Tip Tuesday: Landing Patterns
Heading to a new DZ? Here are a few tools from Flight-1's Justin Price to help you scope it out before you even get there...
The stabilisation is incredible for such a small camera at this price point
You can read the full camera specifications here https://www.olympus.co.uk/site/en/c/cameras/tough/tough_cameras/tg_tracker/tg_tracker_specifications.html
This review was completed with the goal of evaluating the functionality of the Olympus TG Tracker action camera in the skydiving environment. Image quality will be discussed briefly but ultimately you can watch the attached videos (below), with side by side film (rendered in 720p) and decide for yourself.
Olympus TG Tracker vs GoPro Session 4
The box contains all the bits you need including an adapter that allows the TG Tracker to be mounted on a GoPro mount and a hand mount for carrying the camera. The unit itself easily has the toughest feeling body/construction of any action camera I have used/seen (it is crush proof to 100kg (220lb), water proof to 10m (33ft) and freeze proof to -10c (14f)). The lens protector is removable and easy to clean. The viewfinder on the side flips out and the buttons/switches were easy to operate blind while the camera was mounted on a helmet, on my head, even when wearing winter gloves. The record button has a very audible beep when pressed that is much easier to hear over the aircraft noise than either GoPro or Sony. The TG Tracker use replaceable batteries and uses a microsd card that a housed behind a door on the back of the camera. Finally the camera has a standard tripod screw mount so it can be mounted to a removable camera bracket (flatlock, zkullz etc) or screwed directly to your helmet.
I had the camera for 2 weeks and filmed 2 tandems, 1 AFF jump, 4 rounds of the BPA Speed 8 National Championships and several wingsuit coaching jumps. For the tandems, Speed 8 and AFF jumps the camera was directly mounted on a Flat Top Narrow (thumb screw with no removable bracket). For the wingsuit jumps the camera was mounted on a custom L bracket screwed to to the sideplate of a Cookie G3 fitted with a cutaway. http://www.overdoseindustries.com/product-page/1f26ddfe-7a64-fac0-8a11-8e023f610ead
After the first couple of jumps I left the camera set up on underwater mode (172 degree field of view) underexposed 1/3 1080 and 60fps. I did not use the camera in 4k as I do not have a 4k monitor and none of the additional features were tested (GPS etc). For most jumps a GoPro session 4 was used as a back up and I have used the video in the comparisons – the above video and the below screenshots.
The menus were simple to navigate and written in plain English, not really much else to say, which I think is a good thing.
It was super easy to use, the viewfinder was a great addition and the footage was extremely smooth but the video quality often lacked in sharpness and dynamic range
I found the camera very easy to use with the simple menu design, large buttons and clear sounds when the record button was pushed. The recessed on off switch made in unlikely that it would be accidentally bumped. Battery life was ok (claimed 90 minutes), I was getting about 35 minutes of footage in cold conditions before battery was at half life but as the camera has replaceable batteries I do not see this as much of an issue (buy a second battery if you are worried). The addition of a flip out screen made life easy, especially for ground interviews. Battery and card replacement was simple enough and didn't require removing the camera from the helmet or a case.
First thing that has be said is the stabilisation is incredible for such a small camera at this price point. From here, in my opinion, things are hit and miss, though you can watch the video and decide for yourself. I found it to have a more balanced and true colour tone throughout, even if slightly on the cool side. Footage could have been sharper and more contrast/dynamic range would be welcome. Moving from dark to light spaces reminded me of GoPro 1 and 2 with one or two seconds required for the sensor to adjust. Subjects 3-10 feet and centered were sharpest with this dropping off as subjects moved off center or out of this range. The standard field of view is 204 degrees (equivalent to ~14mm on a 35mm sensor, ~9mm on an APSC sensor) which can be useful for POV filming. For outside video I found the underwater settings more useful at 172 degrees.
The control over video settings was nice with the ability to chose from several white balance options and manually control the exposure.
The sound quality was not great, unless the subject spoke clearly and was directly in-front of the camera sound dropped off sharply but the camera was less affected by wind noise than other action cameras.
The camera takes 8mp images at intervals as quick and 0.5 seconds. The image quality of the stills was disappointing with the images being very soft.
Olympus has extended warranty available and a lost and found service where you can register your camera and if it is found/reported they will organise the return of it.
The camera films with an aspect ratio of 4:3 so would pair well with M43 stills cameras including Olympus's own M43 mirrorless DSLRs.
I have mixed feelings toward the camera. It was super easy to use, the viewfinder was a great addition and the footage was extremely smooth but the video quality often lacked in sharpness and dynamic range. Ultimately with this camera you have to make a choice between smooth footage and sharp footage but at this price point there was always going to be some compromise. (It is worth noting it is over $300 cheaper than the Sony FDR-X3000 and $140 cheaper than the Garmin Ultra 30 which are the only other optically stablised action cameras currently on the market).
Note: The camera was lent to me for a two week test period by Olympus UK. I haven't been paid or gained in anyway from doing this review; I was asked by a friend what I thought of it and in-turn asked to demo one and was very surprised when Olympus UK sent me one.