The design of the TG-310 is very much in keeping with previous Tough models from Olympus – from purely aesthetic concerns like the exposed screws that hold the finger grip in place to more practical measures such as the sealed lens housing and sealed battery compartment.
For a camera that’s designed to appeal to active people taking pictures on the go, the TG-310 proves a surprisingly fiddly camera to operate. This is primarily because the camera’s buttons are all quite small, stiff and set behind a protective cover which makes them hard to press – we found ourselves using our thumbnail more often than not. Zoom controls aren’t particularly precise either, which makes accurate framing all the more fiddly. Safe to say that the TG-310 isn’t glove-friendly, then.
We have no real gripes with the menu system itself though as it’s neatly laid out and easy to navigate. Ultimately, the TG-310 isn’t a particularly complicated camera and so there aren’t layers upon layers of menus and sub-menus to navigate when you want to change something. As we mentioned above, the only real problem with the TG-310’s operation are its small, stiff buttons.
The TG-310 isn’t a particularly speedy camera and once it is turned on takes about two seconds before the scene registers on the rear monitor, and another couple on top of this before it is ready to shoot.
In use we did encounter some problems with the autofocus system, with the primary culprit being the iESP (intelligent Electro Selective Pattern) AF mode. In theory this proprietary system is meant to allow the camera to pick out the main subject, even if it’s not in the centre of the screen. In reality however, we found it hugely inconsistent, often picking out random objects instead.
To make matters worse, iESP works alongside Face Detection and this also proves inconsistent. In fact we often found that a further two of three half-presses of the shutter button were required before the camera would recognise and focus on an obvious face in front of it. The best way to get round this problem, we found, was to keep the camera in Spot focus mode and use the central focus box alongside the trusty focus-recompose technique. This enabled us to get much better results.
Processing time between shots is just over a second, and during this time you can’t use the camera. In continuous shooting and high-speed burst shooting modes we didn’t encounter any problems with slowdown or shutdown owing to the buffer being full, which makes sense given that the camera’s write times are virtually identical to its continuous shooting abilities.
One area where the TG-310 really does fall down in terms of performance is the LCD monitor. At 2.7in and 230k-dots it just isn’t very good at all, either for composing or reviewing images with. Viewed in the shade, images appear cold, flat and lacking in either contrast or detail, while in bright sunlight the screen becomes very difficult to see at all.