The best waterproof and shockproof digital camera is the Olympus Tough TG-4 from Olympus. With its bright zoom lens, it delivers a decent picture quality – above and below water.
Although normal compact cameras make better pictures on the whole, they are also more sensitive to dirt, water and cold than special outdoor cameras. The image quality of such devices is still quite sufficient and on top of that, you do not have to worry about the camera giving up after a fall or a downpour.
We tested four outdoor camera models and were very satisfied with the capabilities of the small compacts.
Short overview: Our recommendations
The best camera for all aspects of outdoor life for us is the Olympus Tough TG-4 . With it you can dive, shoot pictures in chilly areas and even if it falls down, it is hardly sensitive because of its robust design.
The buttons are, as with almost all outdoor cameras, very small, but the Olympus is touch-sensitive and can be triggered by tapping – very handy when you’re under water or wearing thick gloves.
Their equipment is huge, no other camera offers such a balanced performance as the TG-4. Added to this is their unique ability to shoot RAW images. The TG-4 delivers the best picture quality in its class.
If you value a lot of zoom, then you should take acloser look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 . It can be taken as well as the Olympus in the water and can withstand falls of up to two meters without any problems. Technically speaking, she’s pretty much the same with Olympus.
But their lens is less bright, which is at the expense of image quality. For that you get the Lumix already for 115 dollars less than our test winner.
For all diving fans, the Nikon Coolpix AW130 isprobably the best choice. As far as this camera was concerned, no other device from the test could remain submerged – in up to 30 meters, the Nikon remains waterproof. It also has a large zoom range like the Panasonic.
As far as the adjustment options are concerned, our test winner is clearly ahead – there is more choice here. But if you’re mainly into underwater shooting then the Nikon is the right outdoor camera for you.
If you do not want to spend so much money on your outdoor camera, the Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is an alternative. For a price of just 215 dollars but you have to live with some restrictions. Unfortunately, it is not very suitable for taking pictures underwater or in low light conditions.
Nevertheless, she can withstand a lot and can be taken to the beach in good conscience. For more, you also have to spend a little more money.
Who needs an outdoor camera?
You want to take pictures in wind and weather? Your camera should also work on the ski slope in icy temperatures? And be waterproof, so you can take them to the summer bath in the Baggersee or in the next snorkel holiday? Then you might think of an action cam first .
Action cams are extremely robust and withstand the rigors of strenuous leisure activities without complaint. But action cams are primarily intended for filming. Taking photographs is a laborious task with these devices: A decent monitor for viewfinder control? Wrong! Buttons that can be operated even with thick gloves still – that does not offer an action cam.
But there are still the outdoor cameras, which are primarily for photographers. They are waterproof and also put away a lot.
Our favorite: Olympus Tough TG-4
The Olympus Tough TG-4 survives falls up to two meters high. It is unbreakable up to a load of 100 kilograms and works even in freezing temperatures down to -10 ° C. And the next dive accompanies you the Olympus Tough TG-4 down to 15 meters water depth.
If you want to go even deeper, there is a special underwater housing as accessories , which is tight to 45 depth. So equipped, the Tough TG-4 can certainly stand up to an action cam.
The Olympus Tough TG-4 is also equipped with a number of special functions for tough underwater or high-altitude work. For example, special recording programs that make photos without color cast possible even underwater. Or a GPS logger with barometer. The not only records the location coordination for each photo, but also the height.
Handling and ergonomics
The TG-4 from Olympus is not quite as handy as a normal compact camera. This is partly due to the stable, sealed housing, but also because the lens when zooming out of the camera does not go, so find space inside. But the TG-4 is also waterproof and much more robust.
Nevertheless, the Olympus TG-4 is so compact that there is only room for quite small controls. The tiny buttons and buttons are hard to handle with gloves – a weak point that many outdoor cameras struggle with.
Olympus came up with a great solution to this problem: Tap Control. The housing is sensitive to touch in several places and responds to strong fingertips. This works well even if your hands are in thick ski or diving gloves. The camera can even be triggered with a double finger tipper on the back.
For adjustments and adjustments, the TG-4 is equipped with a classic dial for the basic functions. This also simplifies the operation.
The rear display is used for image control as in a classic digital camera. Although it dissolves not very high with around 460,000 pixels, but for the image assessment that’s enough, anyway, especially since the control monitor is very bright and so well in the sunshine can be read.
The flaps for the memory card slot and the interfaces have Olympus double secured – so they can not easily accidentally open the dive.
Equipment leaves nothing to be desired
Olympus has not saved on the equipment of the Tough TG-4 . In particular, the lens stands out from the crowd: It is significantly brighter than usual, so allows shorter exposure times or lower ISO values during recording.
Also great: The TG-4 focuses on subjects in just ten centimeters away sharp, in “Super Macro Mode”, the minimum focusing distance is even reduced to one centimeter distance – only a few cameras manage.
The zoom range extends from 25 to 100 millimeters, so it goes far into the wide-angle range. If you want an even larger zoom range, you can screw the wide-angle converter FCON-T01 or the teleconverter TCON-T01 in front of the lens. The Tough TG-4 also remains waterproof with these lens attachments.
