Olympus TG-4 Review

Olympus brings the follow-up to last year’s rather fun and impressive TG-3 waterproof/rugged camera with the appropriately named Olympus TG-4. With altogether unchanged exterior styling and control scheme however, the improvements to this year’s model are all under the hood, with new scene modes, faster GPS, and a big feature that’s sure to please many enthusiasts: RAW capture.

Indeed, the Olympus TG-4 is not only Olympus’ first, but also the industry’s first rugged, waterproof compact camera with RAW file capture capability. The TG-4 should please those looking for maximum image quality from a camera that can take a serious beating right out of the box. The TG-4, like the TG-3 before it, includes both Program and Aperture Priority exposure modes as well as a host of scene modes and filter effects. And the ability to record RAW files is available in all shooting modes that do not deal with composite shots or art filters.

And speaking of scene modes and composite shooting, the TG-4 gets an upgrade in that area, as well. Taking a cue from the E-M10, which originally introduced this feature, the TG-4 includes Olympus’ Live Composite mode. Using Live Composite, the TG-4 is able to capture night scenes, cityscapes and even impressive long exposure star trail shots all in-camera and in real-time — no need for computer-based post-processing to build these types of photographs manually from multiple images.

Another first for Olympus’ Tough line of cameras is AF Target selection. Like their OM-D cameras, for example, the TG-4 allows you to use the rear 4-way directional control buttons to quickly and easily move the focus point. This makes it easy to compose and frame your shots, and then precisely control your point of focus.

Olympus TG-4 Review -- Product Image

Being fully waterproof and ready to explore the deep blue sea (or, well, ‘deep’ to a maximum of 50 feet without an add-on housing), the TG-4 includes a selection of underwater-specific shooting modes, including Underwater Snapshot mode as well as underwater wide-angle and macro modes. New for the TG-4, however, is a unique “Underwater HDR” mode, which captures and composites multiple images with increased shadow and highlight detail. It’ll be interesting to see how this well works, given underwater shooting is often not very stable. We’re told the TG-4 is able to compensate for slight movements, but if the movement is too great, the camera will alert you and not capture an image.

The final new feature on the TG-4 is the improved GPS module. Using “next-generation” GPS, the TG-4 reportedly can acquire a signal in under 10 seconds, which should make it more convenient to geo-tag media from your adventures. As in the predecessor model, the TG-4 can utilize both US-based GPS as well as the Russian GLONASS satellite positioning network. Using the OI.Track smartphone app as a companion, you can include GPS metadata when transferring and uploading images and videos to your favorite social media and photo sharing services. Like the previous model, the TG-4 includes an e.Compass mode that provides direction in addition to latitude, longitude, barometric pressure and altitude/water depth all on one screen. In addition to GPS and environmental sensors, the TG-4 features Wi-Fi connectivity, that when paired with the OI.Track smartphone app, allows for wireless transfer of stills and video as well as robust remote shooting capabilities for photos and video.

As for other factors and specs, the TG-4 borrows heavily from its predecessor. The body design and ruggedness specs remain the same. The Olympus TG-4 is able to withstand drops from 7 feet (2.1m) high, freezing temperatures down to 14°F (-10°C), crushing pressures of 220 pounds (100kgf), dusty conditions, and, of course, watery depths down to 50 feet (15m). The imaging sensor is tied to the same current-gen TruePic VII processor, which provides the same sensitivity range and burst-shooting performance of the earlier TG-3, that is to say: ISO 100 to 6,400 and full-res images bursts at five frames per second for as many as 100 frames.

In front of the same 16-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor is a versatile 4x optical zoom lens that provides a comfortable 25-100mm-equivalent focal length range and a nice, bright f/2.0 aperture at the wide end. The aperture narrows to f/4.9 at full telephoto. However, for low-light shooting and particularly in dimmer underwater environments — where a wide-angle perspective is very useful and often desired — the bright f/2.0 aperture is a much-welcomed feature. The camera features an Aperture Priority mode, but unlike your typical camera, the aperture adjustments on the TG-4 are not as finely grained, but rather a three-step system. You can choose from f/2.0, f/2.8 or f/8.0 at the wide angle, and from f/4.9, f/6.3 or f/18.0 at telephoto.

Like the TG-3 before it, the lens on the ‘4’ focuses to an impressively close 0.4 inches (1cm), and does so at 30 to 100mm equivalents, making for a very respectable macro performance. And to help combat blur from camera shake, Olympus has included mechanical, sensor shift-type image stabilization. There’s also a five-mode flash strobe to help brighten nearby subjects.

To further enhance the macro photography capabilities, there are a handful of macro-specific shooting modes in addition to the normal “Microscope Mode.” There is a Microscope Control Mode, which uses a digital zoom function to enable 1x, 2x, and 4x magnification ratios for increased macro effects. Furthermore, since macro photography introduces very narrow depths of field, the TG-4 has both an automatic focus stacking mode as well as a manual focus-bracketing mode to create macro shots with deep depths of field or ensure sharp macro photos.

Olympus TG-4 Review -- Product Image

The Olympus TG-4 shown here with the optional LED Light Guide. This simple ring attaches around the lens and redirects light from the on-board LED to function as a ring light for even close-up and macro photography.

Video recording capabilities remain unchanged from the TG-3. Video resolution tops out at 1920 x 1080 with both 60p and 30p frame rates available, with 720/30p HD video also offered. Standard videos are saved with H.264 compression in a .MOV container, however the TG-4 also supports high-speed and time-lapse movies, both of which use Motion JPEG compression in an AVI container. Time-lapse movies, which have a maximum resolution of 720p, can be as long as ten seconds, and play back at ten frames per second, for a total of up to 100 video frames. High-speed movies drop down in resolution to VGA (640 x 480 pixels) at 120 frames per second, or 320 x 240 resolution for 240 fps.

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types.  The Olympus Tough TG-4 uses the same LI-92B rechargeable lithium-ion as its predecessor, with battery life rated the same at 380 shots per charge. The battery is charged in-camera, via the included AC/USB adapter

Olympus TG-4 Review -- Product Image

The Olympus TG-4 shown here with the new Sport Holder CSCH-123.

Like its predecessor, the Olympus TG-4 is compatible with a growing system of accessories such as cases, float straps, an underwater housing, plus fisheye and telephoto conversion lenses, as well as the LG-1 LED light guide introduced with the TG-3. For additional underwater protection, the Underwater Case PT-056 (sold separately) increases the TG-4’s underwater depth rating to 45m (about 147 feet). A new accessory for this model is the Sport Holder CSCH-123, which can be used to quickly mount and de-mount the camera to a backpack strap or belt. The Sport Holder includes a carabineer and elastic shock cord to hold the camera and prevent drops and falls.

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus Tough TG-4
Resolution: 16.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
Kit Lens: 4.00x zoom
(25-100mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / OLED
Native ISO: 100 – 6400
Extended ISO: 100 – 6400
Shutter: 4 – 1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.0
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.2 in.
(112 x 66 x 31 mm)
Weight: 8.7 oz (247 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $380
Availability: 05/2015
Manufacturer: Olympus
Full specs: Olympus TG-4 specifications

Set to be available in May 2015, the Olympus TG-4 ships in black or red versions with a list price of US$379.99 (CAD$399.99), which is slightly higher than the US$350 list price of its predecessor.