A Product Review: The Olympus Tough TG-610

I was searching for a good underwater camera with HD video to take on my round the world trip and came across a few reviews of the Olympus Tough TG-610 that suggested it might make a brilliant travel companion because of its small size and overall ‘toughness’ (see, it’s all in the name).

The TG-610 comes in a variety of colours, ranging from the silver and black (which is what I have) to red, blue and beyond, and has the standard tripod attachment screw on the underside.Although heavier and thicker than some of its smaller competitors, the size does allow for a bigger battery, meaning you get a good amount of hours per charge…I use pretty much mine all day, everyday and probably only have to charge it once a week.

Olympus TG-610
Olympus TG-610

The camera has a 3 inch ‘HyperCrystal View’ screen, which shows off your pictures with vibrant colours and clarity. Just to the right of the screen are a select few buttons (simplicity is the order of the day), from top to bottom: zoom control, video record, play, help, menu settings, and the circular select/info/delete button. These buttons are all you need for perfect control of your camera and its settings, and on the top of the camera you will find the shutter and on/off buttons. Simples. Even more simple is the way the camera stores your photographs – it uses a small Secure Digital (SD) memory card which come in various storage sizes ranging from 500MB to 64GB, so you really can store a whole heap of photos and videos. The memory card is placed in the side of the camera, alongside the battery and charging points and has a lockable latch to keep everything watertight.

Using the fireworks setting on New Years Eve in Sydney
Using the fireworks setting on New Years Eve in Sydney

With 14 megapixels, a 5x wide optical zoom and 720p video quality to play with, this camera really is something. The photos it produces can be quite fantastic, even if you aren’t all that great with a camera…it really does the hard work for you, but at the same time I would definitely class it as more than just your standard ‘point and shoot’ camera. The main reason for this is the camera’s underwater capabilities which are pretty astounding…I’ve taken some awesome photos during my time snorkeling the great barrier reef and various other underwater locations, all with just the touch of a button. The video quality too is excellent, and that’s something I can say with absolute assurance as it was a feature on my camera that I used pretty much constantly to make videos of my time travelling, all of which you can see here. Along with the importance of the video quality is that of the sound and mic the camera uses…while the mic is great and picks up everything you are recording (although sometimes it pick up a little too much background noise, especially if it’s windy), the playback sound could do with some higher volume levels, or perhaps just a slightly better speaker as sometimes it can be a little quiet when playing the videos back on the camera itself (this isn’t a problem when playing videos on a computer though, so it’s just a camera hardware issue and not the videos themselves.

Underwater photography at its best
Underwater photography at its best

Now onto the camera’s settings. The TG-610 has some great options to choose from depending on where you are and what type of photo you want to take. From panoramic photos, to specialised ‘scene’ settings (i.e. night or portrait modes), to fantastic ‘magic’ options, such as pinhole and fish eye, there is something for every circumstance. The double flash setting on the night+portrait mode is one I particularly like as it illuminates your subject without losing the detail in the background.

I only have two minor complaints about the TG-610. The first is the camera’s responsiveness as sometimes it can be a little slow to turn on/off and to actually take a picture, meaning you have to stay still for just a little bit longer to get the shot you want. And my second complaint is that it doesn’t float, something I consider quite important in an underwater camera. It does however, have a wrist strap, so for now that will have to do! Overall though this camera is a fantastic piece of equipment and one I would recommend to any traveller who loves photos, videos and playing underwater, and wants the reassurance that their camera is going to be tough enough to withstand the backpacker lifestyle.

Using the pinhole 'magic' setting
Using the pinhole ‘magic’ setting
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