I’ve gotten several questions about what camera (and accessories) I use since posting photos of our trip to the US and Spanish Virgin Islands on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page (you can see the album even if you’re not on Facebook by clicking here). It’s a Olympus Tough TG-2 and I’m not going to do a full “review” on it, but I will give a quick rundown on why I got it and what I think after using it for 6 months along with a complete list of the accessories, etc. with links. The quick report is that I really like this camera for what it is — a camera that I can take with me anywhere. (UPDATE 1-2-18: Olympus is now up to the TG-5 — see it here (this cameras is not always available on Amazon but you can find them from other retailers) — and I now have the TG-4 and still love this line of cameras!)
The Olympus Tough TG-2 is the third “boat” or “active” camera I’ve had since I got my first one in 2003. The other two were point and shoot cameras that I bought a waterproof case for; the Olympus Tough TG-2 is waterproof to 50 feet without a case and to 135 feet with the optional housing (I do not have the housing, but will get it if I go on a dive trip).
Big features for me:
- Waterproof. Even if you don’t plan to take underwater photos, I love having a waterproof camera. Being able to keep it in the cockpit, take it in the dinghy, on the paddleboard and on hikes means that I have my camera when I want it. And if it’s waterproof, it’s also dust- and sandproof and does better than the average camera in salty air. (Yes, a DSLR will give better quality but you may not take it a lot of places; I know many serious photographers on boats that have both a “good” camera and an “active” camera.)
- Shockproof. You can drop it from 6 feet with no damage. Very important on a boat and for anyone with an active lifestyle. No matter how careful you are, it’s going to fall sometime. Mine has several times with no damage.
- Filters. You have to buy an adapter ring, but when I was looking (July 2013) this was one of only a very few “tough” cameras that you can use filters with. A polarizing filter does for your photos what polarized sunglasses do for you. One day I forgot the polarizer when we went to the beach; compare the photo that day to a similar one on another day with the polarizer:
Without polarizing filter:
With polarizing filter:
- Photo quality. It’s not a DSLR or even a mirrorless; it’s a point and shoot. But it’s a good one. It only has 4x zoom, but the picture quality is such that I can crop to get a tighter shot. It also does HDR shots for high contrast situations (I used this a LOT when rafting the Grand Canyon and it produced great shots).
- HD video. Full 1080p.
- Macro mode. Sometimes I want to take close ups of flowers or labels.
- Low light capable without flash. It does all sorts of “magic” and I was amazed at the quality of the handheld night scenes I got (some were bad, but most were far better than I expected). Not enough to capture the night sky from a boat or the bio bay at Vieques (both would have required a tripod on solid ground), but a lighthouse at dusk or city lights at twilight were good.
- Scratch resistant lens. Big deal in an outdoor environment. My glasses were seriously scratched — to the point I had to get new lenses — on our Grand Canyon trip from all the sediment in the water that was splashed onto my glasses. The camera was hit by just as much and there’s not a scratch on the lens.
- Good LED viewfinder. It’s large enough and bright enough to be truly usable. Good thing, as there isn’t a “put your eye up to it” one!
- Good battery life. It depends on how you use the camera and if you turn it off between shots, how much video you take, how much you look back at photos, etc. but I found I could take 600+ photos on a single charge. I always buy a couple of spare batteries and keep them charged so I have fresh batteries when I want them, and I always change batteries before snorkeling or hiking if I think there’s any chance they’re getting low.
- Good reviews. Okay, not everyone will have a perfect experience with any product. But amongst waterproof or “tough” cameras, this one got by far the best reviews by people who actually used it (not just editors) and the fewest failures in the field. While I loved all the features the camera offered, the fact that others were having good luck with it was the one thing that convinced me to hit “buy” and I’ve had no problems so far.
My only real gripe with the camera is that you have to buy the filter adapter to use a lens cap (and you have to buy the lens cap separately, too). It’s easy enough to install, just irks me that a camera doesn’t have a lens cap.
Here’s the whole list of what I bought (all links are to Amazon; that’s where I bought it all; purchases made through links to Amazon help support TBG at no extra cost to you):
- Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD (Red) — also comes in black; I got red as we tend to “lose” black items on dark backgrounds and waste time searching (NOTE: 1-2-18 this camera is no longer available, the current model is the TG-5 — all the accessories still fit — I have the TG-4 now and love it)
- 2 extra batteries and charger (I didn’t get the official Olympus batteries for spares; these have worked well for me and cost far less)
- Olympus CLA-T01 Conversion Lens Adapter for Olympus TG-1 & TG-2 (Red) — this is the adapter so that I can use a filter and also a lens cap
- Tiffen 405CP 40.5mm Circular Polarizing Filter (Gray) — great price on a good filter
- Maximal Power 40.5mm Snap-On Lens Cap (Black) — works well and having a tie-on is essential for me (I bought 2 since I have a tendency to lose lens caps even with tying them on) (Note: The lens cap I bought is no longer available. This is what works for most versions of the TG camera now. Sadly, it doesn’t come with a leash. You can, however, get the lens cap and leash with the TG Accessory Kit.)
- SanDisk Extreme 16 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card — if you think you might take video, having big cards is a necessity but I admit these might be overkill. The price isn’t much more than the 8 GB cards though. “Class 10” indicates the speed at which they store data and higher classes are needed for HD video. I got 2 of these.
- The Friendly Swede Bundle of 2 Extra Long Camera / Camcorder Neck Shoulder Straps — I like a camera strap that is long enough to wear diagonally across my chest with the camera at about waist height. I find this is comfortable on hikes (I flip the camera to the small of my back before doing any scrambling) or in the water, is secure and keeps my camera convenient to use. But it’s hard to find a long strap (I like one that’s about 60 inches) and at a reasonable price. This one is perfect! (I used the second one on a pair of binoculars we wanted a longer strap for.) Update: this product is no longer available.
- Olympus Foam Float Strap, 202212, Red — the camera is waterproof but does not float. I got this as it will make the camera float, but to be honest I haven’t used it yet. I should have a number of times but, well, it’s bulky. I keep saying I’m going to use it . . .
AmazonBasics Universal Travel Case for Small Electronics and Accessories -Black — it’s a case for the extra batteries, charger, extra cards, filter, lens cleaning cloth and so on (but not the camera itself). Just the right size.
Got another camera you like? Questions? Leave a note in the comments!Some links above (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links, meaning that I earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.