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When it comes to finding a tough camera, my Olympus Stylus Tough TG4 review shows this model is one of the more rugged compact options you’ll find. It can survive a drop of up to 7 feet, and its body is resistant to dust penetration. You can also apply up to 220 pounds of pressure on the camera body. Can the Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 (Editor’s Choice) say the same?
But to qualify as a best waterproof camera, the Olympus TG4 needs to have the ability to work underwater. And although the Stylus Tough TG4 isn’t going to help you on an extremely deep dive, it can survive in up to 50 feet of water depth, making it work great for quick underwater photos in a variety of situations. The TG4’s 50 feet of water depth is a big improvement over older Stylus Tough waterproof cameras. If you want to upgrade to a slightly more expensive model, take a look at our Nikon 1 AW1 review to compare.
Summary: Those seeking a good all around camera that also has waterproof capabilities, tough features, and a built-in GPS will appreciate the rugged Olympus Stylus Tough TG4.
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Built-in GPS in a versatile, feature rich waterproof camera.
Price: $329 from Amazon
Available: April 2015
Model: Stylus Tough TG4
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
Versus the boxy, almost industrial look of the past Olympus waterproof models, such as the Olympus Stylus Tough 6020, the Olympus TG4 has a sleeker look with rounded edges. The lens housing has been moved to the center of the TG4 versus the older Stylus Tough camera design with the lens in the upper corner.
One disappointment with this model is its small 4X optical zoom lens. The lens housing itself does not extend beyond the camera’s body, which allows the TG4 to maintain its waterproof seal. But by keeping the F 2.0 zoom lens contained inside the camera body, the optical zoom measurement in the Tough TG4 ends up being greatly limited versus other compact cameras.
The best feature of this underwater camera is its built-in GPS unit. It can be difficult to identify the location of underwater photos when you’re reviewing them at home a few weeks after your trip because of the lack of easily identifiable landmarks underwater. But the GPS unit can tag each photo with your exact location, making it easier to remember exactly where you took each photo. The Tough TG4 also has a built-in compass.
The TG4 can work in up to 50 feet of water depth, which is an improvement over older cameras, such as is shown with an Olympus Stylus Tough 8010, which can work in up to 33 feet of water depth. The Olympus TG4 doesn’t quite match the water depth of the Canon D30 (82 feet), but 50 feet of water depth should meet the needs of most people in most situations.
Additionally, the Stylus Tough TG4 can survive a fall of up to 7 feet, is crush-proof up to 220 pounds, and will work in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Tough TG4 improves on past Olympus Tough models by incorporating 16 megapixels of resolution, versus the 12 megapixels of resolution in the older cameras. The Nighttime Live Composite mode is also a nice feature allowing the user to capture beautiful shots of city lights, stars, and light trails with minimal effort.
Unfortunately, the Olympus Tough TG4 has a small image sensor in physical size at 1/2.3 inches. This is the smallest size of an image sensor that you’ll find for a digital camera. It’s a common size for simple point and shoot cameras, but it does cause some problems with image quality, especially in low light indoor scenes.
Even when shooting photos in decent outdoor lighting, you’ll notice a lack of overall sharpness if you magnify the images on a computer screen or attempt to make large prints. The Stylus Tough TG4 isn’t able to match the sharpness of some cameras in its price range. But as long as you plan on looking at the photos on a computer screen at normal sizes or on a smartphone or tablet screen, you shouldn’t notice the slight blur.
There is a variety of shooting modes to choose from including, custom mode, raw shooting/processing, art filter, picture mode, interval shooting, and time-lapse.
When shooting photos underwater, you’re going to be shooting in low light conditions most of the time. I’d recommend adding the optional LED ring to the lens of the Olympus TG4, which will greatly improve the lighting in the scene, especially when working underwater. Olympus also included a small LED light next to the embedded flash that allows for continuous light, if you don’t want to purchase the LED ring, but the embedded LED is not quite as effective as the LED ring.
Even though you can shoot with a maximum ISO setting of 6400 with the Olympus Stylus Tough TG4, you’ll want to stick with an ISO of 800 or less to avoid noise (incorrect pixels) from appearing in your images.
You can record movies at full HD quality with this camera, and Olympus’ designers gave the TG4 a dedicated movie recording button to simplify the process of recording videos.
Unlike many small point and shoot type cameras, the Olympus Stylus Tough TG4 has an excellent battery life. Olympus estimates this camera can shoot 380 photos per charge, and real world testing showed that this number is pretty accurate … unlike many cameras, where manufacturers routinely inflate the estimated battery lifespan.
Because of the strong battery life, the built-in WiFi connectivity in the TG4 is useful, allowing you to share photos through the Olympus TG-4 app on your mobile device. Even with the high capacity battery with this camera, constant use of the GPS and WiFi connectivity will cut your battery life quite a bit.
We put this Olympus Tough TG-4 review together to show you exactly what this model has to offer and simply put the Olympus Stylus Tough TG4 represents a significant step up from past Stylus Tough models in terms of tough features, image resolution, and design. It offers helpful wireless features, including built-in GPS and WiFi. And its strong battery life helps to make those wireless features actually useful, as you won’t exhaust the battery trying to send a few pictures using WiFi. But this model’s image quality is more like you’d expect to find in one of the best digital cameras under $200, meaning you’re paying a premium to have the waterproof and tough capabilities in the TG4. As long as you need a tough camera that’ll survive the harsh conditions in which you’re using it, and you don’t need to make large prints, the TG4 will work well for you.
As someone that has used the TG-4 for many months now I can tell you that GPS isn’t the best feature on the camera. The TG-4 is the first Olympus compact camera to allow shooting in RAW. Its depth rating can also be increased with the PT-056 underwater housing which also fit its predecessor, the TG-3. At these depths however you’re generally brining your own light source since light penetration reduces quickly at depth (not to mention your recreational dive bottom time). Then there’s microscope mode which, along with the compact form factor, allows you to get those tight macro shots which bulkier set ups can have difficulty getting. There are also wet lens attachments to enhance the zoom and wide angle capabilities further which can be mounted onto the camera or onto the housing.