As the point-and-shoot digital camera category continues to struggle for relevance against the soaring popularity of smartphone cameras, camera manufacturers are pushing new and innovative features they feel the public will latch on to. One area smartphones haven't yet dabbled in is the ability to take images underwater, so Olympus' new Tough TG-3 HIS already has a leg up.
While the underwater digital camera category is nothing new, companies like Olympus continue to improve and add features to their models in the hope of stealing back a few customers long ago lost in the smartphone wars.
In the case of Tough TG-3 Olympus has upped the megapixel count to 16, added built-in Wi-Fi that supports remote control via an iOS or Android device as well as image transfer to said devices. The TG-3 also includes a 50-foot underwater depth rating and on-board GPS. The lens is a 25-100m f/2-4.9 lens and includes a series of LED lights around it for macro shooting along with supporting optical magnification of 6.9x and 13.8x. The camera also includes a feature for getting better depth of field for those macro shots called Focus Stacking as it can capture eight images at varying points of focus and blends them together for one in-focus image. Again, some tricks smartphone cameras cannot yet perform.
While traditional camera makers like Olympus and Nikon continue to bring inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras to market, Canon's recent announcement that they are pulling out of cheaper point-and-shoot game has to be viewed as a major blow to the category.
Japanese Camera & Imaging Manufacturers Association (CIPA) said the compact digital camera category saw a whopping 43% drop in shipments in the first half of 2013. It's safe to assume that point-and-shoot sales will continue to be cannibalized by smartphones as the imaging capability in these devices continues to improve. Increased megapixels, improving optical zooms, image stabilization, new in-camera editing tricks and just flat out better lens technology are all either already part of the smartphone camera mix or are coming soon.
It's been said for a quite a while now and is proving to be quite true - the best camera is the one you have with you at the time and nowadays, that's a smartphone. But the smart play for camera manufacturers will continue to be models that can do things smartphones can't and go underwater is one such play...for now anyway.