I have heard so much about the new range of camera from Olympus that boasts of professional-looking shots in a compact shell. Plus, it is a TOUGH camera.
During my week-long stay at Redang Kalong Resort, I had the opportunity to rent the Olympus Stylus TG-2 Tough and try it out both on land, during snorkelling at shallow waters and while diving underwater. It is a pity that the arrangement was totally impromptu and unplanned for. I had to massively cull about 380 shots to select my favourite 30 and emailed myself the photos over slow island network because I didnt have any portable storage with me.
No doubt that the TG-2 is a 2-year-old model, it is a 12MP compact point-and-shoot camera with a fast lens that could perform in underwater environment, survive impacts (read – KIDS!!) and extreme temperatures. Don’t expect this review to be techy-techy. I’ll just be writing from the point of view as a lady user and as a MUMMY and what little I have picked up from the Master.
The camera measures 111.5mm x 66.5mm x 29.1mm and weighs at 230g with card and battery. The TG-2 is available in two colours — red with black highlight, or black with red highlight (the one I used). I like it that the trendy yet no-nonsense design calls out to me.
Armed with a 4x optical zoom lens, the camera covers a nice 25-100mm (35mm equivalent) field of view with a maximum aperture of f/2, both of which is ideal for underwater use.
The F2.0 lens also allows user to shoot at faster shutter speeds given lower light conditions like indoor action or underwater.
On the way home to Singapore, I googled that the Olympus Stylus TG-2 Tough comes with optional accessories like the fisheye conversion lens and the teleconverter lens which can capture far-away object in a landscape while maintaining the brightness of the lens. The teleconverter lens would work great on land with ample natural light but may not be applicable for underwater landscape. Using the fisheye lens for underwater wide angle shot using natural lighting condition at shallow water would give a very nice view. Both accessories can also be used underwater as the adapter ring is waterproof but I didn’t have the chance to use it as it was a rental set targeted at general consumers. According to Olympus, the interior of both converter lenses is filled with nitrogen gas and it prevents internal fogging due to temperature differences.
The 3-inch rear display maximises the space at the back of camera and uses the latest OLED technology. Although the rear display uses only a 610k-dot resolution, the OLED is already a winner in its class as some googling will reveal most cameras using LCD display with only 460k dots. With enhanced contrast that’s perfectly bright enough for outdoor use, I had no problem looking at my shots when I was along the beach.
I was handed the camera just minutes before boarding the dive boat. Naturally, I had to quickly pick up some simple camera operations in a very short time.
The camera controls are mostly on the right at the back of camera, next to the display. To boast of one-handed operation using Scene mode is not impossible except that when underwater, I had to deal with currents too. It is much easier to shoot on land with all the buttons within easy reach of the right thumb. The camera controls include the standard zoom, a surprising one-touch video recording button, and a standard four-way controller for the menu settings. The Olympus TG-2 also comes with a quick dial to change shooting settings in a flash. The quick dial allowed me to change from scene to scene in a matter of seconds. The scene modes available are Portrait, Beauty, Landscape, Hand-held Starlight, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach&Snow, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1 (for action), Underwater Wide 2 (for landscape), Underwater Macro, Pet (Cat), Pet (Dog), Snow, Panorama, Backlight HDR.
The TG-2 is so easy to use that within a single dive, I figured out that the camera does not allow full manual control and shutter priority mode but it does support aperture priority. I used the preset Scene modes of Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2 and Underwater Macro during my dive.
This blenny at the Artificial House Reef in front of Redang Kalong Resort made it’s home and nest in a glass beer bottle. The resort staff had installed a bed of tyres filled with glass bottles some 1.5 years ago and it is now observed that live form like glass shrimps and blennies are starting to occupy these bottles. This particular blenny even laid her eggs INSIDE this glass bottle, but unfortunately, the eggs are deep inside and too small to be taken with a compact camera.
The dive operator and owner of Redang Kalong Resort, Ab Lee (pronounced as “Aybee” Lee), was sharing with us some photographs he took at the house reef and we were all awed by his high standard of underwater photography. Describing Ab as a Master in underwater photography is probably an insult given his standard. He’s my IDOL!!
Using the same Underwater Macro setting in Scene mode, I discovered some shrimps neighbouring with the blennies. They are like, 1-cm small and it was very hard to focus at the eyes while maintaining buoyancy and using a small compact. These 2 shrimps are the only still-presentable shot out of a hundred. Given my novice attempt with a totally unfamiliar camera, I’m quite pleased with it already ;p
Another shrimp living within the “fingers” of the hard coral. This one is a lot more shy than those living in the bottles.
Photo of a crab sharing the same host as the shrimp above. This is the best I could do with the TG-2 too.
Sample of Feather Star taken using same macro mode.
