Why it matters to you

With a new sensor, new processor and several new features, the Olympus Tough TG-5 isn’t a marginal update.

Olympus’ flagship Tough camera can now capture not just that impressive view but exactly what depth and even temperature you fought through to get the shot. On May 17, Olympus released the Tough TG-5, its latest rugged camera with a number of tweaks for better images and improved user experience.

The TG-series popularity largely stems from the low-light capabilities thanks to an f/2 lens, which is still what you’ll find on this new model. But the TG-5 is designed for even better low-light performance – by actually reducing the number of megapixels. While the TG-4 used 16 megapixels, the TG-5 uses 12. More megapixels may mean better detail in the average lighting conditions, but the more pixels that are crammed onto a sensor, the smaller they are. By using fewer but larger pixels, cameras can shoot with less noise at higher ISOs, a trend that’s particularly true for smaller compact cameras.

Olympus says the goal of reducing the megapixel count is to get more printable images at the higher ISO ranges necessary for low-light shooting, something that’s particularly important in a camera designed to put up to 50 feet of water between the camera and the sun. The approach to enhancing low-light quality by dropping the megapixel count isn’t one that’s unique to Olympus – Nikon just did that with the D7500, for example, and Casio even took that down to the extreme of an odd 1.9 megapixel camera.

Along with the updated sensor, Olympus also incorporated the latest version of its image processor, the TruPic VIII – the same one found inside the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. That processor is also designed to improve the detail in low-contrast areas, particularly at high ISOs, using advanced calculations that a slower system couldn’t handle.

Updates on the image quality front also includes the jump up to 4K video – or high-speed HD videos at 120 frames per second. Olympus also updated the underwater modes with algorithms designed for more accurate color and contrast in darker locations. The TG-5 also packs in high-end modes borrowed from the OM-D line, including Nighttime Live Composite for shooting stair trails or light paintings by taking multiple images and combining the brightest areas, and Pro Capture Mode, which records for several seconds before and after the shutter release is pressed for shots that are tough to time. Focus bracketing as well as in-camera focus stacking is also included.

The mirrorless line isn’t the only camera Olympus borrowed from to beef up the TG-5. The field sensor system from the company’s first action camera, the TG Tracker, has also been incorporated. Using a new temperature sensor and manometer, along with a GPS and compass like in the TG-4, the TG-5 can record location, speed, temperatures, and depth or altitude. That data can be viewed on the camera or added to photos and videos in overlays using the Olympus Image Track app. Unlike the Tracker, however, the temperature sensor works for both water and air temperature. The tracking systems also work without recording an image at all — it can display the current conditions on the LCD screen with the camera off.

On the outside, the camera maintains the same 50-foot depth rating, seven-foot shock/crush rating, and freeze- and dust-proof construction. The lens housing is now anti-fog, preventing moisture build-up on the inside due to drastic temperature changes. Olympus also adjusted the control scheme and grip in order to allow the controls to be easily accessed while wearing gloves. The ability to add custom settings to the mode dial – a feature found on the E-M1 Mark II – also enhances the camera’s exterior design.

The camera’s f/2-4.9 4x optical zoom lens remains unchanged from the TG-4, along with the line’s popular super macro mode and sensor shift image stabilization system. The RAW compatibility introduced in the TG-4 is still included, only now users have the option to shoot in only RAW, instead of RAW and JPEG simultaneously. That’s because the previous version couldn’t convert the RAW files in-camera, so the JPEG was required to preview files on the LCD screen.

The TG-5 will maintain much of the same compatibility with Olympus’ line of Tough accessories, including the a ring light adapter and telephoto and fisheye lens converters. The housing, however, is different because of that new control scheme, for users that want to go as deep as 150 feet underwater.

The camera is slated to begin shipping in June for a $450 list price.

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