Olympus TG-850 Review

November 20, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


From the Tough stable of Olympus Stylus digital compact cameras, comes the TG-850. Featuring an interesting array of features such as full proofing against water, being dropped and cold snaps, a tilting LCD screen, a 21mm wide-angle lens and interval shooting. Available in white or black, the Olympus TG-850 costs around £230 /$250.

Ease of Use

Opening the box of the Olympus Tough TG-850 reveals a CD that holds the full instruction manual as well as a basic editing suite called Olympus Viewer 3. There's also a Basic Manual that looks quite thick, but is in 29 different languages.  Lift up the flap that keeps the disc and guide separate from the main body of the box and you'll find the camera sitting below. It's joined by a lithium ion battery, wrist strap, charging unit, mains cable and USB lead. The latter acts as the cable to plug into the camera in order to charge it with the other end going into the charging unit.

The Olympus Tough series of cameras all feature the design that was made popular by early Minolta digital cameras whereby the lens had a mirror situated behind it. This reflected the image at an angle towards the location of the sensor which could be on the side wall or the bottom of the camera. We wanted to know if the mirror system was still in use or if a revolutionary breakthrough had happened and was now being used. We managed to get in touch with Olympus Japan who confirmed that the same technology is employed. They said: “We are using bending lens unit while normal camera which have a lens on center is using straight unit. Bending unit means that the light will bend inside this lens unit by using the mirror parts. We are using this from past models, so nothing is new from bend/straight point of view.” What the lens also has is a lens shifting image stabiliser, which is something that hasn't been seen on a camera like this. This is coupled with a 21mm wide-angle lens. The TG-850 is also the first Tough style camera to sport a lens this wide.

Olympus TG-850

The rest of the camera is an interesting design and has some great features on it. Because of the way the front of the camera is designed, it appears to be longer than it should be – as though an extra piece has been tacked on to the side. It's down to the gloss paint (more noticeable on the white version that we tested) as it contrasts more with the rest of the body. Even though Olympus have a habit of making their waterproof cameras look like normal everyday cameras, there's still a couple of rivets on the front to make sure people know that it's waterproof. For some reason this seems to be a running theme with all waterproof cameras, even though it seemingly bears no advantage to the camera other than to set it apart from cameras that aren't waterproof.

On the back of the camera is one of the most interesting features on the TG-850. It sports a tilting screen that can flip over 180º so that it's facing the same way as the lens. This is great for self portraits but also helps with wanting to photograph in unusual angles. Low viewpoints can be perfectly taken, such as underwater while you remain safe and dry on land, but to shoot over something (high up), you'd have to turn the camera upside down and flip the image while in processing. This is because the screen doesn't flip round sideways and it's not a difficult job for what you presumably save in the cost of a waterproof camera with a fully articulating screen.

Olympus have gone all out on making the TG-850 THE camera to choose when wanting the best quality pictures whether you're underwater or not. As well as the aforementioned lens system with image stabilisers and wide-angle focal start point, they've also fitted the TG-850 with a 16 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. Olympus call it iHS, which stands for Intelligence, High Sensitivity and High Speed. You can't deny that iHS sounds better than iHSHS. For those of you unfamiliar with BSI technology, it moves the circuits usually found around each pixel onto the rear of the sensor. This opens up the pixel and allows more light in it, so it performs better in the dark. To look at the sensor, it would look like a traditional sensor has been fitted backwards, so when the light hits it, it's being illuminated on the back. BSI stands for Back-Side Illuminated. Once the sensor has captured the image, it goes through the processor and Olympus have used the TruePic VII. Their newest version of the dedicated imaging processor. We're very interested to see the photographs that this camera can yield.

Olympus TG-850

We need to at least touch on the proofing capability of the TG-850. After all, it is a Tough camera. The camera is shock-proof to a height of 2.1m or 7ft in imperial measurements. That's on the higher side of standard and means that if you have a clumsy 6ft tall person living with you, the camera is still pretty safe. It can also withstand pressure of 100kg. That's likely more linked to the depth that the camera go underwater to, which is 10m. This depth is more or less a standard distance for these types of cameras and after the obvious increase in shock-proofing, we would have really liked to see an increase in depth resistance.

