My new Olympus Tough TG-Tracker finally arrived earlier this week! Though I glanced at this camera in the exhibit area of the recent Out of Chicago photography conference, I never picked one up. So, when I took mine out of its box I was surprised at just how small it is! Not GoPro small but very small. I have the Yi action camera which is the same size as a GoPro, so I've included some photos comparing it to the Tracker.
The Tracker comes with one battery, a USB cable, and AC plug but no charger so you must charge the battery by connecting the camera to power. Although I've heard the Tracker's battery life is pretty decent, I do like to have at least one back-up battery for my cameras. I'll wait and see how much I use this little guy and if I use it enough and decide to hang onto it, I'll order a cordless charger and a pair of batteries for it as I do for my other cameras.
The one accessory I'm surprised Olympus includes with the camera is the steady grip. However, I'm quite pleased that they do. The grip attaches to the bottom of the Tracker with a 1/4-20 screw mount. When attached, it acts like a mini-steadycam and feels like the handle of a gun. Since the Tracker can shoot right side up or upside down, you can hold the grip with the camera close to the ground for interesting moving shots.
After familiarizing myself with the camera, inserting a microSD card and battery, I plugged it into power and let the battery charge. While I waited I downloaded a PDF of the Tracker manual to scan. Despite this quick scan, I found it difficult at first to figure out how to make adjustments to the camera from its two main menus. Actually, it's quite clever how Olympus has used these limited buttons to make so many settings accessible.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube about unboxing and setting up the Olympus Tough TG-Tracker so I won’t go into all of that here. I will, however, after using the camera for a few weeks, produce some orientation videos from my vantage point on the Tracker if I feel that there are areas that haven't been covered as I would like them as a new owner of this very cool little camera. One thing I have learned in the short time I’ve used the Tracker is that I find I prefer the 'Under Water Wide' setting which provides a 161° angle of view as opposed to the standard wide setting with a 204° angle of view.
Yesterday I took the Tracker with me on a walk on the beach. This was my real, first outing with the camera. I didn't get crazy with it and take it into the ocean. I just walked down the beach and made chest high video clips and held the camera - using the grip - low to the ground to get some clips of the tide coming in and a "flyover" and low shots of a sandcastle left over from the day before. This is where I found that I would really like it if the articulating LCD screen would swivel up and down in addition to horizontally. One reason Mike Boeing, an Olympus Trailblazer who has really been putting the Tracker through its paces, suggests for why the screen works as it does is because of maintaining the Tracker's maximum water-sealed specs. I'll buy that, but a vertically articulating screen would be very handy.
Back from my walk, I was ready to off-load my video clips to my iPad Mini 3. This illustrates yet another great feature of the Olympus Tough TG-Tracker: built-in Wi-Fi! As I've said before, I will never buy a camera again that doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi. Creating the connection between my iPad and my iPhone was a simple process. Once done and with the Tracker's profile installed on both of my mobile devices, connecting to the Tracker is just like connecting to any wireless network to which you've connected before. In fact, if you are not in range of any network to which you've previously connected - think 'the beach' - and you start the Tracker's wi-fi signal, your mobile device (O.I.Share app is also available for Android) will automatically connect to the Tracker!
Transferring video clips - even ones as short as 30 seconds - via Wi-Fi is painfully slow! However, I did go ahead and transfer the ten to twelve clips I had recorded on the beach so I could edit them and put cuts from them together into a video using Pinnacle Pro on my iPad Mini 3. My resulting video will not win any awards but the whole experience makes me realize how easy this little camera is to use so now I need to determine how I want to use it. I need to decide what kind of videos I want to make with it.
Still to explore: I want to experiment recording time lapse videos with the Tracker, both night sky videos and unfolding events. I also want to take the camera under water and see what I get. I bought the Yi camera mainly to use in the hot shoe of my E-M1 to record training videos. The Tracker is a bit big for that, but I'm sure I can use it somehow in conjunction with making trading videos. That's another area I plan to explore.
A note on file transfers: As an experiment I compared transferring a one minute clip (actually 57 seconds) from the microSD card using Wi-Fi from the Tracker and the Apple SD Card Connector accessory. It took 2 minutes and 20 seconds over wi-fi but only 9 seconds with the microSD in an SD adapter and inserted in the Apple SD Card Connector! Clearly, a direct connection for file transfers is way faster than wi-fi!
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