Olympus TG-870

15m/50' Underwater Camera, 21~105mm equivalent lens

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Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870 (16 MP, 7.7 oz./220g with battery and card, about $229) bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Olympus does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

June 2016   Olympus reviews   all reviews

Underwater camera reviews

Underwater Cameras Compared

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

Photos too big for your computer? Just drag the lower right corner of your browser window to the left and all my ultra-high resolution images will magically squeeze to fit.

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

 

Sample Images

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Yellow Hibiscus, 13 June 2016

Yellow Hibiscus, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016. f/6 at 1/1,250 at 3.7mm (21mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display the full resolution properly).

 

Katie Boogie Boarding, 19 June 2016

Katie Boogie Boarding, Kāʻanapali, 19 June 2016. f/5.3 at 1/1,000 at 14.6mm (85mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger.

 

Ryan Underwater, Waikoloa, 17 June 2016

Ryan Underwater, Waikoloa, 17 June 2016. Underwater snapshot mode, f/6 at 1/500 at 3.7mm (21mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger.

 

Under a Tropical Swinging Bridge, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016

Under a Tropical Swinging Walkway, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016. Flash ON, f/4.9 at 1/800 at 6mm (35mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger.

 

Under a Tropical Swinging Bridge, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016

Lanai as seen from Kāʻanapali, 19 June 2016. f/6 at 1/640 at 3.7mm (21mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display the full resolution properly).

 

Introduction

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New   Good   Bad   Missing

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B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

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The Olympus TG-870 is lower-price version of the superb Olympus TG-4 underwater camera. The TG-870 has a much wider zoom lens, but it's not as good in low light as the faster lens of the TG-4.

Both this TG-870 and the TG-4 can be controlled completely with one hand.

This TG-870 takes the same great pictures as the Olympus TG-4 and adds a flip screen, better movie autofocus, a second shutter button on the front and a wider lens, but loses some convenience features like the depth gauge, magnetic compass and memory presets on the mode dial.

 

New

● Second shutter button on the front of the camera (that's the green dot on the lower left).

● Flip-up LCD.

● 21mm ultrawide to 105mm tele (equivalent) zoom range.

● Two tripod sockets, one on the bottom and one on the side.

 

Good

● Great picture quality.

● Fast 1/1,000 flash sync for great fill-flash results in daylight.

● Shoots at 2.5 or 7 frames per second at full resolution, or at 20 or 60 frames per second at a lower resolution.

● Great macro ability with no need for special macro modes, and it has a super-macro mode that get into the microscope range.

● GPS.

● WiFi.

● Stereo mic for movies.

● Easy to control and shoot the TG-870 over WiFi with a free app (WiFi won't work if it's underwater).

● Flip-up LCD.

● Inverts the display and data if you hold the camera upside-down while shooting. Only works at 180,º not at 90º or 270.º

● Two one-touch manual white balance presets.

● You can shoot remotely via an app.

 

Bad

● Dim LCD makes it hard to see what you're doing in daylight, especially with water drops on the LCD. There's a Daylight mode, but it constantly cancels itself.

● The images on the LCD are small, with only about a 2" effective diagonal and black bars on either side because it's a chopped 16:9 LCD.

● Not smart enough to rotate playback images as you turn the camera like an iPhone.

● Olympus uses a proprietary USB connector. Standard USB cables will not connect, and that's the only way this camera charges.

● Can't shoot stills while rolling video.

 

Missing

● No Optical Image Stabilization (but does have electronic video stabilization)

● No optical finder.

 

Specifications

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Lens

Does not extend or retract; uses a folded optical path inside the camera.

3.74 ~ 18.7mm.

f/3.5 ~ 5.7.

This 3.74 ~ 18.7mm lens sees the same angles-of-view on this camera's sensor as a 21 ~ 105mm lens sees on a 35mm or full-frame camera.

 

Close Focus

4" (10 cm) at all focal lengths, normal mode.

Crazy super macro mode that focuses from 0.4~4" (1~10 cm), with the lens set from 4.24 to 8.7mm.

See also Macro.

 

Diaphragm

Not really.

It may have a Waterhouse stop or an ND filter, but usually shoots wide open.

 

Stabilization

None for stills.

Electronic stabilization for video.

 

Autofocus

Rectangular zones or face recognition.

 

Image Sensor

16 MP.

1/2.3" CMOS.

4:3 aspect ratio.

4.6 x 6.18mm sensor area.

5.615 crop factor.

 

Image Sizes

4,608 x 3,457 pixels native (16 MP).

