Olympus has earned a stellar reputation for its Tough line of cameras, which are widely regarded as the premier all-weather extreme compacts.
Indeed, the most ringing endorsement comes from an executive at a rival camera brand; despite the exec's company producing a competent all-weather compact of its own, they bought the new Tough instead because it was so much better.
The Olympus Tough TG-6 continues the tradition of best-in-class waterproof, impact-proof, kid-proof, everything-proof cameras – though in truth it's only a modest refresh of 2017's TG-5.
Which isn't a bad thing, since we ranked the TG-5 as both the best waterproof camera and in the top five best cameras for kids. As they say, if it ain't broke then don't fix it – and you'd really have to go some way to break this camera, as you can see in our video review:
Watch: Olympus Tough TG-6 video review
Olympus Tough TG-6: built to last
The TG-6 is as robust as they come. It's waterproof to 15m / 50ft, dustproof, shockproof1 to 2.1m / 7ft, crushproof up to 100kg / 220lbs, and freezeproof to -10°C / 14°F.
On top of that, it also features dual-pane protective glass construction for superior anti-fogging. In fact, the glass on the rear LCD screen appears quite a bit thicker than that of the TG-5 – your poor smartphone would wince at the punishment this screen can take.
Still, while it would take a hammer to actually crack it, the screen certainly will (and certainly did, in our tests) pick up marks and scratches, so don't expect the display to stay looking pristine if you're knocking it about.
That said, the lens itself seems quite impervious to fingerprints. We can't in good conscience call it a selling point, but it was a breath of fresh air not to have to wipe stray smudges off the lens every time we shot.
It is worth mentioning, however, that in our very first drop test (which you can see in the above video), the plastic thumb grip panel did pop off the body. It would be easy to reaffix, and doesn't affect the camera's operability, but it was a tad surprising to encounter such a weak spot. Nothing else came off in subsequent bash-testing.
Olympus Tough TG-6: key specs
Like its predecessor, the Olympus Tough TG-6 features a 12MP backlit 1/2.3" sensor. Which, on the surface, seems to be a puzzling downgrade from the 16MP sensor of the TG-4. However, having fewer pixels means that each photosite is bigger – meaning that this sensor performs better in low light situations. And that's not just when the sun goes down; when you're shooting underwater there is much less ambient light, so improved low light performance is vital for this camera.
To the same end, the TG-6 features a 4.5-18mm (25-100mm full-frame equivalent) lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/2 – though you can only shoot this wide at the 25mm end.
Combine all this with a 100-12,800 ISO range and you have a camera that delivers great images in good light, and performs admirably in challenging lighting conditions – obviously noise is going to be a factor with a sensor this small in low light, but files are still usable and the ability to shoot in RAW means that you can recover details.
It's also worth noting that the flash/LED is surprisingly practical on the TG-6. The flash can be manually controlled, in 18 increments from full power down to 1/64, and the LED lamp offers more natural looking light or fill if you don't need as much power.
The camera also boasts image stabilization for both stills and movies, as well as a GPS and Olympus' field sensor system that can record information such as location, altitude / depth and air / water temperature for your photos and videos.
Olympus Tough TG-6: key modes
New to the Tough TG-6 are a slew of high-speed recording modes for video. In addition to being able to shoot 4K video at 30fps, it can also record 1080p up to 120fps, 720p at 240fps and 360p at 480fps.
To record 120 frames at 1080p is a brilliant feature on a camera like this, making it a viable extreme camera to record footage for vlogs and blogs. And while most people are probably reluctant to drop all the way to 720 or 360p, the prospect of super slow-mo 480fps holiday videos should be enough to excite any Instagrammer.
Another new trick the TG-6 has over its older brother is a fresh underwater mode to complement the existing wide, snapshot, macro and HDR options: Underwater Microscope.
It has to be said that the macro and Microscope functions are among the absolute highlights of the TG-6. In addition to focus stacking and focus bracketing, the camera has an utterly insane close-focusing distance; on paper it can focus up to 1cm from the lens, but we were able to take shots with the subject literally hitting the lens and the camera still found focus.
For burst shooting, the TG-6 can shoot at 20fps and we were able to record 47 frames per burst. It also has a version of Pro Capture, found in the flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1X, which starts buffering shots when you half-press the shutter and keeps six images to make sure that you don't miss that critical moment.
Olympus Tough TG-6: verdict
At first glance – and even second and third glance – the Olympus Tough TG-6 seems indistinguishable from the TG-5. However, with a screen that's double the resolution, high speed video options and a new underwater mode, the TG-6 packs some worthwhile new features.
If you're looking for an outdoor camera that can go in the sea, get covered in sand, be dropped onto concrete, and still take pictures and video even in freezing temperatures, this is the best everything-proof camera out there.