Best LifeProof Cameras - 2012 Edition
It's summer. You plan a weekend trip with all your friends to go canoeing down the Chattahoochee River on the East coast, camping on the river banks and grilling on the campfire.
It's winter. The family decides this year to spend Christmas snowboarding in the Rockies, renting a cabin in Park City, Utah building snowmen on the back porch.
It's spring. Your wife plans an anniversary trip to Alaska to whale watch in the afternoons, climb glaciers in the mornings and watch the Northern Light streak across the night sky.
It's fall. The kids are in the backyard making mud pies to serve for desert while the dog is running towards your covered in dirt ready to play a rousing game of Jump on Master.
You need a camera that won't crap out at exactly the wrong moment.
Life Proof cameras are an excellent way to keep up with your adventurous lifestyle, withstanding extreme temperatures, relatively deep waters, drops from a good height and a serious amount of dirt and dust. Nearly every company has produced a camera that carries a Life Proof rating, some better than others. You don't always have to compromise picture quality for durability. This guide will explore a few options, list a few necessary accessories and give you a good idea of what it is you really need when it comes to Life Proofing your equipment.
The Olympus TG-1 iHS is the company's flagship lifeproof camera for 2012. Waterproof down to 40 feet (extendable to 135 feet with the optional underwater housing), shockproof up to a 6.6 foot fall, freezeproof down to 14F, and crushproof up to a weight of 220pounds is only the beginning. Lifeproof cameras are finally enjoying CMOS sensors, with the TG-1 iHS rocking a 12-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor powered by Olympus' proprietary TruePic VI image processor. The camera is also the first lifeproof camera to incorporate an ultra-bright, high-speed f2.0 lens as well as FAST AF system technology ripped out of their more expensive PEN series cameras. That means you can capture high-speed burst photographs at variable frame rates -- from 10 fps at full resolution to 60 fps at 3 megapixels. The TG-1 iHS also shoots full HD 1080p video, includes a 4x optical zoom lens, and the GPS model to record location, elevation, and depth (yep, it'll even warn you if you get close to diving under the 40 foot limit). Pick up an Olympus TG-1 iHS for less than $400.
Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-TS4 extends their line of "tough" cameras. This camera leads the way with its ability to survive extreme situations. It is capable of surviving depths of up to 40 feet under water, falls from up to 6.6 feet, temperatures as low as 14°F and its seal also keeps dust and sand out. On top of this outstanding ruggedness, you also get the quality and ease of use expected from a Panasonic digicam. Sporting a 4.6x optical zoom lens, 12.1-Megapixel CCD sensor, iAuto shooting mode and full 1080/60i HD video capture. The newest feature for this model is manual shutter speed and aperture settings (a first the for the series) which will let you shoot like a pro. There's also Time-lapse, Miniature, and Panorama Shot modes. GPS allows the camera to record where each of your images was captured. Available in 4 standout colors -- blue, orange, black, and silver -- this camera is also very eye-catching. Pick this up if you're looking for a camera that you can take into any situation and not have to worry about what happens to it. It is great for around pools and kids and has an MSRP of $399.99.
If you're anything like me, every piece of gear you have must be able to be as durable and dependable as you are. Pentax answers the call with their newest camera in their rugged series: the "carry-it's-own-weight" Optio WG-2. This lifeproof camera is tough enough to keep up with you, and perhaps might even have a little more adventure left at the end of the day than you do. With an upgraded 3.0-inch LCD display, 5x optical zoom, and HDMI output, Pentax continues to maintain a good compact camera enclosed in a dust, water, cold, shock, and crush proof shell. The WG-2 upgrades from its precursor the Optio WG-1, with a 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor, 6 LED lights around the lens (plus flash), a more ergonomically focused shape, and capability enhancements in the water depth, shockproof, and crushproof ratings. Waterproof down to 40 feet, crushproof up to 220 pounds (100kgf kilogram-force), Coldproof to sub-freezing temps of 14°F (10° C), dustproof, and shockproof up to a 5 foot fall, the WG-2 is as tough as they come. Many of its other features have been carried over from the WG-1, but thanks to the new CMOS sensor, you're now getting full HD 1080p movie recording. The WG-2 has an MSRP of $299.99, but if you're interested in geotagging, the WG-2 GPS has an MSRP of $349.99 (both prices represent a $50 discount over the previous generation, despite being more powerful and feature laden).
The XP170's 14-megapixel CMOS captures light through a 5x wide angle optical zoom lens and is very fast -- 10 frames-per second continuous shooting for stills, as well as 30fps full HD 1080p video recording. While the XP170 boasts ratings like waterproof to 33ft, shockproof to 6.5ft, freezeproof to 14°F, and dustproof, Fujifilm seems most excited about the new Wireless Image Transfer features. To access, XP170 owners need to download the free FUJFILM Photo Receiver app to your Android or iOS Device, which allows the XP170 to "join" your smart phone or tablet. Then it's easy to share your photos and videos on your favorite social networking sites like Facebook or YouTube. There's also a number of nice automated features, like Tracking Auto Focus to help you get sharp, detailed action adventure shots, as well as Face Detection, Automatic Red-eye Removal, and a 360° Motion Panorama Mode for capturing the great outdoors in all its beauty and splendor. Pick up a FinePix XP170 for less than $280.
[Editor's Note: we're still waiting for Nikon to announce its flagship 2012 lifeproof camera, so until we have that information, here's the model they released late last summer.]
The AW100 is the first underwater camera Nikon has made in over a decade. And what a fun little camera this is. Make sure the lock is tight on the chamber where you put your battery and SD card, and you can dive down as far as 33 feet (10 meters) under water. Salt water? No problem, just rinse it off afterwards. Crazy enough, there's even stereo sound recording which should work underwater as well. The AW100 is also shockproof up to five feet and temperature proof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit where the camera's over-sized buttons will come in handy for anyone wearing gloves. The AW100 features a 16 megapixel 1/2.3 inch backside illuminated CMOS sensor, 5x wide angle optical zoom NIKKOR lens (equivalent of a 28-140mm in 35mm format), an electronic compass which can be called up on the display, and GPS functionality for geo tagging (works with the included ViewNX2 software, Nikon's mypicturetown.com, or Google Earth) as well as very basic navigation using the built-in maps, which will have various "points of interest" in certain locations.
The AW100 is capable of 1080p high definition video recording at 30 frames per second as well as 720p HD movie capture at 60 frames per second. Because AW100 is built for various weather conditions and environments where users may be wearing gloves, Nikon has designed a new way to access different function modes. Called "Action Control operation," this will change between two pre-selected modes (say Portrait and Landscape) with the flick of a wrist, saving you the time of having to access the menu. The AW100 has an MSRP of $379.99.
If you do a lot of underwater diving, spear fishing or general underwater photography, perhaps you should expand your equipment repertoire to include a swanky Liquid Image video mask. They are geared towards capturing HD video underwater with incredible resolution. The Scuba Series records at a ridiculous 5 megapixels and 720p video resolution. Bonus feature: it take still photographs as well! It can dive with you all the way down to 130 feet. Wearing a video recording mask provides you with the ability to handsfree dive keeping both hands available to spearfish, swim, wave hello to Nemo or fend off hungry sharks (punch them in the gills and eyes, fyi).
Pelican Cases have been a long standing company in the world of durable cases. They protect everything from soldiers to SD cards. Literally, if it can fit in a Pelican case, it is guaranteed against anything and everything you can throw at it (excluding five-year-olds, shark and bear attacks). Their line of micro cases are perfect for small compact point-and-shoot cameras, so if you find yourself exploring Mars anytime soon, then you should considering purchasing a Pelican case.