Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
panasonic_ts1_450.jpg
  • 12.1-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 2.7-Inch LCD Screen
  • 4.6x Optical zoom lens: 28-128mm (35mm equivalent)
  • MEGA O.I.S.
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • Waterproof to 10ft.
  • Dustproof
  • Survive drops from 5ft.
  • AVCHD Lite HD video captrue
  • SD/SDHC memory card compatible

Pros
  • iAuto shooting mode
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button
  • AVCHD Lite HD video capture is high quality and small files
  • "Tough" features: Waterproof, Dustproof, 5ft. Drops
  • Excellent Image Quality
  • MEGA O.I.S. is very helpful when shooting on the move
  • Nice, Bright 2.7-inch LCD
  • Good shooting performance
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • Possible issue with water entering the battery/memory card compartment
  • Increasing noise at at lower ISO settings
  • The default minimum shutter speed setting of 1/8 of a second in Program Auto mode limits low-light capabilities, users will need to change this setting in the menu
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.4 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = 1 /10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 5/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.58 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.08 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  2.5fps for 3 images
  • Sequential burst infinite = 0.94fps
Bottom Line
The Panasonic Lumix TS1 is a tough, go anywhere camera that is water and dust resistant as well as tough enough to drop from 5ft. Its set of features and image quality put it at the top of the list for a tough, compact camera, as does the price.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a camera that you can take into any situation and not have to worry about what happens to it. This is also a great choice if you are looking for a model that provides high enough quality to use in every-day situations as well.  
Panasonic's first entry in a "tough" series of digital cameras is an excellent one. They have added a ton of features to the Lumix DMC-TS1 that you will not find on other "lifeproof" cameras. Featuring a 4.6x optical zoom lens, 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, 2.7-inch LCD screen, AVCHD Lite video recording and Panasonic's Mega O.I.S. system, this camera provides one of the largest zooms and is one of the few to offer HD video recording, putting it at the head of its class. It is also one of the easiest to use, especially in water thanks to the MEGA O.I.S. system.

A feature not mentioned above, but probably one of the most useful, is the iAuto (intelligent auto) shooting mode. Not only does this mode take care of all of the camera's settings for you, it will also chooses the correct scene settings for your current situation automatically. This helps ensure that you will have the best settings for most of the shooting situations that you will find yourself in.

This compact camera is not incredibly bulky or odd-shaped in any way that would make it stand out like some other waterproof cameras that we have seen. It has large, well spaced and easy to use buttons. If you do not know the layout of the camera, it can be a little tricky to read the buttons underwater. Both doors on the body that open are sealed with rubber gaskets to keep water out in depths of up to 10ft. These same gaskets also keep out dust and sand from the beach or debris from the air. The 2.7-inch, 230,000 dot LCD screen is very easy to see in all lighting conditions thanks to the Power LCD which considerably brightens the LCD for bright shooting conditions.

Something to watch for with this camera is to make sure that the doors are properly closed and sealed. Our test model had been used before it was sent to use, and when we received it, there was a little rust inside the battery compartment. During our tests, we noticed that there was water around the seals on both compartment doors. If you are not very careful opening the these doors, water can very easily get into places that can be bad for the camera, even when the outside of the camera is dry. Since we were not the first to use this camera, we cannot say for sure why water was able to get into these places.

Performance from the TS1 is good for a consumer digicam. To turn the camera on, the power button must be held down much longer than a normal digicam. This prevents the camera from turning on when bumped but slows the startup time down, taking 2.4 seconds to capture its first image after powering up. The camera's shutter lag is approx. 1/10 of second when the camera is pre-focused and approx. 5/10 of a second when allowing the auto focus to work. In single shot mode, the camera was able to capture 5 images in 7.9 seconds, giving it a shot-to-shot delay of 1.58 seconds. While shooting with the flash the shot-to-shot delay jumps to 2.08 seconds. If this is not fast enough for you, there are also two burst shooting modes. The faster of the two is capable of capturing 3 full-sized images in just 1.2 seconds (2.5 fps). If you are looking for more than just 3 shots, the infinite burst mode can capture full-sized images at 0.94fps. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x 2GB SD memory card, Program mode, Flash off, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