3,200 x 2,400 pixels (8 MP).

1,920 x 1,440 pixels (3 MP).

640 x 480 pixels (VGA).

 

Cropped Aspect Ratios

4:3 native, 1.5:1, square (1:1) and 16:9.

 

ISO

ISO 125 ~ 6,400.

 

Auto ISO

Two settings, AUTO for landscapes and AUTO HIGH for action.

 

Depth Rating

50 feet (15 meters) actual shooting depth.

 

Drop Rating

7 feet (2.1meters), but "may suffer cosmetic damage," which means cracks, which means water will get in, which means it will die the next time it gets wet.

DO NOT DROP.

 

Crush Rating

220 pounds (100 kg), but it "may suffer cosmetic damage," which means cracks, which means water will get in, which means it will die the next time it gets wet.

DO NOT CRUSH.

 

Cold Rating

14º F (-10º C).

 

Still Formats

JPG only.

sRGB only.

 

Video

Frame Sizes and Rates

1,920 x 1,080 at 60p or 30p

1,280 x 720 at 60p

640 x 480 VGA at 60p or 120p

480 x 360 at 240p

 

File Formats

MOV file holding H.264 video and linear stereo PCM audio.

 

Audio

Stereo microphones built in.

Recorded along with video as above.

I see a claim of being able to record as WAV with still images, but never found out how to do it

 

Shutter

1/2,000 to 4 seconds.

Shoots at 2.5 or 7 frames per second at full resolution, or at 20 or 60 frames per second at a lower resolution with a 60-frame buffer.

 

Remote Release & Control

Via an app.

 

Built-in Flash

Yes, 1/1,000 sync speed.

 

External Flash

Yes, with Olympus Wireless RC Flash System.

 

LCD Monitor

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

The screen tilts up as much as 180º so you can see yourself. It does not swing side to side and doesn't flip down.

3 " (76 mm) diagonal, but only a 16:9 "chopped"aspect ratio screen means the actual 4:3 image only fills about a 2" diagonal, with big black bars on left and right.

920,000 dots.

Anti-reflection coated.

 

Connectors

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

The top connector is a unique Olympus DC/USB and A/V connector.

The bottom is an HDMI Micro D connector.

 

WiFi

IEEE 802.11 b/g/n.

 

Storage

Small amount of internal memory, good for about 8 shots at full resolution.

SD, SDHC, SDXC or Eye-Fi cards to 128 GB.

 

Quality

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

Made in Indonesia.

 

Power & Battery

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

LI-50B rechargeable lithium-ion battery included.

3.7V, 925 mAH.

Rated 300 charge cycles.

0 ~ 40ºC ambient for charging.

Charges in-camera via USB only.

The gotcha is that the TG-870 uses a special Olympus USB cable; standard USB cables do not fit. Don't lose the cable that comes with the camera or you won't be able to charge your battery until you replace it.

Rated 2 hours full charge with the included 1.5A USB adapter.

 

Size

Excluding protrusions:

4.4 x 2.5 x 1.1 inches WHD.

112.9 x 64.1 x 27.6 millimeters WHD.

 

Weight

7.745 oz./219.6 g with battery and card, actual measured weight.

8.055 oz./228.3 g with strap, battery and card, actual measured weight.

Rated 7.8 oz. (221g) with battery and card.

 

Environment

Operating

-10 ~ 40º C (14 ~ 104º F).

30 to 90% RH.

Are you kidding me ? It can go underwater, but not handle above 90% RH?

 

Storage

-20 ~ 60º C (-4 ~ 140º F).

10 to 90% RH.

 

Olympus Part Number

V104200EU000.

 

Included

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870 and included mesh wrist strap. bigger.

TG-870 camera.

LI-50B lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

F-5AC universal AC to USB power adapter.

CB-USB8 non-standard USB cable, also used for charging.

Wrist strap.

1 year warranty.

CD ROM.

 

Announced

09 February 2016.

 

Promised for

26 February 2016.

 

Price, USA

$229, June 2016.

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

 

Optional Accessories

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Olypmus TG0870 accessories

Optional accessories. bigger.

Olympus' floating strap ($15)

Generic floating strap ($5).

 

Performance

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Specifications

Accessories   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Overall   Autofocus   Distortion   Exposure

Ergonomics   Flash   High Frame Rates

Image Quality   Macro   Mechanics

Movies   Sharpness   LCD   Playback

Data   Power & Battery

 

Overall

Performance          top

The TG-870 takes great pictures, but lacks the larger LCD and convenience features of the more expensive TG-4.

