Olympus TG-4 – first impressions

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I recently decided to buy a point and shoot camera that could serve as an all-purpose camera for when I didn’t want to lug around my all too heavy backpack full of expensive gear. I set some pretty high standards, and was surprised to find that at least one camera appeared to meet them. But I was all set to be disappointed, as the manufacturer’s claims on point and shoot camera quality are usually quite inflated.

First of all, I wanted a camera that was rugged and could handle being manhandled. I wanted it to be able to get wet, really wet, and still keep working. I wanted it to save images in raw format, not just JPEG, so that I would have more control over processing. I wanted decent quality images, understanding that a point and shoot in this price range was not going to give me the quality of my high priced Canon gear. So after a lot of time spent reading reviews I decided to try out the Olympus TG-4.

I got the camera late in the day and charged it up. The next afternoon I decided to test it out in my back yard. One of the manufacturer’s claims is that it can take good macro images. In fact it has a focus stacking mode. Impressive, but does it really work? Now, to set the stage, it was quite breezy, and sunny. Not ideal conditions for shooting macros, by any means.

My initial impressions were quite positive overall. Pushing the limits of this camera even a little quickly degraded the image quality, but as long as I kept the ISO at 100 and did not use too much magnification I was able to get images that were somewhere between good and amazingly good. The down side is that there were a lot of bad shots, and missed shots, too. The limited zoom quality forced me to be close to the subject. Very close. So shooting bees, butterflies, flies, crickets, spiders, etc. was not easy. Then there is the fact that this camera has no viewfinder. So on a bright sunny day it can be difficult to focus using the LCD screen, depending on the angle of the sun. But in my first hour of using this camera under conditions that were very poor for shooting macros I managed to get about 20 high quality shots. I would consider that to be impressive, under the circumstances. Granted, these images do not compare to my Canon 6D, or even my 60D but at a small fraction of the cost of those cameras (plus lenses!) these are quite good pictures. And they were shot at close range, where the placement of the flash is less than ideal. But you can also buy an inexpensive macro flash diffuser for around $40 that is supposed to act like a ring flash.

The functions of this camera are easy to change, and access on screen. It feels quite solid, and appears to be able to withstand drops up to 7 feet, per the manufacturer’s claims. I have not tested the waterproof claims (up to 50 feet in depth). A few user reviews on websites say the waterproof doors opened while in use, but then most say it is good. It has a double locking sysem so I can’t imagine how they would open if closed properly. I tend to think that since most of the waterproof cameras have these type of reviews it can probably be chalked up to carelessness on the part of the users for the most part.

I would not pit the image quality of this camera against any quality DSLR and lens combination. But it’s size, weight and portability, along with it’s versatility mean that I can take it a lot of places where I can’t take my DSLR. Or won’t risk damaging it. My impression is that it is a good buy for anyone looking for an all-purpose, go anywhere camera. From what I see it does not appear to do anything exceptionally well, but it does appear to do a good job under conditions where I would not want to take my expensive gear, and the cost is reasonable ($379).

The images shown were ones shot on that first day, with no experience using this camera, which shows how easy it is to just pick up and shoot decent quality pictures.

_MG_3408 - Walt Payne Photography

Bee macro - Walt Payne Photography

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