Tips & Hints

How to get the best from your Tg5 Underwater. Part two: Settings and Technique

In my previous blog I looked at what accessories can be added to your Olympus TG5 to enhance its performance. Now I’m going to talk about what settings I used and what techniques worked for me.

GPS

The first thing I did was take the camera out of the log mode, disabling the GPS function. This gives you more battery life when shooting and stops a constantly flashing satellite symbol from appearing every time you take it underwater. 

Flash

When using the built-in flash either on its own or to trigger a strobe I set it to manual. In the case of when using the built-in flash itself to light subjects I mostly used it set to full power but on a couple of occasions reduced this when shots were looking overexposed (usually when doing very closeup stuff on pale subjects). To trigger a strobe you can take advantage of the TG5’s large range of manual power settings to drop the built-in flash output down to 1/64. This is still enough to trigger the strobe by fibre optic cable but will reduce power consumption and help keep the camera temperature down, which reduces the likelihood of condensation forming on the housing port.

This is the eye of a very large starry puffer ( Arothron stellatus)  that was being cleaned by the bluestreaked cleaner wrasse ( Labroides dimidiates)  who decided to do some photo bombing. This shot was taken in aperture priority mode (Av) using a single strobe for lighting. With any camera I’m using I tend to make most of my exposure adjustments to the strobe settings and positions rather than the camera settings once I decide how I want a shot to look.

This is the eye of a very large starry puffer (Arothron stellatus) that was being cleaned by the bluestreaked cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiates) who decided to do some photo bombing. This shot was taken in aperture priority mode (Av) using a single strobe for lighting. With any camera I’m using I tend to make most of my exposure adjustments to the strobe settings and positions rather than the camera settings once I decide how I want a shot to look.

Image Quality

I played around with a range of settings but kept the image quality set to RAW. This gave greater scope for handling under or over exposed shots or areas of shots and allows for more effective colour correction with software. All the images on this and my previous blog have been edited to varying degrees using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. When shooting RAW you need to at least increase clarity and vibrance to some degree or your images will look flatter than jpegs straight out of the camera.

If you currently don’t use editing software but may do in the future I suggest you shoot with the camera set to produce jpegs and RAW files for each picture. Down the line when you do start editing you’ll get better results by using the RAW files. (For more on why shooting RAW is a useful camera feature look here)

White Balance

I did shoot some images using custom white balance at around 8-10 metres depth and got some pretty reasonable results without having to manipulate colours further with editing software. But I preferred what I got from shooting RAW and then colour correcting. If you are going to use jpegs and take pictures with available light, using the Custom White Balance will give some colour correction down to 15-20m depending on light levels. I talked about Custom White Balance in my first ever blog on this site: here

This shot of Anne with her big camera rig was taken using the TG5 in Olympus housing fitted with the Fantasea UWL-400F wide angle lens. I used natural light and custom white balance to correct the colours rather than software. This was probably around 7-8m depth so there was still enough red light to show the colour of Anne’s nails.

This shot of Anne with her big camera rig was taken using the TG5 in Olympus housing fitted with the Fantasea UWL-400F wide angle lens. I used natural light and custom white balance to correct the colours rather than software. This was probably around 7-8m depth so there was still enough red light to show the colour of Anne’s nails.

When shooting with strobes, built-in flash or if colour correcting with software I used Auto White Balance. This is what I normally set for any camera when shooting RAW.

Modes

After a bit of playing around I gravitated to using two modes, Aperture priority (Av) for wide angle and mid to large macro subjects and Microscope mode for the smaller very close up macro stuff. If had a stepping ring to attach wet macro lenses I would likely have stuck to Av to give me a little more control of the camera and improve image quality.

Microscope mode did a pretty good job with these polyps on a soft coral, but the very short distance from the lens to the subject as for any camera means very shallow depth of field. This is why the polyps in the foreground are out of focus.

Microscope mode did a pretty good job with these polyps on a soft coral, but the very short distance from the lens to the subject as for any camera means very shallow depth of field. This is why the polyps in the foreground are out of focus.

