Best Compact Digital Camera for Outdoor Sports

For those folks who hike, hunt, kayak and camp or participate in snow and water sports, a compact, robust and impervious camera is a must for capturing the action in all sorts of challenging conditions.  After a lot of consideration, I voted with my wallet for the recently released Olympus TG-5 Tough camera.

The forerunner, the TG-1, was first released five years ago and rapidly built a good reputation for rugged reliability and functionality.  The popularity of the TGs is due to their modest pricing and an outstanding ability to handle the heat, cold, water, grit, dust and jolts that are lethal to most cameras.

Olympus TG-5 Tough compact digital camera

In the hand, the convenient size of the TG-5 is obvious.  This slim, compact camera easily slips into a pocket.  The dimensions of the camera are 113mm in length, 66mm in height and 32mm in width.  Ready to use, with battery and card, it weighs 250 grams.  In weight and dimensions, it is a smidge larger than its predecessor, the TG-4.

The TG-5 delivers an impression of solidness in looks and heft, with a slightly chunky, engineered appearance rather than the light, smooth curves of moulded plastic cameras.  The ergonomics are good.  Controls are to be found under your thumb (right-handed users).  The small plastic grip bumps, front and back, provide a surprising degree of confident handling.

The lens, in 35mm equivalent terminology, is a 25-100mm zoom.  For this style of camera and its application, I consider that an excellent offering.  The lens ranges from a mild wide angle to a short telephoto which covers most eventualities.

The aperture ranges from f/2.0 to 4.9 over the zoom range from wide angle to telephoto.  The sensor in the TG-5 is a 12 megapixel backlit CMOS type which offers superior lowlight performance compared to the larger sensor on the previous TG-4.  The ISO range is from 100 to 12,800.

There are a selection of control modes, from fully automatic to a number of manual options, like the P and A modes common to many other cameras.  The range of available apertures to chose from is limited, compared to a full-on manual camera, but more than adequate for the applications this camera will be used for.

There are a range of options in scenery mode will let budding photographers capture some wonderfully balanced images that until recently only pro photographers with a lot of gear and knowhow could have produced.

The TG-5 does a wonderful job of close-up photography, especially considering it is a mid-range compact camera.  When selecting macro mode (the microscope symbol on the dial) there are a number of options that can be applied to how the camera will process such close-up images.  I was impressed by the focus stacking option which, with a single button push, produces an image with great depth of focus.  The compact little TG-5 delivered some great insect and flower close-ups that I would have been happy to achieve with my DSLR.

The Olympus TG-5 has a wealth of shooting modes and options which I will not detail in their entirety.  In all its modes, the camera offers a lot of excellent options.

Another impressive option is being able to select photo burst speed of up to 20 frames per second, even if you are shooting the images in RAW rather than JPEG format.  The new TG-5 has 4K video capability to 30fps and can also do full HD at up to 120fps for those spectacular slo-mo action video clips.

The battery is good for up to about 300 photos when starting from a full charge.  Charging is done with the battery in the camera.  A USB style port is located in the sealed hatch on the side of the TG-5 to allow recharging.

The camera is waterproof to 15 metres.  The access hatches for battery, SD card and data/charge ports are double-latched and gasket-sealed.  The shockproofing is sufficient to withstand a 2.1 metre fall onto concrete.  Crushproofing is to 100 kilograms of weight.  It can also handle the cold down to -10C.  With such robust capability, you can take this camera on pretty much any activity – surfing, sailing, white-water sports, dirt-biking, snowboarding, you name it!

Another useful feature for those folks out and about in the wilderness is the Log switch on top of the TG-5.  Switching that from OFF to LOG initiates a significant amount of ambient data recording.  There is GPS positioning, altitude, compass and temperature data for those folks who want really specific information about where their photos were taken.

The TG-5 is Wi-Fi enabled.  By downloading the free Olympus Image Share app, you can pair the TG-5 to your smartphone and control the camera settings remotely.  There is also the ability to modify photos and share them with the iPhone.  OI Share is easy to use and provides a high level of control over the camera.  One of the first things I did was install OI Share on my iPhone.  It will significantly simplify, and enhance, the remote photography that is a big part of my hunting and fishing.

While I chose the TG-5 because of its compact size and rugged constitution, it brings a lot more than that to the table.  It is highly versatile and ideal for more than just my bush-bashing snapshots.  A few sample photos are shown below.

It is a perfectly fine camera for family use and for travel.  It will enable some great scenery and close-up photography for anyone who wants to start dabbling in that without moving up to a more expensive and complex camera.  With the Olympus TG-5 tucked away in a pocket you can indulge in with full-on outdoor adventures and have no need to consider the camera – until you need a few photos or some action video.

aussiehunter Olympus TG-5 image of hunting stand

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