The crowded action cam market, headed by GoPro, just got a new contender in the shape of the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker, a waterproof and shockproof unit sporting a bevy of features that distinguish it from the field.
Since NAB 2016, I've had small cameras on my mind, in part from my brief encounter with the Z Camera E-1. The diminutive camera with a micro-4/3 mount made an immediate impression. It's tiny, shoots 4K video and is priced lower than the micro-4/3 Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, which tops out at 1080 capture, yet Micro Cinema has the Z Camera beat on color and bit-rate (Z's bitrate at 4K is 60/Mbs, while Micro Cinema's 1080 capture in CinemaDNG is 65/Mbs.) The Z Camera E-1 also purports to be an action camera, of sorts, which brings GoPro into the conversation.
In other words, those that want an ultra-compact shooter in an action cam form factor, but who yearn for the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, have at least a couple of options. However, I don't really see either of these cameras as a true competitor for the GoPro line of action cams for most users. These cams are more niche products for shooters and productions that need their resulting footage to match (or, at least, cut well) with an A-cam in circumstances when it doesn't make sense to expose the A-cam to risk.
For many GoPro users, the GoPro is the video shooting workhorse or, rather, the logical step up from cellphone video. And, for those users, Olympus just announced a new camera that may entice some GoPro devotees to jump ship.
Weather and Condition Proof
The big takeway from the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker's spec list might be the camera's all-around, ahem, toughness. Although the camera rivals the GoPro models in compactness (TG-Tracker is only 3.67 inches in length), the TG-Tracker is waterproof at up to 100 feet, "crushproof" to 220 pounds of force and shockproof at up to 7 or so feet, meaning it should survive most drops in normal use.
GoPro users might point to the fact that, with its external underwater housing, the camera line boasts up to 40 feet of waterproofing, but the TG-Tracker's ability to be submerged without the need for housing is a definite plus, which may lure divers and extreme sports shooters that find themselves covering underwater action.
Sensor upon sensor
Beyond condition proofing, the TG-Tracker includes a host of onboard sensors and the ability to record data from those sensors even when the camera isn't recording. The camera features some form of GPS ("GLONASS and QZSS functionality," according to the press release). In addition, the TG-Tracker also has an accelerometer, compass, barometric sensor and temperature sensor. It seems that no matter how you plan to use this action cam, there's a sensor that may assist in your efforts.
We don't have a pre-release TG-Tracker on hand, so any discussion of its imaging ability is more an evaluation of its spec list. The camera can record 4K (UHD) video at 30 fps, 1080 at 60 FPS and has slo-mo modes (120 fps and 240 fps) at 720 internally onto microSD cards (up to 128 GB). It is somewhat of a disappointment that the camera does not have the ability to capture 1080 at 120 fps, although there's always hope that Olympus will add that record mode down the line in a firmware update.
The TG-Trackercapture images via its 1/2.3 inch sensor and 13.9mm (roughly) full frame equivalent lens at a fixed f/2.0. All this adds up to a 204-degree field of view, making it wider than the GoPro camera at their widest. Of course, this brings up the fact that the GoPro cameras have different FOV settings, a feature that the TG-Tracker lacks.
TG-Tracker's 5-axis stabilization, flip-out 1.5 inch LCD and onboard light should aid in operation, while the built-in Wifi enables monitoring and remote capture of the footage (capped at the 1080 mode). There's even an included handgrip that dwarfs the camera.
GoPro's major competitor?
There's an abundance of GoPro competitors out there, but most aim to merely replicate the GoPro experience at cheaper price points. The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker's purported toughness and plethora of sensors, along with video specs that at least rival that of GoPro's models, make for an intriguing new entrant into the crowded action cam market. And, at $349.99 and shipping in June, the TG-Tracker is priced competitively with the GoPro Hero4 Silver, which does not record 4K video.