The Olympus Tough TG-850 has two main menu systems. The Function menu is situated to the right of the screen. Pressing the OK button or any of the directional buttons surrounding it will open up this menu. If you press one of the buttons that have a designation (such as down, for Flash options) then the Function menu will open at that setting. As you scroll through various options on the command dial, the amount of options on the screen will change.

Olympus TG-850

The Main menu is located toward the bottom of the camera. It opens up a more comprehensive list of functions that will adjust the camera's more core features. The menu is split into four sections with two of them sporting multiple pages. In the first section titled Camera menu, you can make changes to how the camera takes pictures, such as focus and metering, compression and shadow adjustment. Comparably, the Video menu only has four options.  The Playback menu is also here but uses only one page, while the Set up menu has two pages of options for you to choose from.

Start up from cold is extremely fast with the camera powering on, focusing and taking a picture in around 1.2sec. The average has dropped recently from 2sec to around 1.5-1.8sec, so this is a brilliant improvement.

Olympus TG-850

The TG-850 has two sequential modes and two burst modes. The sequential modes work slower and more consistently than the burst modes which rattle pictures off in a short time before stopping when the buffer gets full. They're divided by a 1 and 2 but they do perform differently as well.  Sequential 1 has an average frames per second (fps) rate of around 2.6. We managed to take 26 images in a ten second period and the camera never slowed or faltered. It also downloaded the images by 19 seconds. Sequential 2 is seemingly more of a burst mode. The cameras took six images in 1 second before downloading. It recovered and took another five pictures five seconds later, then a further four pictures at just under 9 seconds.

As we mentioned there are two high speed burst modes and this is arguably what sets Sequential 2 apart. In Hi1, the camera took 20fps to a maximum of 60 frames in a three second period. Don't be fooled, the camera drops the resolution to 2.7 megapixels in order to speed things up, but it's still a good feature to use if you have some fast moving subjects. The pictures are the ideal size for loading onto a social media site, too. Hi2 goes on step beyond and takes a total of 60 frames in one second. The resolution is still reduced and in fact is the same as Hi1. It's your choice which one you want to use.

Olympus TG-850

Plaayback on the TG-850 can be switched on by pressing the playback button on the back of the camera. This can be performed whether the camera is switched on or not. Pressing the Info button will scroll through various viewing options such as no information on screen, some information and indepth. The latter shows critical information such as the shooting mode, ISO setting, resolution shot at, white-balance and also a Histogram.

The Playback menu is available in the Main menu but by pressing the Menu button when in playback, the camera defaults you straight to the Playback tab of the Main menu.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.


Noise levels at ISO 125 are non-existent. Edges are sharp and there's not even any black & white noise (salt & pepper). In fact, noise doesn't really start to show until ISO 400 and even then it's only minor amounts of distortion that can be seen at full magnification. By ISO 800, it has become a little more obvious and noise reduction is clearly at work, smoothing out the colours to eradicate colour noise. Mid-tones and highlights are still unaffected and while noticeably changing, sharp edges are still pleasing.

ISO 1600 is where it all changes with big drop in image quality. Noise starts interfering a bit too much and as well as the darker areas getting the sharp end of the noise stick, sharp edges are starting to be less defined and a bit wobbly.

Small, detailed areas of colour are obliterated and unusable at ISO 3200. Noise overwhelms all areas of the photograph. To the camera's credit; it takes getting to ISO 6400 for obvious blobs of colour to run through the photograph. Despite the issues presented here, the noise performance of the TG-850 is very good. This must be credited to the back-illuminated sensor, wide-angle lens (as it will let more light in) and the dedicated TruePic VII processor.

There are 7 ISO settings available on the Olympus TG-850. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Olympus Tough TG-850 has a 5x optical zoom which starts at 21mm and zooms out to a modest 105mm. There's an amount of barrel distortion at wide-angle but not as much as we expected to see.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Although we only used a standard sharpening amount in order to test the JPEG files, we found that, while very sharp on there own, the TG-850 does benefit from a little boost in an editing suite. However, if there's a lot of noise in the picture, this can have a tendency to exacerbate and reduce the overall quality of viewing.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

Should you decide to free up some space on your memory card, you can opt to adjust the compression of the resolution. You can choose between High and Normal. In our test, the High setting produced an image around 6.8Mb. Knocking it down to Normal practically halved the resolution to around 3.7Mb.

