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Olympus Tough TG-6 review

In our Olympus Tough TG-6 review, we test whether this underwater shooter really is the best tough compact

Olympus Tough TG-6 review image of red and black cameras on rock surface surrounded by water
(Image: © Olympus)

Our Verdict

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is the best tough compact for photography and video in extreme conditions. Its small sensor means that image quality is unavoidably unexceptional, but this is simply a fact of this camera type. So as long as you temper your expectations, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. With lots of clever shooting modes, a high-quality lens and extensive video options, this is an ideal camera for holidays and underwater exploration.

For

  • Tank-like construction
  • Zoom lens with f/2
  • Super slow-mo video

Against

  • Middling image quality
  • Over-zealous noise control

In our Olympus Tough TG-6 review, we’re going to look at a camera that shows off the best – and the worst – of what waterproof compacts can do. Ultra-rugged and prepared for anything, the Tough TG-6 can be submerged in water down to depths of 15m, frozen in temperatures as low as -10°C, dropped from heights of up to 2.1m and crushed with a force of 100kgf – and it’ll keep on snapping.

Tech specs

• 12MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS sensor
• 25-100mm equivalent, f/2-4.9 lens
• Waterproof to 15m, shockproof from 2.1m, crushproof to 100kgf, freezeproof to -10°C, dustproof
• 20fps continuous shooting
• 3-inch, 1,040k-dot tilting LCD
• 4K video at 30p
• 113 x 66 x 32 mm
• 253g body-only (with battery and memory card)

As the name implies, this is the sixth camera in the Tough TG series from Olympus. First released in 2019, it retains a formula that has remained basically the same since the TG-1 – pairing a 1/2.3-inch sensor with a 25-100mm equivalent lens, providing an imaging combination that isn't going to blow anyone away but works well enough for photography in the water and out. 

I've used a succession of Olympus Tough TG cameras, in the water and out and am firmly off the opinion that they are the best tough compacts you can buy. The TG-6 may not be one of the best cameras in terms of image quality, but its broad utility makes it a contender for one of the best cameras for beginners or the best point-and-shoot cameras

A 1/2.3-inch sensor is about the same size as those commonly found in smartphones – and phone cameras are getting smarter all the time. Does the Olympus Tough TG-6 do enough to be worth buying now? With a few years under the camera’s belt, and the future of Olympus Tough cameras a little uncertain following the sale of the Olympus imaging division in 2021, we took the camera out for a spin to see if it’s still worth buying. 

Olympus Tough TG-6 review: build and handling

Angled front view of Olympus Tough TG-6 camera

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a little tank (Image credit: Olympus)

As already mentioned, the Tough TG-6 is a little tank of a camera. Bash it around, chuck it in the sea, bury it in snow – it’ll keep on ticking. If you want to dive deeper than 15m, there’s an underwater housing you can buy separately, and there are also conversion lenses for wide-angle and fisheye, allowing you to expand the utility of the fixed zoom lens – though again, these will cost more.

A dual-pane protective glass construction on the rear LCD screen provides superior anti-fogging – though be aware that it does scratch rather easily, which can be a little annoying. Image composition is done entirely via the screen – there’s no viewfinder to speak of – so that provides extra incentive to keep it scratch-free if you can.

Rear image of Olympus Tough TG-6 compact camera, showing LCD screen settings, on white background

Image composition on the Olympus Tough TG-6 compact is entirely via the screen (Image credit: Olympus)

The various doors and ports around the camera all have double-catch mechanisms – essentially dual locks that add a layer of redundancy to protect them from accidentally opening underwater. They’re somewhat fiddly to open and close, but frankly, underwater photography is a fiddly business no matter what camera you use. It’s just in the nature of the game. What is a little disappointing though is that the charging port is still a micro USB, rather than the faster and more robust USB-C, which had already made it well into common use by 2019. 

Angled side view of Olympus Tough TG-6 compact camera, showing open USB ports

The Olympus Tough TG-6 went for micro-USB for charging (Image credit: Olympus)

Still, Olympus has otherwise packed a lot of tech into the fairly diminutive Tough TG-6. It’s an outdoor camera through and through, with environmental tools like an altimeter/depth gauge, compass, thermometer, GPS and accelerometer. The top plate buttons are large and easy to use without being comically oversized.

