The Olympus Tough TG-810 is designed to resist the hardships of life in all kinds of places. It's dustproof, waterproof, scratchproof, smashproof, and freezeproof. It also has a GPS and digital compass built in. These specs come at a price, though — the Tough TG-810 is pretty heavy, bulky and has buttons that are sometimes difficult to operate.
Olympus Tough TG-810: Specs and design
The 14-megapixel, 5x-zoom-equipped Olympus Tough TG-810 is built tough (as you would expect). It's waterproof to 10 metres deep, it's dustproof against sand and dirt, it's rated to operate in sub-zero conditions (minus 10 degrees Celcius), it’s shockproof against drops of up to two metres, and it can be crushed under a 100KG force without suffering any damage.
These are pretty impressive specifications, and the Olympus Tough TG-810 feels as sturdy as the numbers say it should be. It’s got a very well constructed body that feels solid and unyielding, and it’s impressively weighty. The camera’s weight is both good and bad — it’s reassuringly well built and the weight helps keep the Tough TG-810 steady when you’re taking pictures, but it does mean you’re lugging around a (comparatively) heavy camera all day.
The buttons of the Olympus Tough TG-810 were a bit of a sticking point for us. The layout is fine, as everything is where you’d expect it to be: shutter and power buttons up top, and a few menu buttons and the zoom rocker on the back. However, the buttons are quite small and can be hard to press even with ungloved hands. The joystick is also a little hard to move around with the pad of your thumb. It might loosen up over time but we found it a hassle at times.
The Olympus Tough TG-810 has a single door to house the battery, SD card and mini-USB connector. The door has a double lock that should ensure no water or dust gets inside — a smart inclusion that is superior to the single locks of older Tough cameras. The rear LCD on the Olympus Tough TG-810 is a 3in, 920K-pixel display that’s crisp and colourful. The comparatively high resolution of the Tough TG-810’s screen means all the camera's shooting information can be displayed at once, and shots can be checked for focus accuracy by quickly zooming in in playback mode. The LCD screen is great, as its colours are vibrant and the scratchproof finish doesn’t adversely affect the display of images.
The camera's integrated GPS does take some time to find a lock if you’re in a built-up area, but geotagging images is a feature that should please geeks and adventure travel buffs. The digital compass is a similarly novel (but arguably useful) feature that might help lost or lonesome trekkers.
Olympus Tough TG-810: Image and video quality
When you look at them on a high-resolution computer screen, you can tell that the images taken by the Olympus Tough TG-810 are unmistakable from a compact digital camera. At full size — that’s 14 megapixels — you can see some heavy-handed noise reduction taking place in the camera's JPEG files, with a small amount of fine image detail lost and some instances where excessive smoothing and oversharpening has been applied. Colours are generally good but there is some over-saturation in the standard and vivid picture modes.
The lens of the Olympus Tough TG-810 is a 5x one, covering the 35mm-film-equivalent range of 28mm to 140mm. This is a good range for general day-to-day usage and we don’t have any gripes with it. The lens is also reasonably bright for a tough camera at its widest zoom with a maximum aperture of F3.0, although at the full zoom it’s a mediocre F5.9.
At the camera's lowest ISO of 80, images are reasonably clean and free of grainy noise. This means sunny-day photos look good, so the camera's well suited to days at the beach or at the snow. Grain and colour noise slowly becomes more evident up to the Olympus Tough TG-810’s maximum ISO of 1600, but images are acceptably clean for printing up to about ISO 400 — 800 is usable in a pinch but 1600 is best avoided if possible. The camera's flash does a good job of illuminating most scenes, as long as you’re not more than five metres or so from your subject. There’s also a bit of flash fall-off towards the corners of pictures.
Jump into water and the Tough TG-810 automatically switches to underwater settings, with custom picture styles and white balance to suit underwater shooting. There’s also a pressure sensor to tell you how deep you are and warn you if you’re reaching the camera's rated 10m pressure limit.
Videos from the Olympus Tough TG-810 are saved as MP4 files and have a 720p resolution — not Full HD, but near enough. We found that video files generally looked a little fuzzy, as if the entire image was ever so slightly out of focus. This is likely an effect of the camera's down-scaling of its 14-megapixel image sensor into the 720p widescreen resolution.
Olympus Tough TG-810: Conclusion
The Olympus Tough TG-810 is a very tough and quite versatile compact digital camera. It has a range of features that should keep travellers happy in all kinds of weather. Its images and videos are merely ‘OK’, though — hardcore photography enthusiasts should look at a more expensive all-weather system. The Tough TG-810 would make a good camera for avid travellers or sportspeople who aren’t worried about crystal-clear detail in their pictures.