Gear Review: Olympus Tough Gear TG-4 Camera

Maybe Piñata and I are a dying breed.  We (and by we I mean Piñata) carried an actual camera on the entire triple crown.  These days, most hikers use their phones.  Hikers especially interested and talented in photography carry higher-grade and heavier cameras (such as a Sony a600).  I don’t remember meeting anyone else who carried a point-and-shoot style camera on the trail.  But, using the phone only has a lot of drawbacks, particularly in bad weather.  So, without further ado, here are our thoughts on the camera that has walked over 7,800 miles with us.




See full specifications HERE

Weight: 8.7 oz

Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.2 inches

Waterproof: Up to 50 feet

Freezeproof: To 14F

Megapixels: 16.0

MSRP: $399

  • Please note there is a newer version of this camera available, the Olympus TG-5.  See more about it HERE.




It’s Tough

First of all, you can take pictures underwater.  Compare that to a phone, which must be protected around water and stowed away in any bad wet weather.  Also, we’ve dropped the camera a few times with no problems.  Dropping a phone may well be the end of that phone.  It also works in freezing temperatures – again, phones not so much.  This camera literally lived outside with us for a cumulative 15 months.  15 months of dirt, mud, rain, snow, heat, ice, and daily use.  It’s been through a lot and it’s ready for more.

Technically not an underwater photo, but the camera was partially submerged for this one.


Performance/Photo Quality

The TG-4 allows you to take RAW photos.  These uncompressed files take up more space but provide a better quality image than a JPEG and allow for more editing and corrections.  You’re not going to get the same photo quality as a DSLR camera, but you will get quality images that are superior to what you would get on your phone or on many point-and-shoot cameras.  The camera starts up fast and shoots fast with minimal lag.  We didn’t take a ton of videos, but the quality is decent on those videos we do have (although the audio is a little quiet).

Using macro (microscope) mode can be especially fun.


Another macro shot. The pine needles on the ground provide some scale.



We haven’t actually bought the add-ons for the camera, but you can attach a telephoto lens or a fisheye lens.  We do use the Wi-Fi features quite a lot.  I download the photos to my phone every day, which allows me to send and share photos from the trail when I have service.  We also use Wi-Fi to have remote control access, meaning we can take a photo of ourselves using the phone as a remote control.  There is more lag time with this feature, but it’s great when there is no one around to take a photo and you want more than just a selfie.  Built in GPS allows you to geotag your photos and also use the camera to check your GPS location or altitude.  And Piñata’s favorite feature is macro (microscopic) mode, which allows him to take super close-up photos and does a very nice job.

Using Wi-Fi to take the photo so we could all be in it. I’m on the far right of the photo, and my phone/remote control is setting on the monument next to Piñata’s foot (under the Canadian flag).

Battery Life

I can’t say we ever really tracked just how long the battery lasts.  All I can say is that we charge the camera only occasionally and we’ve never had battery problems.  Plus, it helps to preserve our phone batteries, since we’re not using our phones to take photos all the time.

Freezing mornings usually mean you have to protect all your electronics from the cold to keep the batteries from rapidly draining. It was not a worry with this camera.



Proprietary USB Port

The most annoying thing about the camera is you have to carry a dedicated cord to charge it.  It would be really nice if the camera worked with a micro-usb port like our phones, headlamps, and battery pack, and therefore just share the same charging cable.  Useless/redundant weight is a hiker’s enemy.

Fading Buttons

Maybe this is unfair, because we have used this camera very heavily.  But, the paint on the buttons is fading.  Since this is a tough camera, it would be nice if the buttons were etched, that way there would be no fading to worry about.  By this point we know which buttons are which so it’s not too much of an inconvenience.

No Lens Cap

We had to buy a lens cap separately.  You’d think a rugged camera would come with one, it kinda needs it.

Although it’s not the greatest photo, this was snapped during perhaps the heaviest downpour we ever hiked through, and I love that we were able to capture this moment I remember so well. You definitely can’t do this with a phone.



This is a great little camera that is best suited for rugged adventure travel.  You’ll get quality photos in nearly all conditions, particularly in cold or wet.  You have the freedom to play around with a variety of shooting modes, plus the ability to edit the RAW files later.  As we’re literally just now finally starting to organize and sort our photos from the past three years, all of the photos shown here are unedited JPEGs.