Top view of Olympus Tough TG-6 compact camera on white background

The top plate buttons are large and easy to use (Image credit: Olympus)

Olympus Tough TG-6 review: performance

The Olympus Tough TG-6 has a pleasant sense of immediacy to it. Turn it on, and it’s ready to shoot from cold within a few seconds. Your manual control of shooting settings is quite limited – you’ve got three aperture settings and some situation-specific auto modes (Underwater etc), so this isn’t a camera for those who like to fine-tune their exposures.

After using the Tough TG-6 for an extended period, both in the water and on land, I would describe the image quality as decent without being great. As mentioned, the 1/2.3-inch sensor is about the same size as you’d find in a smartphone, and without the many digital smoothing tricks that smartphones come loaded with these days, they’ll look at first glance, slightly inferior to the images you get from your phone. Then again, your phone can’t go 15m underwater (yet), so there’s that.

Image of Olympus Tough TG-6 outdoors being splashed with water

No worries about getting the Olympus Tough TG-6 wet (Image credit: Olympus)

You do get RAW support in the TG-6, which other tough cameras tend not to have, and is a nice addition for those who like to tune-up their images in the best photo editing software after the fact. You can even convert them in-camera, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever bother – there’s not a lot of point in shooting RAW if you aren’t going to process them yourself; you might as well just stick to JPEG. One thing I would say though if you are shooting JPEGs – delve into the settings and turn down the Noise Reduction. It’s a little over-enthusiastic, smoothing away a surprising amount of detail and sharpness in a camera that’s already somewhat lacking in that department.

It may sound like we’re down on the Olympus TG-6 – but that’s really not the case. Having an f/2 lens puts it ahead of basically any other tough compact in terms of low-light performance and versatility, and its optical zoom lens and ergonomic form factor give it solid advantages over a GoPro. It’s just important to view the camera in context. It won’t produce incredible, mind-blowing images that can be blown up on billboards, but it will do exactly what it’s designed to do – produce decent-looking images in challenging conditions for a fairly reasonable price.

Olympus Tough TG-6 review: video

The Olympus Tough TG-6 shoots 4K video at 30p and it’s absolutely fine – unexceptional, but about on par with a decent smartphone. What’s more interesting is the selection of high-frame-rate modes that have been added to this sixth iteration in the series. It can shoot at 120fps in Full HD, and if you drop the resolution to 720p or lower, you can capture video at a super-slow 480fps, which is fantastic for the kind of extreme sports shooting this camera is already well-equipped for. 

Olympus Tough TG-6 review: verdict

Angled rear view of Olympus Tough TG-6 compact camera on white background

The Olympus Tough TG-6 remains the best waterproof compact you can buy (Image credit: Olympus)

This is the best waterproof tough compact you can buy, with all the positives and negatives that the descriptor implies. It can shoot and keep on shooting in tough conditions that would instantly murder a normal camera, and it has a number of features that other tough compacts simply don’t, like an f/2 aperture and RAW support. It also inevitably has all the pitfalls that tough compact shooters have had to get used to, namely the small sensor and the middling image quality that results from it. 

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The Verdict
7

out of 10

Olympus Tough TG-6

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is the best tough compact for photography and video in extreme conditions. Its small sensor means that image quality is unavoidably unexceptional, but this is simply a fact of this camera type. So as long as you temper your expectations, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. With lots of clever shooting modes, a high-quality lens and extensive video options, this is an ideal camera for holidays and underwater exploration.

Jon is a freelance writer and journalist who covers photography, art, technology, and the intersection of all three. When he's not scouting out news on the latest gadgets, he likes to play around with film cameras that were manufactured before he was born. To that end, he never goes anywhere without his Olympus XA2, loaded with a fresh roll of Kodak (Gold 200 is the best, since you asked). Jon is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq, and has also written for in Digital Camera World, Black + White Photography Magazine, Photomonitor, Outdoor Photography, Shortlist and probably a few others he's forgetting.