Underwater photography: Tough Tg-Tracker vs O-MD

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Klorenzo, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    I may be going to do scuba diving in a few weeks and I'm considering the idea to try underwater photography. I'm going to stay for about one month with daily divings.
    Right now I have an E-M10 but I'm considering to get an E-M1/E-M5 mk2 for the sealing anyway. The only sealed lenses I have are the 12-40 and the O60 (but this is likely to stay at home as the zoom is good enough).

    So I see two options: buy an underwater case and something like the Oly fisheye and go with this option.
    The alternative is to get something like the tg-tracker (alternative suggestions with an LCD are welcome).

    The O-MD option seems extremely expensive and more complex to handle (considering I have zero experience with diving).

    There is a third option of course: just do not bother. Maybe underwater photography is so complex (low light, framing, etc.) to require a lot more time and experience to get something worth to keep.

    What are your experiences? Any advice?
  2. nuclearboy

    nuclearboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2011
    Ellicott City, MD
    Real Name:
    Just for fun, I would get an Olympus TG-4 (assuming it will handle the depth you are diving too). I have used the TG-860 for snorkeling with decent results for fun memories. The TG-4 has a faster lens.
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  3. AG_Alex2097

    AG_Alex2097 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2015
    Real Name:
    Alex S.
    Unless a dive master is going with you, i would advise against it as diving can be dangerous, there's a lot of things you need to keep track of (unless you have an experienced buddy doing it for you) and adding a camera to that might prove unwieldy, if you have an experienced diver coming with you though, then go for it, however, depending on the depth you're going, you will need a strong light source to bring out the true colours under water (Otherwise you'll just have a blue-green-ish wash), a good diving lamp is recommended, but an on camera flash can also do a decent job (the OM-D cases take the small flash that comes with the camera into account) :)
    Depths up until ~12m should still provide you with enough light to take some nice pictures (also depends on the weather above the water (this is in the case of beautiful sunshine))

    The OM-D is indeed extremely expensive, especially if you want to add a great lamp (I recommend the Keldan Video 8M Flux)
    Go-Pros and stuff are absolutely worthless in my opinion (for underwater anyway)
    The TG-Tracker might be a good intermediate, but i don't know about the strength of it's light source (nor the image quality)

    In the end though, if this is your first time diving, i wouldn't do it, instead focus on the diving and enjoy the experience, you don't want to be fiddling with settings and what not, if anything, give the camera (or whatever you end up doing) to the divemaster accompanying you (if available) and put it on Auto (or underwater mode), they usually don't mind (unless you're diving in a big group (hopefully not, often ruins the experience))

    ps PADI Advanced Open Water Diver here
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  4. bjurasz

    bjurasz Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 10, 2014
    Cedar Park
    We have a TG-860 I use in swimming pools all the time. Good down to 50 feet. It does well!
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  5. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    I have done some snorkelling with the TG-860, and the results are okay, but work best when processed heavily, and usually when converted to B&W.

    If my primary goal were underwater photography rather than just a rough-and-tumble little point and shoot that can get wet, I would definitely go with something that can shoot RAW like the TG-4. Being able to correct for white balance / colour profiles when shooting underwater makes a huge difference. JPEGs out of camera never seem to get it right, and trying to adjust it just produces weird artifacts.
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  6. StefanKruse

    StefanKruse Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 28, 2015
    Real Name:
    Seeing as you are new to diving I would advise against the big set-up i.e. the OMD option. This is tricky to handle underwater and in the beginning you will have enough to do with just keeping Buoyancy, dive profile, air and orientation in place.

    Also a underwater housing with an underwater strobe light is expensive and can easily cost you several thousand USD especially if you want a port and zoom gear that will allow you to use the 12-40 lens. Remember different lenses may require different ports and zoom gear for the housing. In underwater photography the camera is often the cheapest part compared to housing, tray, port and lighting.

    I would recommend a point and shoot option if you are adamant about taking underwater photos alternatively a go-pro or try and rent something.