Those who do not want to spend too long with the right camera settings simply rely on the numerous automatic functions of the Olympus Tough TG-4 . With fully automatic, the camera selects the right one out of 28 scene modes. You can also specify the desired program yourself, such as Portrait, Landscape, or Indoors. Olympus has even thought of special outdoor programs, including “underwater HDR” and “underwater macro” or “beach and snow”.
Experienced photographers do not have to rely on the fully automatic. For them, the Tough TG-4 offers an automatic aperture, the option for exposure compensation is also missing. Demanding photographers will be particularly pleased that the Olympus Tough TG-4 can also be recorded in RAW format, thus providing significantly better picture quality.
To avoid blurry photos, Olympus equipped the Tough TG-4 with an image stabilizer. It also helps to keep the ISO values low – so you do not have to worry about noisy or shaky shots.
The camera also has a small flash on board. If it should be too weak, it can control an external flash unit via radio – especially in underwater shooting a big advantage. In action-rich scenes, the TG-4 shoots fast series of pictures with 5 photos per second, with reduced resolution even up to 60 frames per second in it.
Although the Olympus Tough TG-4 is not an action cam, it can still record full HD videos. It should provide an electronic image stabilizer for quiet films, but not always works really well.
On WiFi, the TG-4 also understands, it takes up contact via radio to a smartphone or tablet. Then you can control the camera remotely from the mobile device, or transfer photos directly to your tablet. By the way, Olympus cleverly simplified the annoying connection setup. The camera’s display shows a QR code that you only need to take with the mobile device – the connection is already there.
How good is the picture quality?
Like most compact cameras, the Tough TG-4 has to make do with an image sensor just the size of a fingernail. On this tiny sensor Olympus accommodates a remarkable 16 megapixels.
Even if the image converter is designed in particularly light-sensitive BSI technology: Fine-tuning and attention to detail on the level of a system camera with 16 or 20 megapixels can not be expected from an outdoor camera like the TG-4. For prints up to DIN A4 format, the TG-4 delivers more than adequate image quality.
But you should keep the ISO number low. Olympus has quite strongly tuned the noise suppression of the TG-4. And that not only reduces the picture noise, but also the details in the photo.
If you do not want to, you can use the TG-4 to record in raw data format. Then the images must be developed on the computer in a RAW converter – but you have all the freedom to tailor the result according to your wishes. This option offers hardly an outdoor camera and certainly no action cam.
The bottom line is that the photo quality of the TG-4 is much better than with an action cam, not to mention a smartphone. With the water you can take the outdoor camera on top of that. So the Olympus Tough TG-4 is always on hand, even when it comes down to it.
Olympus TG-4 in the test mirror
The Olympus Tough TG-4 can inspire most testers, such as the editors of the American website Digital Phoography Review .
She has given the TG-4 a Gold Award and recommends the camera to anyone who demands a compact camera that can dive deep and put away a lot while delivering a solid picture quality. In particular, the ability to RAW recording has done it to the rigorous testers, with the quality of the JPEG images are not always satisfied.
The Olympus TG-4 also performs well overall at Stiftung Warentest . This is especially true for photos, photographs in daylight are rated as “very good”, in low light still “satisfactory with tendency too good”. In video, the product tester with the single grade 3.7, however, only come to a “sufficient”. The conclusion of Stiftung Warentest :
»Good outdoor camera (shockproof, dustproof and waterproof). Especially good in the eye test. Very good monitor, fast camera, many extras and functions. «
However, the testers complain about the imaging performance of the lens, which does not always ensure razor-sharp images on the edge.
Here, too, the TG-4 is test winner and achieves the title »Best Outdoor and Underwater Camera.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5
The Lumix DMC-FT5 from Panasonic has similarly good handling qualities as the Olympus Tough TG-4 . It is watertight to a depth of twelve meters and also withstands falls from up to two meters in height. With 28 to 128 millimeters, it also has a slightly larger zoom range than the Olympus.
However, the Lumix FT5 has a significantly fainter lens and does not come close to the image quality of the Olympus. But she is also a good deal cheaper.
An almost as large zoom range is available on the Nikon Coolpix AW130 , namely 24 to 120 millimeters. It does not offer quite as many adjustment options as the Olympus, but is still well equipped. The AW130 dives deeper than most other outdoor cameras, up to 30 meters.
The predecessor model AW120 even performed better in the test of the Stiftung Warentest than the Lumix from Panasonic and was just able to get the test victory. The reason for this was basically the slightly better shake protection of the Coolpix. The Stiftung Warentest had not yet tested our favorite at that time, but today it comes on a better rating than the AW120.
Fujifilm FinePix XP90
Interesting for savers is the brand new FinePix XP90 from Fujifilm.
The FinePix also shines with a wide zoom range of 28 to 140 millimeters, but the lens is relatively faint. This makes the camera less suitable for taking pictures at dusk or under water.
But if you are just looking for a cheap, rugged camera for a family holiday on the beach and do not go for extended dives, the Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is a good choice.