At CES Olympus announced the TG-2, one of three new cameras in their "Rugged" lineup. The TG-2 has a 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. It boasts a 3 inch OLED screen and 4x zoom. It promises great image quality even in difficult shooting conditions due to the bright and speedy f/2.0 lens at wide angle. In addition, it offers an HDR backlight. Two additional shooting modes make getting crisp, clean images even easier: low light mode (for situations where ambient light is scarce) and super sport mode (where the need for continuous shooting is important for capturing movement). The TG-2 also offers users full HD video. Upgraded from the TG-1, it now includes a waterproof depth up to 50 feet and an expanded lineup of system lenses and accessories including a Macro LED adapter. With a dedicated mode located on the dial for quick access, the super microscopic Macro Mode lets users zoom in extremely close to the subject. When shooting at a distance of 1 cm, super macro mode will allow you to shoot at near-microscopic levels.
I got to spend some time with the camera at CES. When I saw the TG-2 in the initial press release, I must admit, I really didn't give it a second thought. Overall, I am not a big fan of tough cameras. The tough camera market is oversaturated with mediocre cameras that don't provide the quality you want. They might be able to go under water or be slammed up against a rock, but if it doesn't take a great picture of my scuba adventure to the coral reefs or my hiking trip in Europe it doesn't matter how much beating the camera can take.
That's why I was taken off guard when I saw the TG-2 for the first time in person. It only took a second to realize this camera is leaps and bounds above the rest. First, the camera is solid. It is not "plasticy" or wimpy. Also, the autofocus is way better than I expected. It was fast; really fast. Although Olympus cameras have amazing autofocus, I didn't know if that same functionality would be passed down to the "Tough" line.
The camera has an ISO range of 100-6400. The lens has a 4x zoom of 4.5-18mm (25-100mm equivalent in 35mm camera). The camera also has a 4x digital zoom. The lens is super-fast at f/2.0 when used at the widest angle. However, when zoomed-in, the aperture decreases to f/4.9. I don't love that the maximum aperture is f/4.9, but I also have to be realistic. At this price point and size of the camera it would be hard to imagine getting any better f-stop. However, I might be willing to pay a little more and sacrifice size for an f/4.
I was also very impressed with the expandability of the TG-2. The camera offers advanced users the ability to better control the camera through Aperture priority mode. In addition, the camera offers a plethora of creative functions like microscopic Macro Mode (which I was able to test) and hand-held starlight. The microscopic macro made was extremely impressive. The image I took was crisp and sharp. The TG-2 also takes Full HD 1080p video. The camera has a removable ring that allows users to add optional lenses created for this camera. I was able to get my hands on two of these lenses, the fisheye converter and tele converter. I liked the ability to change focal lengths on such a durable, pocketable camera. As an added bonus, these lenses can even be changed under water making it perfect for divers and snorkelers. Finally, if 50 feet underwater is not deep enough, there is an optional underwater housing that allows you to take your camera to depths of 135 ft.
I almost hate to call it a "Tough" camera because it is so much more than that. The TG-2 is a rare fine. It encompassed both brawn and brains into a compact, take-anywhere camera. Its image quality, AF speed and functionality set a new standard for "Tough" and "Rugged" line of cameras.
The camera is available in black or red and retails for $380. Look for the TG-2 to be available in the spring or summer of 2013. I can't wait for Olympus to send me the TG-2 so I can take it for a swim. Let's see if it can hold up to real world testing.
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