Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Olympus TG-4 impressions

There have been some questions about the Olympus TG-4 I bought, so I thought it was time to write something about it.

I lost my waterproof compact camera, a Panasonic FT4, to the Cornish sea in September and in February my Sony RX100, which I've used with an underwater housing for kayaking, got destroyed by water when I went through the ice with it (without the underwater housing). Hence I needed to get a new camera. From what I read the Olympus TG-4 clearly was the best waterproof compact at the market, and despite being slightly reluctant due to the fairly high price I bought one. On paper it seems quite nice:

  • It supports RAW format, a big plus since the JPEG:s generally fall apart when the sun is not shining.
  • It has a bright f2.0 lens.
  • It is waterproof and quite crashproof
  • There is a rather nice microscope mode.

I bought it and used it, and while I'm not badly disappointed I'm not overwhelmed either. It is fairly close to what could be realistically expected, and it is not good enough for anything but situations where other cameras cannot make it.

The image quality is just ok in good light and in poor light it is just what you can expect.

The ergonomics are not thought out completely in my opinion. A camera of this kind should be usable with gloves on, which this one is in automatic mode. You just press a button to switch it on and press another button to take a picture. What isn't good is that with the lens in the center of the camera and not protruding at all, there is a big risk that you get part of your glove in the picture.

Another thing is that I don't understand why the manufacturers insist on putting zoom lenses on cameras of this kind. Generally the tele end of the zoom range is quite poor, and it certainly is on this camera, see the picture below. Taking that into account, the 24 mm (equivalent) wide end is too wide. 24 mm is otherwise nice, but too wide for general purpose use. And in this case you loose quality quickly when zooming in. Why can't anyone make a good waterproof compact camera with a good quality fixed lens?

A slightly surprising feature is the sometimes too shallow depth-of-field (DOF). There is no ordinary aperture mechanism (due to the need for simplicity to allow it to be crashproof?) and hence similar functionality is achieved by using an internal ND filter when there is too much light. Thus, DOF-wise f2.0 is always used. One would think that with this small a sensor it doesn't matter, but in practice it does, like shown in the pictures below. Shallow DOF is good as a creative option when you can controll it, and unavoidable in poor light, but in good light for quick landscape photography you generally want large DOF.

100 percent crop, with the focus on the kayak (not visible in the crop, but about 3 m in front of the camera) in the picture on the left and on the castle in the picture on the right.

Sometimes the effect is quite visible, like in the picture below. The lighthouse just isn't as sharp as it should be.

There are some nice features too, like the microscope mode.

Summa summarum. From what I had read, this was the best waterproof compact camera until the new version TG-5 arrived. The new version has a better sensor with lower pixel density, which should improve the low light capability a bit, but otherwise it should be the same camera and everything I've said above should apply to it as well. The best thing with the camera is that is is water- and lifeproof, not the image quality. I guess I would still buy it currently, since I have use for a waterproof camera that can take anything, but would hope to get this older version TG-4 cheaper. In my opinion the image quality just isn't up to the price.

PS. Since the image quality of the TG-4 isn't good enough, I bought a used Sony RX100 to replace the one that was lost to water and this is again my number one kayaking camera with the underwater housing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Eastern part of the Archipelago Sea

Sanna-Mari asked if someone would join her for a weekend trip. I was the only one who could come, so Sanna-Mari planned a slightly longer route in the Eastern part of the Archipelago Sea. The weather forecast was again quite dynamic, but the weather turned out great again. The newspapers are saying that this is the most miserable summer for years, but I don't agree. I've had a number of trips with fantastic sunsets this summer.

We met in Dalsbruk a little over four in the afternoon and started kayaking a half hour later. We first spent some time in the inner archipelago.

Fortunately Sanna-Mari knew some shortcuts.

Closing in on the outer archipelago.

The first good tent island came too early, but it was a nice place.

Wild thyme.

We continued.

We had a good speed, a little over 8 km/h in the weak tailwind. Sanna-Mari participated in the long sea kayaking guide course with me last year and I've also done some longer Nordic skating trips with her on rather dubious ice, so we know each others capabilities fairly well. Still, I took notice that she is a clearly faster paddler than most people I paddle with.

