Olympus TOUGH TG-310 review: An affordable waterproof, drop-proof, dust-proof and freeze-proof compact camera
The Olympus TOUGH TG-310 is an entry-level rugged camera that's perfect for the beach and any other general outdoor adventure. It can survive drops from 1.5m and can withstand underwater pressure down to 3m. It's also dust-proof and freeze-proof, but not scratch-proof. It shouldn't be relied on for high-quality images, but its quality is good enough for happy snaps that will be shared online or viewed on a big-screen TV or photo frame.
The TG-310 has a nice overall styling and it's reasonably easy to use for a rugged device. Its buttons have a rubber seal on them so that water can't get between them and the camera body. The menu navigation buttons are tactile, but the zoom buttons are very squishy and it can be hard to tell if you've pressed them, especially on a bright day — like most cameras, the TG-310's 2.7in screen can't be seen easily in bright daylight unless you do your best to shield it from the sun.
The shutter button has a distinct two-step feel to it and the camera is comfortable to hold. The location of the lens at the top-left corner of the body means that you have to be a little careful while holding the camera, as you don't want a stray finger to get in the way while you're shooting. The lens has a wide angle of 28mm (with its 3.6x optical zoom, it has a range up to 102mm) and it sits in front of a 14-megapixel sensor.
Image quality is adequate overall, but definition is lost when you view the images at their native size. They are best viewed at up to a Full HD resolution. Any bigger than that and they will look too messy. We shot in iAuto mode for the most part, and the camera did a reasonably good job of exposing our photos, even in trying conditions. On camera such as this one, you won't want to play around with the controls and menu options a lot, especially while you are underwater. Keeping the camera in iAuto mode will produce good enough results for all types of lighting conditions. You will just have to be mindful to disable the flash.
There is also a Program mode that can be used when you want to tweak the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. It's useful if you want to take photos without the camera selecting a high ISO speed, which will introduce plenty of noticeable noise to most photos. There are also plenty of scene modes and Art modes (they are called Magic Filters in this camera). You do get some fun stuff, such as Pop Art, Pin Hole, Sparkle, Soft Focus and Fish Eye modes. It also has a nifty Panorama scene mode that allows you to take three consecutive pictures simply by lining up a target with a bullseye. The camera pieces all the photos together itself and tends to cut out some information in order to get the picture looking straight, but it's nevertheless quite a fun scene mode to use.
The 310 can withstand drops from around 1.5m, but it's not scratch resistant. There is a good chance that the camera will get scratched the first time you drop it on a hard surface — ours copped a nice scratch just under the lens. We dropped it numerous times on concrete and tiled surfaces, and it continued to work fine afterwards.
As for water resistance, it's rated as surviving dips down to 3m. We didn't have the means to test this — especially not in the cold weather we've been having — but we did throw it into a filled sink and left it there for a while to marinate. We inserted an SD card full of important photos that weren't backed up, which was silly of us in hindsight, but the card survived, and so did the camera. The SD card slot, USB port and video out port all reside in the same watertight compartment. There is a tiny rubber seal on its door, which isn't altogether reassuring, but it clips into place tightly and can be locked so that it doesn't accidentally come loose while you handle it underwater.
Other features include the ability to shoot 3D photos (you have to shoot the same shot twice from a slightly different angle) and high definition (not Full HD) MPEG-4 video recording. You'll want to make sure that you shoot videos when there is plenty of light around, otherwise they look too dark and grainy, and possibly out of focus.
Overall, it's a fun little rugged camera that's suitable for many an outdoor adventure. It's a good camera for kids to play with on a beach or at the park, and they could even help you get a handle on the camera's menu system, which we think isn't as good as the menu in other Olympus cameras that we've seen. That said, there is a decent help mode built in to the camera.