Olympus TG-3: A Review

In terms of cameras that are fun to use, I don’t think that there is a camera that I have used that is more fun than the Olympus TG-3.  It’s shock proof.  It’s waterproof.  It’s freeze-proof.  Essentially, you can take this thing anywhere and not worry that it might break.

I bought the Olympus TG-3 used a few years back at my local camera shop.  When I first saw it online, I immediately fell in love with it and went down to the shop the next evening to pick it up.

If I remember correctly, I paid $250 for it and it came with the following accessories:

  • Fisheye lens
  • USB cord
  • Wall plug

Before buying the Olympus TG-3, I of course did my research on the camera to learn more about it.  After reading a few reviews of the Olympus TG-3, I knew that it would be a great addition to my camera bag.  As a matter of fact, a rugged/action type camera should be in any photographers arsenal, whether it be an Olympus TG-3 (4,5) or a GoPro type of camera.

Looks:

I certainly did not buy the Olympus TG-3 for it’s look.

mainOlympus1

It’s not necessarily an ugly camera, but it certainly won’t win any beauty contests either.

The Olympus TG-3 that I bought is red – the other color that the Olympus TG-3 comes in is black, with red accents.

I would assume the look that Olympus wanted to go for when designing the Olympus TG-3, was a look of ruggedness and they did a pretty good job with getting that across with the design.

Ergonomics:

Well, as you can see from the above picture of the Olympus TG-3, it was not designed with comfort in mind.  Holding the Olympus TG-3 is no more comfortable then holding a block a wood and if you have large hands like I do, you will end up holding it with your thumb, index and middle fingers.  The Olympus TG-3 is a compact camera after all.

Specifications:

Unfortunately, the Olympus TG-3 does not have the ability to shoot in a RAW format (later models do have the ability to shoot in RAW).  So, you’re stuck with JPEG.  Aside from that little caveat, the camera really does not lack anything – keeping in mind that this is a compact camera – that is worth writing about.

Here are some cool features that the Olympus TG-3 has:

  • GPS
  • WiFi
  • USB Charging
  • Interval Shooting
  • 1080p Video
  • 36mb of Built-in Memory
  • HDMI D
  • 15-60 FPS, but only at 3MP (100 frames)
  • Waterproof to 50ft
  • Freeze-proof to negative 10 degrees Celsius.
  • Crushproof to 100 kgf (kilogram force)
  • Shockproof to 6.8ft

Those are some pretty awesome specs & features and are the ones that really stand out for me.

As I said above, the Olympus TG-3 does not shoot in any sort of RAW format.  Along with that omission, here are some other features that are lacking in the camera.

  • No hot shoe
  • No mic port
  • Limited to 1/2000 shutter speed
  • No tilty/flippy screen
  • No touch screen (but what camera from 2014 had one anyway?)
  • No headphone port

The fact that the Olympus TG-3 has no hot-shoe, mic port or headphone port, is quite understandable of course.  This all goes to the fact that the camera is waterproof; therefore, how are you supposed to keep it waterproof with mic and headphone ports?  And who would be using headphones under water?

Anyhow…

None of the features that I mentioned above are being missed by me.

Here are all the specs:

Sensor
Max resolution 4608 x 3456
Image ratio w:h 4:3
Effective pixels 16 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Sensor type BSI-CMOS
Processor TruePic VII
Image
ISO Auto, 100-6400
Boosted ISO (maximum) 12800
White balance presets 5
Custom white balance Yes
Image stabilization Sensor-shift
Uncompressed format No
Optics & Focus
Focal length (equiv.) 25–100 mm
Optical zoom 4×
Maximum aperture F2–4.9
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Tracking
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Digital zoom Yes (4x)
Normal focus range 10 cm (3.94)
Macro focus range cm (0.39)
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3
Screen dots 460,000
Touch screen No
Screen type TFT-LCD
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type None
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/2000 sec
Aperture priority Yes
Shutter priority No
Manual exposure mode Yes
Subject / scene modes Yes
Built-in flash Yes
External flash No
Flash modes Auto, redeye reduction, fill-in, off, LED
Continuous drive 5.0 fps
Self-timer Yes (2 or 12 sec, custom)
WB Bracketing No
Videography features
Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (30p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
Format H.264, Motion JPEG
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Storage
Storage types SD, SDHC, SDXC, Internal Memory
Storage included 36MB
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (micro HDMI)
Microphone port No
Headphone port No
Wireless Built-In
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n with remote control
Remote control Yes (via smartphone)
Physical
Environmentally sealed Yes (waterproof to 15m, shockproof to 2.1m, crushproof to 100kgf, freezeproof to -10C)
Durability Waterproof, Shockproof
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description LI-92B lithium-ion battery & USB power adapter
Battery Life (CIPA) 330
Weight (inc. batteries) 247 g (0.54 lb / 8.71 oz)
Dimensions 112 x 66 x 31 mm (4.41 x 2.6 x 1.22)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
Timelapse recording Yes
GPS Built-in
GPS notes with GLONASS, e-compass, landmarks

