compact camera shooting up and beyond ISO 1600 is usually enough to make one cringe at the thought alone, the TG-820 handles the whole spectrum of ISOs incredibly and indeed surprisingly well.

 

LCD Screen / Viewfinder


olympus20120501dd.jpgThe TG-820 is fitted with a 3-inch HyperCrystal III LCD that is bright (with 1,030k dots of resolution), lag-free and scratch-resistant. As is common across the board, fingerprints and smudges don’t go unseen but aside from that minor and seemingly unavoidable glitch, the LCD can’t be faulted.

The symbols used to represent the various modes and settings that display in the far right-hand side panel on screen are logical and thus easy to decipher and while scrolling through them could afford to be closer to real time (there seems to be a slight delay that only when in a hurry becomes an issue) on the whole, the process is intuitive and user-friendly.

 

Video


Full 1080p HD movie mode at 30 frames per second is another feature to enjoy in the TG-820 – as if there weren’t already enough. HDMI control is also available, which allows you to control your camera using the TV remote (when connected to a HDMI compatible TV.)

Video capture in 11 of the 12 ‘magic’ modes is enabled meaning you can add the effects of: pin hole, miniature (think tilt-shift lens), soft focus, fish eye, punk and watercolour etc. to your movies as well as your stills.

Miniature mode shoots movies with a stop-motion appearance though without sound but certainly is a brilliantly effective and fun mode to experiment with when shooting stills.

 

 

 

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Conclusion

 
The Olympus TG-820 absolutely delivers on its promises, separates itself from the competition and is priced so reasonably for the genuine quality and flexibility it offers.

It’s a point-and-shoot camera absolutely loaded up with features and functions that make getting the best shots from even the most difficult subjects in the most difficult lighting conditions a possibility for even the most amateur of happy snappers.

You can practically take this camera with you anywhere you go, in a whole range of weather, lighting and temperature conditions and it will at worst, cope and at best, exceed your expectations.

Particularly for those who love outdoor adventures and for anyone who wants a tough, affordable compact camera that will easily give outstanding results compared to its competition, this camera really can’t be overlooked.

 

Accessories Used During Testing:

SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s SD Card 

Tamrac Pro Compact Digital / 5689 Camera Bag 

 

Recommended Retailer:

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View / Buy The Olympus TG-820 

 


Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Video quality
4 stars
Lens quality
4.5 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4.5 stars
Value for money 5 star
Street Price
$399.95
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 12 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
1/2.3" CCD sensor
Image Sizes 9
Lens 28mm - 140mm, Wide(W) F3.9; Tele(T) F5.9
Lens Mount
-
Resolution Settings: Stills 12M    3968 x 2976
8M      3264 x 2448
5M      2560 x 1920
3M      2048 x 1536
2M      1600 x 1200
1M      1280 x 960
VGA     640 x 480
16:9    3968 x 2232
          1920 x 1080
Resolution Settings: Video 1080 Recording time: 29min 
720P Recording time: 29min
GPS No
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Priority
No
Shutter Speeds 1/4 - 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Night scene)
ISO AUTO / High AUTO ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
LCD Monitor 3.0 Inch, HyperCrystal III LCD, 1,030,000 pixels
Viewfinder -
Flash Yes
Hot Shoe No
White Balance Auto, Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Underwater, Flourescent 1
Self Timer 12 and 2 seconds
Stills Format/s
JPEG
Video Format/s MPEG-4 AVC/H.2.64
Video Recording Time/s Maximum file size is 4GB
Storage Type - External SD/SDHC/SDXC
Storage Type - Internal
43MB
Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed, HDMI (CB-HD1 Type D); AV cable (CB-AVC3)
Power Source In-camera via USB, optional LI-50C external charger
Battery Options LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
Battery Life Approx. 220 shots
Dimensions 101.4 mm (W) x 65.2mm (H) x 26.0mm (D)
Weight 206g (including battery and memory card)
















 


 

 
 

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About Olympus

 

In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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