16M Fine (100% Crop) 16M Normal (100% Crop)
quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

We managed to identify some chromatic aberration at the far edges of the frame. However, because of the wide-angle view of the lens, this tends to be quite distorted and blurred, so not very easy to see. You may therefore decide that it's not harsh enough to consider a problem.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Olympus Tough TG-850 has a Supermacro mode on its command dial which you need to switch to in order to focus down to 1cm. We found that the main issue with this mode is getting enough light between the lens and the subject. If you don't use the Supermacro mode, the closest that the TG-850 will focus to is 10cm, which isn't a useful close focusing result. However, it has to be noted that the camera can focus to 10cm even at full zoom, which is very useful for sending backgrounds out of focus.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


With the flash turned off, the camera doesn't show any obvious signs of vignetting at wide-angle or full zoom. However, it does occur when the flash is on. Certainly at wide-angle, at least. It's less so at full zoom, but on a plain white wall, it's still noticeable.

Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Fill-in - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Fill-in - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

We're pleased to see that the red-eye reduction system works well. A portrait with flash does produce red-eye and when red-eye reduction is switched on there is a definite reduction in the pupil.


Fill-in (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The TG-850 has a dedicated Night scene mode in the Scenes setting on the command dial. The advantage of using this mode is that the camera is allowed to select a longer shutter speed than when in Program mode. The latter meaning you have to select a higher ISO in order to get a balanced exposure. The camera will also assume you're resting the camera, so will choose a low ISO. Our test used a 4sec exposure, so hand holding the camera isn't an option.

Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)

night_program.jpg night_program_crop.jpg

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene_crop.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus TG-850 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 36 second movie is 82Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus TG-850

Front of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Side of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Side of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Image Displayed

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Turned On

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / OK Menu

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Main Menu

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Main Menu


Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Main Menu

Olympus TG-850

Rear of the Olympus TG-850 / Effects Menu

Olympus TG-850

Front of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Front of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Top of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Bottom of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Side of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Side of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Front of the Olympus TG-850

Olympus TG-850

Memory Card Slot / Battery Compartment

Olympus TG-850

Memory Card Slot

Olympus TG-850

Battery Compartment


Arguably, the biggest surprise of the TG-850 is how good the image quality is. That's by no means a derisory comment towards Olympus, but more towards Tough style cameras as a concept. Typically – and based on other reviews of similar style cameras from all manufacturers – image quality is low down on the list of priorities, but here Olympus seem to be getting it right in most places. Sure, the tough capabilities aren't the best, but the other features are better than what we've seen on similar models.

Using the camera is very easy. Olympus have kept the menu system plain and simple to use. The black background and yellow highlight is extremely clear. Using the flip up screen certainly helps with getting low down and if you're not in the water as well, you'll find it will be easier to see the image you're shooting. However, it would be a lot easier if the screen rotated as well, although we understand the difficulties with this.

Shock and waterproof technology has improved over the years. A 10m depth is enough for light scuba and snorkelling but the improvement on the TG-850 is with the drop height. 2.1m drop height is ample for most people, so we weren't concerned when a clumsy four year old grabbed it and started taking pictures.

Picture quality is lovely from the TG-850. However, we did find that the pictures seen on the review screen of the camera look a little paler than what is actually seen at home on a computer monitor. So don't worry too much about a pale image.

With the rise on popularity of smart phones with built in cameras, it can be tricky pricing a camera to be competitive. Even waterproof cameras can't escape with certain Sony phones being waterproof. What the Olympus offers is a far superior proofing capability and image quality to ensure you have a much better photographic experience than you'd get just with a mobile.

If you're going on holiday and have kids, then a camera like this is something you need to consider. It looks like a normal camera and has the added benefit of helping with self portraits. Travellers may look at a camera like this to cope with all areas of the world they may want to visit, but the downside is that the TG-850 has a separate charger. It may not sound much, but it takes up extra precious space that could be used for something else.

If you're in the market for a waterproof camera that looks good and provides very good image quality, then the Olympus TG-850 is a worthy model to consider.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus TG-850.

Canon PowerShot D30

The Canon PowerShot D30 is an action compact camera that's waterproof to an impressive 25m, as well as being dust, freeze and shock proof. The Canon D30 also offers12 megapixels, a 5x zoom, 1080p HD video, built-in GPS and a 3-inch screen. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot D30 review now...

