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Olympus TG-870 Review | Photography Blog | Topdeblogs

Introduction

Ease of Use

Like its predecessor, the Olympus Stylus TG-870 is a tough all-weather camera that’s dustproof, waterproof to 15 metres, freezeproof to -10℃, shockproof against drops from 2.1 metres in height, and crushproof to 100 kilograms of force. The camera houses a 1/2.3”-type CMOS sensor with a resolution of 16 megapixels, and an internally stacked 5x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal range of 21-105mm, which allows you to capture everything from wide vistas to head-and-shoulders portraits. It also boasts some serious close-up capabilities, as it has a super macro mode with a minimum focus distance of 1cm. As you may imagine, properly illuminating your macro subjects can be a challenge, which is why Olympus has added an LED light to the camera.

Olympus TG-870 Front of the Olympus TG-870

From the front, the Olympus TG-860 doesn’t resemble much of a departure from the Olympus Tough series compacts of old, or indeed its TG-860 forebear. While the TG-870 lacks a “proper” hand-grip, the camera feels reassuringly solid when gripped in the palm. In fact, the entire camera feels a lot more robust in the hand than you’d think based on a cursory look at the product shots. Having said that, the Olympus TG-870 still handles much like a “traditional” digital compact. It even has a mode dial for quick access to the main shooting modes. These include Programmed Auto (P), intelligent Auto (iAuto), Super Macro, Scene, Art, Sportcam, Panorama and Self Portrait. Notable by their absence are any semi-automatic shooting modes, such as Aperture or Shutter Priority, or indeed a full manual mode. One of the reasons for this is that the lens lacks an iris diaphragm, so you cannot actually change the aperture. It would still be nice to set the shutter speed manually, as the “third exposure variable” – to wit, ISO sensitivity – is, of course, controllable.

Apart from the mode dial, there’s only a handful of physical controls on the Olympus TG-870. These include the on/off button and shutter release, a zoom lever, a dedicated video record button, a traditional four-way pad with centred OK button, plus playback and menu/Wi-Fi buttons. A few functions – including the self-timer, drive modes, flash modes and information overlay options – are mapped unto the four-way controller but there is no direct-button access to exposure compensation, ISO speeds or white balance. Unfortunately, you need to delve into the Function Menu to adjust these parameters. This is all the more surprising given that the Olympus TG-870 has inherited the Stylus TG-860’s customisable “face button,” which acts as a secondary shutter release by default – useful when facing the camera to take a selfie – but can be reprogrammed to perform a variety of tasks including one-touch video recording, boosting the monitor’s brightness, flashing the LED illuminator, or switching the Super Macro function on and off. The movie record button can also be assigned to perform any of these functions but, as noted above, neither of these controls can act as an ISO or white balance button.

Olympus TG-870 The Olympus TG-870 In-hand

The camera’s rear screen offers a resolution of 920,000 dots, up from 460,000 in the TG-860. In this respect, the TG-870 is actually ahead of the (otherwise) range-topping Olympus TG-5 too, as the TG-5 is also stuck with a 460K-dot panel. The screen can be flipped up by 180° to face whatever is in front of the camera, but doesn’t tilt downwards or flip outwards to allow for further creative framing. On the plus side, this minimises the potential for possible damage to hinges, should the camera be dropped or take a knock – and there is potentially more creativity to be had than from a standard fixed screen. The monitor has decent viewing angles and a good sharpness to images and text alike, but its colours are not always representative of what you’ll see after downloading your photos to a computer and viewing them on a calibrated screen

The Olympus TG-870 has a number of menus, including a Function menu – accessible via the OK button – plus Shooting, Movie, Playback and Setup menus. In Programmed Auto, the Function menu gives you access to the camera’s Picture Modes, flash settings, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, self-timer, drive mode, resolution and aspect ratios. In the other shooting modes, you typically get a narrower range of options to choose from. The Shooting menu is reserved for less often used (or modified) settings such as compression, image stabilisation, digital zoom, shadow adjustment, AF illumination, date stamp etc. Somewhat surprisingly, you also need to delve into this menu to set your desired focusing and metering modes.

