Q: My family loves photography, and I'd like to get my husband a good compact camera to carry around with him. Unfortunately, he has broken several iPhones, and I don't want to spend a lot of money on something that will meet the same fate. Do you have a recommendation for a camera that can take abuse, yet has good photographic quality?
A: Check out the Olympus Tough TG-2 (www.getolympus.com). I tested one recently, and it impressed me in every regard.
Just holding the camera is a pleasure. It's solid and has a jewel-like finish that feels high-end. The camera has a 4-times optical zoom that starts at a fast f/2.0 and a wide-angle setting perfect for group pictures and landscapes.
The high-resolution (for a compact) OLED screen is crisp and colorful. There's a microscope mode for extreme close-ups, art filters, 1080p video recording with stereo sound, and 60 fps high-speed shooting.
The TG-2 is dustproof, freezeproof to 14 degrees, crushproof (220 pounds supported), can go underwater to a depth of 50 feet and can take a 7-foot drop without damage.
Specs are one thing; real-world demonstrations are another.
I was at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in British Columbia this year. Olympus is a major sponsor, and it maintains a booth at the bottom of the mountain. Olympus reps took a TG-2 and froze it in a block of ice, thawed it and started taking pictures again. They threw the camera through the air to have it land on the ski slopes, skied over it and dropped it. It just kept going. I'm confident it will hold up far better than your husband's iPhones.
The Olympus Tough TG-2 is notable not just for the abuse it can take, but for the pictures it makes. Few rugged cameras have impressed me with their picture-taking ability. It seems that too much of the manufacturing expense goes into the rugged construction, and not enough to the picture-taking guts inside. The TG-2 proved to be an exceptional picture taker in all conditions. Olympus claims "amazing pro image quality" and after seeing the pictures I can't argue much with that.
Outdoor pictures were exceptionally clean and sharp, with realistic colors and accurate flesh tones. Flash pictures had even, accurate light quality throughout the image, with no redeye to be found. The TG-2 also features one of the easiest, simplest sweep panorama modes I've used. Video quality was exceptional, too.
The image quality and features justify the price of $379. When you add the all-weather, all-condition capability to the mix, it becomes a bargain for what it is and what it does.
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