Fujifilm FinePix XP70

The Fujifilm FinePix XP70 is a tough water, freeze, shock and dust proof 16 megapixel compact camera. The XP70 also offers built-in wi-fi, 10fps burst shooting, 1080i HD movies, a 5x zoom lens and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. Read our expert Fujifilm FinePix XP70 review now...

Nikon Coolpix AW120

The Coolpix AW120 is Nikon's latest all-action compact camera. The 16 megapixel Nikon AW120 has a 5x zoom lens (24-120mm), 3 inch OLED 921K-dot screen, built-in GPS and wi-fi, 8fps burst shooting and can record full 1080p video. Read our Nikon Coolpix AW120 review to find out if it's the right tough camera for you...

Olympus Tough TG-3

The Olympus Tough TG-3 is a new water, freeze, shock and dust proof compact camera for 2014. Boasting a fast f2.0 aperture high-speed lens, the 16 megapixel TG-3 also offers built-in wi-fi and GPS connectivity, 1080p HD movies, a 4x zoom lens and a 3 inch OLED screen. Read our Olympus Tough TG-3 review to find out what this all-action camera is capable of...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 is a new freeze, shock, water and dust proof camera. The well-appointed Panasonic FT5 also features built-in GPS, wi-fi and NFC functionality, a compass, altimeter and barometer, 4.6x zoom, 1920x1080 full-HD movie recording and a 16 megapixel sensor. Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 review to find out if this is the best do-it-all camera for your family....

Ricoh WG-4 GPS

The Ricoh WG-4 GPS is a new shock, freeze, dust, water and crush proof compact camera with built-in GPS tracking. The Ricoh WG4 GPS also offers 16 megapixels, a 3-inch LCD, a 4x zoom lens, Full HD movie recording and built-in LED macro lights. Read our in-depth Ricoh WG-4 GPS review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus TG-850 from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 is a waterproof, freezeproof, crushproof and shockproof digital camera from Olympus, with an ultra wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens, and a tilting 3inch screen, ideal for self-portraits.
Read the full review »

petapixel.com »

Beaches, babes, sun and surf. It’s summer, and that equals one thing: you can’t take your precious DSLR to the beach. Well, not unless you want to gamble on a costly repair bill after butterfingers drops it in the sand. The beach is a time for relaxation, not being an overly protective nanny of the expensive camera that mom won’t let you get wet.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Effective pixels

    16 Megapixels

  • Filter array

    Primary colour filter (RGB)

  • Full resolution

    16.8 Megapixels

  • Type

    1/2.3'' CMOS


  • Optical zoom

    5x (WIDE)

  • Focal length

    3.74 - 18.7mm

  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm)

    21 - 105mm

  • Structure

    10 lenses / 8 groups

  • Aspherical glass elements


  • Maximum aperture

    3.5 - 5.7

Digital Zoom

  • Enlargement factor

    4x / 20x combined with optical zoom

  • Super Resolution Zoom

    2x / 10x combined with optical zoom


  • Monitor type


  • Monitor size

    7.6cm / 3.0'' (16:9)

  • Resolution

    460000 dots

  • Brightness adjustment

    +/- 2 levels

  • Frame assistance


  • Protection panel


Focusing System

  • Method

    TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection

  • Modes

    • iESP
    • Face Detection AF
    • Spot
    • AF Tracking
  • Standard mode

    0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.1m - ∞ (tele)

  • Super Macro Mode

    Closest focusing distance: 1cm

  • AF lock


  • AF illuminator


Light Metering

  • Histogram in shooting mode


  • Modes

    • ESP light metering
    • Spot metering

Exposure System

  • Modes

    • i-Auto
    • Programme automatic
    • Super Macro
    • Scene Modes
    • Art Filter
    • Panorama
    • Hand-held Starlight
    • e-Portrait
  • Shutter speed

    1/2 - 1/2000s / < 4s (Night scene)

  • Exposure compensation

    +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps

  • Enhancement function

    Mechanical Image Stabiliser (Lens shift)

  • Advanced Face Detection Technology

  • Shadow Adjustment Technology

Scene Modes

  • Number of scene modes


  • Modes

    • Portrait
    • Landscape
    • Interval shooting
    • Night Scene
    • Night Scene with portrait
    • Sports
    • Indoor
    • Self-portrait
    • Sunset
    • Fireworks
    • Cuisine
    • Documents
    • Beach and Snow
    • Underwater Snapshot
    • Underwater Wide 1
    • Underwater Wide 2
    • Underwater Macro
    • Backlight HDR

