Olympus TG-6 Review– A modest upgrade on the TG-5. A minor upgrade on the TG-5, and still the most effective waterproof compact for family holidays. We review the Olympus robust TG-6, the tough waterproof camera with advanced controls and impressive macro performance.
What is Olympus Tough TG-6?
The Olympus TG-6 could be a modest update to the sooner TG-5, with a higher resolution 1040k dot screen and new anti-glare glass in front of the sensor. The quality of underwater photos and video have been improved by the addition of 3 new white balance modes for differing water depths and also the microscope macro mode will now be used underwater.
So a trivial update, but over what was already arguably the best rugged waterproof camera around, which makes the TG-6 top dog – there’s nothing to match its bright f2 lens, excellent image quality, speedy continuous shooting and wealth of video modes including 4K. I’m extremely recommending it due to its unmatched performance in and out of the water. But one factor it’s not is affordable, so if you’re on a budget check out the older TOUGH TG-5, the Fujifilm Finepix XP140 or Panasonic’s Lumix FT7. Meanwhile, if you are once one thing cheaper for active kids, check out Nikon’s COOLPIX W150.
- Review Price: $399
- 12MP 1/2.33-inch CMOS sensor
- 4x optical zoom lens (25-100mm equivalent), f/2.0-4.9
- 3-inch, 1040k-dot fixed LCD screen
- Waterproof to 15m
- Slo-mo modes include 1080p at 120fps and 720p at 240fps
- GPS and Wi-Fi
- Speedy autofocus for a rugged compact
- Takes sharp and vibrant photos
- Can shoot in Raw for flexible editing
- The good photo quality in most situations
- Shoots in the Raw format
- Handy macro modes
- Bright f/2.0 lens
- Sturdy construction
- Rivals have better screens
- Mode dial can be a bit on the stiff side
- Slightly fiddly buttons
- Quite pricey
- Limited manual controls
If you’re looking for a pocket camera that can survive sea swims and family trips to the beach, the TG-6 is the best option around. Its predecessor’s speedy autofocus and ability to shoot in Raw raised it on top of rivals like Panasonic’s FT7, and this model adds a new screen, high-speed video recording, and an Underwater Microscope mode.
As rugged compacts go, the TG-6 is reasonably good looking and fun to use, with one-handed operation possible thanks to the majority of buttons being on the right-hand side. You also get some basic manual shooting controls and also the possibility of shooting in Raw, which is particularly handy if you’re planning to shoot underwater where white balance tends to be tricky.
Is it worth getting the TG-6 over its predecessor?
The extra screen resolution – which is twice that of the TG-5 – is a boon for composing shots, while those new high-speed video modes (including 1080p at 120fps, or 480p at 480fps) are ideal for family holiday moments where you don’t want to risk dropping your phone onto rocks. The Underwater microscope mode is additionally handy for fans of aquatic macro photography.
With punchy, spirited image quality and solid video performance, the TG-6 is that the best camera of its kind and ideal for teenagers, as long as you don’t expect miracles in low light or smartphone-trumping photos.
Olympus TG-6 Review– design
Tough cameras are never getting to win beauty pageants, however, we’ve actually seen tons worse than the TG-6. It has a certain smartness to it and, thanks to its chunkiness, it feels as tough and sturdy as it promises to be.
The vast majority of buttons are gathered on the right-hand side of the camera. This is handy for one-handed operation, or if you’re trying to use the camera in typical “tough” conditions – underwater or in the freezing cold, for example. One criticism here is that the buttons are a little on the small and fiddly side – not an issue if you can see and feel them properly, but if your visibility is limited then it isn’t so good.
On the rear of the camera, you’ll realize a little scrolling mode dial, that you’ll use to move between the various shooting modes the TG-6 offers. Unlike many other tough compacts, you get some manual control (albeit limited), and the choice to shoot in Raw format. It’s definitely worth flicking that on if you’re shooting underwater to give you full editing control over what can be tricky white balance conditions.
