The Oympus STYLUS TG-860 Tough is one of my favorite rugged waterproof cameras. When I used the Olympus TG-860 next to other waterproof cameras during testing on various rivers and lakes — thanks to the pros at B&H Photo Video — I started to appreciate the TG-860 more than I expected.
Olympus TG-860 Review
The TG-860 is snappy to start up and use, and it feels more nimble in the hand than the Olympus TG-4, Nikon AW130, or Panasonic TS6. The TG-860’s claim to fame is its flip up tilting LCD monitor. At first, I thought this was a selfie-taking sort of gimmick, but I found myself using it to help frame cool low-angle shots. For instance, if you want to get a water-level photo or video, the tilt screen lets you hold the TG-860 low to the water and get the shot or video. It’s pretty cool, actually.
As for durability, I thought it was just another moving part that could break, but I came to realize that it’s not something to worry about. Sure, if you drop it with the screen out, that might cause a break, but most of my drops come when I’m fumbling to get a camera in or out of a case or pocket, not when I’m trying to use it. The benefits of the tilt screen outweigh the cons.
Next, I liked the 21mm ultra wide-angle lens. Why? It’s great for shooting action-oriented video. For instance, I mounted the TG-860 on a chest harness and took it fly fishing. I was able to get some video without worrying about if the action would make it into the shot. The lens isn’t as wide-angle as what you’ll get on a GoPro action camera, but the TG-860 is more versatile. If, for example, you’re fly fishing and spot a family of otters frolicking on the far bank of the river, you have a 5x optical zoom lens to get you closer to the otters. This is a big deal if you care about taking photos like this (because the fixed lens on a GoPro will never zoom for you).
The last feature that meets my personal minimum specs for adventure cameras is the video resolution — I like to see at least 1080p at 60 frames per second. Why? 1080p gives you a fairly large resolution at a frame rate that is fairly smooth. Basically, 1080p at 60 fps will give you decent action with less blur than action-oriented video taken at 30 fps. (Of course, this is relative — if action video is your primary interest, get a GoPro or similar action camera.)
Olympus TG-860 Review: Waterproof and Rugged
The TG-860 is waterproof down to 50 feet, shockproof to 7 feet, crushproof to 220 pounds, and freezeproof to 14-degrees fahrenheit. It’s also dust, dirt, and mudproof.
The focal length is 3.74 – 18.7mm (which is roughly 35mm equivalent to 21 – 105mm). The 5x optical zoom lens includes image stabilization.
The TG-860 has a bunch of built-in art filters like soft focus, grainy film, and diorama, as well as multiple shooting modes, including landscape, night scene, hand-held starlight, fireworks, underwater snapshot, underwater wide, underwater macro, etc. You get the idea here, and while the TG-860 has these modes, most people don’t buy rugged waterproof cameras for the built-in art filters or even the shooting scene modes, but if you want to take photos of fireworks, you’ve got a mode for it.
Here’s another handy feature: The TG-860 has two customizable buttons, so you can customize a mode that fits your common needs.
Olympus TG-860 Review: Built-in GPS and WiFi
The TG-860 includes built-in GPS so you can tag your photos with the backcountry location — this is pretty cool if you’re into that. With Olympus’ OI.Share app, you can control multiple camera functions from your smartphone via built-in WiFI, remotely, so you can set the TG-860 to take photos or video while you’re busy doing something cool — or just take a group photo while you’re up on top of some awesome mountain.
Basically, the TG-860 has all the core features most people need in a rugged waterproof camera.
It’s an easy camera to like.
If you favor more versatile video over photos, choose the TG-860 over the TG-4 and over the AW130. The Panasonic TS6 has a slight edge over the TG-860 in photo quality — slight — but the TG-860 form factor is more versatile: you get the flip up the screen, the wider angle lens, and if you get the add-on Sport Holder, you can attach the TG-860 to a backpack strap and use it like an action camera.
Oh, one more thing: Get a high-quality, fast SD card so that you have no problems recording 1080p video at 60 fps or shooting burst photos. I like the SanDisk Extreme Pro series for the price-to-value ratio [see bottom for links].
TG-860 vs TG-870
The newer TG-870 is only a very slight upgrade over the TG-860. How slight? The tilt screen is a bit sharper — the newer screen packs in 920,000 pixels vs 460,000 pixels. This will show you more detail on the screen but doesn’t affect photo or video quality. The new screen is slightly brighter, too. What else is new? You get a few more art filters, like Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, and Key Line.
Of course, I must admit, the new green version available in the TG-870 looks fantastic.