Look and Feel
Slightly more angular than it’s predecessor, the new TG-810 is a smidgeon larger than the uTough. Slight redesign on the front, more or less everything is still in the same places they were previously. The top plate moved buttons out of the way to make way for new GPS antennae and compass. The battery door is still double lock, double seal, double O-ring, so that part is also still good.
The biggest difference is on the back. Bigger screen on the back (still the “HyperCrystal View” display) but now the zoom-to-wide buttons have become a rocker switch that stands out quite a bit. The option switch changed from a low, four-way rocker to a single “joystick” type switch (press for select) Nothing bad has happened to the review camera, but I just don’t think these will be as reliable as the previous button types. The screen that now stands out, instead of running flush with the body also leads itself to chips and scratches, especially on the corners. Again, I didn’t try and break it to see how easy it will be, but this is my gut feel.
The video playback speaker has moved from the back of the camera to the bottom of the camera.
The new camera is definitely more responsive than the previous version. One of my big complaints was that it started up extremely slowly (about 10 seconds) The TG-810 flashes up almost right away, so my initial response was that it’s much better… only later did I realize that the camera function still takes an age before you can actually take a picture. The screen is there almost right away, but the first picture can only be taken about 6-7 seconds after the camera is switched on… better than the older uTough 8010 but not stellar.
Moving through menus and functions does feel a bit snappier though, so that’s good. General camera response is not bad.
The actual working of the camera is basically exactly the same as the uTough 8010 more or less all the same stuff, functions and features, and the although the responses seem to be a bit faster, Image Quality from the 14mp sensor seems to be exactly the same as the previous camera and 6×8 prints from either is basically indistinguishable.
I still see some of the same errors in camera function as with the previous version. For instance the Panorama function. In the previous version of the camera, you had a function that would allow you to stitch three images together by taking a shot, then aligning the next shot by overlaying two targets on the screen, and then taking the next shot. After the third shot, the camera has the option of stitching it together for you in camera.
The new TG-810 does this a bit faster than the older uTough 8010, but for some reason olympus decided to keep scaling down the resulting image (I suppose to keep the speed up) but you again end up with a 4.6mp image (about 4,000 x 1,000px) in the end… This would be fine for the smaller version of the camera, but why not leave a full size option for the “flagship” version?!
Also, the same error as previously remained. If you move the camera angle or direction before the camera presents you with a target, the overlap for the image will move, and you will end up with a badly stitched image. Results can be good, but you have to shoot within the parameters and limitations of the software.
The camera has a few new handy features which we like, and some others that we just don’t understand.
The built in GPS is something I really like. Basically you can now Geo-tag all your images, WITH camera direction (thanx to a magnetic compass also built in) This I can see is a great tool for Professional photographers using the camera to scout locations, or for anybody that would like to have any kind of idea about where a certain shot was.
The GPS is suppose to update itself continually even when the camera is switched off. This does eat the battery a bit, but does make the signal acquisition a bit faster (“a bit faster” still means 30seconds to a minute, though) A flickering icon on the bag lets you know if the camera has acquired a signal and position yet. The Compass is a good add-on as well. It’s great to know where you were when you were shooting, but definitely also beneficial to know which direction you were shooting.
Also new, you now also have an option to shoot 3D images with the camera. Basically, it works by taking 1 image which it display on the viewfinder as a translucent image, then the camera will automatically take a second image when you move the camera so that the screen viewfinder overlay matches the new view. The camera will then generate the single 3D image.
The problem is that the images are only viewable (currently) on 3D TV’s.
What’s still lacking?This is the “Flagship” tough camera from Olympus, and one that has serious functionality for professional photographers, but for some reason they decided to leave two major function out of the camera. RAW and Manual control… If those two functions were available, I’d get rid of my previous camera, and buy this one. Unfortunately, there is no single feature in the new body that will make me upgrade from my existing uTough 8010.
Does this mean it’s a bad camera, or one to be avoided? absolutely not. As with the previous uTough, this is an excellent package and very capable camera, and one I would heartily endorse to pro photographers, and everyday photographers alike. All the features that made me buy the first one is still there (10m waterproof, 100kg crushproof, 2m drop proof with 720 HD video, stabilized and auto-focussing) so I still believe this is one of the better “companion cameras” out there for day to day gathering of memories!
by Sean Nel
Images copyright Sean Nel