Techniques to know

What are underwater modes?

Diving magazines and photo articles have attractive pictures that can tempt you to take your own. When you actually shoot under water, the outcomes are often disappointing and show unexpectedly dull images.

The reason behind this is light quality. Digital cameras are not normally designed and produced to take pictures under water, which is a largely different light environment that is hard to capture with normal settings. That’s why pictures taken with normal settings don’t show the scene like those in magazines. To properly bring out the colour you see beneath water, you can manually set various detailed functions of your camera. However, this requires experience and takes a long time to learn what and how to set.

For divers wanting to capture wildlife, Olympus’s digital cameras have underwater mode(s) that allow you to produce rich colours and bright blues by choosing scene modes. These “Underwater Modes” are specially tuned, with the expertise provided by professional photographers who have considerable experience in underwater photography. You can choose suitable shooting modes such as “Underwater Wide” “Underwater Macro” depending on your subject, to reproduce magnificent aquatic scenes more exactly.
TG-4 also incorporates the new Underwater HDR and the 5 underwater modes are available from the Mode Dial: Underwater Snap, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2 and Underwater Macro in addition to the Underwater HDR. Rich know-how of professional photographers is incorporated in each mode.


The picture on the left was taken with Program Auto for comparison. The Underwater Wide 1 mode puts the flash on even in a seemingly bright environment to adjust the colour balance. As well as a crisp blue in the background, the corals are shown in their true brilliance.

Olympus underwater modes do not intend to simply change the appearance of pictures, but tune the following parameters:

1. Underwater White Balance: colour temperature and WB gain
2. Underwater Picture Mode: imaging parameters
3. Compensation: exposure, flash, ISO and focal length, etc.

Underwater Snap

Underwater Snap mode is ideal for taking snaps of underwater objects or friends while playing or snorkelling in a pool or shallow water. The exposure parameters are optimized for natural expression of objects in a bright and shallow underwater environment.

Underwater Wide Mode (1, 2)

The Underwater Wide 1 mode is used for normal underwater wide photography. Various settings such as Flash, Auto Focus and White Balance are optimized, so all you have to do is to point to an object and press the shutter button to get wonderful underwater wide images.

The Underwater Wide 2 mode disables the internal flash and shoot objects under the natural light. This is suited for occasions where flash is prohibited, e.g. when shooting dolphins, and environments where flash light causes diffused reflection due to floating objects. As no preview image appears for each of photos taken, continuous shooting of objects such as dolphins and manta is possible.

Underwater Macro Mode

In the Underwater Macro mode exposure parameters are optimally tuned for near distance photography on small objects like shrimp, crabs, sea slugs and goby. In this mode, the lens focal length is automatically set to the telephoto side when M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ or M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ is used, and flash always fires to achieve solid and vivid images with natural colours. Unlike on land, there is always "water" between the object and camera underwater. If the object is distant, floating objects in water work as a cloudy filter to blur the results. Additionally, red colours are absorbed into water and become bluish when underwater, so to compensate for this the flash is necessary. Flash light is largely interrupted by water and it is important to put flash light on objects from a position as close to the subject as possible in order to reproduce natural colours. This mode is very effective for this purpose.

Underwater HDR Mode

The Underwater HDR mode is specifically designed for underwater photography. While White Balance is optimized for underwater photography, multiple images taken with different exposures are combined to have a wide dynamic range in order to dramatically reproduce details of both bright and dark parts.