Cold from more than half an hour of motion-less diving as I was all the while playing with the friendly blennies, curious shrimps and angry crabs, I started to swim around abit and managed to catch my hubby doing nothing but just enjoying compressed air. So I caught him and asked him to swim through the ring used for buoyancy control training. This shot is taken using Underwater Wide (1) in Scene Mode meant for fast-swimming fish. Ignore the back-scatter as I didn’t bother to go into manual mode to turn off the flash. My ‘fish’ would have swam away by the time I figure things out!! 😦
The following photo was taken using Underwater Wide (1) in Scene Mode meant for underwater landscape. This mini reef teeming with life was standing alone in the middle of nowhere. The corals proliferated on what looked like a metal stick. It’s just so interesting that life can grow anywhere if given a chance. On hindsight, I should have been closer so that the subject is larger and fill up the frame. The camera flash would also be able to light up the subject nicely if I were closer. Should I return for another try? *wink*
The camera is rated for underwater use up to 15 metres. It can also survive impact from up to 2.1m height which is a YAY! for parents with young children. Believe me when I said that a TOUGH camera is ideal for kids because my hubby lost his $300 compact camera in a single drop because the lens wouldn’t focus anymore. Being able to withstand 220 pounds of pressure, and operate in temperatures as low as -10 degree Celsius means the camera can be operated in climate the likes of Hokkaido winterland and Tibet high mountains. If you are more than snorkelling, consider a double YAY because Olympus made an underwater housing (optional accessories) to the camera that is rated to 45 metres deep. The front body is finished in black for preventing light leakage, which is a clever improvement from the early days of clear underwater housing for consumer range of cameras. One thing I disliked is how easy the camera heated up when underwater. When housed in the underwater housing, the heat around the lens and rear bottom of camera (where the battery compartment is) has no where to escape while diving. Condensation hence set in halfway into the dive as I was shooting continuously and I had some blurry images at the edges of photos if you looked carefully. One way to counter this is to insert power packets of silica gel into the housing.
Video recording is saved in QuickTime format (.mov files) with highest quality at a resolution of 1080P (1920×1080) . I didn’t manage to make a video on land and had only one passable video recording of fish feeding at shallow water. You can view the footage in the video below.
Now for the kids and families who don’t SCUBA dive, here are some land shots taken before and on the way to the Marine Park for our snorkelling. I love that the colours are so rich and the photos actually stand out and could “speak” with a decent depth of field.
Now, some shots taken inside shallow water, again with the camera in the underwater housing. These are lousy photos as I didn’t attempt to try better ones because, firstly, I don’t know how to snorkel and I was fighting flotation in saltwater trying to stay or even reach the sand bottom. The water was only about 1-m deep and I can’t reach the bottom 😦 Secondly, we chose to snorkel on the HOTTEST day and time during our stay. Nobody was quite willing to leave the shelter under the bridge for too long.
K gave me a pose before setting off to find fishes. I believe this shot would be perfect if it’s in swimming pool condition and I would love to give it another try at the pool if given the chance!
Earlier I mentioned that I had problems transferring the photos out from the rental set because I didn’t have any portable storage and I had to email myself. I just found out that the problem can be resolved if the resort had invested in a FlashAir card (separately sold SDHC card equipped with a wireless LAN function). Simply replace the standard SD card with the FlashAir card and users will be able to download the photos to their smartphone using the ‘OI.Share‘ app. OI.Share can also be used to upload images to favourite social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook, for instant shout-out which I am unable to do at this moment (on the coach)!! Chanting now and hopefully ny hubby sitting infront can hear me through telepathy “I need to get a FlashAir card!”
According to Olympus website, the latest model in the TOUGH SERIES is TG-4. I am so going to check it out when I have the chance, together with underwater housing of course! Wondering when’s my next trip now *cry*
In Singapore, the TG-3 and TG-4 are retailing at Harvey Norman for S$348 and S$498 (free additional battery) respectively. The TG-4 and its underwater housing is fully sold out at Olympus e-Commerce site.
Both TG-3 and TG-4 are 16-MP models with built-in WIFI which the 12MP TG-2 lacks. This means, there is no need to purchase FlashAir card at all. HELLO Facebook! GOOD DAY Twitter!!! ❤
The only difference between TG-3 and TG-4, aside from being a year apart in the market, is that the TG-4 allows recording images in RAW format.
RAW is a file format that captures all image-related data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. When shooting in a format like JPEG image, information is compressed and lost. With RAW format, no information is compressed. Hence we are able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.
Base on the above consideration, I would recommend for normal users, like busy mummies you and me, there is really no point in spending additional S$150 for this feature since RAW format is more meant for professional photographers to carry out post-production processes.
If you are on the lookout for a rugged camera either for the kids or yourself, do consider the Olympus TG-3! It’s said to be the pinnacle of toughness and does prove to be one!
~ SAys! Shirley