Olympus Tough TG-5 Underwater Housing & Camera Review

Review and photos by Phil Rudin. Reprinted with permission. This review originally appeared in UwP100 Jan/Feb 2018. Underwater Photography Magazine (UwP) is a free bi-monthly electronic publication featuring the latest underwater photography equipment news, reviews, dive site reports, and more. Click here to read more and download the latest issue

Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera

If you are looking for a camera and housing system for under $1,000US you should look no further. The Olympus Tough TG-5 is arguably the best value you will find in today's market. The TG-5 has a 25-100mm F/2 (35mm equivalent) and 4X optical zoom lens which focuses in macro mode to 1cm (0.39"). The TG-5 has a new 12 megapixel 1/2.3 inch BSI CMOS backlit sensor and the new TruePic VIII image processor for better low light performance and excellent image quality for its size.

Some of the key features include Raw and JPEG stills, 4k 30p and 1080 120p video, a faster and more accurate auto focus system even in the macro modes, built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, a three inch 460,000 pixel 100% LCD screen, image stabilization, manual flash options with high flash sync speeds to go along with the up to 20 frames burst speed rate and the camera alone has a depth rating of 15m (50'). The TG-5 is also freezeproof to temperatures as low as 10º C / 14º F and shockproof for falls from 2.1m (7') high. The camera is also dust-proof and crushproof making this an ideal all environments camera for many outdoor activities.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Pipefish • ISO 100 • f/14 • 1/100 • 18mm • Single DS51 Strobe with Fiber Optic Converter

The TG-5 also has manual focus with focus peeking which is great for those hard to focus super macro subjects, it even has a backlit compass. The TG-5 still lacks a full manual exposure control mode and custom white balance in movie mode.  For advanced shooters full manual mode is the norm and I missed that feature during my review.

Underwater Housing for Olympus Tough TG-5 

The Ikelite Housing for the Olympus TG-5 has the same housing design features used in Ikelite’s DSLR and Mirrorless housings.  It features an opaque gray ABS-PC polycarbonate material for the front section of the housing with a transparent DSLR/Mirrorless style polycarbonate housing back. This attractive gray housing color matches the current Ikelite DS strobe line and always attracts the attention of other divers and photographers when I am in the field. The new housing color shades the camera to provide extra protection from the sun during long boat rides.

The housing is designed with a robust depth rating of 60m (200') and is positively buoyant in fresh water without any accessories added. The bottom of the housing has two 1/4-20 mounting points for camera trays, tripod and other accessories.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Batfish • ISO 100 • f/14 • 1/100 • 18mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

Wide Angle Options

The glass lens port has the standard 67mm (3") mounting threads for accessories like close-up lenses and wide angle adapters. It also has an external mounting groove for the attachment of wet lens accessories like the WD-3 Wide Angle Dome I used during this review. This system allows you to just push the accessory dome port over the front of the lens mount and then secure it in place with three small screws. The WD-3 has a 0.75X conversion factor to correct for the refractive magnification of the housings flat glass port. The port is made from optical grade acrylic and is also depth rated to 60m (200'). This dome can be removed and installed underwater to allow for a full range of use during any dive. The WD-3 dome ships with a neoprene cover and a lanyard with cord lock. Wide angle lenses like the INON UWL-H100 and others will also work threaded to the 67mm mounting threads on the front of the housing.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Schooling Spadefish • ISO 100 • f/6.3 • 1/30 • 5.5mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

Installation and Set-Up

The Ikelite TG-5 housings is a clam-shell style with the robust locking system on the left-hand side of the housing and the hinge on the right. Push controls on the top and bottom of the locking buckle must be depressed before the lock will disengage allowing the housing to be opened. The camera does not require a tray and simple pushes into the housing where it is held firmly in place.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Sergeant Major Fish Eggs • ISO 100 • f/14 • 1/100 • 18mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

All of the useful push buttons and control wheels on the camera can be accessed from the housing controls. Since the housing is quite small the controls on the right rear of the housing are very close to each other. Each push button has the function it is assigned on the top of the button but they are difficult to see in many conditions so you should familiarize yourself with the controls you expect to use before entering the water. The video start/stop button is placed above the mode control dial and has a red dot so it is out of the way and unlikely to be activated by accident.

Underwater Strobes

Most of Ikelite’s compact housings support strobes that are fired using fiber optic cords. The TG-5 housing has the two optical ports on the top left side of the housing. These can be used with a wide verity of strobe brands that are fired by fiber optics or with the Ikelite DS-strobes using the Ikelite Fiber Optic Converter Product # 4401.1 and Fiber Optic Cord # 4501. The Ikelite converter connects to the sync port on the strobe and allows the fiber cords to be used. The Ikelite converter does not allow TTL control of the strobes so remember to set the strobes to one of the manual power setting on your particular DS-strobe.

In the unlikely event that water enters the housing the chance of any damage to the camera is remote because of it excellent weather sealing and 15 meter depth rating. I have witnessed two floods of TG-Tough cameras housings (both pilot error and non-Ikelite housings) during my workshops in Cozumel with no damage to the camera.  

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Sharptail Eel • ISO 100 • f/14 • 1/100 • 18mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

Field Testing the Ikelite Housing for the Olympus TG-5 

For my review I used the following products:

I used alternately a two strobe configuration and a single strobe over the top of the lens port during the review. With the WD-3 Wide Angle Dome I had full coverage of the frame with either one or two strobes and would be hard pressed to recommend larger strobes. The DS51 strobe is quite adequate to cover most any scene.

Once assembled with tray and strobes the system was slightly negative in both fresh water and salt water allowing excellent balanced for single handed operation. In the water the auto focus worked very well for both wide angle and in the macro mode. If you are diving in dark turbid water, low light or night diving a focus light is required to maximize auto focus.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Spadefish • ISO 100 • f/14 • 1/100 • 18mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

I was very impressed with the macro modes which allow you to cover a wide range of subjects from super macro to midsize fish. The wide end of the lens allows you to cover most reef scenes and diver photos. Close focus wide angle and larger scenes like wrecks require a wide angle adapter. The DS51 strobes in manual mode at around half power or less were more than adequate to properly expose most subjects. Keep in mind that consumer compacts have small sensors and as a result greater depth of field even at wider f/stops. 

Image quality from the TG-5 is excellent for a camera of this size. My images have excellent color and sharpness. I was also impressed at the amount of detail that could be recovered from under exposed captures.

If you are just getting started with underwater photography or looking for a backup camera, teaching tool and all weather camera the Olympus TG-5 and Ikelite housing are a great place to start.

Olympus TG-5 Underwater Phil Rudin

Sunfish in Ginnie Springs, Florida • ISO 200 • f/4.9 • 1/100 • 18mm • Dual DS51 Strobes with Fiber Optic Converters

About the Reviewer

Phil Rudin is a regular contributor to Underwater Photography Magazine and a freelance writer/travel photographer. Phil retired from the West Palm Beach Florida Police Department where he served as Dive Team Commander for the city. With thirty years experience as a public safety diver and dive team manager Phil did over five hundred recovery dives during his career. Phil has traveled extensively throughout the world to pursue his passion for underwater photography. His images have appeared in magazines such as Popular Science, Underwater Photography Magazine, Reflections, Rodale's Scuba Diving, Underwater Journal, Skin Diver, Florida Underwater, South Florida Adventures, The Sun, Dive Chronicles, Waterways and more. Phil teaches underwater photography classes and lectures on travel destinations and photography around the country.