Art Filter

  • Modes

    • Pop Art
    • Soft Focus
    • Pale & Light Colour
    • Grainy Film
    • Pin Hole
    • Diorama
    • Dramatic Tone


  • Auto

    AUTO / High AUTO

  • Manual

    ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

White Balance

  • AUTO WB system


  • Preset values

    • Overcast
    • Sunlight
    • Tungsten
    • Underwater
    • Flourescent 1
  • One-touch white balance

    1 custom settings can be registered

Internal Flash

  • Modes

    • AUTO
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Fill-in
    • Off
  • Working range (wide)

    0.12 - 4m (ISO 1600)

  • Working range (tele)

    0.1 - 2.5m (ISO 1600)

Sequence Shooting

  • Reduced resolution

    60fps / 60 frames (in 3MP mode)

  • 20fps / 60 frames

  • Full resolution

    7fps / 6 frames (Full Image Size)

  • 2.5fps / 200 frames

  • Interval shooting


Image Processing

  • Pixel mapping


  • Noise reduction


  • Engine

    TruePic VII

  • Distortion compensation


  • Shading compensation


Image Editing

  • Editing functions

    • Resize
    • Trimming
    • Correction of saturation
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Shadow Adjustment

Movie Editing

  • Still Image Cropping


  • Edit movie


View Images

  • Modes

    • Single
    • Index
    • Zoom
    • Slide show
  • Index

    5 x 4 frames

  • Zoom

    Yes 1.1 - 10x

  • Auto rotation


  • Image protect mode


  • Histogram in playback mode


View Movie

  • Modes

    • Frame by frame
    • Fast forward
    • Reverse playback

Still Image Recording

  • DCF


  • EXIF


  • PIM


  • DPS


  • DPOF


Movie Recording System

  • Recording format

    QuickTime Motion JPEG®

  • Image Stabilisation Mode

    Hybrid lens shift + digital (5-axis)

  • HD Movie quality

    1080 60P Recording time: 29min.

  • 720P Recording time: 29min.

  • Movie quality

    VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity

  • High-Speed Recording

    432 x 324 / 240fps 20sec.

  • VGA / 120fps Recording time: 20sec.

  • Note: maximum file size 4GB

  • When shooting 1080P/720P movies, use SDHC / SDXC class 6 or higher.

  • Art Filter

    • Pop Art
    • Soft Focus
    • Pale & Light Colour
    • Grainy Film
    • Pin Hole
    • Diorama
    • Dramatic Tone

Sound Recording System

  • Voice Playback


  • Sound recording

    Yes , format: PCM

  • Internal microphone


  • Image footage


  • Speaker



  • Internal memory


  • Removable Media

    SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I class supported)

  • Capacity


  • Eye-Fi Card compatible


  • FlashAir Card compatibility


Image Size

  • 16M

    4608 x 3456

  • 8M

    3264 x 2448

  • 3M

    2048 x 1536

  • VGA

    640 x 480

  • Aspect ratio

    4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1


  • Menu languages in camera


Tough Features

  • Shock resistant

    Shock-proof from heights of up to 2.1m *

  • Waterproof

    Waterproof up to a water pressure equivalent to 10m depth **

  • Freezeproof

    Freezeproof down to -10°C ***

  • Crushproof

    Crushproof up to 100kg ****

  • Dustproof


  • * Equivalent to MIL Standard (Olympus test conditions)

  • ** According to IEC standard publication 529 IPX8

  • *** According to Olympus test conditions

  • **** According to IEC standard publication 529 IPX6

Other Features

  • Premium functions

    iHS Technology

  • Perfect Shot Preview


  • Panorama function

    Smart Panorama

  • Self timer

    Delay: 2 / 12s / Custom

  • Menu guide


  • Date imprint


  • SNS upload


  • LED Illuminator


Power Supply

  • Battery

    LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Internal Charging



  • HDMI™

    Yes Micro connector (Type D) *

  • Wireless connectivity

    • Eye-Fi Card compatible
    • FlashAir
  • DC input


  • Combined A/V & USB output


  • USB 2.0 High Speed


  • * "HDMI", the HDMI logo and "High-Definition Multimedia Interface" are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.


  • Dimensions (W x H x D)

    109.9 x 64.1 x 27.6mm

  • Weight

    218g (including battery and memory card)


  • Material


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