 

Autofocus

Performance          top

Autofocus is fast.

Face recognition works well.

One gotcha is that when attempting to shoot underwater through bubbles or sediment, it often will focus on that instead of on your subject beyond:

Sea Turtle, Waikoloa, 16 June 2016

Sea Turtle, Waikoloa, 16 June 2016. f/5.1 at 1/250 at 10.1mm (55mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 250. bigger.

This was from only a few feet away; the biggest challenge in all underwater photography is being someplace with very clear waters. If you're at the beach, sand gets churned up and everything is gray-green like this.

 

Distortion

Performance          top

There is strong barrel distortion at the widest setting, asking for about +7 correction in Photoshop's lens distortion filter, and none at other settings.

Trellis at Palace Tower, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016

Trellis, Palace Tower, Waikoloa, 13 June 2016. f/6 at 1/400 at 3.7mm (21mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger.

 

Exposure

Performance          top

Exposure is always accurate.

 

Ergonomics

Performance          top

It turns on and off immediately.

It's a simple camera and easy to figure out.

It lacks preset memories on the mode dial, so it can take a few clicks to get between modes. For instance, swapping between the best settings for above water and below will take more clicks than I prefer. The TG-4 is much better here.

The worst part is the small and dim LCD; you usually don't have much idea what's going to be in your picture if you're shooting in daylight.

Not that anyone reads them, but Olympus' TG-870 users' manual has neither a table-of-contents nor an index, so you'll have to flip through the entire manual each time to find anything.

 

Olympus TG-870

Second tripod socket on side for vertical shots. bigger.

There are two programmable buttons: the green one at the bottom left above, and the red movie button below:

 

Olympus TG-870

Olympus TG-870. bigger.

These buttons can be programmed, but I leave these buttons at their defaults: the front button is a second remote shutter release, and the red button is the movie start/stop button.

 

Flash

Performance          top

With an ultra-fast 1/1,000 sync speed, it gives great fill-flash in daylight.

 

High Frame Rates

Performance          top

The regular Rectangle 1 (2.5 FPS) and Rectangle 2 (7 FPS) modes run well at full resolution, with locked focus, exposure and EXIF time stamps.

It really runs at 20 FPS or 60 FPS in the Hi 1 and Hi 2 modes, but only with locked focus, exposure and EXIF time stamp, and only at 960 x 720 resolution that's upsampled to the indicated (and stored) 1,920 x 1,440 (3MP) pixel size.

In other words, it really does shoot and store at 20 or 60 FPS, but your images won't be as sharp as you deserve or expect from 3 MP; they'll look more like video still frames, but will be full-sensor 4:3 images.

Even with the lower resolution, it's still fun to shoot at 60 FPS and then hold down your computer's -> arrow key and run through the images quickly, which results in a high resolution slo-mo on your computer screen. Of course there is no sound with these stills.

Ryan Underwater, Waikoloa, 17 June 2016

Ryan on a Water Slide, Waikoloa, 17 June 2016. f/5.1 at 1/800 at 11.7mm (65mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display the full resolution properly).

 

Image Quality

Performance          top

The pictures look great. Color, focus and exposure are wonderful.

If you spend all day splitting pixels instead of looking at pictures, the TG-870's folded optical system can lead to more flare and lower contrast than a regular camera, and the highlights can tend to blow-out more easily than on a DSLR or iPhone which usually have more advanced systems to combat this.

Also if you split pixels, TG-870 images (like all point-and-shoot images) are noisier than DSLRs or iPhones, but it's not a problem for actual pictures as you see here. The TG-870 shoots at ISO 125 even in daylight, which is very high for a sensor as small as used in any point and shoot. DSLRs have much larger sensors, and iPhones shoot at ISO 25 in daylight. Therefore even at its lowest ISO 125, just like all point-and-shoots the TG-870's images are noisier than I'd like them, but hey, that's why we have DSLRs

The colors and tones and exposure and focus and auto white balance all look great, so the pictures look great because that's what matters. No problems here.

 

Macro

Performance          top

Macro, as on the TG-4, is the best I've ever seen. It focuses to four inches (10 cm) in the regular shooting mode, at every zoom setting! This lets you get super-duper close and never have to fiddle with macro modes.

Spin the mode dial to the flower with the S (Super Macro), and it now focuses essentially to zero (the front of the camera), even at the telephoto setting, so you can get to microscopic close-ups.

Bottle, 17 June 2016

Water Bottle (just a separate overview shot for reference). bigger.

