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How do you improve on the best? See the TG2!
on August 13, 2013
Let me start my review with some background information. I've been a professional photographer for the last 10 years and a digital-camera enthusiast since they started becoming available. I shoot with heavy, bulky, expensive equipment when I'm working, but when I'm having a good time with my family I look for something a little different in a camera.
Right now, most of us have phones that take pretty good pictures when in good light. The problem with phones, and other point-and-shoot cameras is that you can't get in on the action very well as you're using them. They're fine if you want to be the one who's on the sideline trying to get the people having fun to look at you.
If you're like me, this isn't good enough. I take pictures for a living, so the last thing I want to do is take more and miss out on all of the fun moments with my family. This is why I have been snatching up the "tough"-style cameras every year in search of one to love. After owning several Canons, Nikons, and even waterproof housings, last year I finally found what I felt was the *perfect* take-anywhere camera: the Olympus TG-1. Over the last 12 months, I have really given it a beating and it's still working perfectly. In fact, last month I just got back from a trip to the Great Barrier Reef where it took some of the most incredible pictures you can imagine.
Of course, when I saw there was an update to my beloved TG-1, I knew I had to have one. Fast forward to two weeks ago and my package arrived. Since I've rambled a bit on my intro, let me just summarize my thoughts after giving it a good dose of summer for two weeks:
Clearly, Olympus took everything amazing from the last camera, improved on it, and then added a handful of incredible features that I didn't know I wanted but now have fallen in love with!
Here's a BRIEF SYNOPSIS about what I LOVE:
Solid construction. This is no toy - it's the real deal and it feels great in my hands.
The lens is in the center. This keeps your fingers off it and makes it easy to hold during the action. (This is also a bonus for lefties!)
The user interface is intuitive. Unlike some other cameras I own, there is nothing buried in the menus. Plus, nearly everything you need is right on the dial.
I love the strap. It's thick, adjustable, and bright red. If you drop this on the ocean floor like I did, you'll be happy for this.
The battery compartments have double locks. First you lock it, then you lock the lock. This keeps you from nervously picking it open underwater and keeps your kids from doing it on accident.
The screen is big, and I find it's even visible in bright light and underwater through goggles.
The lens goes really wide. This is great to add drama to things, but also just to capture a whole-lotta fun in one shot. I get more group action shots on this than I do with any other camera.
The camera location tags your pictures with its built-in GPS. This is an awesome combination to Adobe Lightroom. I just import my pics and they're distributed on a world map. It's awesome to see all the adventures we've had this way.
The camera shoots fast. At full resolution, you get over 5 frames-per-second, which is the same that I get with my Canon 5d mark III. If you lower the resolution, you can get an incredible 60 FPS! And, if you need more than that, see below!
Let me tell you about some of the NEW STANDOUT FEATURES for me:
1. 240 FPS
One of the features I love about the TG-2 is the ability to shoot video at 240 frames-per-second. Yes, you read that right. Just think of all the money you'd save from buying a $120,000 Phantom HD camera!
All kidding aside, being able to shoot in this super-slow motion mode is incredibly fun. In fact, the other night my family spent hours making all sorts of videos with this camera. The kids would do crazy dives into the pool, we had watermelon eating contests, we did skateboard tricks, threw water balloons at each other, etc. and after each video was taken, the whole family would come running up to me and the camera and watch in amazement. This kind of fun is what life is all about. We had a great summer evening being together and just having a great time. The movement, facial expressions, impossible poses, and the things that happen too fast to catch in real time, were captivating to say the least.
There are two caveats with this feature which I think are important to mention. 1. There is no sound. This is because it would be slow-motion sound and would be too slow to even sound funny. This is why when you see the slow-motion videos on the internet, they're always done with background music. 2. The video resolution makes them tiny. You definitely aren't going to play these on your huge TV, but they're great to watch in a window on your computer.
2. Aperture Priority Mode
When I shoot professionally, I use AV mode on my Canons. The previous TG-1 did not have the ability to set the aperture, but the new one does and it's a welcome addition. Because my shooting style is more fluid and from the hip, I'm ok with letting the camera choose the shutter speed based on the aperture I want and this is doubly so with a camera like this. When I switch over to the A mode, I do it to blur the background and make the subject stand out. Because this camera goes down to f/2, I can get some pretty decent results from it, especially when zoomed all the way in on my subject. For example, when I want to take a poolside pic of my daughter, I can blur the background a bit and diminish the distracting fence and signs in the background.
