Whether it is for adventure, relaxation or an escape from the daily grind, taking a vacation helps us refuel our energy. Summer is the perfect time to get away to the beach, relax in a cottage in the woods or take a trip to an amusement park. Of course you want to capture those memories, but what camera is the best option?
Rugged cameras are an obvious choice for adventurous vacations, but over the years they have lacked an important feature--great image quality. Overall, they do okay. But the reality is they just don't cut it for those of us that are used to taking high quality images. What good is a rugged camera that doesn't meet your photographic needs? It's nothing more than a rubberized paper weight.
Olympus has decided to change the "rugged camera game" with their newest addition--the TG-2. I knew this would be a good camera when I first saw it at CES. But I didn't realize how much I would love it until it was shipped to me for a full review. I immediately knew this was not your typical rugged camera. The TG-2 performs with the precision and speed of Olympus' top rated cameras. It has a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 3-inch OLED screen. But the best part of this camera is the bright f/2.0 lens (an exceptional feature for a point and shoot at this price point) that does a great job of capturing images with good depth, color and contrast. It has a 4 times optical zoom and a 4 times digital zoom (if you absolutely must use it).
The TG-2 boasts a lot of the same features we have come to know with other rugged cameras. For example, the TG-2 is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof up to a 7 foot drop, and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to the dual locking doors, the TG-2 keeps the battery and SD card safe from the elements while also protecting the camera's internal components.
Can a tiny little 1/2.3-inch sensor really perform like a champ? Surprisingly, yes. I took the TG-2 out for a spin. Below are some examples of what it can do. These images are straight out of camera.
The camera is equipped with creative features like Portrait, Beauty, Landscape, Hand-Held Starlight, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Pet (Cat), Pet (Dog), Snow, Panorama, and Backlight HDR. The camera also has a set of 11 magic filters that include Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fisheye, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, Watercolor, Miniature, Reflection, Dramatic and Fragmented. Below are a few examples of these creative functions.
Pet Mode for cats
Pet Mode for dogs
By far, my favorite feature of the camera is the super macro mode. I was able to capture images that you just aren't able to get with a traditional lens. In fact, even most macro lenses don't allow you to get this close. With a focusing distance of only 1 cm, the TG-2 combines the optical zoom with the macro mode to capture near microscopic images.
And I love this last one. There is so much detail in this image of a fly that landed on my grill cover.
The camera's built-in GPS will help to log all of your adventures. Using the GPS and e.compass functions on the TG-2 will allow you to log your location information. You can even track your vacation through your images by using apps like Google Earth and Picasa.
Taking your camera on vacation should be a fun experience, not a hassle. It's so much easier to enjoy your time at the beach if you do not have to worry about sand in your camera or having it waterlogged by waves or rain. The Olympus TG-2 gets my seal of approval for being the best rugged camera I have seen so far.
The only major change I would request from Olympus is the use of Gorilla Glass for the LDC screen. I know this would increase the price of the camera, but rugged camera users want an LCD that is highly resistant to scratching and cracking while still allowing the bright colors of their images to shine through. From my point of view, adding damage resistant glass is a feature that is valuable enough to pay the extra cost of manufacturing and installing it.
The Olympus TG-2 iHS retails for $379.99. It is available in either black or red. In addition to the camera, Olympus also offers several accessories including a fisheye lens pack that retails for $139.98 and a telephoto lens pack that retails for $129.98. These lens packs can extend your TG-2 to create a highly expandable system.