Usability:

The Olympus TG-3 is not unlike most compact cameras, in the sense that it does not have many manual controls like a DSLR camera has.

Many – if not all – of the features/functions of the camera have to be accessed through the menu.  However, the more important functions such as ISO, aperture, white balance, exposure compensation, etc. aren’t all that hard to get to.  All it takes is a press of the “OK” button and then using the 4 four-way thumb-pad to scroll your way down to whatever setting you wish to change.

Actual photo taking with the Olympus TG-3 is pretty straight-forward: just point and press the shutter button.  There is no viewfinder, but the 3″ LCD screen on the back presents you with all the information you need, as well as a crisp image.

Taking video with the Olympus TG-3 is also pretty simple.  All you need to do is press the red button, which is well placed on the thumb rest, and away you go.  Press it again and the Olympus TG-3 stops taking video.

USB charging is a real bonus on the Olympus TG-3 and I feel that every camera should have this ability.  Though I suspect for DSLRs, USB charging would take far to long.

Keeping with the USB charging theme, who wouldn’t like the ability to charge your camera up in the car, through your computer, with a power bank, etc.?  It is so convenient for people who are always out and about.

Speaking of convenience, how about this:  you can transfer your photos from the Olympus TG-3 to your smartphone by way of an Olympus app which can be downloaded for both Android and IOS.

Toughness:

As mentioned above, the Olympus TG-3 is touted to be shockproof, waterproof, crushproof and freezeproof.  I have tested all but two.

I have swam with the Olympus TG-3 in many lakes, rivers, etc. and so far, it has done what it was designed to do and that is, to not let water inside to where it’s electronics are.

So, yes, it really is waterproof.

I have taken it out into minus forty degree weather and it continued to work.  Again, it did what it was designed to do and that is, not freeze.

So, yes, it is freezeproof, even down to -40 degrees Celsius.

I have not dropped the Olympus TG-3 yet, so I can’t tell you if it would survive a seven-foot drop onto concrete.  However, I’m certainly not afraid if it gets knocked about a bit.

With the camera surviving in countless lakes and rivers, with it continuing to work in forty below, I think I will just take Olympus’s word when it comes to their shock-proof claim.

With all that being said, it’s not indestructible.

Photo Quality:

It won’t replace a DSLR or any other camera with a much larger sensor when it comes to photo quality.

The Olympus TG-3 has a tiny sensor, probably not any bigger then what you would find in some mobile phones – one of the reasons why the compact camera market is dead.

I’m not a pixel peeper or a photo geek, so I can’t go into all the numbers about noise, sharpness, dynamic range, etc.  Just understand that the files won’t be much better than what you can get with today’s mobile phones.

If you would like to see some photos that were taken by the Olympus TG-3, you can take a look at the photos that I took with the camera here: (https://d7100shooter.wordpress.com/category/olympus-tg3/)

Personally, I am very pleased with the files that the Olympus TG-3 produces.  Despite them only being JPEGs, you can still tweak them slightly in a photo editing program if you like.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a compact camera that you can just throw into your backpack or leave inside the glove box of your car, while at the same time being able to withstand the elements of the outdoors, the Olympus TG-3 (4 and 5 are the later models) is a camera that you should take a serious look at.

I have certainly been enjoying my Olympus TG-3 for the past couple of years and no doubt, there are more adventures ahead for me with it.

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