Olympus TG-870 Top of the Olympus TG-870

The available scene modes include Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Interval Shooting, Live Composite, Hand-Held Starlight, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Sunset, Beach & Snow, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Snapshot, Underwater Macro, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2 and Backlit HDR, which is actually a regular HDR mode that can be used in a variety of situations – definitely not just backlit scenes.

In terms of continuous shooting, the TG-870 does a very decent 7fps in 16-megapixel mode – for up to 7 frames -, with up to 60fps available at a reduced resolution. As you’d expect from an “outdoor” camera, the Olympus TG-870 features an integrated GPS unit for automatic geotagging – a new-generation GPS module at that, which in our experience was often able to establish a satellite connection within a few seconds of switching on the camera (then again, in other situations it took up to half a minute to find a suitable satellite).

Olympus TG-870 Selfie Mode

The Olympus Tough TG-870 has a very decent movie mode. The available video resolutions range from VGA to 720p to 1080/60p Full HD, and you can use the optical zoom while filming. What’s more, the camera has a pair of stereo microphones on its top plate, which are capable of recording above-average quality audio. Importantly, you can also shoot movies in Super Macro mode, enabling you to capture tiny beings in their natural habitats – an important consideration for an “adventure” camera. The Olympus TG-870 has an HDMI out port allowing users to play back their videos on a TV set.

The camera’s Sportcam mode gives you a number of additional movie shooting options, including a 120fps mode at 854×480, and a 240fps mode at 640×360 pixels, plus a time-lapse movie mode. Additionally, the Sportcam mode also offers an interval shooting option dubbed a ‘Sportburst.’

Olympus TG-870 Front of the Olympus TG-870

As befits a “Tough” camera, the Olympus Stylus TG-870’s memory card/battery compartment and connection ports (a multi-terminal and an HDMI connector) are protected by a sturdy cover with double locks. The camera has two tripod sockets, although neither is aligned with the lens’ optical axis. Commendably, neither socket is positioned in such a way as to prevent you from changing batteries or memory cards while the camera is mounted on a tripod. The battery is normally charged in-camera, with a mains adapter, plug and USB lead provided for the purpose. The port for the USB lead – and mini HDMI cable – is within the compartment that also houses the rechargeable battery, so the battery door must remain open for its power cell to be charged. Fortunately, a separately sold external charger (Olympus UC-50) is also available to purchase.

The Olympus TG-870 offers on-board Wi-Fi connectivity. This means that the camera can create its own wireless network and be controlled remotely via your smartphone or tablet. To take advantage of this, you need to have an Android or iOS device and download the free Olympus Image Share app from GooglePlay/iTunes. After that, everything is pretty straightforward. You simply press the Menu/Wi-Fi button, and select Wi-Fi Start from the menu to set up a connection. The Olympus Stylus TG-870 will provide you with an SSID and password, but you do not need to type in either of them – just launch the app on your phone and scan the QR code displayed by your camera with your phone. This is nearly as fast as using NFC (Near-Field Communication), a feature that the TG-870 doesn’t offer. Once the connection is established, you can download images from the camera to your smartphone, or use the latter to remotely control the TG-870.

This rounds off our evaluation of the camera’s handling and feature set. Let us now move on to the image quality assessment!

