Panasonic showed off its entry into the world of waterproof/shockproof/dustproof/etc cameras at PMA 2009 with the introduction of the DMC-TS1. Waterproof to three meters, shockproof against drops of up to 1.5 meters, dustproof up to….well whatever measure you want to use for dust. A 28 – 128mm (in 35mm equiv) lens gives a fairly wide zoom range with the 28mm on the wide being particularly handy for this sort of camera. The ability to film HD video is something new in this class of camera and Panasonic is rightfully proud of it. Other features include focus tracking, which is one of my favorite p&s features this year, Face Recognition where you give the camera a set of faces that are your “favorites”, and if the camera recognies them it will proiritize focus for that face, and optical image stabilization. Available in April with an MSRP of $399.
In the hand, the Panasonic camera looked as “tough” as any of the cameras in this class. Smaller than the new Canon waterproof camera, it has a shape much closer to the Olympus waterproof cameras. Sort of a squat rectangle. The DMC-TS1 uses the AVCHD “lite” compression system for it’s video, which I’m not a huge fan of as many people still have issues editing AVCHD on their home computers. However, reading the spec sheet, it appears that the option to film HD in motion JPEG may exist as well. This is something that will have to be checked on though. The waterproof rating, while probably not a big deal for 90% of users is on the lower end of the depth ratings in this class. Though to be honest, I have yet to run into anyone who says “Oh yeah, I intend to use my point and shoot when diving at 150 feet”. After all, that’s not what these cameras are for. Finally, I continue to applaud Panasonic for it’s well thought out “quick menu” button for adjusting common camera settings. Although the q-menu button here isn’t as nice as the one of the LX2, it works well enough. I’m a fan of anything that keeps me from having to scroll through menu after menu to change settings.
Overall, the Panasonic DMC-TS1 is another good option for someone who wants a tough point and shoot and a great option for anyone who wants one that can film HD video.