One of the things I always enjoy about coming to NAD Lembeh Resort is the chance to play with the latest camera gadgets that Simon always seems to have in stock. Last year, I was able to spend a few days shooting the Sony A7s in a Nauticam Housing as well as the Olympus EM-1 in a Nauticam housing; to see the reviews of these two setups please click here (Sony) and here (Olympus). This year I am trying out a couple more setups: the Panasonic GH-4 and the Olympus TG-4, both of which are combined with Nauticam housings. First up, here are a few thoughts on the TG-4.
I have seen a lot of posts recently on social media singing the praises of the Olympus TG-4 compact camera. Being ever the cynic, I was not a firm believer in the claims that the photos were “uncropped” and “straight from the camera” on the photos being posted around the net from this setup. I have shot with dozens of compact cameras throughout the years and one thing that they all had in common was that they could not take a decent macro photo without some sort of external diopter. Although many boast a “macro” mode which allowed for focusing mere centimetres away, as soon as any sort of zoom was applied the camera could no longer focus. Therefore, the only subjects these cameras could shoot on “macro” without a diopter were of subjects that didn’t move: nudibranchs or frogfish and the like. Therefore, I was certainly skeptical of any photos that showed high magnification, high quality macro photos taken with a compact camera without any additional diopters. However, after trying the camera on a dive today, I am now highly convinced! What a camera!
The Olympus TG-4 is a tiny little shockproof, water resistant compact offering from Olympus that is rather unassuming and not really what a photographer would think of when deciding on a camera for underwater. It doesn’t even offer manual settings which are pretty important when shooting underwater. When paired with the Nauticam housing, it is a very small and easy to carry underwater system with nice big push buttons and a large viewing screen. When I used it today I brought along one of my Fisheye FIX 7000 lights to illuminate the subjects but a smaller light such as a FIX 2500 would work just as well. A wide light is recommended as many dive torches are just too narrow to illuminate a photo in a pleasant way. The key to using the TG-4 was setting it to the “Microscope” mode, which offers a “super macro” experience with a compact camera unlike any other I have used. Although turning it to “microscope” meant that the on board flash no longer worked, I was able to get around this with a good video light. It does have an LED light onboard that might be able to trigger a fibre optic flash but I didn’t bring one with me to test that but I am told that it can be done and the Nauticam housing does have a fibre optic port for a strobe attachment. What the camera can do on “microscope” mode though is Zoom, and not just zoom a tiny bit, but rather zoom a whole lot while still retaining focus even from a few centimetres away! This is an exciting finding and means this camera is a serious player for beginning underwater photographers who want a quality, inexpensive and easy to use “point and shoot” option underwater. As a nice bonus, the camera itself is water proof to 15 metres and if the housing suffers from a flood it should survive without any problems.
That’s enough talk from me, what truly matters are the photos. These are all straight from the camera jpg only resized with logo added, no processing or cropping. I used the camera on automatic with a constant light from a Fisheye FIX light. I can certainly see myself buying one of these systems for our business in Bali very, very soon!
Mike Veitch, Underwater Tribe