Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera Review

A review of the TG-4 and housing for underwater photo and video, including new RAW recording and Microscope Mode
By Brent Durand

The Olympus Tough TG-4 compact camera sits in a class by itself. The 16MP camera is waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof and dustproof.... oh, and it even has a dive housing for serious underwater photography. This combination makes the Olympus TG-4 a great camera for those who put their cameras through demanding topside and underwater use but don't want the bulk and expense of larger systems. Highlights include microscope mode, which lets you shoot scary-close to your tiny subject, and RAW image recording for complete post-processing control.

 

Jump to Review Section:

 


Purchase the Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera & Housing Bundle

on SALE at Bluewater Photo


 

Goliath Grouper. TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter. Lit with Sola 2000.

 

Olympus TG-4 Camera Specs

  • Waterproof:  Down to 50 ft / 15 m

  • Crushproof:  Up to 220 lbf / 100 kgf

  • Shockproof:  Up to 7 ft / 2.1 m

  • Freezeproof:  Down to 14°F / -10°C

  • Dustproof:  Yes

  • Sensor:  16 MP BSI CMOS Sensor with RAW capability

  • Lens:  Fast f/2.0 lens - great for low light shooting underwater

  • Fisheye converter and tele converter for TG-4 body

  • Underwater housing (PT-056) rated to 150ft (45m)

    • For use scuba diving, attaching tray/handles for strobes and/or video lights, as well as macro and wide-angle wet lenses.

  • WiFi (and GPS) that can be paited with the Olympus Share app

 

 

Olympus TG-4 Key Upgrades (from the TG-3)

  • RAW photo capture allows for the highest resolution capture and maximum creative control

  • New Microscope feature allows you to focus with the lens virtually on the subject.

  • New Underwater HDR shooting mode (when not using strobe)

 

Sea Fan polyps. TG-4, no housing using macro mode. Lit with Sola 2000. Camera was about an inch from the sea fan in order to light, with no zoom.

 

Jet ski split-shot. TG-4, no housing using the fisheye converter. Yes, the Olympus Tough is... tough.

 

A great snorkeling/freediving camera. TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter.

 

Olympus TG-4 Underwater Housing

The Olympus TG-4 underwater housing (PT-056) can be purchased with is sold separately from the TG-4 camera, and we highly recommend it for anyone planning to take the TG-4 scuba diving. The housing is small, lightweight and a great value. And although the TG-4 is technically waterproof to 50ft, the housing will allow divers to use strobes, more wet lenses for wide-angle and macro, handles and other accessories in shallow water or much deeper depths.

 

TG-4 Housing Specs

  • Depth Rating:  45m

  • Filter Thread Size:  52mm

  • Weight:  Approx 1 lb (430 g)

  • Includes:  O-ring, silica gel, silicone grease, LCD hood, lens cap optical cable adapter, anti-reflective ring

Olympus TG-4 Underwater housing

Thoughts from the Lab

In reviewing the specs of the new TG-4 compact camera, we think it will be a nice camera for those who want a compact, versatile camera that takes high-quality images. Take the camera on your dive trip and bring it in the pool, in the river on your hike, toss it in your daypack and then put it in the Olympus housing with a strobe or a video light before your scuba dives. This is some great versatility.

The Olympus TG-4 is also much more desireable now that it shoots 16 MP RAW images. Recording images in RAW format saves more data, allowing for custom post-processing in your computer photo software.

Underwater shooters will be very interested in the new Microscope Mode. How close is the minimum focus distance?  I don’t know – the camera focuses on the lens cap… can’t get closer than that!

The TG-4's WiFi ability also makes it easy to send your images to a tablet or mobile phone (via the Olympus Share app) for editing and posting to your social networks - no need to lug a heavy computer around with you. There is also built-in GPS for keeping track of your adventure.

Simple camera controls make the TG-4 easy to use. You can record video with a press of the red button on back of the camera, which is indented so that it doesn’t start recording unintentionally. All other controls are positioned for easy access with your right thumb.

The housing is actually the same as the TG-3 housing, which is great for those who would like to upgrade for RAW and Microscope Mode. Housing controls are clearly labeled and easy to press. Replace the pop-up flash diffuser with a flash mask when using a strobe(s). One of the best housing features is the cold shoe mount on top, which allows you to mount a video and/or focus light on top of the housing, which is a great solution for bringing light to your photos without investing in a tray/handles and strobe(s).

Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera back

 

Preparing to dive. TG-4, no housing using the fisheye converter.

 

 

Thoughts from the Water

I tested the OlympusTG-4 on one exciting scuba dive and one snorkel, using the camera without the housing (the dives were shallow). These are the underwater photos and video you see in this review, with details included in each caption.

The TG-4 was really fun to use. Normally I shoot with at least one strobe, but the TG-4 produced some great photos using only a video light. I handheld the light, however the light could also be mounted to the housing cold shoe, creating a very compact system – it’s really all you need.

Underwater, the TG-4 was very intuitive to use. I shot in Aperture Priority mode, allowing you to shoot f/2, f/2.8 or f/8. For those without a firm grasp of aperture, you can shoot in P mode, which is full automatic.

While the camera isn’t fully manual (good for entry-level photographers), it does allow more experienced users to get the shot. Reviewing images was easy when working on precise lighting, and when I wanted to shoot quick action while swimming, I turned off the preview (after each shot), enabling me to shoot a rapid sequence.  (note that I shot each frame – there are also high-speed shooting modes that capture many frames per second, but this delivers jpg files, not RAW).

The Olympus TG-4 housing allows use of wide-angle and macro wet lenses, but there is also a fisheye (wide-angle converter) wet lens for the camera itself, which I used to capture the split shots in this review.

Switching from photo to video is super easy: push the shutter to shoot photos, and push the red record button for video. This is great for those who enjoy shooting photos and videos.

You can read about recommended lights, wet lenses, and filters here.

 

Eagle Ray. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

Grouper. Olympus TG-4, no housing with fisheye converter. Lit with Sola 2000.

 

Nurse shark. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

 

 

Olympus Tough TG-4 Underwater Video

Filmed with TG-4 without housing, ambient light only, except for Goliath Grouper scene (using handheld Sola 2000).

 

 

 

Additional Olympus Tough TG-4 Photos

Ready for adventure with the TG-4. Photo from a burst mode sequence.

 

Snorkeling. TG-4, no housing, ambient light.

 

 


Purchase the Olympus Tough TG-4 Camera & Housing Bundle

on SALE at Bluewater Photo


 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is managing editor of the Underwater Photography Guide, an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

Join Brent on a workshop:

Interested in another workshop? Email Bluewater Travel to let them know!

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.