    Honestly as you are new to diving I would recommend you leave the camera on shore and just enjoy the very special and fantastic experience of diving.

    I have more than 10 years of diving and have only been shooting underwater for the last 2 years or so - UW photography can be tremendously rewarding, but I would only recommend it once you have gained some experience diving.
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  7. Hypilein

    Hypilein Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 18, 2015
    Most here are spot on. A housing + strobes (they are not optional...) is too much to handle for a beginner diver. If you want to take something down for pictures anyway, you need RAW as whitebalance will be tricky underwater. If you want a slightly better setup take a premium compact underwater in a housing. Not as expensive as the EM1 and much more wallet and user friendly. Still, you would probably want at least one flash.

    I don't know if anyone has any experience taking the Nikon 1 AW underwater? For shallower dives (all you're really allowed in the beginning) this might be an option with really good IQ.
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  8. denniscloutier

    denniscloutier Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 24, 2011
    Getting a decent underwater shot requires you to be able to get close and stay still long enough to frame the shot, adjust exposure and shoot without trashing the corals etc. This requires excellent buoyancy control and the diving part needs to be second nature. Just learning to dive safely is enough task loading to start with. Bringing a camera will just make it more dangerous and is really unlikely to yield any decent pictures until you know how to dive.
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  9. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Underwater housings of good quality and strobes are expensive and not easy to master. The wether sealed-ness of the lenses is irrelevant to their use underwater, so should not be an issue.

    If you've never dived before, leave the camera at home until you've got at least 50 or 60 dives under your belt, then see how things go. I started at dive 30 or so, but in retrospect should have waited longer. I'm a relative newbie with 80 dives under my belt and only now getting the hang of underwater photography, which is HARD. Plus you don't yet know what kind of underwater photographer you are; I like both wide angle and macro, with the latter being harder and a newly found be interest, and dislike choosing before the dive which makes most interchangeable lens cameras less attractive.

    I use a compact (RX100 mark I) underwater, and the camera is by far the cheapest part of the rig:
    - RX100 (€300)
    - aluminum Acquapazza housing (€800)
    - wet lenses (wide and macro, second hand, Inon) (€400, new €800)
    - Inon S-2000 strobe (€400)
    - ball and arm setup with lens caddies (€200)

    This is a setup that can deliver excellent quality, and is relatively cheap; you can save by getting a 200 dollar housing (plastic, minimal support, not always great handling), or not using wet lenses at all, but that will limit your photographic options quite severely, IMO. To the point that you might as well get an action cam or an Oly TG-4, which can do a lot for the cash. The refractive index of water means all your lenses get an extra crop factor, so if you want wide, you'll need an extra lens outside the camera (wet lens) or a dome port and a wide lens inside the camera.

    A good setup for an interchangeable lens setup will be significantly pricier than this if you want a quality underwater housing and ports for the lenses (or even a wet lens setup like Nauticam's which works with MFT and even Sony full frame, but we're talking a wide angle wet lens that itself costs 1000 bucks).

    Want wide and macro on one dive with MFT? Looking at about 4000 dollars for a Nauticam setup, a WWL-1 wide and CMC macro lens for an E-M10, again with strobe included.

    For the EM-5mk II, a Nauticam housing, port, dome, strobe, basic strobe arm and strobe from a reputable supplier will set you back about 3100 dollars for the 12-40. 75 less for the Oly Fisheye. 500 more for the E-M1, 100 less for the E-M10.

    Perusing classifieds at Wetpixel can get you some great deals, and Oly's own housings are pretty good and a bit cheaper but have far fewer options for lenses/ports/domes, and lower resale value.

    What I like about the RX100 is that it is relatively small (much more compact than housing my E-M1 or A7r would be), relatively affordable, and very flexible (decent macro and good wide angle on one dive. A similar solution for either of my other cameras would more or less double the weight and size of my kit, and as you can see above, 2 to 4 times the price. Not an option for me when traveling and also carrying systems for topside photos.