 

Bottle, 17 June 2016

Complete image as shot in Super Macro Mode. bigger or camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly)

 

Bottle, 17 June 2016

Crop from same camera-original file.

 

Mechanical Quality

Performance          top

It's all plastic.

It's rated as "tough" and "drop resistant," but don't drop it or it will crack and flood. If you read the details about the drop ratings in the manual, you'll discover that they're all bogus.

It really is waterproof; no problem shooting underwater.

I don't know about its 50-foot (15-meter) rating, but for snorkeling, pools and water parks, it easily handles all of it. For instance, when it's around my wrist with its included wrist strap, it's safe and easy to paddle with that hand, using the TG-870 like a small fin.

It loves water, but it doesn't like being dropped.

I don't see any rubber around it; it seems like every other dinky plastic camera from the Orient. It's not a Nikonos.

The "7 foot" drop rating only applies to pillows or sand; it's too delicate to drop onto brick or concrete.

 

Movies

Performance          top

Movies work well, complete with stereo sound.

Better than many other underwater cameras, I had no problem with autofocus at the longer zoom settings.

Sample VGA movie file (Waterslide, 17 June 2016, 18 MB).

Sample VGA movie file (Boogie Boarding, 19 June 2016, 35 MB).

Sample 1,920 movie file (Boogie Boarding, 19 June 2016, 32 MB).

 

Sharpness

Performance          top

Sea Turtle, Waikoloa, 16 June 2016

Sea Turtle, Waikoloa, 16 June 2016. (cropped from Olympus TG-870, f/4.9 at 1/320 at 6mm (35mm equivalent) at Auto ISO 125). bigger.

This is 2016; it's always sharp.

The biggest limitation to sharpness isn't the lens or sensor; it's how high you have the ISO set. With a small sensor, it becomes softer as the ISOs climb, so be sure to shoot in good light so it can shoot at Auto ISO 125 for best results.

 

LCD Monitor

Performance          top

It's nice that the rear screen pivots, but bad that Olympus had to chop the screen height to fit the pivoting hinge.

It has a 3" (76 mm) diagonal, but with only a 16:9 "chopped"aspect ratio, 4:3 images only fill about a 2" diagonal central part of the screen, with big black bands on left and right. It's swell for 1,920 or 1,280 16:9 movies, but horrible for still images or VGA movies.

It's also not very bright, too dim for daylight. It's always difficult to see what you're doing outdoors.

There is a Daylight mode that's brighter (just hold OK a few seconds), but it keeps deactivating and returning to the regular brightness after a few moments.

 

Playback   

Performance          top

Playback is swell; just hold the PLAY button even with power off and it plays.

Scrolling can be slow, and I don't know how to swap among different images while zoomed-in.

 

Data

Performance          top

 

Card Formatting

It takes only a second or two to format a card.

Cards are incorrectly formatted as "NO NAME" instead of "OLYMTG870" or similar.

The first folder is DCIM / 100OLYMP; fairly standard.

 

Folder & File Names

Folders aren't a programmable option, but the file names cleverly begin with the month and date to help keep things straight.

Files are named as PMDD####.jpg.

P means normal sRGB color.

M is the month; the months go 1234567890AB.

DD is the date.

Today is June 17th, so the files I shot today are P617####.jpg.

 

File Deletion

When deleting a series shot in a continuous shutter mode, it erases all those images at once. This is handy for the 60 FPS and 20 FPS modes.

 

WiFi & App Transfers

Images transferred via the app are at a reasonable resolution, scaled down from 16 MP.

 

Power & Battery

Performance          top

I had no problem shooting all day and still having a mostly full battery.

It only charges via USB, and it only connects to USB with a special included Olympus USB cable.

Standard USB cables do not work. Don't lose the cable that comes with the camera or you won't be able to charge your battery until you replace it.

Olympus Dedicated USB Cable

Olympus Dedicated USB Cable. Note special camera connector on left. bigger.

It draws 950 mA charging a mostly dead battery. The current tapers off gradually as charged.

Rated 2 hours for a full charge from a completely dead battery, which seems about right. It will usually charge much faster with partly discharged batteries.

 

Usage

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Charging & USB Connection

Use the special included cable and plug into any USB source to charge.

The orange LED lights when charging, and turns off when done.

Olympus uses a proprietary USB connector. No standard USB cable will fit; you CANNOT use a standard USB cable.

Lose the included cable and you're dead until you buy another. Yes, you can read the SD card in a card reader and you can buy an optional external battery charger, but watch your cable like a hawk if you're on vacation since you'll have no way to charge unless you bring a spare Olympus cord or an external charger.

