One of the Olympus TG-1's headline features – its f/2.0 lens – proves to be a considerable asset when it comes to image quality and low light performance. Unlike many of its rivals, which tend to be equipped with slower lenses, the Olympus TG-1's lens proves its worth when the light begins to fade, enabling faster shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities to be maintained, and producing better quality images as a result.
Unlike a DSLR or CSC, however, the Olympus TG-1's fast optic doesn't offer the same scope to produce shallow depth of field effects; a trait that remains difficult to achieve with smaller compact camera sensors.
You can, however, create a similar effect by employing one the Olympus TG-1's creative Magic Filters: select the Miniature option and you can generate shots that look convincingly like they've been taken using a tilt/shift (perspective control) lens.
While we wouldn't exactly describe the image quality from the Olympus TG-1 as 'DSLR-like' we can report that it is very good indeed. Shots taken at low ISOs are generally sharp, detailed and noise-free, with this continuing up to around ISO 800. Beyond this point things get softer and noisier, with ISO 3200 being about as far as we'd recommend pushing it in an emergency.
It's worth noting, however, that the need to shoot at higher ISO sensitivities is minimal in most low-light situations: that superb f/2.0 lens is a saving grace when it comes to helping to keep the sensitivity range at the lower end of the scale.
Videos shot with the Olympus TG-1 are pretty pleasing for the most part, although the sensor-shift image stabilisation doesn't manage to keep things as smooth as we'd like when shooting at telephoto settings.
Sound recording is good, although you will pick up operational sounds such as focusing and zooming while filming in quieter environments.
Another marked improvement over previous Olympus Tough models is evident in the Olympus TG-1's operating speed. It's quick to start up, and shot-to-shot times are noticeably quicker than those of its predecessors.
Action enthusiasts will also be pleased to see the inclusion of a dedicated sports mode on the camera's mode dial, which enables continuous capture of full resolution stills at up to 5fps (reduce the resolution to 3MP and you can achieve speeds of 15fps or 60fps).