When I had a look at the Canon G7 X on Wednesday I also had a look at a couple of the Olympus compact camera models too (well the cabinet was open so why not!). These were the Stylus 1 and the TG-3, whilst they are not in the same league as the G7 X (their sensors are much smaller to start with) but they are at the high end of what Olympus offer and I was curious to see what they were like from a handling perspective.
This camera definitely gets its design from Olympus’s OM-D camera range; it looks very similar to the E-M5. I think that this was chosen so that the camera could be picked by any of their OM-D users and used without much manual diving. I noticed that the awful Olympus OM-D menu system can also be found on this camera model too – although once you get used to the way it works this isn’t too bad.
When I picked up the camera the first thing I noticed that it handled very similar to the E-M1 (that I have played with on and off quite a bit now) so I believe they achieved their main aim. The next was that it felt quite “plastic-y”; it had quite a hollow feeling although it didn’t creak and bend so this is something I could get used to.
The camera was quick in response, was easy to use and the grip was just the right size, although it was smaller than the E-M1 it wasn’t too small. I liked the large dial on the top of the camera just to the right of the faux pentaprism hump which housed the built-in EVF (that’s right a “built-in” EVF – are you listening Canon and Nikon?). There as a secondary control ring that surrounds the zoom lenses’ throat that unlike the Canon camera was almost silent and had just the right amount of resistance too. Unlike the OM-D EM-1 and EM-5 cameras, the Stylus 1 also has an integrated flash built into the prism.
I liked the fn2 lever on the front of the camera, flicking this changed the function of the control wheel around the lens from an exposure variable to manual focus and this was highly responsive even though it was fly-by-wire. This reminded me of the AF selection switch and optical viewfinder switches on the Fujifilm cameras.
The 3″ screen on the back of the camera supports the same tilting mechanism as its larger OM-D brothers and is also a touchscreen too. The camera has WiFi and therefore supports the Olympus developed smartphone application “OI.Share”; this is designed for both iOS and Android. This software has many capabilities from the transfer of images to full remote control of the camera, it is one of the better featured and designed smartphone applications out there (again are you listening Nikon – what you have for the D750 is frankly a disgrace). For more information about the capabilities of the OI.Share application please click here.
Finally, like the OM-D cameras the Stylus also has a full-hot-shoe allowing the use of a full flashguns. In fact there wasn’t much I didn’t like, the price at £450-LCE £435-WEX was reasonable too. I have to say that this would be a good compact camera companion model for any OM-D owner. This is as long you aren’t looking for a “pocket-able” camera or something with a large sensor in which case I would have to suggest one of the Sony RX100 models or possibly look at one of the Olympus EPL models which aren’t much larger but do offer a full 4/3 sensor and access to the full MFT lens range at about the same price.
The basic specs of the camera are as follows :
- 12.8 Megapixels
- 1/1.7″ BSI CMOS sensor
- 28-300mm @f2.8
- Optical image stabilisation
- 60 to 1/2000 sec shutter
- 100-12800 ISO
- +/- 3 EV
- 1.4 million pixel 3″ screen
- 1080p video
- Dimensions of 116.2 x 87 x 56.5 mm
The second Olympus model I looked at was the TG-3, unlike the Stylus 1 I knew a bit more about this camera thanks to Jamie MacDonald, he posted a nice Macro tutorial on his YouTube site about using the EM-1 but he also showed the TG-3 too. I have embedded the video here for you to watch please remember to Like the video and I also recommend subscribing to his channel too as he is posting a lot of Olympus content:
So I was keen to see what the camera was like from a handling perspective and I wanted to “play” with the microscope function; which is a unique idea and a great marketing feature – or is it a gimmick? In the hand it felt very solid, the weight of the camera was just right and it wasn’t too small either, certainly smaller than the Stylus but not as small as the Canon.
The TG-3 if you hadn’t realised is a rugged camera and has seals and locks on all of the ports, the lens focuses and zooms internally within the body too. The tough features of the camera are as follows: dust prove, shock-proof up to 2.1m, water-proof down to 15m, freeze-proof down to -10 degrees C and crush-proof to 100kg – this is a tough baby. If you want to dive deeper than 15m you can put this inside an underwater housing (PT-056 @ £279) which enables to go down to 45m!
After trying out some of the functions I had to try out the microscope mode and I am impressed on how close this focuses. If you buy this from London Camera Exchange for £350 they are throwing in the LG1 “ring flash” which normally retails for £30; you can get the TG-3 for a bit cheaper at WEX Photographic (£325) but you don’t get the LG1.
The LG1 is actually a ring-shaped diffuser that shapes the output from the built-in-flash into a ring shaped output around the lens. It connects to the TG-3 via magnets. There is more detail on the Olympus product page here.
Like the Stylus 1 the camera also has integrated WiFi with support for the “OI.Share” app as well as the “OI.Track” app (also for iOS and Android) which works in conjunction with the integrated GPS. For more information about the capabilities of the OI.Track application please click here.
I have to say that I liked the way that the TG-3 handled and functioned, I especially like the fact that it has GPS, this is a camera that you could take anywhere and not worry about keeping it dry. It would be a great travel camera and I wouldn’t be worried about damaging it. I can also envisage me taking this to Alton Towers or Thorpe Park and on the water rides too.
The basic specs of the camera are as follows :
- 16.76 Megapixels
- 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
- 18-100mm @f2.0-4.9
- Sensor-shift based image stabilisation
- 0.5 to 1/2000 sec shutter
- +/- 2 EV
- 460K million pixel 3″ screen
- 1080p video
- Dimensions of 111 x 66 x 31 mm
- Two colours available: Red and Black
I have to say that I liked the both the TG-3 and the Stylus 1 if I was in the market for a compact camera and it would be a tough choice to choose between them as they both have their strengths. I think that the TG-3 would be a better overall choice as I can envisage scenarios where this camera would help so maybe before I go to the next park I will pick one of these up and I prefer the red one too – it would be easier to see if dropped or something.