Image Quality

For a compact camera with a tiny, pixel-packed sensor, the Olympus Stylus TG-870 produces images of entirely acceptable quality – at least when shooting at its base sensitivity setting of ISO 125/22°. Unfortunately, once you go above that, the image quality starts to suffer as a result of increasing noise levels and heavy-handed noise reduction. And, given the camera’s fairly slow lens, you’ll definitely need to shoot at higher sensitivity settings once light levels start to drop. At least when photographing still subjects, you can engage the TG-870’s integrated image stabiliser, which does a good job of compensating minor vibrations caused by shaky hands, especially if you choose the “While Exposing” setting from the menu. Alternatively you can mount the camera on a tripod, courtesy of its dual tripod sockets. Night photography enthusiasts should take note that the slowest shutter speed on offer is only 4 seconds, which is only available in the Night Scene mode – but at least the TG-870 offers a Live Composite mode enabling you to capture star trails and similar images. The sensor’s dynamic range is limited, but the Backlit HDR mode offers a handy workaround.

Colours are, for the most part, realistically rendered, with an additional vivid colour option available to draw on should you be faced with otherwise drab, sludgy skies and environs that could do with a saturation boost to maintain visual interest. In addition we have Olympus’ Art Filter digital effects to dip into, which are best used sparingly.

Noise

The Olympus TG-870 has seven selectable sensitivity levels ranging from ISO 125 to ISO 6400. At the base setting of ISO 125, the camera produces entirely acceptable images, but as you go up the sensitivity ladder, the image quality starts to suffer as a result of increasing noise levels and heavy-handed noise reduction.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg

File Quality

There are two JPEG quality settings available on the Olympus TG-870, including Fine and Normal.

Fine

Normal

fine.jpg normal.jpg

Focal Range

The lens has a 35mm equivalent focal range of 21-105mm, which is very useful and versatile. There’s an amount of barrel distortion at the wide end but not as much as we expected to see froma 21mm equivalent lens.

21mm

21mmEquivalent.jpg

105mm

105mmEquivalent.jpg

Sharpening

Images from the Olympus TG-870 tend to be fairly sharp in the image centre, but still benefit from a little boost in an editing suite. However, if there’s a lot of noise in the picture, this can have a tendency to exacerbate and reduce the overall quality of viewing

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

non-sharpenedCrop1.jpg sharpenedCrop1.jpg non-sharpenedCrop2.jpg sharpenedCrop2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Olympus TG-870 does a very good job of controlling chromatic aberrations, although purple or green fringes can sometimes be spotted along contrasty edges.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

ca1.jpg ca2.jpg

Macro

The Olympus TG-870 has a super macro mode. In the latter, you can get as close as 1cm to your subject but properly lighting your subject can be difficult. To address this, the Olympus TG-870 offers a handy LED light, which is used to illuminate the subject. The optical zoom remains usable in Super Macro mode, although the zoom range is somewhat truncated.

Macro

macro.jpg

Flash

The available flash settings are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Forced on, Forced off, Remote control (yes, the Olympus Stylus TG-870 can control Olympus’s wireless RC flash units and dedicated underwater strobe) and Slave. With the flash turned off, the camera doesn’t show any obvious signs of vignetting at wide-angle or full zoom. However, it does occur when the flash is on. Certainly at wide-angle, at least. It’s less so at full zoom, but on a plain white wall, it’s still noticeable

Off – Wide Angle (21mm)

Fill-in – Wide Angle (21mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Off – Telephoto (105mm)

Fill-in – Telephoto (105mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The built-in flash has a red-eye reduction mode but as shown here it cannot really eliminate the problem.

Fill-in

red-eyeReductionOff.jpg

Red-eye Reduction

red-eyeReductionOn.jpg

Night

The TG-870’s minimum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night Scene mode but in P mode, the camera will not pick a shutter speed slower than ½ second, which may be inadequate if the scene is poorly illuminated.

Night

night.jpg

Live Composite

The Olympus TG-870 has an ingenious Live Composite mode, in which the camera – which must be mounted on a tripod – shoots multiple images, takes newly bright areas only, and composites them into a single image. This is useful when shooting light traces or star trails. You can capture them without overexposure while checking the progress.

Live Composite

liveComposite.jpg

Picture Modes and Art Filters

There are 13 Art Filters on offer, including Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pinhole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Watercolour and Vintage, Additionally, the camera has 7 Picture Modes including Vivid, Natural, Muted, Fish Eye, Sparkle, Reflection and Fragmented.

ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64 ISO 64

Panorama Modes

The camera can capture 180° (standard) or 360° (full) panoramic images automatically – all you need to do is swing the camera in the desired shooting direction, and the TG-870 does all the rest for you. Alternatively, there is a Manual Panorama option, in which three frames are taken and combined by the camera. The user composes the shots using the guide frame and manually releases the shutter. The camera automatically combines the frames into a single panorama image.

180 Degree

180-degreePanorama.jpg

360 Degree

360-degreePanorama.jpg

Selfie Mode

The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-870 has a dedicated Selfie mode, which facilitates the capture of self-portraits, with the tilting screen facing the photographer. The optical zoom remains usable in this mode, so you are not stuck with the 21mm setting. The camera tries to optimise exposure and white balance for your face.

Live Composite

selfie.jpg

Aspect Ratios

The sensor has an aspect ratio of 4:3, but you can also choose from a range of options incuding 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 (square). These all involve various amounts of in-camera cropping.

4:3

3:2

ISO 64 ISO 64

16:9

1:1

ISO 64 ISO 64

Image Stabiliser

The Olympus Tough TG-870 has a body-integral image stabiliser, which has two modes of operation: Always On and ‘While Exposing.’ We have found that the latter produces superior results. You can also turn the image stabiliser off when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Off

On

ISO 64 ISO 64

While Exposing

ISO 64

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus TG-870 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

Product Images

Olympus TG-870

Front of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Front of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Front of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Front of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Front of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Rear of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Rear of the Olympus TG-870 / Art Filters

Olympus TG-870

Rear of the Olympus TG-870 / Art Filters

Olympus TG-870

Bottom of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Top of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Tilting LCD Screen

Olympus TG-870

Tilting LCD Screen

Olympus TG-870

Side of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870

Side of the Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870 Front of the Olympus TG-870 Olympus TG-870

Memory Card Slot

Olympus TG-870

Battery Compartment

Conclusion

The Olympus TG-870 is an evolutionary upgrade to the TG-860, with the main improvements including a higher-resolution LCD panel and a new-generation GPS module capable of establishing a satellite connection faster than ever before. Otherwise, the camera is remarkably similar to its immediate forebear.

This means that the versatile – if somewhat slow – 21-105mm equivalent, f/3.5-5.7 lens has been carried over, which is great news if you would like to capture a variety of subjects ranging from wide vistas and underwater scenes to head-and-shoulders portraits. The 1/2.3”-type 16-megapixel CMOS sensor is also present and correct, turning out entirely acceptable images at the camera’s base sensitivity setting of ISO 125/22°. Unfortunately, the slowish lens means that you often need to go above that to capture a sharp image, and that’s where image quality starts to suffer as a result of increasing noise levels and heavy-handed noise reduction. In some cases, a modern smartphone with a fast prime lens will be able to capture a more usable image – then again, most smartphones do not offer a 5x optical zoom, let alone the kind of water-, dust- and crushproofing as the Olympus TG-870.

The camera has a number of additional tricks up its proverbial sleeve, ranging from wireless flash control to one-touch white balance and 1080/60p movies with optical zoom and stereo sound, to a well-working image stabiliser. Overall, it’s a fairly well-rounded offering, although we wish you could set the shutter speed manually in at least some of its many shooting modes.

If you are looking for a similar camera with a faster lens, less pixel-packed sensor, raw image capture and a wider accessory range, Olympus’s own Stylus Tough TG-5 offers a viable alternative at a higher price – although you’ll need to put up with a fixed and lower-resolution screen and a somewhat less versatile zoom range. Other rivals include the Ricoh WG-50 and WG-5 GPS, as well as the Panasonic Lumix FT-5 and the Nikon Coolpix W300.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5) Design 3.5 Features 4 Ease-of-use 4 Image quality 4 Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus TG-870.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus TG-870 from around the web.

Specifications

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