Question for any Olympus TG (Tough) owners

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Replytoken, Feb 9, 2015.

  1. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    After more reading and research than I care to tally, I ordered an Olympus TG-3 as I was hoping to bring a waterproof camera with me on an upcoming trip. I know that many of the reviews panned a number of waterproof cameras for less than ideal image quality, usually due to excessive noise reduction, but the TG-3 was almost always the recommended model for having good IQ. And, many of the sample photos that I have seen from TG-3's posted on the web looked reasonable. But, today I finally charged up the battery and took a few sample images. Now, my expectations may be out of line, but frankly I was not that happy with the samples. I can understand if an image was a bit softer and lacked the contrast of a better camera/lens combo, not unlike what we see with some of the kit lenses that are not known for good IQ, but in this case, details in several of the images were totally smeared. And the flash was nothing short of nuclear in a couple of shots, with no ability to control its output. Are these the problems that the reviewers were alluding to, or am I just expecting too much from the camera? It has been some time since I shot with small sensor camera, and I do not remember details being that worked over, but then again, those camera probably only had between 3-8 megapixels on their sensors. Any words of advice? I have a little bit more time before my return period ends, and right now I am just not seeing the IQ that I would expect from a camera of this price point. I do understand that these cameras are packed with a number of features, but I really do not have need for GPS or a compass, so I was hoping that the IQ was not taking because of them. And, it seems that almost all of the compact waterproof cameras share the same size sensor, so I have little expectation that a lateral move is going to get me anything better. Very discouraging.

    --Ken
     
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  2. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    My parents have a TG1 and it works fine for basic images. Haven't blown anything up to 100%, but viewing at standard size on a monitor shows decent results. No issues with flash, as they use it for "fill" quite a bit.
     
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  3. Carrera_C

    Carrera_C Mu-43 Rookie

    13
    May 8, 2011
    Scotland
    I've got a TG-830 and the image quality is ok. If you go to 100% you're going to be disappointed with the jpeg output. But at "normal" magnification it's fine. I bought mine for a similar reason to you, I wanted a camera that could stand up to water hazards. The images it puts out are good enough for on-line and standard prints.
     
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  4. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    I guess since I like to print, and have not been shooting with small sensors for some time, that my expectations may be a bit high. I showed one image to a friend, and when he pulled it up on his iPhone, the image looked OK. But I am so used to judging images at 100%, that I was taken by how smeared the details were when viewed at that level. I guess if I limit myself to small output, this camera may pass muster, but that seems like such a major compromise for a $350 camera. I guess that since I am not interested in all of the many additional features, that I am paying quite a premium for a waterproof camera.

    You would think that there would be a huge market for a waterproof camera with a slightly larger sensor at a price less than what Nikon charges for their 1AW model. I would be happy to pay $400 or so dollars for a 1" sensor camera that was waterproof and shot raw files. 1/2.3" sensors are just one size up from common cell phone cameras. Surely the camera companies could find a way to use a slightly bigger sensor for better IQ. (OK rant over.)

    --Ken
     
  5. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    703
    Feb 2, 2012
    The lens is real small to protect it from water pressure. If you are under water it is always a little murky anyway. If you want real quality you have to use a waterproof case with bigger sensor. If it is just raining a regular camera will do.Just cover it. I have a Tough -3 and a Stylus with a bigger lens. The jpeg engines on both do make a smeary image but if raw it would be very noisy. Sensor size is the problem. These cameras are for fair weather sunny days at the beach or hiking.
     
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  6. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Somewhat ironic given how these cameras are marketed. and while I have not played with any raw files form a small sensor camera in quite some time, I would agree that they are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I will give it some additional thought. I may be just as happy without water shots and using the funds for something else. There will be other photographic opportunities, and my E-M1 and E-M5 should do OK in lightly rainy or misty weather.

    --Ken
     
  7. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Ken, it may be that you can get a bona fide underwater housing for the E-M5 or E-M1 for $400 or less. Of course, the package won't be compact and pocketable but it's one possible avenue to getting you what you want. Otherwise, the TG-3 is about as good as it gets for a compact waterproof camera these days. If you plan to do a good amount of underwater shooting maybe a proper housing for a better camera is the way to go. Otherwise, I'd keep the TG-3 and remember that you're only going for happy snapshots to record a memory - not to create high art. Think about it: How many times when you've fished out an "oh wow" photo from the family collection - something taken decades ago such as Kodak Instamatic shots from the 1960s or 70s - has anyone been concerned with image quality? Good luck with whatever you decide.

    EDIT: Here's a proper underwater housing for the Sony RX100 for $129:
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/searc...al+Camera&N=11025126&InitialSearch=yes&sts=pi

    And here is a brand-new original Sony RX100 for $369 on eBay:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Sony-Cyber-...325?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4adfeed59d

    That's $498 total. Do you care about image quality and true waterproofness that much? I'm not saying you should or shouldn't. And it's still under $500.
     
