Brian's Photo Blog — Article 270
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Teaching the Olympus TG-2 to Swim!
Tuesday 6 August 2013   —   Category: Equipment
This is the eighth in a series of articles exploring the capabilities of my new Olympus TG-2 “tough” pocket camera. If you missed the past articles, you can view a list of them here.

After taking the Olympus TG-2 in the Willamette River last month, I realized that if we were going to do much more of that sort of thing, we had better teach the camera to swim! It’s quite waterproof — supposedly down to 50 feet (15 meters) — but it can’t float by itself, making it very easy to drop and lose at the bottom of a lake or river.

Fortunately, Olympus makes a foam float strap. At first I hesitated to buy it, because a number of reviewers felt that it didn’t have enough buoyancy. But then I thought, “Gosh! It’s only nine dollars, and we need to have something like this if we’re going to take this camera in the water, so I might as well give it a try. If it doesn’t work well, I’m only out a small amount of money.” After care­ful­ly considering which of the available four colors would be best, I finally settled on the red one, which matches the red trim on the camera.

When the beloved UPS delivery person arrived once again at the doorstep, and I had eagerly opened the package, I was very surprised to see how small the strap was. As you can see from the above photo, the strap and the camera have similar dimensions. It’s small size made the criticisms of insufficient buoyancy seem all the more likely to be true. But there was only one way to know for sure — into the water it must go!

My initial idea was to test the camera and float strap in an ordinary five-gallon utility bucket. But then my thoughts turned to a 55-gallon drum of emergency water in the garage — it’s three-foot depth would make the experiment more interesting. Even though I knew that the TG-2 is a waterproof camera, it still felt weird to put it in the water!

The first test was a great success, but my attempts at photographing it were not very good. I quickly discovered that the surface of the water in the barrel acted like a huge mirror, clearly and distractingly reflecting the surroundings inside the garage.
Rather than be lazy and accept these miserable results, I decided to put some time and effort into doing it right. Therefore, I went back upstairs to my home office, hauled down some additional equipment, and set up a small studio environment around the barrel, the details of which I will explain further down the page.

As you can see from the photo to the right, my efforts paid off — the results are much, much better!

It may not be evident from the picture, but the flotation strap does have good buoyancy, with about half the strap under water and the other half above the water line. I pushed the camera down as far as I could reach, and the strap brought it back to the surface lickety-split!

Based upon the results of this test, I don’t think I would hesitate to take the TG-2 into the “real-world” environment of a river or lake — the flotation strap appears to be up to the job.
In order to block the light reflecting off the surface of the water from above and beyond the barrel, I draped an inexpensive black king-sized bedsheet I had bought at Walmart especially for studio work like this, over the barrel like a hood. It took a bit of trial and error to get the sheet in the correct position to totally eliminate the reflections, but once I got things properly arranged, that really did the trick!

On the household stepladder you can see some of my new studio equipment: a clamp, a gooseneck, and an array of LED lights — I’ll have a lot more to say about all this in future articles!

I was very pleased with my new light. This was the first time I had used it, and it really did the trick as well!
Although the garage lights are on in these “behind the scenes” photos, they were off when I was taking pictures of the camera in the barrel — only the array of LED lights was on. Because of the low level of light, all of the photos on this page were taken at ISO 3,200 — not a problem for my Olympus OM-D E-M5!

It was pretty darn hot in the garage! I should have waited to do this project in the morning when it was cooler, but I was so excited about it that I endured the heat of the late afternoon just so I could have my fun!

Here’s the black sheet from the other side. Another item I recently acquired was a second Impact Multiboom Light Stand and Reflector Holder. I used both of these extremely useful and versatile stands to hold the lower end of the sheet.

As you can see from the photo to the right, I attached the upper end of the sheet to a bicycle that was hanging from the ceiling — sometimes you just gotta im­pro­vise!

When all was said and done, the black bedsheet did its job, so I could get the shots I wanted without any distracting re­flec­tions. With a little bit of time, a little bit of effort, and a smidgen of basic equipment, my project was a success!

The Olympus float strap was a success as well! Looks like I was able to teach the TG-2 to swim after all — or at least tread water, which just might save the camera from plunging into a watery grave one day!

Once I test it in some more intense aquatic environments, I’ll be sure to write a follow-up article so you can find out how it fared.

One thing I must do is keep the float strap away from my 11-​year-​old daughter — she had the brilliant idea to test it as a life preserver for her guinea pig! Well, it IS just about the right size...!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 270
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Reader Comments
On October 1, 2013, Mit F. wrote:
I just bought the Olympus TG-2 and need to get a floating strap. Thank you very much for doing this test. I know when you were going to all the trouble to carefully document your experiment that you wondered if it was worth all the trouble. Well, I for one sincerely appreciate your efforts. Excellent work. Thank you!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 270
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