Olympus TG-6 (and TG-5): The best settings for Underwater Macro Photos

Romina Bayer

The Olympus TG-6, and its previous model the TG-5, are very popular choices for divers getting started with underwater photography. It is an easy-to-use point-and-shoot compact camera with excellent macro ability, light to travel with, not too bulky, and also a great budget option to get started with underwater photography without wrecking your bank account.


One limitation of the camera, however, is the fact that it does not offer a full manual mode (everyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of auto mode and want to encourage you as much as possible to move away from shooting in auto mode to shooting manually so that you are in full control of the settings).


What you’re going to learn in this article (TLDR)

Which settings to use on your Olympus TG-6 (or TG-5) for best underwater macro photo results with a strobe.


In this article, I want to give you some advice on which settings to choose on your TG-6 (or TG-5) in order to get the best macro shots. Even though there is no full manual mode on the camera, you can still use a couple of different settings to have more control over the outcome of your images.

The Olympus TG-6 is a great compact camera to get started with underwater photography
The Olympus TG-6 (and it’s previous model the TG-5) is a popular choice as a first underwater camera.

Let’s take a look:


Choosing a mode:

If there is no manual mode, which mode shall I actually shoot in for macro photography?


Now that is a great question! Which camera do you have? The TG-6 or the TG-5? Although both models are very similar, the TG-6 does have a few new features that make it even better and easier for underwater photographers to use underwater.


Aperture Priority mode on the TG-6

On the TG-6 you can shoot macro images (and even super macro) in the Aperture priority mode (called “A” on your mode dial) and select the super macro autofocus option. One of the cool new features of the TG-6 is the new super macro autofocus. This lets you focus on any subject super close to your lens, without having to be in the microscope mode as in the TG-5. Zoom in all the way when using the super macro autofocus.


The macro ability of the TG-6 (and the TG-5) is exceptional.
The macro ability of the TG-6 (and the TG-5) is exceptional.

In aperture priority mode you will set the aperture you want.


If you want to get a smaller amount of depth of field (a more blurry background) in your image, go for a low f-stop (e.g. ƒ4.9 for a large amount of background blurriness).


If you want to get a higher amount of depth of field (less blurry background) and a slightly darker background, choose a higher f-stop likeƒ18. The camera will then automatically set the shutter speed.


The other settings you will want to use when using the aperture priority mode are:


  • ISO: 100
  • White Balance: Auto
  • File format: RAW (or RAW+ LF)


On your strobe:

  • Use TTL (could also be called “S-TTL”, depending on the strobe you are using) or Manual if you are more advanced and want more control over the intensity.


Microscope mode on the TG-5


The TG-5 may not have the super macro autofocus function, but it does have the microscope mode. A huge advantage of the microscope mode on the TG-5 is that it lets you focus on super close distance, as close as 1cm in fact.

So even if your subject, let’s say a nudibranch, is right in front of your lens (and remember, in underwater photography, we always want to get in close!), you will be able to focus on it. That is just amazing! 


Of course, we want to make sure that it is actually safe to approach the subject first, so check the area before approaching so you don’t risk damaging the reef for example.


In microscope mode, you will not be able to select your aperture. Instead, the camera is going to pick one for you, and it will typically go for a wide aperture, e.g. ƒ4.9. This means it will give you a shallow depth of field, with a large amount of background blur. 


The Olympus TG-5 has a great macro ability.
Olympus TG-5 lets you focus super close to your lens when using the microscope mode.

Now, if you are choosing to shoot in the microscope mode, you will need to put in another couple of settings:


  • Whitebalance: Auto
  • ISO: 100
  • Focus: Autofocus
  • Exposure compensation: -2 stops


On your strobe:

  • Again, use TTL or Manual


Although both the TG-5 and the TG-6 have several underwater preset shooting modes (Snapshot, Wide, Macro, Microscope, HDR, plus Underwater Microscope Mode on the TG-6), I highly encourage you not to use any of these, but rather choose your own settings manually.


Those preset modes are very much like the automatic mode, and thus do not give you the ability to actually adjust any of the settings yourself. 

Pro Tip: Once you’ve played around with the settings a bit and you found some that are working for you most of the time, you can save them as one of your custom modes under C1 and C2. This will let you quickly come back to those settings “on the fly”.


If you want to know which settings to use on your TG-6 for wide-angle photography, head over to this article.


Now that you have a good idea of where to start with your settings, go out and play around a little bit! And if you’re happy to share some of your results, don’t be shy to send them over! 🙂


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