In this Gadling gear review, I’ll introduce you to one of the newest cameras in the Panasonic Lumix lineup. The DMS-TS1 is the first shock and waterproof from Panasonic. The basic specifications are very respectable – 12 megapixel photos, a 4.6x wide angle optical zoom with image stabilization and HD movies recorded in “AVCHD lite”.
Of course, what sets the DMC-TS1 apart from most other digital cameras is its ability to go swimming with you.
The waterproof rating allows you to take the camera in up to 10 feet of water for up to one hour – this is a real underwater rating, not just splashes. In addition to this, it’ll also survive falls up to 5 feet and the design also makes it dust proof.
The design of the camera is awesome – not only do you get a camera that is built to survive the elements, it also looks like it was designed to survive them. A rugged metal frame, and big buttons give it the perfect balance of style and ruggedness.
On the back of the camera are buttons for maneuvering through the menu, switching to playback or video mode and a selector dial for picking the photo mode you want to shoot in.
On the bottom is the battery compartment and memory card slot. These are both behind a waterproof door, protected by a seal. The lock/unlock slider shows a clear red warning when it is not closed correctly.
Photos and video made with the DMS-TS1 look good. For some reason, I did notice that the glass lens picks up more grime than most other cameras, and because it does not feature a (built in) lens cover, I’d recommend bringing a lens wipe with you.
Videos look good – the AVCHD Lite format makes very acceptable 720p HD videos. The audio does leave a little to be desired, as the camera picks up a lot of background noise.
You can transfer files to your PC, or watch them on your HDTV using an HDMI cable. No HD cable is included, so you will have to invest in a MiniHDMI > HDMI cable (about $10 from Monoprice.com) or the Panasonic Component digital cable.
The DMC-TS1 does come with a standard (non-HD) cable and a USB transfer cable. Sadly, the USB cable is a proprietary Panasonic design, so be sure not to lose it.
For most people, the Panasonic Intelligent mode will be more than sufficient – this setting has all the gimmicks you need to make good photos. In scene mode, you can select from 24 different settings. The camera features a dedicated underwater mode, as well as a couple of neat effect modes.
Day to day operation
The DMC-TS1 is fairly snappy, and does not suffer from the slow performance I’ve found on some other Panasonic cameras. Startup time is about 2 seconds, and once on, you can take photos right away. The menu system is very easy to use, and all the features can be accessed very quickly.
My only minor gripe with the operation of the DMC-TS1 is with the zoom slider button. Because it too had to be made waterproof, it is quite hard to operate, and requires a lot of pressure to slide. After a lot of zoom work, your fingers will actually hurt.
I’m impressed with the DMC-TS1 – it takes all the things I like about the Panasonic Lumix line of cameras, and adds enough protection to turn it into a very travel friendly camera that will be at home on a sightseeing trip, or a day at the beach.
Obviously, the fact that it does not take regular AA or AAA batteries means you’ll need to invest in a second (or third) battery. One word of warning about batteries – the Lumix DMC-TS1 will only work with original Panasonic batteries.
One issue I do want to point out is the warranty – in reading some of the consumer reviews of the DMC-TS1, it would appear that some extra attention is warranted in keeping the camera protected. One of the things that keeps popping up is the recommendation to replace the seals once a year. This is a $140 job. Also, even though the camera is sold as being shock & waterproof, if you do drop it, Panasonic recommends replacing the seals in order to keep it waterproof. This is one of those products that may deserve the extra investment in an extended warranty.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 is available in orange, green and silver. Its retail price is $379.99, but many retailers are selling it for just over $300. You’ll find the Panasonic DMC-TS1 are your favorite camera retailer or Amazon.com.