There's a lot of junk you can buy to stick on your camera. Point-and-shoot enthusiasts are likely acquainted with those pricey screw-on lenses that let you capture at a slightly wider angle or zoomed a bit further in, while action cam owners probably have bags of expendable mounts. You can also add on a case or customize your wrist strap, or purchase a mélange of other rubbish that won't make even the slightest difference when it comes to your photography. But Olympus has managed to create an aftermarket gadget that's actually a must-have: a plastic ring diffuser that provides killer light for your macro shots.
Olympus LED Light Guide macro samplesSee all photos
The LED Light Guide, a $40 accessory for Olympus' Tough series of ruggedized cameras, redirects light from the point-and-shoot's integrated LED, surrounding the lens with beautiful diffused illumination. The result is gorgeous macro shots that look like they were captured with a thousand-dollar rig, not a $350 waterproof compact with a screw-on plastic ring. Now, Pentax may have been first to market with a ruggedized camera that sports lights around the lens, but the Olympus version is far superior for macros. It's a brilliant, yet incredibly simple accessory. Because the LG-1 simply moves light from the camera's front-mounted LED, it's compatible with three generations of Tough cams, including the TG-1, TG-2, and this year's flavor, the TG-3.
I spent a few days shooting with that latter model this week in New Orleans, capturing perfect macros everywhere from French Quarter restaurants to a gift shop that sells alligator heads (don't worry, they've scooped out the 'stuff'). The guide is meant to be used with the camera's Microscope mode, which provides more than 40x magnification. That'll let you get very up close and personal with a world invisible to the naked eye, capturing a tremendous variety of everyday objects, from flowers to paper fibers, and -- with the LED turned off -- individual pixels on high-density smartphone screens, with incredible detail.
With the LG-1 attached, you can get as close as one centimeter (less than half an inch) away from your subject, with the camera's full 4x optical zoom range at your disposal. For the first few days, you might find yourself shooting macros of every object in sight, but once the novelty wears off, it'll still be quite useful for, say, evaluating a piece at a jewelry store or reading small printed text. It can even be used for scientific purposes (Olympus also has an enormous business selling professional microscopes), letting you examine specimens on the go.
The Tough TG-3 and LED Light Guide accessory are set to ship in late June, but you can get more acquainted with the duo (and Louisiana's flourishing microscopic scene) in our gallery of samples up above. It can be a bit challenging to identify objects without the context we're used to seeing, but it's definitely worth a shot. If you give up, you'll find a description written upside down just below each pic.