Exposure Controls

I’ll be honest I did miss having the full control of shutter speed that’s available on higher end cameras. To try and squeeze a fast shutter speed out of the camera I spent most of my time with the Exposure Compensation (Ev) set at -2.0. I played around with using the two available metering modes. For dark subjects on bright backgrounds you could opt for metering the whole image (ESP), while for bright subjects you’ll get faster speeds by using spot metering. But I’m doubtful I would want to chop and change all the time.

To keep noise levels down I shot with the ISO at 100 or 200 most of the time. Although increasing it would be wise when shooting moving subjects with available light as this will cause the camera to increase shutter speed which will help to freeze the movement in the shot.

Lack of shutter speed control was an issue with this shot. Even with EV set to -2 the camera gave me a shutter speed of 1/30sec which gave me a very pale blue through the window in the coral. I made it darker using editing software but it isn’t exactly the colour I would’ve liked.

Lack of shutter speed control was an issue with this shot. Even with EV set to -2 the camera gave me a shutter speed of 1/30sec which gave me a very pale blue through the window in the coral. I made it darker using editing software but it isn’t exactly the colour I would’ve liked.

In microscope mode the above settings was all that was available to adjust apart from focal length that the lens was set to. In Av mode I kept the aperture set small (high f number) to give a little more depth of field for macro, to prevent distortion at the edges when using the domed wide angle wet lens and in general to reduce ambient light in the background of the shots as shutter speed control isn’t available.

Focal length

I kept the lens fully zoomed in for macro to 18mm (the equivalent of 100mm on a full frame camera) whether in Av or Microscope mode. For wide angle I kept it zoomed out to its widest almost all the time with the Fantasea wet lens fitted, but did play around a little with zooming in while the wet lens was in place. I also did some midsize subject shooting without the wet lens in place but with the lens at its widest.

Macro is the TG5’s greatest strength. Here I used Microscope mode and the built-in flash to get an image of Anne’s eye through her mask. And for once it wasn’t steamed up!

Macro is the TG5’s greatest strength. Here I used Microscope mode and the built-in flash to get an image of Anne’s eye through her mask. And for once it wasn’t steamed up!

Conclusions

The settings described in this blog are what I found worked for me, give them a try see how you get on. I only had limited time with the camera and tried to use a variety of approaches alongside the range of accessories I had with me. I’ll likely use the TG-5 again in the future and there may be an addendum if I come across some other tricks.

What i would say is that you have to pick your fights with this camera. In particular its lack of shutter speed control made me glad to be shooting in RAW and able to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance my images. Sometimes the camera gets things right as in the picture above, but often I found the shutter speed way too slow. For this reason I still wouldn’t recommend it as my first choice on the compact market for underwater photography.

But if you do have one already don’t despair, this is still a great camera. It’s small size even in the housing made it a joy to use for macro. I had great fun going back to my roots, shooting with the built-in flash and getting the camera in close where a setup with strobes would struggle to fit. There are lots of ways you can get creative with it as well, from composition to editing techniques. And as a tough camera for those non-diving circumstances when you don’t want to risk your mobile phone it’s excellent.

All the shots in this and the previous blog were taken at Red Sea Diving Safari’s Marsa Shagra resort using a camera and housing loaned to us by Brett Thorpe at Nautilus. We’ll be back at Marsa Shagra in June 2019 running Red Sea Photo Camp, a series of workshops co-hosted by Paul ‘Duxy’ Duxfield. See our events page for details of this and our UK events as well.

If you want more specific advice or have a suggestion for a blog subject feel free to get in touch, details on how to do this are on our contact page (remember to add our email info@alphamarinephoto.com to your contacts to make sure we don’t fall foul of your spam filter). Do the same if you'd like any information about the courses, talks and workshops we run or the equipment we sell. Anyone with an interest in photography is also welcome to join the Alphamarine Photography Q and A

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