Olympus ‘Tough’ TG-4 Camera

A review of the Olympus ‘Tough’ TG-4 digital camera that I bought in early August 2017.

After attending surviving this year’s Port Eliot Festival at the end of July, my second Nikon camera (Nikon S9400) gave up on me and I was left with no choice but to buy something new (the thought of spending another £90 on a second repair in three years seem nonsensical, to me).

I wasn’t keen on the thought of a DSLR, as their bulky (not to mention expensive) and I’d like to use this on my walks, of course. I thought about buying another compact/point-and-shoot/£150 item but, how long would that last, given my track record of breaking them (I’m up to three, now).

So, after reading many reviews and watching the odd video online, I came to the conclusion that the Olympus Tough TG-4 digital camera may be the one for me.

Actually, my final decision was torn between this and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 – both are rated as being waterproof models and both come out rather well on the review scores I’ve seen. However, I chose the TG-4 on the basis that it’s regarded as being better for taking macro photos and for shooting in low-light conditions.

What can I tell you about a digital camera?

By no means, am I an expert in the subject and I still have a lot to learn on all the features and settings that come equipped with even the most basic models.

As with most cameras, you have the option to set it to ‘auto’ mode, where you can still make refinements to the white balance, turning the flash on or off, etc. What I found interesting (and, I only discovered this days ago) is that you have to turn the wheel to the microscope in order to take a close-up micro image.

Otherwise, the buttons you can see are all clearly identified, easy to reach and easy to use. In terms of the layout, it’s no a million miles away from my previous Nikon and Fujifilm cameras.

I was aware that you can shoot images in “raw” format (apparently, this is ideal for photo editing software). But one feature I hadn’t taken note of was the security of the catches around the camera.

Starting on the left hand side (from the photographer’s angle), there’s a two-system series of catches that need to be unlocked with a slide (orange means open) before the door itself will open to reveal the connection ports inside.

I also found the same feature on the base, where the battery and SD card housing is protected. What this means, of course, is that you’re far less likely to find them hanging open at any time. How watertight the seals may be, I really don’t know and I don’t intend to find out, as I didn’t buy this camera to dip in to the sea.

I’m also impressed with the batteries that this camera used. They’re more chunky than anything I’ve owned previously and, through initial experience, I’m sure they’re outlasting my old lithium-ions. But, at £30 a go (best price I could find for a genuine item on eBay), spares aren’t cheap.

However, my set of two was more than enough for a four-day adventure in the Peak District, last month. In fact, I didn’t need to change the battery until the final day, after seventy-two-hours of taking photos and recording the odd video scene.

That brings me on to the lens…

…Which, unlike a cheaper camera, doesn’t have a shutter to conceal it. Also, it lacks the zoom capacity – although, I could argue that long-distance zoom is only really beneficial when you have a tripod (and the megapixels) to take a half-decent image.

I am concerned that this will get scratched in time (I always scratch my lenses), as I’m constantly sliding it in and out from the hip-belt pocket. I wish Olympus provided a lens cap or cover, like on an SLR camera.

I don’t miss the extra zoom capacity of my previous cameras and I believe that, not having to withdraw the lens and shutter each time you turn the power off is economising on battery power.

There are GPS and Wi-Fi functions that I’ve yet to experiment with. GPS, I believe, is used for tagging your photos as you take them (not a feature that interests me and one that may demand extra battery power) and, while I am curious about the Wi-Fi option, again, I’ve not tested it.

To be honest, I take so many photos on a walk that I still find it convenient to transfer them all to my computer from an SD Card and edit, resize, upload.

I find the zoom switch (on the right, above) is a little bit difficult to find with your finger and takes some getting used to.

I’m very happy with the image quality and that’s after mostly using the ‘auto’ settings provided (again, I still have lots to learn). I like the display on the back screen. One feature I’ve not yet found is the means to adjust the hue and temperature of the scene before taking a photo. Previously, I would do this to add warmth to an otherwise cold Cloudy’ recording.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the wrist strap when I first fitted it. Despite its size and comfort, I found it was easy to pull it away from the main unit while actually wanting to withdraw the camera in tandem. I’ve since resolved this though, by threading the excess through the black plastic loop.

Is It Waterproof?

Again, I’ll say that I do not intend to dunk this camera in to a pool of water. If I was doing that regularly, I’d probably invest in a “GoPro Clone” for around £100.

What I have noticed – and, it’s hopefully evident in the photo above – is that condensation building up on the outside of the lens and creating ‘foggy’ images has been a regular problem, even in August.

I like to think that a lens cap or cover may resolve or, at least, reduce this. Of course, you can wipe it way but that’s sometimes easier said than done, when you are outside.

On YouTube

Already, I’ve used this camera a couple of times to record footage for two video on my Olly Outdoors YouTube channel (one is still being edited).

Image quality is as impressive as with the rest of the camera and many of the functions and settings available remain the same. I have found though, that when the microphone recording volume is set to ‘high’ [or, is it ‘normal’?], it will pick up every minute sound that the shutter and lens make. This is less noticeable when the recording volume is set to ‘Low’ but, if you’re using this in the outdoors where the white balance can vary extremely, this may prevent an issue.

Elsewhere, I found that the wind noise reduction settings works quite well. Although, without a big busy baffle, it’s never going to be flawless.

(NB. All photos of the camera were taken using my smartphone.)

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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