Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Waterproof Camera Review

It's not the most rugged, waterproof or compact of its kind. And its photos aren't the best. But for some reason I really like this camera. Maybe I'm wrong.

The Price

$US400

The Toughness

It's rated to about three metres and for drops of 1.5 metres, which places it at the lower end of the spectrum of waterproofing. Well, it's not the lower end, but given the shock and dust proofing and the lens reinforcement system, I'd expect the makers of the Toughbook to best cameras like the fluffy Fuji z33 and the slimmer Pentax w80 waterproofs for depth. Again, I wouldn't call this a weakness, but if the DMC-TS1 had one, this would be it.

The Visuals

The photos were among the best in low light, high ISO and daylight. There was a simple beach/surf macro mode which worked well enough. Colours were accurate, and I only noticed a slight distortion around the edges while zoomed out. (Many periscoping internal zoom cameras have this issue.) The lens went pretty wide at a 28mm equivalent and the zoom was almost top of the class at 128mm (only the Pentax did better). Images, overall, were second best to the Canon with its traditional lens system, but this camera doesn't have that problem of a protruding snout which makes it a lot more pocketable. The camera has optical stabilisation, which is pretty kick arse. The uncovered lens caused some photos to look smudged, which is perhaps the rule, not the exception in these cameras. Shots are at 12.1MP, but you can get variations of that in 16:9 mode. (My favourite!) As usual, water photos are generally limited in quality by water clarity and colour, so, well, above the sea shots work fine.

The TS1's video recording happens at a high res of 720p, stabilised and recordable in motion jpg or AVCHD lite, giving you more recording time and quality. It looks better than good.

The Design

I'm into the spartan, square design. And the camera's responsive shooting, burst modes and menus made it the easiest to use without being overly simple like the Canon D10.

Yeah, I don't know yet

The Lumix is a fantastic all-around camera that is somewhat tough and waterproof. I'd originally gone into this review thinking it would be king, but given the shallow depth rating, I may have to wait 'til I see the new Olympus in action before I give a stronger rating. Especially at $US400. At that price, the smaller Pentax w80 rated to 4.8 metres with decent shots and shitty video looks like a lot better of a deal. And the super cheap and small Fuji z33 does, too. I don't know. I'm not giving up on this camera yet. Strong video playback is an important thing these days. I guess it's my camera of choice and should be yours too (for now) if you don't go beyond three metres down and image quality and relative pocketability is a priority. Until I check out that Olympus Stylus tough 8000 which has some really solid stats all around and cost a bit less.

Great images

Great case design and menus

Great video at 720p

Despite the all-around toughness of the device, only waterproof to a middling (not poor) 10 feet

[DP Review, Panasonic, Giz]

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