Our outdoor sample images show that the camera is made for more than just underwater snapshots. The excellent exposures and vivid colors create the same high quality image that you will find on any other Panasonic Lumix digicam. Composing your images is made easier by the 4.6x wide optical zoom lens. This internal lens has a 35mm equivalent of 28-128mm, which is excellent for vast landscapes on the wide end and while the entire range is great for portraits, both individual and groups. Since this camera is made to be used on the go, Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabilization system is great for allowing you to shoot handheld and on the move, while still capturing sharp images. At the wide end of the zoom, you will see a noticeable amount of barrel distortion. Throughout the zoom range you will find some slight chromatic aberrations in high contrast areas as well as some very slight noise in the darker areas when viewing the images at 100%.

Indoors the camera duplicated the above results by capturing pleasing images. One thing that you will want to watch out for is the default setting for the minimum shutter speed of 1/8 of a second. As this will not be long enough to properly expose an image in low light, this setting can be changed within the camera menu to allow for a range of minimum exposures from 1 second to 1/125 of a second. Night shooting mode allows the shutter to stay open longer, allowing for up to a full 60 second exposure. Noise within the images starts to become noticeable at ISO 200 and gets worse quickly. This really limits the range of the camera in low-light situations. Helping to light your images is the built-in flash, which has an excellent range at ISO auto, reaching up to 19.7' (W) or 9.2' (T). Keep in mind that when using Auto ISO with the flash, you will have a properly exposed image, however there could be a bit more noise in the photos than you would like to see. Keeping the ISO at 400 and below will help you produce the best photos in my opinion. ISO 800 is usable, and should be able to produce usable 4x6-inch (or larger) without a problem, depending on the conditions.

Portrait photography with the TS1 is incredibly easy and produces a sharp image with good skin tones and colors while shooting in the Portrait scene mode. The camera's face detection software was a little on the slow side, but followed and exposed very well once a face was detected. This made it a little difficult getting our subject to remain still long enough, and could be a problem if you have young children or are trying to capture the faces of moving subjects.

One of the best features on Panasonic cameras is its AVCHD Lite movie capture mode. This mode allows the user to capture very high-quality 720p video with sound. Not only are these movies high quality, but they are also smaller files than the Motion JPEG format movies used by other manufactures. Thanks to a dedicated video record button on the back of the TS1, this camera is always ready to capture this high-quality HD video. Since the camera is always ready to capture still images and video, it is considered a "Hybrid" camera, which is becoming very common from most manufacturers. 

Our sample video showed outstanding video quality for a digicam. Even in less than perfect lighting, the camera was able to capture crisp video with almost no noise or artifacting. The videos play back smoothly on the camera and HDTV via an HDMI cable or on most computers. Some less-powerful computers, such as a netbook, may struggle to play them. The only thing holding back the HD movies is the built-in mono speaker. This very sensitive speaker will pick up all audio around the camera, including background noises that you might not notice at the time while recording. Be careful where you position yourself while recording to help cut down on these noises.

Powering the TS1 is a 3.6V, 960mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. While completing our tests, we were able to easily capture 200 images and several short HD videos on a single charge. At this point the battery was low, so it would be very hard to get the 340 images per charge claimed by Panasonic, unless using it in perfect conditions the whole time. Keeping a spare battery charged and on hand at all times is very easy thanks to the included external charger. A dead battery should never be an excuse for missing an important photo opportunity.

Bottom Line - Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TS1 is their first entry into the go-anywhere category of "Tough" digicams. They did an excellent job of bringing their top features, such as a 4.6x internal optical zoom lens, MEGA O.I.S., 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor and AVCHD Lite HD video recording. These offering, along with excellent performance and image quality, help put the TS1 towards the top of the list in this class. Overall, Panasonic has put together a nice camera that this both fun and easy to use in almost any situation. With a MSRP of $379.95US, the TS1 was priced a bit higher than the competition. However with the release of its replacement (the DMC-TS2), the price has come down considerably to about $249US. Therefore, we feels it's competitively priced for a camera in this class.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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