by Sasha Barkans
The rugged and intuitive Olympus Stylus TG-4 is the newest addition to Olympus’ Stylus Tough amphibious (and ambitious) line of compact cameras. While smartphones are increasingly utilized for photography on the trail and in the mountains, everywhere your smartphone is sure to crumble, the TG-4 excels. It’s waterproof up to 50 feet, freeze-proof down to 14°F, shock-proof from seven feet, totally dust-proof and can withstand 220 pounds of brute force. While the exterior is tough, this camera also produces spectacular images with unrivaled quality in its class. Olympus outfitted the TG-4 with a high-speed f/2.0 lens and a 16-megapixel sensor capable of shooting in RAW and full HD video. With an impressive built-in GPS, geo-tagging system and e-compass, the TG-4 makes a fine addition to the rucksack of any outdoor adventurer and photographer—from pros to weekend warriors.
The TG-4’s durability is such a key feature, we couldn’t help putting it through the ringer. From high alpine touring at Whistler all the way to the beaches of Vancouver, we dunked, dropped and exposed the camera to a range of challenging conditions. During our field tests, the TG-4 took as much abuse as we could lay on. Even at sub-freezing temperatures it powered on quickly. The extremely intuitive user interface came in handy when we were wholly focused on the mountainous terrain. Meanwhile the TG-4’s f/2.0 lens, allows for one to capture any immediate or fleeting moment—from a wildlife sighting to friend finally stomping their trick as the sun sets.
If you’re familiar with the TG-3, all of its existing features are retained on the TG-4. And while the RAW capability may turn heads, there are more than a few notable new features. The Nighttime Live Composite feature stands out with its simplicity and performance. With the click of a button, the TG-4 enters a scene mode that grabs numerous sequential photographs; refining the brightest areas of a scene and combining them into a single composition. With a TG-4 in tow, and a starry sky above, we were able to click its shutter button and quite literally watch an evening image develop live on its three-inch screen. Click the shutter again to stop the composition when your photo is just how you want it. For overnight adventures in the wilderness, the TG-4 is the go-to tool for capturing any nocturnal illuminations that await.
Beyond the night sky, Olympus is aware that macro capability is important to many outdoor photographers. The brand’s answer is the TG-4’s advanced Variable Macro system that is capable of zooming within 0.39 inches (1cm) of an object. Olympus’ macro system on the TG-4 impressively offers four modes: Microscope Mode, Microscope Control, Focus Bracketing and Focus Stacking. With the added slow-synchronized flash and the macro-light guide accessory, the Focus Stacking feature proved to be particularly effective at displaying depth and texture in our macro test shots.
Another notable feature is an Underwater HDR mode designed to enhance light and shadow in an underwater setting. Shooting underwater presents a wealth of challenges and the built-in feature makes entry-level underwater photography slightly more forgiving. With the intended use of the camera in extreme settings, Olympus added two custom modes for saving your favorite settings for easy access on the fly. If you’re looking to take your photography a step further, the TG-4 is also compatible with a myriad Olympus accessories such as the Sport Holder (for attaching the camera to a backpack or harness), a fisheye lens, a Floating Handstrap and fortified underwater housing that is secure down to 147 feet.
More than just a nature-proof adventure camera, the TG-4’s ability to shoot RAW with an array of scene modes and a highly capable macro system makes it suitable as a pocket shooter. Perfect for the recreational outdoor photographer and pro alike, the Olympus Stylus TG-4 is set to hit shelves in May with a starting price of $380.
Images by Sasha Barkans