Olympus TG-4: Simply Add Water for Stunning Aquatic Imagery

Bottom Line: Every once in a while we run across a product that we want to tell everyone about. So is the case with the Olympus TG-4 camera and the Olympus PT-056 underwater housing.

We love our GoPro cameras but they do have a purpose. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a GoPro TV ad featuring still images? Exactly... It was this lack of still photo chutzpah that made us venture out to find a reasonably priced, smallish underwater camera to take good ol' photos with.

If you've done any recent research on this topic, no doubt you have run across countless reviews of the Olympus TG-4 (MSRP $380). One review in particular caught our attention: Backscatter's Jim Decker gave a glowing review that is almost too good to believe: "For the price, the TG-4 is unbeatable..." Could it be true? The answer is a resounding YES! The TG-4 is an amazing camera.

With about 20-seconds of "preparation and training," i.e. "How do you turn this thing on?," these images (Figures 1-3) were taken during a recent Channel Islands dive trip. Visibility was particularly poor with turbulent sea conditions that put lots of floating junk between the camera lens and intended subjects.

Figures 1-3 were literally point-and-click photos, so the results were not expected to be much. We were stunned by the clarity and detail in the photos. Native resolution for the TG-4 is 4608 x 3456 and files average about 3 MB each.

The camera, housing (Olympus PT-056, MSRP $300) and external light source (Sola 3000, MSRP $600, may be out of production) were configured for these photos as depicted in Figure 4. As full list of hardware (tray, handle, clamps and mounts) were purchased from the helpful folks at Backscatter and will be detailed here later.

The TG-4 also takes video in *.MOV format using an color auto-correction (replacing reds at depth)  with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. Does it compare to GoPro video quality? We have to say YES! again.

 

Underwater video examples include:

We agree with Jim Decker: The TG-4 is an amazing and simple camera for underwater photo enthusiasts who aren't enthusiastic about spending $10,000 for a camera rig.

Figure 1: 1/200s, f/3.2, ISO 100, Focal Length: 5.1mm

Figure 2: 1/400s, f/2.8, ISO 100, Focal Length: 4.5mm

Figure 3: 1/125s, f/3.2, ISO 125, Focal Length: 5.1mm

Additional Equipment Shown in Figure 4

An external light source can be mounted to the PT-056 underwater camera housing by using a cold shoe mount, but we found the camera, housing and Sola light a bit unwieldy to handle using the camera housing itself... so we added a real handle and tray to our rudimentary rig. We will likely add a tray extension, another handle, and a second light to balance the lighting out. All items were acquired through Backscatter.com:

  1. Sola Ball Mount Kit

  2. Ultralight Mount Clip

  3. Ultralight Tray

  4. Tray Handle

  5. T-Bolts and Washers for Tray

This product review is solely the opinion of ATA/BAR DIVERS as a product consumer and is provided without compensation, affiliation or consideration of any kind.

Garabaldi damselfish photo taken with the Olympus TG-4.

Figure 1. Cropped, unretouched photo of a Garabaldi damselfish taken with the TG-4. 

Green anemone photo taken with the Olympus TG-4.

Figure 2. Cropped, unretouched photo of a
green anemone taken with the TG-4. 

Kelp bass photo taken with the Olympus TG-4.

Figure 3. Cropped, unretouched photo of a
kelp bass taken with the TG-4. 

Olympus TG-4 + PT-056 housing + Sola 3000 video light

Figure 4. Olympus TG-4 + PT-056 housing + Sola 3000 video light with Backscatter tray, handle, clamp and mounts.