You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce the Olympus Tough TG-310's unique selling point from its name. No, it doesn't weigh 310 teragrams -- we're referring to the 'Tough' part. If you have a tendency to inflict punishment on your cameras and you have a spare £150, the TG-310 could suit you down to the ground.
The Toughs get going
The TG-310 is waterproof to 3m, shockproof from heights of up to 1.5m, and freezeproof to -10°C. This may be all the protection you need. But it's worth checking out the specifications of the TG-310's new stablemates, the TG-610 and the TG-810, as these offer even greater levels of durability. The TG-810, for example, is waterproof to depths of 10m and adds crushproofing to its list of strengths.
The TG-310 makes no attempt to disguise its brutish nature. Available in silver, white, blue, red or orange, the Tough proudly displays the reinforced bolts and water-tight rubberised buttons that adorn its chiselled, metallic body. It's not a bad look at all. The device feels modern, accessible and practical.
There are some issues with the design, however. Firstly, the rubber buttons aren't great. They're small and somewhat unresponsive. This can make it awkward to adjust settings -- or even simply zoom in or out -- while you're up a mountain and so on. The shutter button doesn't suffer from this problem, but some people will undoubtedly find the TG-310 fiddly to use.
Secondly, as we discovered during our tests, the TG-310 doesn't float. You'll have to keep a tight hold of it if you're taking pictures in the surf.
Durability aside, the TG-310 is a fairly unremarkable piece of equipment. Its CCD image sensor is capable of capturing a respectable 14-megapixels' worth of detail, and a modest 3.6x optical zoom lens provides focal length equivalents of 28-102mm.
The TG-310's image stabilisation will steady your shots and the camera's sensitivity goes up to ISO 1,600. The video mode records 720p high-definition footage, and an HDMI output provides a way of playing back your clips on a TV.
Face-recognition and pet-detection modes are also available. Other features of note include a panorama mode, and a 3-frames-per-second continuous-shooting mode that takes 5-megapixel snaps. Eye-Fi compatibility is a welcome bonus, especially for anyone so allergic to cables that they need to fork out upwards of £40 for the privilege of wirelessly transferring their pictures to a computer (yes, that includes us).
Olympus has included a 3D mode. Without two lenses, the camera needs to take two separate pictures and overlap them. The effect is hit and miss, and you'll need a compatible 3D screen of some kind to view the results, as the TG-310's own monitor isn't capable of displaying more than two dimensions -- and it doesn't even do that particularly well.
In fact, the TG-310 has one of the least pleasant LCD screens we've seen in a while. At 2.7 inches, it's not particularly small, but its resolution is on the low side, at 230,000 pixels. Colours are horribly flat, contrast levels are all over the place and it just makes everything look slightly rubbish, which isn't very useful when it's the only tool you have to line up your shots.
The TG-310's performance is also something of a letdown. Even in bright sunlight, colours can veer from being bland to over-exaggerated. Detail isn't bad and the area of focus tends to stay sharp, but there's plenty of noise, especially in shadows and solid colours, and there's more purple fringing than we'd like. Indoors, the TG-310 is quick to add further picture artefacts in areas of shadow.
The camera's 720p videos aren't brilliant. They're good for occasional YouTube uploads, but not a great deal else.
The Olympus Tough TG-310 offers fairly good value for money, although its durability is more impressive than its performance. Also, its fiddly controls and poor-quality LCD screen conspire to make it feel rather underwhelming. Still, if you're into extreme sports, adventure holidays or anything else that might expose a camera to wet, cold or otherwise harsh conditions, the TG-310 will be worth considering.
Edited by Charles Kloet