With the release of the iPhone 4S and its super incredible camera, point-and-shoots were supposed to be dead. What’s the point of buying a compact digital camera if it only takes photos that are the same, or slightly better than the iPhone in your pocket? For the most part, I think we’re right in saying that the point-and-shoot is destined to become a relic. However, there are certain exceptions to that rule.
I love my iPhone 4S so much that I don’t want to endanger its gorgeous glass body. I also love hiking in the summer and water activities, and even if I buy a military grade case for my iPhone, I still get scared when taking it on outdoor adventures. That’s where the Olympus TG-820 point-and-shoot comes in. It’s waterproof and shockproof, and ready to go where you’re too scared to take your iPhone.
Every summer my friends and I take a trip to Havasupai – a beautiful Indian village oasis of waterfalls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It’s one of the most gorgeous places in the U.S. but it’s not easy to get to. To get to the village you have to hike 10 miles down the canyon on rocky trails, and then it’s another three-mile hike to get to some of the falls. We took the Olympus TG-820 with us this year and left our iPhones in the car, and had no regrets as Olympus’s rugged camera was able to capture pictures we’ve never dared to snap before.
The Olympus TG-820 can take a beating. It’s shockproof up to 6.6 feet, which was enough protection to withstand the poundings it got on the trail. We dropped it a couple of times on accident and it picked up a few scratches, but performance never waned. It’s also waterproof up to 33ft. Even though we didn’t do any deep diving with it, the waterproof and shockproof features allowed us to jump off a 60ft cliff into a pool of water and keep snapping pictures without hesitation. Rather than worrying about our camera breaking, the Olympus TG-820 let us do all the things we wanted, without having to worry about technology.
The image quality of the Olympus TG-820 is pretty good for its price range as a point-and-shoot. The colors are bold in average daylight, and the dynamic range is decent too. The camera also comes with a number of solid features, such as 20 different scene modes, Full HD video, Continuous shooting, two timers, and filters. The 3inch HyperCrystal LCD display on the back of the TG-820 is awesome and bright enough for daytime shooting.
The camera also has an optical zoom, which is great for shooting video without compromising on quality. The control scheme is very easy to use. The build of the camera actually looks pretty good. Most rugged outdoor cameras are built to be tough without much thought put into the design, but the TG-820 is one of the best looking waterproof cameras I’ve seen.
Like most point-and-shoots, its sensor doesn’t do great in low-light conditions. As soon as you need to move above ISO 400, pictures start getting pretty noisy. Adding to the problem, the TG-820’s auto-mode had a tendency to raise the ISO above 400 when it didn’t really need to. Another problem we had was it seems as though the lens sharpness has a tendency to drop off on the left side of the camera.
Nitpicking on a few other things, we felt that the menu navigation knob was a bit too sensitive and meant for smaller fingers than ours. Battery life could have been an hour or two longer, but it was acceptable. We also had once incident where the two locking mechanisms that keep the battery, SD card, and other camera internals safe from water, seemed to randomly unlock themselves twice, but luckily we weren’t in the water when that happened.
There aren’t many reasons for iPhone owners to go out and buy a point-and-shoot camera, but the TG-820 might be one of them. It takes excellent pictures and has a great rugged design that can endure a lot of punishment where the iPhone can’t. If you’re planning on doing something adventurous in the outdoors, grabbing the Olympus TG-820 instead of your iPhone might be a better choice.