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PLEASE READ THIS FIRST !
Before I start writing, I wanted to make it clear that I am not a photographer by any means. No photographer would choose to buy the cheapest Olympus Tough camera, with the lowest spec ! What I want to do in this review is evaluate how well the camera fits MY needs as a personal, recreational user, which I hope to explain clearly, & how I think it ranks in terms of value.
**What I'm looking for..**
So firstly, I should add that I have a digital camera. It is a Panasonic Lumix that I have had for about 3 years. Honestly, I don't love it, but it gets me by. For now.
But it is dying, slowly. (Thanks largely to my boyfriend's habit of switching it on whilst having a finger over the lens mechanism - NOOO!) So I knew I needed to start saving for something new, whilst at the same time knowing it would take actually years to raise the 300+ needed for a compact SLR or similar.
So I decided to buy a filler camera that would be a sort of 'number 2' & take me through after the Lumix finally snuffs it. I had managed to scrape together about 120 pounds over the year.
I was looking for a camera that would withstand quite a lot, preferably waterproof, & serves me well when out with friends, on holidays, & is compact enough to keep in my bag at all times as I don't have a smart/camera phone. I wasn't expecting the best photo quality, because you can't have it all when you're not able to pay much!
About 2 weeks ago, I saw the Olympus TG-320 in the sale on a French online retailer. It was 140EUR, including the standard case & memory card, but also with a small tripod, & cutely, a snorkel & mask for the beach :) As it came from an etailer I trust with a strong returns policy (Fnac - French equivalent of Virgin) I decided to go for it. My plan was to buy, put it through its paces for a week, then return it if I felt it wasn't good enough.
The first thing that jumped out at me upon taking this camera out of its box, is that the lens does not pop out forward. It says plain to the front of the camera. This also sent me a warning sign that the camera may have a poor zoom. 3.6x compared to my Lumix's 4x doesn't seem awful though.
Turning the camera over, the buttons on the display are rubbery, which seems practical given that it is waterproof but actually they are a little stiff & slow to press. The display screen is a good size which I am happy with.
The battery is a rechargeable lithium battery, which seems to hold the charge pretty well, & can be charged off the mains or using the USB upload cable, which is convenient for travel.
My model is blue (not my choice, but it was the model on promotion) & this is fine, although I can't help but think this looks a little like My First Fisher Price Camera....
Of course I started playing with this camera straightaway. The controls are easy-to-use but they are slow to react. Setting up (date, time etc.) was a doddle. The camera has roughly a dozen modes, such as food, indoor, fireworks, or sunset for those who are no so confident (or like me, too lazy!) to change settings as they change environments. I was initially disappointed, however, with the lack of a 'party' setting as I like cameras that can capture the atmosphere of a party in the background whilst focussing on the subjects, but more on that later. My experience of these modes is good except the food mode which requires a very steady hand, which I don't have! Also, it is easy to switch from one to the other as they feature on the main display. 'Beauty' mode is magical - it somehow skims over your flaws, smoothing your skin out & making you look like an upgraded version of yourself, haha!
The camera also features special effects modes. Some are silly - pinhole mode for example, as any editing system comprises this on even the most basic computer - and some are just plain pointless, such as the sketch mode or one that dyes you skin purple! However, I like the pop-art mode, which warms the temperature of the picture making everyone look summery & happy, perfect for a night out!
Getting the photos of the camera was simple, I didn't need to load the accompanying CD, simply copied & pasted them from the folder.
After a week or being a wimp, I finally got up the guts to dunk this camera in the sink & it works like a dream. I filmed some lego men (haha!) & the quality is totally decent. I've yet to try it in a lake or the sea though..
When it comes to photo quality, one word springs to mind - decent. Pictures of people are warm, eliminating flaws & capturing the atmosphere of the street or environment around them. I have found these photos to be lovely in both night & day time after a little fiddling with the settings. I do not mean that the quality is great - the low number of megapixels means they are not that sharp. But for recreational use such as this, it more than does the job.
When taking landscapes, the colours picked up by the camera are vivid. For night scenes without flash, the exposure speed is a bit slow, so you need a VERY steady hand or a tripod to do well with these.
As with many lower price digital cameras, the failings in the photo quality become apparent with the depth. Large landscape photos lose their sense of scale, becoming flat & 2D. A common complaint with digital compacts, but annoying nonetheless.
The first thing I noticed that irritated me with this camera is that your mode is not saved. So you choose the right setting, decide whether to have the flash on or off, then take your photos. When you switch the camera on again later, you have to start from the beginning again. It may not sound like a big deal, but it takes away a lot of the spontaneity of photography.
Secondly, the camera offers a panorama mode. However, each time I have taken my photos then waited for the camera to stitch them together, it has done an appalling job. Literally, this mode may as well not exist.
Of course from the spec , you can tell the zoom won't be up to much. But I was expecting this & it doesn't really bother me!
Having explained above what I was looking for from this camera, this more than fits the bill. However, I am going on a beach holiday soon, & this will be a star in the ocean & in the sand, but I will take my Lumix also. That is because I fear I'd otherwise be disappointed with my photos of the (hopefully) beautiful Sardinian landscape!
Some interface actions are irritating & the zoom isn't up to much. Also, if you don't need the waterproof aspect (or 'want' it, as in my case..) then I don't think I would recommend this camera as although the photos are fine, I think you can get more for your money. But this camera is exactly what I was looking for, with no chance that my boyfriend will break the lens!
Be prepared for the limitations of the spec, & you should get along just fine with this Olympus Tough model. If not, well I would recommend you look elsewhere!
++ Also - this is my first review of a technological product.. If you spot any things I've missed or not covered in enough detail - could you let me know please so I can improve it?
Thank you, & happy summer!