OM System’s first compact camera is the OM System Tough TG-7
Recently, the Olympus Tough TG-6 was discontinued, and now we know why. OM System has today announced the new OM System Tough TG-7 (buy here). It’s the latest iteration of the popular Olympus Tough series compact cameras.
At least, popular enough to survive the slaughter of compact cameras at the hands of smartphones. But how has the Tough TG-7 improved on the TG-6? Is it really worth buying? Or upgrading for existing Tough TG-6/5 owners?
A recent history of the Tough TG series
With the introduction of the Olympus Tough TG-5 in 2017, the product line reached a very respectable level. The Tough TG-5 came with a new 12MP sensor capable of shooting 4K video and presented much less noise than the TG-4’s 1080p video.
When the Olympus Tough TG-6 was announced in 2019, though, very little changed. In fact, pretty much nothing changed except for the rear LCD, which increased in resolution from 460 thousand pixels to 1.04 million pixels.
The Olympus Tough TG-6 was essentially a tiny incremental update for new users looking to buy an underwater compact. It wasn’t really an “upgrade” for the Tough TG-5.
There hasn’t been a release since 2019, probably mostly due to the Olympus camera division changing hands. Olympus sold it to JIP, and it was later rebranded as OM System. And now we finally have a new model of the Tough TG series rugged compact camera.
It loses the Olympus name, of course. It’s now the OM System Tough TG-7.
What’s new with the OM System Tough TG-7?
Well, there’s good news and bad news. The “bad” is that its core features still remain largely the same as the Tough TG-6 (and the Tough TG-5). It still features a 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, it still contains a 25-100mm equivalent f/2.0-4.9 lens, and it shoots 4K 30fps video.
It still provides unmatched ruggedness and durability in its class. It’s drop-proof from 2.1 metres (~6.9ft), freeze-proof to -10°C (~14°F) and crushproof to 100kg (~220lb) of force. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 15 metres (~50ft) without any external housing and has an IP6x dustproof rating, offering complete protection from dust.
So, what really is new? Well, the “good” is that there are a few nice (but minor) upgrades. They’re largely quality-of-life upgrades rather than quality-of-image upgrades. The sensor in the TG-7 is the same as that found in the TG-6 and TG-5, so it produces the results you’ve come to expect.
It still has a 3″ TFT display on the back, although it’s said to be much more colour-accurate than it was in the Tough TG-6. This might not be a big deal to a lot of people who only rely on the LCD for composition and focus, but anything that’s easier to see and looks more accurate is going to be a bonus.
One area that is a nice upgrade is a slightly redesigned grip. Looking at images of the camera, it now seems to sport fins that should provide easier gripping abilities. This is kind of important when you’re underwater with your wrinkled-up fingers trying to hold onto a camera.
Interval Timer Shooting and Exposure Smoothing
One very nice addition to the OM System Tough TG-7 is an update to the interval timer shooting mode. This allows you to shoot timelapses with image sequences of up to 299 images. Once the sequence is complete, a video file is automatically made in the camera.
Interval timer shooting isn’t new to the Tough series, but what is new is exposure smoothing. This deals with exposure differences from one frame to the next – which can be common outdoors when the sun bounces in and out from behind clouds.
It prevents the juddery and jarring differences from one frame to the next as the exposure changes. This is also done in-camera and allows you to create a timelapse sequence with a nice, smooth, exposures throughout.
Two key features for social media content creators
Another update to the Tough TG-7 over its predecessor is the introduction of vertical shooting mode. As the name suggests, it allows you to shoot vertical video natively within the camera. Of course, you can shoot vertical video with any camera. Just rotate it 90 degrees and shoot, right?
Well, yes, but the Tough TG-7 actually acknowledges the orientation of the camera when shooting vertically so that the video files it produces are actually vertical. So, you don’t have to rely on having editing software that lets you rotate the clips.
Another big upgrade for social media shooters is that the camera now features a fast USB-C port. This means you can quickly and easily unload footage and photos straight from the camera to your phone over a USB-C to USB-C cable.
Sure, you could do this with the micro USB connection of its predecessor with the right cable, but USB-C is a much less delicate socket, and it’s a whole heck of a lot faster to transfer files with, too. Naturally, you can also connect this to a laptop for fast, easy transfers for use with video editing software like DaVinci Resolve or Premiere Pro.
The USB-C socket can be used for charging the battery, although it cannot be used to power the camera. So, if you wanted to leave it up and running for ages on external power, this isn’t going to work.
Is it worth buying?
While the additions and upgrades to the Tough TG-7 are quite nice, for many Olympus Tough TG-6 users – and even Tough TG-5 – it’s probably not yet worth the upgrade. The core features of the camera haven’t changed.
The image and video quality haven’t changed. Sure, it’s got a more colour-accurate display, exposure smoothing for timelapse, vertical video and a USB-C socket, but that’s probably not going to be enough for most people over what they already have.
If you’re a new user, it gets a little trickier. This is mostly due to the fact that the OM System Tough TG-7 sees a slight price increase. Both the Olympus Tough TG-5 and Tough TG-6 were $499 at launch. The OM System Tough TG-7 adds a $50 premium to that price for the benefit of the new features.
You’re going have to decide for yourself whether that extra $50 is worth it for those features over the Tough TG-6 (while stocks still last at retailers) or if you might be better served hunting around the used market for a TG-5 or TG-6.
Price and Availability
If you feel the OM System Tough TG-7 is going to be worth it for you, then it’s available to pre-order now for $549 in either black or red. Shipping is expected to begin at the end of September.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.