[Update on April 1, 2014: Olympus made a clarification today to the TG-3’s specs. The Super Macro Mode is 1 cm (o.4 inches) to infinity, with a focal length of 30-100mm (35mm equivalent).]
It used to be that if you wanted a rugged, weatherproof camera, you had to sacrifice some performance and features. Newer models prove that’s no longer the case. Case in point is the new 16-megapixel Stylus Tough TG-3 from Olympus. The flagship of Olympus’ rugged point-and-shoot series, the TG-3 has a fast f/2.0 lens (the fastest in its class, Olympus says), and is the first Olympus point-and-shoot to have Wi-Fi and GPS built in.
The camera uses a 16-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and the newest TruePic VII image processor (the same processor used in the high-end OM-D Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras), both components working together to deliver great low-light performance – handy for underwater scenes. The camera can dive down to 50 feet, and withstand dust, temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit, drops from 7 feet, and weight (crushproof) of 220 pounds (same specs as its predecessor, the TG-2). The lens has a wide-angle, 4x optical zoom (25-100mm) and f/2.0-4.9 aperture (also unchanged from the TG-2). ISO ranges from 100-6,400, and continuous shooting is at 5 frames per second (up to 25 images at full resolution).
What’s new is Wi-Fi for wireless transfers and smartphone connectivity/remote operation, and GPS for geotagging your photos. You can upload and share your photos while vacationing abroad (provided there’s Wi-Fi or if your smartphone has service), with extra info like how deep underwater you were during the snorkeling trip. There’s no near-field communication (NFC) for quick pairing, but Olympus uses a system where you can use your iOS or Android device to scan a QR code, which then automates the pairing process. We’ve used Olympus’ Wi-Fi implementation and found it to be easy to set up and effective to use. Unlike older cameras, Olympus says the GPS in the TG-3 works efficiently and won’t drain the battery. (The TG-3 also supports GLONASS satellite system used in Russia.)
The TG-3 has an enhanced Microscope Control Mode that lets you adjust the camera’s lens to mimic the controls of an actual microscope, letting you zoom as close as 44.5x at a distance of 1cm. It lets you see details of things like a snowflake. A new feature is Focus Stacking, where the camera takes eight shots at different apertures; the camera then retrieves the areas in focus from each shot, and combines them to create one image with full focus. This depth composition mode happens in-camera, and is great for macro shots. You can also go back to those eight individual photos to pick one that you like (focus bracketing). Also new is a scene mode called Underwater Macro, designed for close-up shots and corrects white balance, color saturation, and contrast while shooting underwater. Rounding out the new features are Art Filters and a Photo Story mode that automatically creates a collage in-camera. Moves are recording in Full HD 1080p.
What’s unfortunate is that the 3-inch display got downgraded from bright OLED to a standard LCD.
One issue we hope not to encounter is water tightness, as we discovered with the TG-2. During our testing, moisture developed inside the memory card compartment, and rendered the camera unusable for a day. In general, Olympus makes very good rugged cameras, but water tightness seems to be an issue that other users have reported as well.
Available in black and red, the TG-3 will go on sale in June for $350.