    Examples of what the kit can do after a fair amount of practice, over at one of Amin's sister sites:

    Diving Raja Ampat, Indonesia with the RX100

    To;dr version: learn to dive first. master bouyancy - the ability to remain at the depth you want, in the position you want, without touching the reef, while maintaining situational awareness. This is not as simple as it sounds. Only then start considering a camera. For cheap and cheerful I would consider the Oly TG-4 and Oly housing, with a red filter for deeper stuff. Lights when But don't expect too much.
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  10. johnohuk

    johnohuk Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 25, 2016
    Chalfont St Peter, UK
    Real Name:
    I'll second the previous comments, you need to have some diving experience under your belt to be comfortable and safe before pulling out a camera. You don't have to be a dive master but just to a point where you remember that diving safely is the priority and not framing a picture. Start with a point and shoot in an underwater case, the simpler the better to start with to learn the uniqueness of taking pictures with changing white balance/low light/movement/backscatter whilst managing buoyancy etc. As you have limited time underwater, you have to make every minute count, trying to remember how to set the WB at depth is a waste of gas/no deco time so learn it by heart in the pool or above water. Checkout wetpixel or scubaboard for ideas but Canon G or S series are pretty good with a Canon case or Ikelite one. Checkout ebay, folks are always upgrading.

    I'm a dive instructor, i don't take a camera if it's going to be a challenging dive i.e. depth/current/vis/entry/exit/inexperienced buddy!
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  11. TassieFig

    TassieFig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 28, 2013
    Tasmania, Australia
    As a former diving instructor I agree with many here and would strongly recommend you to leave the camera on dry land until you have mastered your buoyancy skills. For some, 20-30 dives are sufficient, most need more, others will never master it (and shouldn't been qualified in the first place imo). I have seen too much trashed corals and dangerous behaviour already by people who have not learned how to dive safely. Please don't be one of them. Also, UV photgraphers are usually very boring to dive with since they hardly move and doesn't have a clue where his/hers buddy is. Potentially dangerous if you haven't planned for this scenario ie be self sufficient which basically excludes all beginners.

    But, diving is awesome! Enjoy it and have fun!
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  12. Underwater

    Underwater Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 1, 2014
    Eugene, Oregon
    Real Name:
    I dove with a point and shoot on my second dive after being certified many years ago. No strobe, but still got some decent shots; you have to start somewhere. I would definitely put off taking an OMD underwater until you have more experience. That experience will come quicker if you do more than just dive clear water in the tropics- you need to push yourself a little (but do it safely).

    One minor correction I would make to a statement made above- there was a post on one of the dive forums where someone made a comprehensive chart of M43 ports and housings; the Olympus OMD housings actually had the most available ports because of the backwards compatibility with 4/3 equipment and the variety of adapters out there. Ergonomics are fine for me with dry-gloves, too- the only thing I wish I had was vacuum capability.
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  13. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    You'll need a lighting rig if you go deeper than snorkeling depths.
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  14. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 14, 2010
    Real Name:
    I've tried scuba diving twice and I wouldn't dare to take my camera with me next time either since diving is / can be dangerous and you need to focus on many things - even without a camera. If you're not an experienced diver leave the camera on boat.

    When snorkeling I've tried a couple of "diving bags" with my E-PM2 and GM1 and come to conclusion that I need to buy either a proper housing or a separate camera. I'm more likely to buy a underwater compact camera (waiting for the Olympus TG-4's successor) since the housing takes so much space and might be a bit awkward. The footage I've seen taken with TG-4 looks good - especially video.

    EDIT: Commented first and then read the other comments and realized everything I said has been said already. :D
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  15. johnohuk

    johnohuk Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 25, 2016
    Chalfont St Peter, UK
    Real Name:
    Agree with the vacuum capability missing from the Oly housing, would love that...

