Photography / Hands-on Review

Explore the Planet Everywhere with the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5

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The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5 has arrived and it is very, very good! The good news is that if you never picked up the very good Stylus Tough TG-4, you can now grab this feature-packed, rugged Tough TG-5 camera and go out shooting. The bad news is that if you have a Tough TG-4, there is now something even better on the market and you will probably want to upgrade.

Photographs © Todd Vorenkamp unless otherwise noted

If you follow the industry, you know that the smartphone camera has pretty much destroyed the point-and-shoot market. Why would I carry a point-and-shoot camera when the thing I use to talk to friends and browse the Internet can take remarkable pictures? That is a fair question, but when you look at different point-and-shoot cameras, they do have certain advantages over not only the smartphone but over interchangeable-lens mirrorless and DSLR cameras. And, when you look at the capabilities of the new Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5, you would be hard-pressed to find a better all-around point-and-shoot camera—especially in the crowded tough-cam sector. You certainly will not find a smartphone that does what this camera can do—there isn't one in existence. If you are into rugged adventuring in this world, you will not find a more convenient or capable interchangeable lens camera. Traveling with a DSLR or mirrorless camera? The Tough TG-5 might be a great companion to your “real” camera because it will go places that a “real” camera “shutters” to think about.

Let’s look at the highlights of the new Olympus Tough TG-5 over its predecessor.

• An all-new 1/2.3” 12MP Hi-Speed Image Sensor with improved low-light performance and noise reduction
• Bright 4.5-18.0mm f/2.0-4.9 lens (35mm equivalent of 25-100mm); now has anti-fog, dual-pane glass
• Dual Quad Core TruePic VIII Image Processor (same as the OM-D E-M1 Mark II)
• 4K video capture
• Full HD High-Speed 120fps video
• Field Sensor System (GPS, Monometer, Compass, and Temperature Sensor) with on-screen display
• Olympus Image Track app plays and exports videos now with with Field Sensor System data
• PRO Capture mode that starts sequential shooting before you do so that you don’t miss the action (similar to the OM-D E-M1 Mark II)
• Accessory lock (improved locking system for lens bezel accessories)

Along with those new features, the new Tough TG-5 still has the core Tough-series DNA in its design:

• RAW image capture 
• 4 Macro modes: Microscope, Microscope Control, Focus stacking, Focus bracketing
• 4 Underwater modes: Wide, Macro, HDR, Snapshot
• Waterproof to 50'
• Crushproof to 220 lb
• Shockproof from 7' drops
• Freezeproof to 14°F
• Dustproof

 

Released with the new Tough TG-5 are a waterproof housing to allow the camera to operate underwater down to 147' (almost 100' deeper than the un-accessorized Tough TG-5) and a silicone cover to protect from bumps and scratches. The underwater housing is compatible with the veteran step-up ring PSUR-03, Underwater Macro Conversion Lens PTMC-01, and Underwater Wide Conversion Lens PTWC-01—all sold separately.

Compatible with the Tough TG-5 are a host of tried-and-true TG accessories. For macro shooters, there is the LG-1 Light Guide that magically turns the LED flash into a ring light and the FD-1 that turns the strobe light into a ring diffuser. The operation to remove the lens bezel and add these two accessories has been improved by the addition of the accessory lock button. The Tough Pack fisheye and telephoto lens, and the floater kit, are available for the Tough TG-5, as well. These macro ring lights are compatible with the silicone cover.

If you were a fan of the Tough TG-4, or you read the glowing reviews of the Tough TG-4 all around the Interweb, rest assured, the Tough TG-5 does everything the TG-4 did, only faster and better. Every successive generation of the TG series has improved upon its predecessor and made new fans.

Jaime Przekop

In the Field

This camera is a lot of fun! I celebrate its launch and kick off our 2nd Annual Macro Photo Week. I figured a great place to put the Tough TG-5 through its macro and rugged paces was the beach—sand, surf, wind, spray, and more sand.

Sand close… and closer

Armed with the red and black Olympus Tough TG-5, I headed to the beach with my girlfriend and we both launched into a macro exploration of our surroundings. She is not a camera expert, but fired up the Tough TG-5 and started shooting snapshots and macro photos right away without so much as a, “How do I do such-and-such?”

Seaweed close… and closer Jaime Przekop

On my end, I wanted to tinker. Having tested several Olympus cameras in the past, I was aware of the quirks of the Olympus menu system, and the Tough TG-5 did not disappoint. Still quirky. Props to Olympus for being consistent! I am sure the engineers at Olympus will read this and shake their heads while mumbling, “We cannot win with these photographers!” because I spent some time looking through the menus trying to figure out how to change the image quality from JPEG to raw, but the option was only accessible through a quick menu—not available in the root menu system. Once you know how to get there, it is fast and easy, but I expected to find it in the core menu options. For those already steeped in the Olympus menu world, be it users of their Micro Four Thirds systems, or those who have another member of the Tough TG series of cameras, there will not be the steep learning curve.