Once the TG-Tracker is in the wild, I'm sure we'll get a better sense of how it truly stacks up with the GoPro cameras. In the meantime, check out the following featurette from Olympus on the TG-Tracker and let us know in the comments if this upcoming camera ticks the right boxes for you action cam shooters out there.
Do you want more info on the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker? Read the company's press release on Page Two!
Full Press Release
TRACK THE EXTRAORDINARY: NEW OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH TG-TRACKER CAPTURES EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR ADVENTURES
Ultra HD 4K Video Comes Alive with High-Quality Imaging and Rich Log Data That Tells an Immersive Story
CENTER VALLEY, PA, May 24, 2016 — Olympus expands the outdoor video experience with the latest member of the Tough product family, the new Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is the first rugged experiential camera that combines Olympus's Tough rugged capabilities with an advanced Field Sensor System,*1 a 204° ultra-wide-angle F2.0 high-speed lens and Ultra HD 4K 30p video capture to record brilliant action video with corresponding activity data. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker's built-in Field Sensors include GPS,*2 a barometric-pressure sensor, a temperature sensor, an e.Compass and an accelerometer. Data logs can be displayed simultaneously with recorded images using the Olympus Image Track app, enhancing the excitement of reliving outdoor action with an immersive, data-rich viewing experience.
Like all other cameras in the Olympus Tough™ series, the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is optimized for the most extreme shooting environments, with five rugged capabilities: waterproof to depths of 100 feet,*3 dustproof,*4 shockproof from 7 feet,*5 freezeproof to 14°F,*6 and crushproof up to 220 pounds of force,*7 — no protective case required. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker represents a new category of rugged cameras with its Field Sensor System that's capable of capturing location, altitude and depth, g-force and air and water temperature while users record videos and still images of their outdoor adventures.
A high-intensity LED headlight is integrated into the camera body for shooting support in low-light conditions. The bundled SG-T01 Steady Grip helps with stable framing during hand-held shooting. The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker's compact body and tilt-out LCD monitor provide for quick and easy video capture, including low- and high-angle shooting.
*1 Because the GPS and other field sensors are not intended for use as strictly accurate measurement functions, under no circumstances are measured values (such as longitude and latitude, altitude, shooting direction and temperature) guaranteed. Additionally, information may differ from actual circumstances due to the effects of events such as natural disasters. *2 Depending on the country/region of use, different laws and regulations may be applicable regarding the use of the GPS function. Be sure to follow local laws and regulations. Turn off the GPS function in places where its use is forbidden or restricted, such as inside airplanes. Either the A-GPS Utility computer software or the Olympus Image Track app is required to update the Assist GPS data. *3 Waterproof functionality is equivalent to JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *4 Equivalent to JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IPX6) according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *5 When the LCD monitor is closed, the Lens Protector is attached and the Mount Coupling, grip and Underwater Lens Protector are not attached, according to tests performed following our in-house methods. *6 The number of shots that can be recorded is reduced at very low temperatures. *7 When the LCD monitor is closed, the Lens Protector is attached and the Mount Coupling, grip and Underwater Lens Protector are not attached, according to tests performed following our in-house methods.
U.S. Pricing and Availability
The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker will be available in green and black beginning in June 2016 with an estimated street price of $349.99 (U.S.) and $479.99 (Canada).
For a complete list of specifications, visit the Olympus website:
Field Sensor System for capturing all the action of outdoor adventures
The wearable-device market has expanded in recent years, offering ways to automatically record location information, steps walked, calories burned and other life-logging data. In the same spirit, the new Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with the Field Sensor System, which includes GPS, a barometric-pressure sensor, a temperature sensor, an e.Compass and an accelerometer. Users can select from three different display options on the LCD monitor, including a compass display, level display, and log display, to show the data captured via these sensors. Log Mode records data without video for extended time periods.
The camera uses GPS (with GLONASS and QZSS functionality) to precisely calculate the user's latitude and longitude from satellite signals. Additionally, Assist GPS can significantly increase the speed of the system's positioning calculations by downloading satellite information ahead of time using the Olympus A-GPS Utility computer app or the Olympus Image Track smart-device app.
