Best camera for aid workers (and Peace Corps)?
Separating me from my Nikon DSLR is a tough sell. I love the fact that I can shoot in very low light, use off-camera flashes, and have a range of lenses for all occasions. It finally got to the point where my camera gear was crowding out the rest of my hand luggage though, and for an upcoming overseas trip I decided to get a compact tough camera to take instead of my full gear-bag. My criteria were that it had to:
- Be small and light enough to fit into a pocket.
- Be unobtrusive enough not to draw attention.
- Be tough enough to withstand knocks and drops.
- Be able to withstand dust, cold, heat, and humidity (last time I had my long-suffering SLR cleaned the tech said he had never seen a camera so dirty – I didn’t like to tell him what I put it though…)
- Take great photos, preferably have manual controls.
- Be waterproof enough to use on the beach and snorkeling (and to withstand a water bottle breaking in the same bag and flooding it…)
To be honest, the list was a little bit of self-sabotage. I didn’t really think there was anything out there that would match up, and part of me was looking forward to sighing with resignation and packing my full camera bag again. Not true however, and I want to recommend to you the Olympus TG-4. It’s tiny, ultra-compact, rated shockproof for up to 7 foot drops and 220 pounds of pressure, waterproof to 50 feet, and takes GREAT photos. It even shoots RAW files at 16MP (if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, you don’t need it – if you do, you know how exciting that is!).
Is it as good as my DSLR? No. Of course not. It has a tiny sensor, and even though it has manual aperture control and a widest aperture of 2, it doesn’t match my 50mm 1.8. What’s amazing though is that the Olympus will give the DSLR a run for its money, plus, did I mention it’s fully waterproof? 😉
So – if you’re a photo enthusiast, and have ever felt like your full camera gear is too bulky and heavy, and not tough enough take a look at this. I think you’re going to fall in love with it.
So – after using this in the field for a week or so, I have an update. I still love the camera, and wholeheartedly recommend it, but there are a couple small issues that I do want to raise.
- It uses a proprietary USB cable. This would be a deal-breaker for me if the rest of the camera wasn’t so good…
- While it is waterproof, and resistant to a whole lot of abuse, it is possible to get so much grit and sand into a couple of the moving dials and controls that they stop working. A quick wash off under running water can fix this.