Normally, a review of this type of camera would include underwater pictures of coral reefs, extreme snowboarding, or surfing in Hawaii. A quick review of its attributes tells the story:

  • Waterproof to 15m/50 feet.
  • Shockproof from 2.1 m/7feet
  • 5X Optical zoom lens is internal, sealing it from dust and grit
  • Has a built in compass, GPS, and altimeter.
  • It’s small, compact, and can easily slip into a jacket pocket or

This camera is truly built for the rugged outdoors. But, there’s another side to this camera that makes it a great pick for indoors as well. For the budget-minded dentist, doctor, or medical student, the TG-3 has a feature that no other camera in its class has: an astonishingly good macro, and a clever optional ring flash attachment that makes it even better.

In “super macro” or microscope mode, the TG-3 is reportedly able to focus within 1cm, or 0. 4 inches. However in our random un-scientific tests, we found that the TG-3 will focus when set absolutely flat on any surface. With the optional LG-1 “light guide” attached, getting enough light on the subject is a breeze.

Take a look at the three shots below. The first is a normal photograph. The second was shot with the TG-3 in microscope mode, with the camera lying flat on the surface. For the 3rd shot, I zoomed all the way in and was still able to obtain focus of the smallest details of the dollar bill.

Olympus-Tough-TG-3-Macro-1

Olympus-Tough-TG-3-Macro-5

Olympus-Tough-TG-3-Macro-4

The LG-1 is clever and effective. What look like a silver-dollar sized ring flash is actually not a flash at all. When clipped onto the front of the TG-3, it “channels” the light emitted from the built-in flash to form a ring light around the lens. The working distance of the LG-1 is very limited, but using it for macro shooting makes all the difference in the world. At $34.99, it’s a must have accessory for any TG-3 camera.

The TG-3 in macro setting can also be zoomed in and focused on extremely tiny sections of any subject. Combine this amazing ability with another feature, focus stacking, and the result is truly microscopic-level images with very good focus throughout the focal range.

Keep in mind that, at $349.99, the TG-3 does have its limitations. Focus on extreme macro shots can fall off quickly from the center of the frame, and there is some chromatic aberration when pushed to its limits. Ergonomically, the zoom toggle placement leaves something to be desired, and using it one handed or with heavy gloves can be a bit of a challenge.

The final minor gripe I have holds true for lots of smaller cameras these days; the TG-3 does not come with a separate battery charger. Unless an accessory charger is purchased, the only way to recharge is in-camera, using the supplied USB cable and wall adapter or hooked up to a laptop or power station. If the TG-3 will be used in remote locations, an extra battery or two are a must.

Despite some minor limitations, the TG-3 would also make a great field tool for biologists, engineers, law enforcement, geologists…any discipline that requires simple, accurate documentation under less than optimal circumstances. If you’re looking for the “Swiss Army Knife” of point and shoot cameras, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the Olympus TG-3.

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