Sea Glass

For operating the camera, the controls are easy to use, have a good tactile feel, and designed for one-handed operation. With the Olympus Tough series, your left hand is a wasted appendage. Use it to hold stuff, paddle, steer, grab, or whatever else you are doing while shooting the Tough TG-5. The camera looks and feels great—solid.

Sea Glass, Closer

Exploring the Beach in Macro

I guess it is somewhere buried in the recesses of your brain, so it is not surprising to learn that the beach is home to a barely viewed microscopic world, but it is absolutely interesting to photograph it. Most of my beach outings involve throwing discs, worrying about sunburn, frolicking in the water, cookouts, beach towels, blankets, umbrellas, and getting sandy. Yes, sometimes I look for cool shells, or try to avoid stepping on sharp rocks, but I don’t usually find myself looking closer at the grains of sand on my flip flops or having an up-close study of sea weed.

Braided flotsam and jetsamJaime Przekop

With the Tough TG-5 in hand, you can get closer to things than you likely ever have before. And, because it is waterproof and dustproof, you can do this at the beach and in the surf without worrying about the camera battling the elements. Just roll the mode dial to the microscope icon, select one of the four macro modes, and start shooting. You can even use the zoom when doing macro work—something I kept having to remind myself to do because I am much more familiar with fixed focal length macro photography.

ShellJaime Przekop

One word of warning: be careful switching the lens bezel accessories in a sandy environment. The ring light and diffuser never got jammed on to the camera, but they made a crunchy noise a few times when I was swapping out the accessories. When the sample Tough TG-5’s go back to Olympus, they will be going back with some sand!

Sea glass backlit by a smartphone LED

There is so much to explore when you start looking at things at a microscopic level—especially in a place like the shoreline with sand, rocks, shells, seaweed, and flotsam and jetsam. Almost everything is interesting to the eye when you get microscopically close!

I couldn't see what was inside the hole in the top of the shell until I looked with the Tough TG-5.

The Tough TG-5 is a serious macro photography platform. Of course, it is a lot more than just a macro camera, but you would be hard pressed to so casually and easily explore the world of macro with another type of camera. I was getting magnification, handheld with the Tough TG-5, that would require me to break out a DSLR, macro lens, and bellows or extension tubes. And, forget about bringing all that gear into the surf zone!

Green sea glass, close and closer

If you thought the point-and-shoot camera had been left behind by the convenience of the smartphone camera, spend a few minutes with the Olympus Tough TG-5 and you might very well find yourself with a new everyday photographic or travel companion.

NOTE: All photos and the video in the article were taken with the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5 and are JPEG images straight out of the camera—no post-processing.

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Losey examples of close up capabilities:Who would print that crap? Seeing made me a none believer! The bright side,it costs more.Zing,zing,zinger!.Ho hum.Well what can you expect from web monkeys' that do not edit properly?

Hi Kenneth,

Thanks for the comment although I cannot understand it. Some words seem to be misspelled and your punctuation is non-standard.

Is there any way to attach a circular polarization filter?  I want to take photos from my kayak of what is below the water's surface (mainly fish).  I can easily see below the surface with polarized sun-glasses, but without a polarization filter on the camera, the photos show mostly reflections on the water's surface.  I want to photograph from above the surface of the water, not below.  Any suggestions, or do you know of a waterproof camera that will accept a polarized filter?

Thanks,

Brian

Purchase the accessory ring - the one that lets you add a wide or telephoto accessory. Just the ring. It is threadded for a 40.5mm filter so you just have to purchase that filter (Try B&H).  HOWEVER I have never tried mine UNDER the water so I don't know what happens when water gets between the lens and the accessory ring (which isn't water sealed).

Hope this helps

In rereading the posts I notice that you didn't want to actually shoot under the water... sorry.  Also, you would need to check out the way of attaching the accessory ring -- evidentaly the ring has been redesigned for the TG5  and is different from the one used on the TG4. I have the TG4. 

Thanks, I will look into that.

Aww come on man. You took your girlfriend to the beach and you give us shots of sea shells? Just kidding, sorta. I have the older model Tough and love it. 

