Over the summer I took part in a great American tradition called 'tubing' with some friends. Don’t be fooled by the semi-rugged sounding name of this activity. It's basically an opportunity to sit outside surrounded by nature and friends, consuming alcoholic beverages (in a responsible manner) while floating lazily down a river. In short, it's everything summer should be.

In our pre-float preparations my companions were busy stuffing their smartphones into complicated plastic pouches to be hung around their necks, or into ziplock bags, which seemed risky. I left my phone on dry land and headed into the water with the Olympus Tough TG-4, no waterproof pouch required.

A great American tradition. ISO 100, f/8.0 1/400sec @ 25mm equiv. processed to taste in ACR.

What I love:

  • Waterproof, crushproof, dustproof and freezeproof
  • Raw shooting for better image fine-tuning
  • Compact enough to carry in my bag without noticing
  • Decent wide to moderate zoom

There’s something incredibly liberating, even rebellious-feeling, about dunking a piece of technology underwater. The TG-4 was a great little sidekick on the water. Its operation is simple enough that I could pass it around among my friends, some of whom wanted to take underwater selfies. To each her own. Shooting Raw, I knew I would have some decent flexibility with my images later. It was pure fun, and I got some nice mementos from the trip out of it.

Tough cams can go places that would be too risky for mere smartphones. ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/500sec @ 25mm equiv.

Later in the year, the TG-4 accompanied me on another trip. Florida is a strange place. Like the Pacific Northwest, it seems to rain pretty much every day, but unlike my home of over two years the rain is heavy, sudden, and often happens at the same time as sunshine. It generally stops raining after twenty minutes, at which point the sun comes out and transforms the place back into the wild swamp it once was.

Florida is also, of course, the theme park capital of the world, and that’s what took me there in late November. The point of the trip was to spend time with my boyfriend and his family drinking butter beer (responsibly) at Universal’s ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter.’ Naturally, I’d want photos, but I didn’t want to have to worry about a camera getting wet or smashed in a storage locker.

This dragon breathes fire every so often, but apparently had the day off when this photo was taken. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000sec @ 25mm equiv.

The TG-4’s modest zoom range was still enough to help achieve framing that I couldn’t quite get with my smartphone. Raw capture came in handy again, with lots of high contrast scenes that could be rescued in post-processing. And what good is it taking a vacation to a fictional English village if you can’t share photos with all of your friends instantly? Wi-Fi was key in making sure I shared important moments with all of my BFFs just moments after I'd captured them.

To be totally honest the TG-4 isn’t that special outside of its rugged properties. Its sensor is small, controls are limited, zoom range is minimal and its metering keeps you guessing. But bringing it on a raft or to a theme park and knowing that I won't have to coddle it is worth a lot to me. I can take pictures, or throw it in my bag and just enjoy my butter beer and hardly know the difference.