 

Color Settings

Olympus' images are ideal for all kinds of photos. I leave it set at "1 VIVID" and people, places and things all look great.

I use the *1 (Vivid) picture setting for everything.

Set this by pressing OK and tweaking the top option seen along the left of the picture.

 

Underwater Color Modes

The Underwater modes come up at the SCN setting of the mode dial.

 

Auto ISO

Auto ISO works exactly as I like it for photos of places and things.

The Auto ISO HIGH option is perfect for photos of people and moving things.

Set this by pressing OK, clicking down and tweaking the ISO options seen along the left of the picture. AUTO is the default (for things), and AUTO HIGH (for people and action) is an option, along with the fixed ISO settings.

 

One-Touch Manual White Balances

There are two of these settings.

To set either, simply select it (press Flash BOLT > down to WB > left to the custom 1 or 2 settings).

Now just point at what you want to be neutral, press MENU and Bingo!, that preset is now set. Bravo!

 

AF Tracking

The manual (page 45) says to get AF to track, put the AF mark on the target and then press OK.

I never got this to work, but all my photos are in focus, so no worries.

 

Image Rotation

Not that you'd want to, but you can turn off the vertical rotation at MENU > Camera 2 > Pic Orientation.

There's no way to turn off vertical image rotation on playback, vertical shots always are shown with black sides, unless you zoom.

 

Daylight LCD Mode

Hold OK a few seconds and the screen gets extra bright.

The extra-bright mode cancels when you press MENU or turn the mode dial or take a picture, so it's mostly useless.

 

Magic Information Display

Just hold INFO for a few seconds with the camera off and it will show the date and time.

No need for a watch in the water, just use your camera.

 

In the Water

It sinks in water, so use the included wrist strap or use Olympus' floating strap ($15), a generic floating strap($5) or a floating keychain if you're leaving this banging around on the deck of a boat. Otherwise, like all cameras, it's going down to Davy Jones' locker if dropped in the sea.

If you're in a pool with a lot of kids with suntan lotion, you will get a haze on the lens cover and rear LCD. No worries, you don't even have to wash it; a soft, clean dry cotton beach towel will swab it off just fine.

Olympus suggests letting it soak in a tub of fresh water for 20 minutes after use in salt water. I just rinse it in the sink, let it dry on a towel, and I've been fine.

Use the Underwater options, set at the top option along the right of the screen. Once set, these options make colors look great underwater instead of too blue. You can shoot in this mode even above water, and it works for video, too.

In all modes it focuses super close, so you won't need to fiddle with close-up settings while underwater unless you need to get closer than four inches (100 mm).

I didn't try it, but the flash is so close to the lens that it's probably not a good idea to use it under water unless you are within a few inches of your subject or have extremely clear water.

I did try the WiFi remote control app. WiFi signals don't make it through water, so forget about controlling the camera underwater from above. As soon as the camera goes under any water, it loses connection.

 

High Frame Rates for Still Images

Select these from the rectangle (advance mode) options along the right.

The default plain rectangle is single shot.

"Rectangle 1" is 2.5 FPS, with a 200-frame buffer, at any resolution.

"Rectangle 2" is 7 FPS, with a 7-frame buffer (maximum run time is therefore one second), at any resolution.

"Rectangle Hi 1" is 20 FPS, with a 60-frame buffer (therefore maximum run time is three seconds), but at a lower resolution.

"Rectangle Hi 2" is 60 FPS, with a 60-frame buffer (therefore maximum run time is one second), but at a lower resolution.

The Hi 1 and Hi 2 modes record at 1,920 x 1,400 pixels, but the actual image resolution is lower. The images are scaled-up from a lower resolution; Olympus is cheating here.

 

Movies

Keep your fingers away from the microphones on the top when shooting movies or you'll lose some or all of your sound.

 

Recommendations

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Accessories   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations   More

This TG-870 takes great pictures, loves water, makes the best underwater videos I've seen yet, and costs very little.

I prefer the Olympus TG-4 because it is more convenient, but costs more and doesn't have very good video autofocus or very wide a lens. Both take the same great pictures.

I prefer either of these Olympus to any of the other underwater cameras. The Nikon AW-130 is too hard to use, and the Canon D30 is overpriced and not very good.

 

Where to Get Yours

I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Olympus does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

More Information

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Specifications

Accessories   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations   More

 

Olympus' TG-870 users' manual.

Olympus' TG-870 press release.

 

© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

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09 June 2016, finished Lahania 21 June 2016