    Interestingly, there are quite a few cheap Oly EM-5 Mk1 housings on ebay at the moment... probably as its end of line.. the ports will still be supported..
  16. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Ok, I'm more then happy to save a lot of money and worries :)

    I have a Sony AS-15 that should be more then enough for that, just to give it a try during the latest dives or snorkeling.
    Any suggestions, if any, on how to improve this setup are welcome (like a good torch that may be useful for photography/video too).
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
  17. monchan

    monchan Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 7, 2012
    Tottori City, Japan
    You might be able to pick up a TG-3 for cheap now that the TG-4 is out. They do well enough.
    These are from my TG-3, while snorkelling. avatar (1 of 12). avatar (4 of 12). avatar (7 of 12).
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  18. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 16, 2012
    Real Name:
    Chiming in to agree with all of the above, particularly TassieFig's comments. However, if you're going to be diving every day for a month, you'll probably develop decent buoyancy control, and you may be itching to try some photos. So, I agree with mattia's suggestion:
    If you want to spend a little less, try the TG-3, although you'll lose the ability to shoot RAW.

    The TG-3 and -4 aren't intended for scuba diving. You can snorkel with them and do very shallow dives, but they aren't meant to go to depth. The housing for them (same housing fits both) isn't expensive, as decent housings go. Amazon.com : Olympus PT-056 UW Housing for the Olympus TG-3 and TG-4 (Black) : Camera & Photo If you want a light for your photography, you might want to look at the Sea Dragon line by SeaLife. Underwater Lights & Strobes | B&H Photo Video My dive buddy has a TG-3 with housing and a Sea Dragon light, but I can't remember which one.

    The advantage of using something like a TG-4 in a housing is that the camera won't be ruined (or is less likely to be ruined) if the housing floods. Even the tiniest bit of sand, salt, or lint on the o-ring of your housing can cause a flood, and watching your housing flood when you're 50 feet down is not a happy experience. (Been there, done that, bought the wetsuit.)

    But what everyone else said about learning to dive well before you start messing with a camera underwater is absolutely, positively true. Scuba diving presents a whole lot of opportunities to kill yourself, so you need to pay attention and develop your skills. Also, if you're diving coral reefs (and that includes coral growing on wrecks), any responsible dive instructor will drill into your head that you DO NOT TOUCH THE CORAL. This includes bashing into it accidentally while you're trying to get set up for a photo. The coral reef ecosystem is very, very fragile, and what seems like the barest touch to you can crush the calcium structures in which the coral polyps live, killing the coral and really pissing off anyone who has to dive after you've effed up the reef. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this?)

    Also, staying still while you're trying to take a picture is tricky even when the water is perfectly calm. Just changing the amount of air in your lungs by inhaling or exhaling will cause you to rise or fall in the water, as your lungs inflate or deflate.

    Did you say where you'll be diving? If it's anywhere with significant current, forget about the photography, and just enjoy the diving. (I'm envious. I haven't been diving for way too long.)

    For dive lights (not photo lights), I've always used Princeton Tec. Product Overview Page - By Use - Scuba | Princeton Tec You don't need one of the big ones unless you plan to dive at night. Look at something like the Tec-40 for a daytime light, and the Tec-400 for night dives (although personally I like something a little larger for night). Tec 40 | Princeton Tec
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
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  19. BlueDevil

    BlueDevil Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 8, 2013
    I agree with the opinion of many others here that you shouldn't even consider using a camera underwater until you are a competent diver with good buoyancy control. Remember that every time you dive you are entering a hostile environment that can kill you if you get distracted from the task at hand ie surviving underwater. Only when you have quite a few dives under your belt should you consider underwater photography. People learn at different rats so it is hard to specify a particular number of dives to have adequate competency.

    If after gaining some dive experience you would like to give photography a go then the TG-4 in a housing would be a good option to start with. Quite good results can be had with just the internal flash provided you learn to stay within the limitations of the system.
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  20. plamski

    plamski Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 21, 2015
    Real Name:
    TG-4 is a steller. It has so many useful features.I've got wide and tele Oly lenses too. Results are just OK.
    For magazine like pictures you will need more than 4-5K invested + none of those show quality underwater pictures were created by single photographer.
    There are helpers for the lights or other equipment.
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