Exploring Spiders With the Tiny Sensor Olympus TG-5

by Venancio Guerra

I recently added an Olympus TG-5 to my photography kit to address some niche requirements that I had for a small, tough, weatherproof camera. One of the capabilities that intrigued me was the TG-5’s microscopic setting. This article shares some images and discusses exploring spiders with a tiny sensor.

The Olympus TG-5 has a small 1/2.3″ sensor 12 MP BSI sensor, so outstanding image quality should not be expected. For what it is, the sensor does have quite reasonable performance, especially when shot in RAW up to ISO-1600.

I recently visited a spider display at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario, with the hopes of adding a few images to my upcoming Photographing Birds, Bugs & Bees Hand-Held presentation that I’m doing for the Mississauga Camera Club on February 7th. This presentation also supports my soon to be released eBook on bird photography.

My visit to the spider display was my first opportunity to play around with my newly acquired Olympus TG-5. I had brought some of my Nikon 1 gear with me, but based on the positions of the spiders in their glass enclosures, the TG-5 ended up being a great camera for the conditions.

Many of the spiders were right up against the glass which made focusing with my Nikon 1 gear, even when using extension tubes, challenging. Moving away from the glass surface increased the risk of picking up reflections from the crowded display area. With the TG-5 I was able to put the camera right up against the glass, engage the microscopic mode, and capture my photographs. The spider above is a Goliath Bird Eating Spider. It was quite active in its enclosure, but did provide me with many opportunities to capture some interesting images of ‘spider parts’… specifically legs and joints.

The Olympus TG-5 is a higher end point-and-shoot camera. As such it doesn’t provide the level of manual controls that I would ideally like. There are only P and A modes. Even the A mode is very restricted so it will take some time for me to figure out how to best use this camera. The auto-focusing is limited to a block of 25 spots that are clustered towards the centre of the sensor. The camera acquires focus pretty quickly and I was not disappointed with its performance in this regard. Adjusting focus points is quick enough that I did not miss any image opportunities.

As I expected, it took more effort in post working with the TG-5’s RAW files when compared to my Nikon 1 images. The images in this article are my first attempts at working with these files, so more experimentation is needed before I’ll be comfortable working with the TG-5 RAW files.

Given its continued proximity to the glass and the size of the Goliath Bird Eating Spider, I focused on getting detail images with this specimen. This is quite a large spider, about the size of an adult male’s hand. It would attempt to climb up the glass sides, then slip down and pause for a few seconds. I used these moments of stillness to grab my images.

The depth-of-field when using the microscopic setting is very shallow so it will take some time to understand how to best compose images when using this mode. There is an LED focusing assist light on the Olympus TG-5, but I turned it off as not to risk causing more reflections in the glass enclosures.

When possible, I tried to isolate leg components of the spider so they could be up against less busy backgrounds. This was a bit of a challenge.

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