Hey John,

I couldn't get her to sign the model release! She said something about her agent preventing her from doing outside work! :)

Lord knows what that means, Todd !!! :)

My wife has an aging Olympus point & shoot, and I've been telling her for several years it's way past its "use by" date - this looks like just the right cam for her - unlike some, she won't do "cellphone" stuff, but likes the convenience of the Olympus size.  Hmm - slightly bulkier, 100 gm heavier - sensor is the same size, but an extra 5 MP which should provide a much better image than her aging cam - 25-100mm instead of 38-114mm (she'll never notice!)  Looks like a great cam, and one I might buy for myself, because I love (a) having something I can always have in my pocket (b) low light photography & (c) macro photography.  Wonder if my store will give a big fat discount for "bulk orders", if I buy two of them?

Intentionally vague, jean pierre!

Looks like it is time for a pair of Tough TG-5's! Its a great camera. I really enjoyed working with it.

Bulk discount? I wish! If you crack that code, let me know how you did it!

Thanks for this write up! I am a macro enthusiast in search of something lighter to take on vacations when I don't want to lug my DSLR and lenses around, and I've also been wanting replace my [broken] GoPro for underwater and wide-angle shots. This seems like it could be the solution to both!

Of the four macro modes (Microscope, Microscope Control, Focus stacking, Focus bracketing), which were you using in the examples? Where can I read more or see examples of all macro modes?

Hi Megan,

Thanks for the note!

I was mixing up the macro modes a bit while shooting, and cannot recall which one was used for each photo. They may be indicated in the metadata, if you want to right click and save the images. Because it is a digital camera, it is free to change modes and play with settings until you get the shot you want!

I sometimes changed modes for each subject just to see if I could get a "better" shot. For more specific info on the macro modes and examples, you might want to head to the Olympus website.

I think this camera would be a great all-in-one solution for you. I have seen some very impressive underwater images from the Tough TG-4 and, as you can see above, this camera is amazing for macro.

How is the camera in sun, daylight and clouds OTHER than taking macro shots?

All the photo's but 1 were set to macro on a beach.  Take some photo's of tree's, clouds, people and buildings in sun, shade and at night.   I get it, that it can do Macro but that didn't need to be all the shots. 

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your feedback. This camera was launched during Macro Photo Week here at B&H and, with Olympus' blessing, chose to focus on the impressive macro capabilities of this camera.

I did photograph other subjects and the camera performed very well. If you are familiar with the Tough TG-4, this camera will not disappoint.

Thanks again for the feedback, and thanks for reading Explora!

I've been considering finally up-grading / replacing my carry every-day, everywhere, very reliable Olympus Stylus 850SW  (pre-Tough Series; my second of this type Olympus cameras... I broke the screen on the first one, the only reason to replace it) and thanks to this review I think I have may  have found it... it still will not replace my Nikon Macro setup for dry land, but for lake, sea and woods trails it will greatly improve my macro shots from the Stylus.  (I wonder if it will take IR photos, if I add a filter??)

Thanks!! 

Hey Magic,

Not sure about IR photos...but the Tough TG-5 is a great camera and a lot of fun to shoot with. Your Nikon macro setup might be getting dusty once you bring the TG-5 into the studio!

Thanks for reading!

Hi Todd,

Did you have the chance to check out the autofocus on high-speed frame advance as well as the video capabilities?

Hi Mark,

The sample video above was shot by a Tough TG-5. Looks pretty good to me!

When you say "high-speed frame advance" are you referring to the Pro Capture Mode?

Thanks for reading!

No underwater photos? That would have been a nice thing to share in your review.

Hi Tyson,

You are right, underwater photos would have been great for this review. However, the water temp was 46 degrees F and there was no way I was going to go in!

I strongly suggest that you email B&H management and request that they send me to a tropical beach-side destination the next time we get a camera like this for a hands-on review! Thank you, in advance, for that! :)

For some amazing underwater photography with the Tough TG-4, check out the work of Hengki Koentjoro...and imagine what you can do with the TG-5!

Haha. Been asking my employer for those same accomodations. They just can't see our vision. I'll check out Hengki's work.
Thanks!

Thanks, Tyson! Maybe I'll have my people get in touch with your people and you can have your people get in touch with mine and then we can meet up in Cabo and give the TG-5 a good workout!

Just to verify...  I have the TG-4 and loaded up on accessories, LED and flash diffusers, fisheye and telephoto, various filters.  All the TG-4 bits are compatible witt the TG-5 ???  Or maybe I'll skip a version and wait for the TG-6.  

Hey Mike,

The accessories for the TG-4 will work on the TG-5 with the exception of the underwater housing and silicone jacket. The LED and flash diffusers and lenses are the same for both cameras (and the earlier TG's)...while the attachment method has been improved.

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