  8. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    771
    Nov 16, 2012
    Emily
    That housing doesn't allow use of a strobe either as a slave or through a sync cable. You can't even use the camera's built in flash (which would be useful underwater only to trigger a slave strobe). So with that housing, unless you wanted to get a separate video light, you'd still be limited to shooting in relatively shallow water on sunny days.
     
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  9. Rasmus

    Rasmus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    665
    Nov 16, 2013
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    I'll get a new TG camera they day they release one that can shoot RAW. When my TG-1 gets the white balance wrong, it usually gets it horribly wrong and there's not much I can do about it. And yes, noise reduction is stupendously aggressive.
     
  10. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    True but one tends to stick to wide angle underwater and he'd have f/1.8 there. Nothing's perfect. But it's an option.
     
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  11. LisaO

    LisaO Mu-43 Top Veteran

    798
    Mar 18, 2010
    New York Metro Area
    Lisa
    I have a TG-2. It's ok, I like that it is small as I use it as a secondary camera. I just like to snorkel and shoot over/under shots. I once drowned a DSLR in a Ikelite case so I shy away from putting expensive bodies in these cases that are big and bulky since then. I also have a Nikon AW1 which I found sort of awkward and a GoPro4 which is fun to shoot with.
     
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  12. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Thanks for the detailed reply, Steve. I feel like I am coming full circle on this issue again. I did look at small cameras with housings, which I believe that you may have mentioned in another thread, and while it was cheaper than the TG-3, the housing was quite large, and it required two hands to shoot. As I am not much of a swimmer, and have only snorkeled once before many years ago, I suspect that the best shot is going to be one of me trying not to look like a something off one of those silly home video programs. I did not have high expectations for what I was going to see or shoot while snorkeling, but on the off chance that something like a sea turtle was reasonably close, I thought a reasonable photo might be a nice reminder. But, as Emily previously reminded me, I will probably have a collection of fish posteriors to add to my collection of bird posteriors from when I started out shooting BIF. So, I am caught between wanting to limit my expense for a slight chance at a special photo in an activity that I do not normally do or photograph, and spending money or carrying large gear for that off chance. The price of the TG-3 is pushing the latter, and I know that I am just not going to want to carry a large housing for such minimal use, even if it can deliver better IQ. The cynic in me says to buy a cheap waterproof bag and bring an older smartphone to use as a camera. I would consider the cheaper Olympus TG-850 to reduce my cost, but it is not clear that its IQ is on par with the TG-3, and as the TG-3 is not really what I was expecting, and is supposed to be the best of the bunch, I am not sure what changes in IQ to expect.

    You are correct that I could probably produce some happy snapshot quality images, but as I am going to have opportunities to take photos with my regular gear, I need to decide if the cost of the TG-3 is worth the convenience of having a waterproof camera, or if I should just save my money, play in the water, and take my photos on land. Right now I am not sure which would bug me more, mediocre photos for a cost beyond what I would prefer to pay, or not having a camera when I am around the water. I think I need another day or two to mull this over a bit more now that folks have confirmed that what I am seeing from the TG-3 is not out of the ordinary.

    --Ken
     
  13. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Lisa,

    How would you compare the GoPro with the TG?

    --Ken
     
  14. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    And I thought shooting BIF required some esoteric, and often times expensive gear. A nice reminder of what it sometimes takes to get amazing shots in the water, or of birds in flight.

    --Ken
     
  15. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    The biggest compromise with the TG-850 (I used to have a TG-820) versus the TG-3 is the slower lens aperture. But the camera is not without its value and uses. It also makes for a great camera to take skiing, snowboarding and on any number of other winter outings. I also took my TG-820 on a "Maid of the Mist" boat trip under Niagra Falls. The results were quite acceptable IMHO. The best part is that Olympus will sell you a refurbished TG-850 for $159.99. That's a pretty low risk if you paid full retail for the TG-3 and simply decide you don't want to keep it.

    http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/outlet/reconditioned-cameras/tg-850-silver-reconditioned.html
     
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  16. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    If everything else is the same, especially IQ, then this may not be a bad option. I do not expect it to be that dark out, otherwise we would probably not be at the beach. I will give it some serious consideration. It may be a good compromise. I am assuming that the build quality is similar.

    --Ken
     
  17. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Build quality is very similar. The TG-8xx series is quite "Tough," pun intended.
     
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  18. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Have you considered a TG1 or TG2? Same sensor, just more updates (that you said you didn't care about). The one my parents got was under a year ago from KEH for the TG1, and saved some serious cash compared to the new model.
     
  19. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    Hi Sean,

    With a waterproof camera, I was a bit concerned about buying used, as it is my understanding that the seals can give out over time, especially if not taken care of. Nonetheless, I did look at KEH, and given the prices, I could also consider a new or refurbished TG-850 for about the same amount of funds, or possibly less, and I would pick up a longer warranty as well.

    --Ken
     
  20. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014