About three months ago I bought this shiny little digital camera which had just hit shelves by the end of February. Previously I had been looking through hundreds of compact digital cameras of every fabrication, specification and colour to replace my first generation digital cam which had been serving me true for so many years.
I needed something that could stand rough treatment; the new camera should be able to survive an average rainfall and cold temperatures (I love rainstorms and cold winters), be small but not light weight, and needed lots of different programs and modes for different light, photography of fast objects and scenery as well as and macro filters for close ups. But most of all I wanted a high quality product with as much storage as possible (the old cam couldn’t handle SD memory cards above 1 GB) and a picture quality as decent as it could be for a camera of said specifications.
It was just a week before this camera was released that I stumbled across some previews and ads; when I chose a selection of cameras that would fit my needs I therefore included the TG-820. By coincidence I soon found out that my cousin had been using an older model from the same series for years, which was the TG-320. He had been highly satisfied with it and could do nothing but recommend me a camera of Olympus’ tough series.
After playing with the TG-320 for a while, which just lacked a little bit in picture quality, I went back and read the reviews and checked example pictures and recordings of the TG-820 which had been released meanwhile.
Most of them were pretty good and especially the examples of all the different modes available stunned me. Further features included a recording mode for HD videos up to a length of 30 minutes – with a tremendous picture quality – and good sound, various special features like an in-built picture stabilizer and digital zoom. But most of all it was completely waterproof until a depth of 10 metres, shock resistant even from 2 metres height and it could withstand the torment of a 100 kilograms’ weight on it. JPEGs also looked amazing for the tiny image sensor inside. So I bought it.
Amazon provided me with the best offer; in addition to the camera I also bought a 16 GB SD memory card by Sandisk, suited for high speed data transfer. Including shipment fees and taxes I paid about € 320.-, a quite reasonable sum. After less than 4 days the camera arrived (the SD card took 3 days longer), accompanied by a software DVD, an USB adaptor cable which could also be used to charge the device via PC or, with the included second cable, just with any socket. I have to admit that I haven’t used the DVD yet, but it has plenty of things on it such as a mode editor for the cam, picture manipulation programs (I have GIMP and PS installed so I saw no need to try these out), a backup of the cameras software and some archiving tools for pictures. The camera itself is plug-and-play and can be used with any OS.
The cameras resolution is about 12 million pixels and delivers a clear and sharp picture without pixel fragments which always occurred in low light photography with most other digital cameras I had tried. Auto mode instantly recognises the situation and light settings and adapts the sensor properly, various macro modes provide you with endless possibilities regarding the photography of tiny things (the optional LED lamp needs to be mentioned here, really helpful) and some of the colour filters are really impressive.
The camera itself is well-fabricated, mostly made of a leightweight steel alloy. I for my part chose the black design, but it is also available in metallic silver, violet or blue. Due to its fairly massive construction the camera’s lens and zoom are inside the case of the camera which shields it from any harm. An additional safeguard automatically slides open or seals off the lens opening when the camera is turned on/off.
The handling was designed so you could easily change modes through the menu and take pictures, but Olympus also gave this camera a special feature which comes in handy under water or in cold environment (where the camera remains functional even in -20 °C): an in-built sensor can be switched on through the options menu. This optional feature allows you to slide through the menus by varying the cameras angle and even take pictures, much like today’s smartphones. By using this menu you will never need to take of your gloves for photographing again.
The picture is clear and detailed; the colours are rich and look natural. Sometimes the pictures look a bit sober and slightly greyed out, depending on weather conditions. This can be sorted out manually by either increasing or decreasing the sensors sensitivity or by choosing one of the pre-programmed weather modes.
Menus and options are well accessible and simple; most things are displayed with icons and a guide explaining the modes’ functions can be turned on. These short subtitles are really helpful and do not interfere with anything, making it therefore a great addition to the iconic menus.
The zoom itself could maybe go farther, but is more than satisfying for an in-built one. However, the digital zoom is a great addition and does not make the image any worse.
During night time the autoprogram option was not working this well, the image became a bit shaky. But by tuning white correction and ISO values a little bit (short tip with the fingers and it’s done) the camera delivered clear and beautiful night time photos.
The battery and memory card case is kept shut by a sophisticated locking mechanism which is easy to handle. It also displays whether it is closed properly or not. In addition to that, it keeps the in-built mini USB dry.
On a personal note: I took this camera with me on my recent holidays, tried it in basically every weather condition you can have during summer, and used it underwater – in sea water and filtered water park water alike. I also used it on the slides. Loads of fun and great picture quality under water.
But there are a few minor negative aspects I also need to mention:
A downside of its heavy duty design, though, is that Olympus did not insert a focus window due to integrity reasons. Therefore one can only use the “crystal clear” screen on the back of the camera; this usually brings another problem in: severe scratches or even the sun can render the display useless. But in this case the display screen (should mention the great screen solution here) is easily protected with a security cover plastic foil (available in every well-sorted department store). In addition to that, even on a really bright day with the sun shining directly on the screen I could still find menus and everything necessary; the image was clearly visible.
Another downside, at least in my humble opinion, is the fact that every time you transfer the pictures from the camera to your PC and delete them after, the picture renaming starts from 0 again. Instead of continuing after the previously numbered ones the highest number in a file name is chosen and the camera is counting from there. For instance, 001 to 089 have been deleted completely, then it will start at 001 again, not at 90. The same applies if 001 to 049 are deleted, but 50-59 is left on the cameras memory card. Then it will count up from 60.
This can be really annoying if you want to store many pictures in the same folder, like I usually do. It’s just personal preference, though. My way to get along with it: leave the very last picture undeleted, or have a new folder for each time you change card/delete pictures.
The last negative aspect I found was that you are able to access the time the camera takes to take a picture through the various menu points, such as “sports” where a short lumination time of the sensor grants sharp images of fast movement, but you cannot access this feature directly. The only way to make long lamination times possible is to use the “fireworks” mode, but this one keeps it open for too long to be useful during daytime. Once again, a thing of personal preference.
All in all it’s the greatest compact camera I had yet and I can nothing but recommend it. Good buy.