Before I publish the full review of the high-end waterproof compact camera launched by Olympus last spring, the TG-1 iHS, here is a quick preview of the image quality you may expect from this camera that has been gifted with a backside illumintaed CMOS sensor, a sensor that is wellknown for its outstanding image quality and low light capabilities, a quality that you will cherish when diving 1-12m deep for an underwater photography session, as, down there, light dims a lot and the color temperature tends to turn the camera’s white balance crazy. So, I would not recommand any other kind of sensor than a BSI CMOS one for a waterpoof camera.
Let’s digg in the TG-1 iHS image quality with my HKD 10 loyal bank note, displayed here at 1:1 scale, a scale that might bias a bit our opinion by showing things worse than they will actually be in a real life situation where you’d print your photos at a 240-300 dpi resolution.
What do we see here ? Well, without any surprise, the 12MP BSI CMOS sensor of the Olympus TG-1 iHS behaves pretty well offering an outstanding image quality from ISO 100 to ISO 400. You will notice a kind of quality threshold at ISO 800 where the noise reduction algorythm seems to hurt the smallest details but once again, you are looking at a 100% disiplayed photo meaning that we are doing some pixel peeping and the printed image at ISO 800 will ook much better than our zoomed-in image crop. When you dial the ISO setting further up, the image quality rapidly decreases at ISO 1,600 and IOS 3,200, the highest limit I would recommand to save a shot you would not be able to get at a lower ISO speed.
To put it in a nutshell : the Olympus TG-1 iHS is among the best 1/2.3″ sensors compact cameras from ISO 100-400. You can still use it without fearing an substantial image quality issue at ISO 800, then, with caution at ISO 1,600 and 3,200 while ISO 6,400 can’t offer anything worth being recorded on a memorycard. These results are good and in collaboration with the fast f/2.0 wide-angle lens, you really can expect to get the best images of the underwater world out of the TG-1 than from any other compact camera that can bear being taken under the seas…
You can read my 2012 waterproof cameras round up.