We arrived at a suitable place at around eight o'clock, after 21 km.

Sanna-Mari picked some berries for dessert.

After dinner there was plenty of time for strolling around the island.


An impressive mosquito swarm. I actually saw a number of those, and it was quite interesting to watch the dynamics of the flight patterns.

Longleaf speedwell.

The north side.

Bengtskär was a little over 20 km away.

Wild strawberry.

Interesting formations.

The root monster.

My Hilleberg Niak 1.5 has worked as it should. One of the most important properties for me is to get one side open with only bug netting between me and the views.

More swarming mosquitoes.

The sun set around 22:35, almost one hour earlier than a week ago in Rönnskär.

At one point I was a little cold in the night, since I didn't bring a sleeping bag or quilt. A this silk liner had to do. When the sun rose at 4:40 it started to warm up the tent again, which forced Sanna-Mari out of her tent a little over five. I slept until half past six and got up a little later. The morning was a nice one.

Purple loosestrife.


When using stones to secure the tent there is one important thing to remember: The stones must be placed back from where you took them. Ideally you should take them from a place where no one will ever notice a change. In this case I took them from a cairn and by putting them back with the map lichen upwards no one will notice anything.

The first leg of the day was to Gunnarsörarna, which Sanna-Mari needed to visit for here guide book about the Archipelago Sea. We started paddling around eight in the morning.

Observed by a seal.

Closing in.

Gunnarsörarna was a typical example of project funding that totally forgets about maintenance. A laavu and nature trail had been established, but was quite overgrown by now.

The next stop was Södra Skogsskär, which was supposed to have some petroglyphs.

The glyphs were quite unintelligible, but at least Sunna had been there.

The next leg was a 11 km open sea crossing to Morgonlandet.

Going into the sheltered harbour.

Lunch at Morgonlandet.

Lots of terns on the other side.

Route planning?

There are two cabins on the island and one of them can be rented.

I personally wouldn't have placed the sauna in the middle of the forest, though.

Like so many other islands, this one has also been fortified.

The next leg was to Klovaskär, with a 9 km crossing to Ljusskäret. The wind was increasing in the afternoon so we tried to get going in time. The wind was pretty much a headwind, which started to slow us down. Going to Morgonlandet we had a speed of almost 8 km/h, starting from Morgonlandet a little under 7 km/h in the beginning and clearly under 6 km/h in the last part.

Arriving at Ljusskäret...

... and then Klovaskär.

The landing site was under water...

... but there are always other possibilities.

A species I don't know.

There is an open cabin on the island.

A few cloudberries.

We decided to continue along the rim of the outer archipelago to a nice place a bit away. The first section was fun with a little play along the features and labyrinths of the small skerries.

We continued until we were fairly close to Kuggskär before we turned back to the correct direction.

We arrived at the tent spot around half past six after 45 km of paddling and made camp as well as dinner.

I made an excellent falafel burger. First time in the field, but I will definitely repeat it.

Lots of time to take photos, read and generally enjoy the excellent evening after dinner.


Yellow loosestrife.

Interesting patterns in the rock.

Photo by Sanna-Mari Kunttu.

Mossy stone crop.

And down it went.

The night was warmer this time and I slept almost until seven.

Sanna-Mari had gotten up at 5:30 and had already packed while I enjoyed my morning coffee.

We started paddling around 8:20.

We started by going back a bit, to get a nice passage to the north of Örö, from where we would paddle north to Purunpää.

Lunch and first break at Högsåra after 24 km.

After the lunch we paddled for a while in a nice tail wind. No real surfs, the waves were much too small for that, but it was still possible to slide for a while on the waves. We stopped at Högholmen to check out the giant's cauldrons.

The final leg back to Dalsbruk saw some water with cyanobacteria, making less nice algae soup.

We were back at Dalsbruk at three in the afternoon after having paddled 106 km starting at Friday evening. A rather nice tour of the eastern Archipelago Sea and good paddling. Thanks to Sanna-Mari for the trip.