Olympus’ new TG-3 rugged camera may be brawny, but it has a bit of smarts packed in, too

[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.

Design wise, the camera has a similar form factor as earlier models, but there are noticeable cosmetic changes, such as an improved grip. What is unfortunate is that the 3-inch LCD got downgraded from a 610k-dot OLED in the TG-2 to a standard LCD with 460k-dot resolution. It will be interesting to see how much this affects screen brightness, especially when used in bright sunlight or underwater. Olympus is offering some optional accessories to pair with the TG-3, including an LED ring light (LG-1, $40) that’s idea for close-up stills and videos, as well as waterproof fisheye and tele-converter lenses.

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.


Get up close and personal with this telephoto lens for your phone

Moment is replacing its aging 60mm telephoto lens with a new 58mm tele lens, redesigned from the ground up for the latest iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones. Mount it onto the phone via a case and get closer with 2x optical zoom.

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Product Review

With outstanding image quality, the ‘basic’ Sony A7 III excels in every way

Replacing the four-year-old A7 II as the new entry-level model in Sony's full-frame line, the A7 III is an impressively capable camera that gives more expensive models a run for their money.
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.

Photography news: Best spot for fall photos, new firmware from Fuji and Nikon

Where's the best spot to take fall photos? Michigan, according to social media and a Nikon contest. The results and more in this week's photography news, including significant firmware updates for the Fujifilm X-T3, X-H1, and GFX 50S.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Product Review

DJI has always been the king of drones, and the new Mavics are almost perfect

After flying both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for over a week, we’re convinced that these are two of the best drones that DJI has ever made.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!