Two separate doors cover the battery and memory card slot, and the charging ports. The chances of either one of these flinging open while you’re underwater is slim since both use a dual-locking mechanism.
Olympus TG-6 specs and options
One of the main reasons that the Olympus TG-5 topped our list of the best waterproof cameras was its impressive array of features for a tough cam. There isn’t really an enormous distinction between the TG-6 and its predecessor, the TG-5, that is a sign of however sensible the latter was. But at a time when the video is becoming increasingly important, some key updates have been added.
You now get a range of high-speed video recording modes. The Olympus TG-6 shoots 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps or 480p at 480fps, which is awesome for all those slow-motion “jumping into the pool” holiday movies (come on, you know you shoot them).
Another new feature is Underwater Microscope mode, which complements the existing range of underwater shooting modes and makes this the obvious choice for anybody with a penchant for photographing small sea creatures while snorkeling or scuba diving. Or, indeed, any kind of macro photography.
The 3-inch fixed screen remains identical size because of the TG-5, but packs in twice the resolution. This makes it much better for composing your shots and viewing them in playback. There’s no touch-sensitivity here, but for a camera that’s primarily designed for underwater use (where touch-sensitivity wouldn’t work), that’s hardly a surprise.
What remains an equivalent is its 12-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch sensor. These days some smartphones actually carry larger sensors, so don’t expect super-stellar performance – but this camera is all about the places you can take photos that your mobile phone wouldn’t dare tread. There’s additionally a 4x optical zoom, which gives you the handy equivalent of a 25-100mm reach.
The camera’s tough credentials include shock-resistance from a height of 2.1 meters, waterproofing down to 15 meters, freeze-proofing, and crush-proofing. I wasn’t able to test it to the absolute limit, given that it was a loan model, but it should survive whatever you care to throw at it (or throw it at).
Olympus TG-6 image and video quality
In general shooting, the image quality from the TG-6 is overwhelmed by a number of high-spec flagship smartphones. But the entire point of this model – and others like it – is that you can take it to places that your smartphone simply can’t go. These include deeper underwater, in extreme cold, or simply a family holiday where you don’t want to worry about cracked screens or sand damage.
When you consider all that, you can forgive it for not giving you super-impressive images in every single condition. That’s not to say images are poor – on the whole, they’re vibrant and punchy with a decent amount of detail. There are some weak spots – low light-weight isn’t altogether the camera’s forte – however typically, like a holiday or tough camera, it puts in a good performance.
Shooting in Raw format helps you to recover any lost details when shooting at high ISOs, so that’s another reason to switch that on, and the macro modes are a handy benefit over your smartphone too. You could prefer to use it as your main vacation camera, especially if you don’t have a high-performing smartphone already, but it’s unlikely to be your number one camera of choice in ordinary or “safe” conditions.
The TG-6 additionally puts during a solid video performance, with the new frame rates bringing some extra versatility. If your primary concern is video, you’ll arguably be better suited to an action camera such as the GoPro Hero7 Black. But for people who prefer to combine stills and flicks, the Olympus TG-6 makes a lot of sense.
Why buy the Olympus TG-6?
There’s a lot of competition in the tough camera market right now – it remains one of the only compact areas that hasn’t yet been decimated by the unstoppable march of the smartphone.
Putting the camera up against a high-end smartphone will likely result in very similar images – indeed, sometimes the smartphone’s computational wizardry might even give it the edge. Nevertheless, there will be plenty of scenarios that you wouldn’t be able to take the smartphone to in the first place – diving 15 meters underwater, for example –and smartphones additionally typically can’t take nice macro shots without extra lenses.
There’s also another category of the user for whom the TG-6 should be considered: kids. With its tough credentials, it can survive clumsy capers, and it’s a good choice for any person not already toting anything better in their back pocket for everyday shots, too