Monday, November 4, 2013

Accessories #6 - Olympus Tough TG-2 Camera

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                               AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                           
(Disclaimer - all prices mentioned are list prices. For more accurate pricing please contact the relevant people. This blog is not a review, it's more on my foray in purchasing accessories for my Foldies)

Between my bicycling and blogging I have to find a good camera to take respectably sharp photos for my biking blogs. And these photos have to be taken while I am on the go, i.e. while still riding my bicycle. A couple of other features that the camera for biking should have is being tough to take falls, and waterproofed for snapping photos while cycling in the rain.

My first tough, it really took a lot of beating and still continued serving me for six years.
Previously I was using the Olympus Tough 6000 (1st generation model). With 10 megapixels, the photos it took was okay but there were some "noise" and as such photos would tend to be grainy when enlarged. But it suited my use by:
- having a sports mode to take photos on the go.
- being tough to take falls from up to 1.5 metres (the above photo shows how much suffering it has gone through) and still be able to function.
- being waterproofed; I have used it to take photos in the rain and also underwater photos.
But it had a big disadvantage; its start up time and wake up time is slow (up to two seconds), and because of this I have missed many photo opportunities, just seeing events pass by while my camera was "waking up"!
Despite it's limitation, this camera served me well for over six years until it reached the end of it's useful life.

With my first Tough going kaput, I opted for the Samsung WB150F. I was attracted by it's look, price and most importantly its built in WiFi. It then sold at MYR600+ with a spare battery thrown in and also some other freebies (like personalized calendar and photobook).
Here's a quick rundown on it's features:
- 14.2 Megapixels, quite high for a camera at this price range.
- with a 18X optical zoom, it has one of the highest zoom for it's range.
- WiFi capability allows uploading direct to internet sites like FaceBook, etc. I found this a bit cumbersome to use as the tethering with a wifi site takes a while and at many times turns out to be unsuccessful.
- WiFi connectivity with a Samsung phone, also the same problems on connectivity time.
- WiFi remote control of camera using a Samsung phone, this is a good feature for taking self shots or placing camera in odd places for that perfect angle. Sadly connectivity time is a problem also.
- And the most lacking feature; there is no sports mode for taking action photography. I tried to use their alternative of fast shutter speed but the photos turned out blurry.
Don't get me wrong, this camera takes beautiful photos for a compact camera, but with a sports mode lacking, it was just not suitable to take photos while on the go.

So the Samsung was left for other non-biking photo taking, and the hunt was on again for a suitable action camera. A few of my biking friends had got the latest model Olympus Tough Stylus TG-2, being more careful after the Samsung experience, I decided to borrow and try out their cameras before making the buying plunge. Here's the run down on its features:

- Tough! Can take falls of up to 2'1 metres. Operation range as low as -18 degrees Celcius.
- Takes very good action shots under Sports Scene Mode, even with very low lighting.
- Very quick focusing with its CMOS feature.
- Waterproof of up to 15 metres.
- Can take good underwater shots with it's various "Underwater" Modes.
- Fast start up & wake up time of less than 1/2 second.
- comes with a GPS function that indicates nearest attractions. The GPS can also create a track based on a series of photos taken while the GPS is on; this will be useful should one not have one of those cycling GPS gizmo like the Garmin 800.
- Built-in altimeter, barometer and compass; for those who really go to extremes.

- Turning on after the auto off, the flash goes into automatic mode. Many a photos, especially action shots in low lighting mode turns up better without the flash.
- low optical 4X zoom.

Taking action shots with the Sports Scene Mode is a breeze with this camera. I took the photo of the above motorcyclist under medium light condition of a shaded road and still the photo came out perfect.

Taking action shots under low lighting conditions were excellent too. The above was taken of a cyclist at night under a street light WHILE I myself was cycling.

It's great for underwater photography too. This photo is taken with the Underwater Action Scene Mode, one of several Underwater modes.

While in the great outdoors, there is always that opportunity to take close up shots; the camera has the Super Macro Mode that allows for this. Wow! A beautiful butterfly.
For those who like food photography, there's even a Food Scene Mode.

Another Super-Macro shot, this one of a blue-bottle fly came out very well.

The Olympus Tough TG-2 is tough and has been designed to look rugged too! Rubber friction pads a strategic location helps the user get a better grip of the camera while taking in adverse conditions (eg. while cycling, jogging or underwater).
On the left side is a protruding bracket for tying the camera strap, this looks tough too!

Even the camera bag has been designed for those outdoor adventure types, It comes with a self-locking pull cord that ensures that the camera stays tightly in the bag while scaling a cliff or beating around the bush. The bag straps onto a belt or hooks onto a belt loop, etc.

With the GPS turned on, attractions nearby are indicated on the LED screen. There is also a compass at the bottom of the screen. AND it allows tracking of your route, useful if you are jungle trekking or cycling overseas without a dedicated GPS unit or if you phone does not have a data plan. The tracking runs even when the camera is off, so it could drain the battery.
One other thing that I find useful is that the camera has dual time setting, so there is no hassle of resetting the time when back from holidays abroad, just switch back to the home time.

Overall, other than the auto-flash coming on automatically, I find the camera robustly satisfactory for my adventure use. For WiFi, it is FlashAir™ card compatible, install this card which also serves as a memory card and wah...lah!

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