2) Barometric-pressure sensor
Altitude and water depth are calculated based on air- and water-pressure information. When the camera is submerged below a depth of half a meter, the Underwater Detector will automatically switch the camera to the optimal mode for shooting underwater so you can focus on getting the best shot without worrying about complicated controls. The monitor log display will also automatically switch from altitude to water-depth information.
3) Temperature sensor
This sensor records ambient temperature with a high degree of precision. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker captures water temperature in both Video and Log Mode, and air temperature in Log Mode only.
This sensor tracks the direction in which the camera lens is being pointed. It provides an easy way to confirm direction when shooting outdoors.
This sensor measures acceleration (g-force) on three axes to record the photographer's movements. When a preset acceleration level is detected while a video is being recorded, the Chapter Function*1 automatically identifies and bookmarks the moment. This feature supports editing and playback of exciting scenes, like when jumping and landing in intense sports such as snowboarding and motocross. Users may choose from two levels of acceleration or may turn this feature off.
Rugged capabilities: waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof
With its sealed construction, the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is waterproof to depths of 100 feet (30 meters). The waterproof seal also makes the camera dustproof, so users don't have to worry when operating the Stylus Tough TG-Tracker in dusty areas. The dual-layer chassis makes for superb shockproof performance, allowing the camera to clear drop tests from heights of up to 7 feet (2.1 meters). Operation is guaranteed in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C), so you can shoot in cold-weather environments where other digital devices fear to tread. The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker also boasts a rigid construction that can withstand loads of up to 220 pounds of force (100 kilograms of force).
High-quality images captured with an ultra-wide-angle lens
1) 204° ultra-wide-angle F2.0 high-speed lens
The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker's ultra-wide-angle lens was developed using advanced optical technology. Its 204° angle of view is wider than that which can be captured by the human eye, allowing it to record action videos with a dramatic perspective, especially useful for ultra-wide views of outdoor sports scenes.
2) TruePicTM VII for 4K Image Processor and backlit CMOS sensor
The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with the TruePicTM VII for 4K Image Processor, the latest iteration of the TruePicTM image processors used in the Olympus OM-D and PEN compact system cameras, now with 4K video capability.*2 It quickly processes data from the high-sensitivity, low-noise backlit CMOS sensor to produce high-quality images.
4. Versatile shooting style and superb controls
The compact body provides for quick and easy video capture no matter your shooting style, allowing low- and high-angle camerawork. An SG-T01 Steady Grip is bundled with the camera to help with stable framing during hand-held shooting.*3 The MC-T01 Mount Coupling comes with a small mirror on the front to assist in capturing wide-angle group selfies.*4 The high-intensity LED Headlight is built into the camera body for shooting support in low-light conditions.*5 Its quick-action operation lets you swiftly illuminate subjects for high-quality imaging. Even when the camera is turned off, users can press and hold the Info button to activate the headlight for standalone use.
5. Compatibility with the Olympus Image Track smart-device app
The Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi.*6 Using the exclusive Olympus Image Track app, users can easily transfer videos recorded on the camera, along with field data, to a smart device. Users can also display the log data and view images simultaneously, enjoying the experience of the shooting environment during playback. Within the app, the data display can be switched between geographical information and altitude/depth information to best match the scene, and data is saved so that users can conveniently check the information at any time.
l Time Lapse Movie mode*7 for fixed-point observation of movement such as crowds of people, clouds crossing the sky or flowers opening.
l Loop Recording function for easier video-data handling.
l Bundled with the UP-T01 Underwater Lens Protector for underwater shooting.*8
l Graphical user interface (GUI) for intuitive control.
l Electronic 5-Axis Image Stabilization*9 for compensation of every kind of camera motion.
l 4K Video playback via HDMI connection.
l Remote control and image transfer with the Olympus Image Share app.