Pocket-lint is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(Pocket-lint) - Olympus is no stranger to the waterproof compact camera, and from what we've seen the Stylus Tough TG-850 not only looks to be its best effort yet, but also comes with a number of firsts.

Principal to the TG-850's design is a tilt-angle screen that can flip up to face forward for selfies or waist-level work. It's a great idea that we're seeing more in compact cameras, but one that no waterproof compact camera has featured until now. Adjust that screen by 45-degrees (the maximum being 90 for forward-facing) and we can imagine it being particularly useful for casually dipping into a pool of water - not that there was any of the wet stuff to hand when we got to preview the camera ahead of the announcement.

The screen hinge sees a smooth movement with just the right amount of resistance. It's a shame it's not possible to angle the screen in the opposite direction for overhead work, but creating such a hinge that was also waterproof would probably be tricky.

Pocket-linthands on olympus stylus tough tg 850 review image 3

The second key feature is a 21mm equivalent wide-angle lens, again wider-angle than anything we've seen in a waterproof camera before. Most compacts offer a 24mm equivalent lens, and while 21mm doesn't sound that much wider in number terms, it's a significant difference in the frame. And as the camera is waterproof down to 10 metres that ultra-wide angle of view will be very handy if you're a snorkeler or casual diver - or even just in the pool.

At this wide-angle setting the macro mode works very close up to subjects too - we were able to get the lens to focus around 1cm away from a subject. Very dramatic.

The 5x optical zoom can extend that zoom to a 105mm equivalent, and like other Olympus waterproof cameras the TG-850's lens does not protrude from the body. With no moving parts to worry about, single handed use is no problem and the relatively slim profile - for a waterproof camera, anyway - will make it easy to slip into a spare pocket or clip on to equipment.

Pocket-linthands on olympus stylus tough tg 850 review image 7

One feature we're not so keen on is the placement of the TG-850's zoom toggle. It lies on top of the camera body, rather than the typical lever around the shutter button. Just feels a little out of place to us, as per previous Olympus waterproof models.

Best mirrorless cameras 2021: The best interchangeable lens cameras available to buy today

Beneath the fetching aluminium body - which delivers a metallic sparkle to the eyes - there's a 16-megapixel back-side illuminated sensor to record those snaps or capture 1080p video. We didn't get to venture into the outside world with this pre-production model so don't know how well it will handle. Given the lens types found in waterproof cameras there is typically a compromise to quality, but until we've tested it in full we can't pass judgement.

Pocket-linthands on olympus stylus tough tg 850 review image 2

What we can say is that the autofocus system was certainly no slouch. It was snapping subjects into focus in the blink of an eye - far better than some of the entry-level waterproof models we've seen over the years.

As is the norm these days the Tough TG-850's waterproof feature is matched with shock, freeze and crush-proofing. Elsewhere there are Art Filters for in-camera adjustments, the latest TruePuc VII processing engine, lens-based image stabilisation and speedy 7.1 frames per second burst shooting.

When it comes to waterproof compacts we've seen none as impressive as the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850. It successfully adds to the usually vanilla feature set of this type of camera, and with an anticipated £270 price tag at launch it's not outside of affordable.

Fancy winning one? As part of our OM-D Challenge series we've got a competition open from now until the end of February: enter here.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 13 January 2014.