Olympus Tough TG-4 Underwater Test and Review
The Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera
The Olympus TG-4 is an update to the previous Olympus Tough series line flagship, the TG-3. The TG-4 is a splash-proof pocket camera, one that you can take snorkeling on its own, waterproof to 50 feet, or take it deeper while diving using the PT-056 Underwater Housing, making it waterproof to 150 feet. In addition, the TG-4 Tough lives up to its name, as it is shock-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof and dust-proof.
In microscope mode, the TG-4 gets crazy close-up super macro. This shrimp image was taken with NO additional macro accessory lens, and continuous light from a Sola 2000. © Jim Decker | TG-4 | ISO 125 | 1/400 sec at f / 4.9
The only major difference with the TG-4 over the TG-3 is the addition of RAW shooting capability instead of JPEG. This is a major step forward in image quality with RAW being an uncompressed format compared to JPEG. It even fits in the same PT-056 Underwater Housing as the TG-3.
The greatest feature of the TG-4 is its ability to capture macro and super macro images without adding an accessory lens. Microscope mode will allow you to get crazy close to those small subjects, filling the frame with tack sharp images. This camera will focus so close in microscope mode that if you have any lint or debris on the inside of the housing lens, it will focus on that instead of the subject, so make sure your lens port is clean! You can get super close up shots of blennies, so much so that you can see their teeth and their need to floss. All of the photos shown are completely uncropped from the camera.
Snorkelers will be intrigued by the relatively inexpensive FCON-T01 Fisheye Converter Lens that will mount directly onto the camera for use underwater. But for most diving, you will be better off using the PT-056 housing; in addition to increasing the depth rating to 150 feet, it also allows for the easy attachment of strobes or lights, making this a full-featured rig.
The TG-4 becomes a great wide angle setup when paired with a lens like the UWL-04 fisheye lens which threads directly on to the housing. No strobes were used in this shot only a single Light & Motion Sola 3000, making for a very compact wide angle shooting rig. © Jim Decker | TG-4 | ISO 800 | 1/100 sec at f / 9
The video from the Olympus Tough TG-4 has great looking color due to a custom white balance feature being added to the Tough series. It works best in the shallows. Any deeper than about 40 to 50 feet will benefit from a color correction filter. Unlike some compact cameras, the TG-4 has live focus like a camcorder, and it's super fast. This occasionally led to a small amount of focus hunt from time to time like a camcorder, but was not enough to outweigh the benefits of live focus.
The TG-4 can also shoot 1080p video. When using a video light for both stills and video, it's super easy to switch between shooting both video and photo, as there is no separate video mode to switch to. Just hit the record button and go.
Aperture priority is a big help in shooting wide angle scenes over Program mode. Getting consistent results was much easier with shooting strobes on manual exposure. This also allows for controlling depth of field and makes it easier to get darker backgrounds in macro. Another benefit to stopping the lens down is sharper corners when using wide angle accessory lenses.
For the price, the TG-4 is unbeatable, and we love having a camera that we can bring anywhere without fear. This camera is going to survive your adventures.
- Microscope mode has the largest reproduction ratio of ANY camera without a macro lens
- Super fast focus even in macro mode
- True "point and shoot" performance when lighting with a video light
- Now shoots RAW!
- No manual exposure mode
- Focuses so close that you need to make sure the inside of the housing is clean otherwise it will focus on lint on the port
- Default minimum shutter speed for flash is a slow 1/30 second