3. Super-Macro mode
The Super-Macro mode is phenomenal. In fact, this is the first camera that can shoot all the way up to a tiny 1 centimeter from the subject! It's literally MICROSCOPIC! In this mode I was able to hold the camera right up to my eyeball, snap a shot, and see every little detail and pigment in my eye. A more practical way I've been using this feature is for the watches and other items I sell on eBay. It really adds value to my listings (and winning bids!) when I'm able to post close-ups of the watch dials to give the buyer confidence in my listing.
Another way I've been using this mode is with my children. We've been running around the house (and park, and tide-pools, etc) and photographing everything small and making it BIG. From hermit crabs to rolly-pollies, my kids love getting right on top of something and "blowing it up!" Most recently we've been playing a game where they take the camera around the house, shoot an item, and then run back to me and have me guess what it is. It's been great fun and of course I don't have to worry about them breaking the camera.
SHOOTING MODES: (most are the same from the TG1, but there are a few differences)
iAUTO - Camera chooses the mode based on the scene
Program Auto (this is what I use mostly) - Like iAUTO, but allows you to make changes to: flash, macro, self-timer (12 sec, 2 sec), exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, sequential (1 fps, 6 fps at 12mp, 60 fps at 3mp), and photo size (megapixels).
Scene mode - Changes modes based on subject. This is a great way to ensure you get the best picture you can without having to rely on auto-mode.The choices are: portrait, beauty, landscape, hand-held starlight, night scene, night portrait, sport, indoor, self-portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, beach & snow, snapshot, wide 1, wide 2, macro, pet mode -cat, pet mode -dog, snow, panorama, backlight HDR.
If you shoot a lot, it should be pretty easy to speculate what settings each mode makes. For example, sunset mode bumping up the saturation on reds, purples, yellows; fireworks mode using a longer shutter-speed to get light trails; beauty mode using a softer focus, neutral skin-tones, etc. This being said, I have no idea what the difference would be between cat and dog mode. If you figure this out, post it in the comments!
Magic mode - Here you can take Instagram-like pictures in real time, seeing the effect as you shoot. Many of the effects even work for videos as well.
Pop art - oversaturated colors
Pin hole - vignette, like an old camera
Fish eye - simulates a fish-eye lens (really fun!)
Line - drawing turns the picture into something like a coloring book page
Soft focus - like old school glamour shot
Punk - turns pictures pink and black (actually more fun than you might think)
Sparkle - simulates a star filter, which turns any points of light into stars (great for Christmas lights or city lights)
Watercolor - mutes the colors, adds line (see `Line' above)
Reflection - like a kaleidoscope (my kids favorite)
Miniature - simulates a tilt-shift lens. If you haven't heard of this style of photography, Google it. Super fun, and something I use for landscapes when I hike with it.
Fragmented - like a shattered mirror
Dramatic - processes pictures with a "grunge" look
C1 and C2 - These custom modes are incredibly useful. If you find yourself dialing in certain settings for situations you encounter often, you can just assign those settings to one of these 2 modes on the dial. For example, my brother-in-law likes to examine my nephews pitching on the 60fps (3mp) mode so he has assigned these settings to the C1 mode and just remembers that C1 mode is "Zach's Pitching Mode." Now when he takes pictures during a game, he can just flip over to the C1 from iAUTO mode whenever Zach pitches. Super-useful!
BONUS! Here are some UNDERWATER PHOTO TIPS from my experiences:
As far as underwater pictures go, this camera performs wonderfully. Colors are bright and accurate both above and underwater, and the contrast is excellent for an underwater camera as well. This being said, let me give you some tips on getting the best shots.
1. Just like with regular photography, 12 noon is the least desirable part of the day to shoot. A good rule of thumb is that the further you get from noon, the better the quality of light. Another way to think of it would be the closer to sunrise/sunset, the better the quality of light will be.
2. Even though you are underwater, there are better angles/directions to shoot in. I haven't been able to come up with a rule, but when you get into the pool, test an underwater shot from each direction and you should be able to see which looks best.
3. The camera has a coating on its lens designed to keep drips off when you're playing in the water. I can't tell you how many pictures I've missed on other waterproof cameras when there was a drip that obscured the subject of my photo. This being said, here's a tip that has helped me get a 100% success rate in the pool: I just dip the camera in the water and peek at the lens. If there's a drip that has managed to stay on the coated lens, DON'T wipe it with your finger - just blow it off. Because of the coating it'll slide right off
As you can see, I'm thrilled with this new addition to my camera line-up. The Olympus Tough line has proved it can take a beating and this new model has taken what I called a *perfect* underwater camera and made it even better.
In my group of friends, I'm the guy everyone comes to when they want to buy a camera. When they tell me they want a point-and-shoot, I love it because it's an easy answer: the Olympus TG-2.
If you found my review helpful, let me know! I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you have about this camera or any general photography questions as well.