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Panasonic Lumix TS4 Camera Review
Thursday, December 27, 2012  
Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TS4 is waterproof down to approximately 40 feet, shockproof to about 6 feet and freezeproof down to 14 degrees (F). Oh, and it also claims to be dustproof. The 12-megapixel CCD sensor is the same one that was used in the earlier TS3 model. There is a 28-128mm Leica lens, a 2.7-inch LCD and integrated GPS. This model also offers a Manual mode allowing you to control aperture and shutter speed, even though we found ourselves relying on the iA (Auto) and Program (P) modes in most conditions with good results. Controlling shutter speed can come in handy if you are using a tripod in low-light conditions. A new feature in the TS4 is the Time Lapse mode which allows you to set a time interval between shots and the number of photos to shoot. Afterwards, the TS4 combines the photos into a stream for continuous playback. Pretty neat.

To test the TS4, we took it to the most extreme environment we could find: Antarctica! Our test camera was dunked in 30-degree water, dropped into snow, and carried around our neck during freezing rain and snow flurries. As expected, the TS4 performed flawlessly and shrugged off everything we could throw at it environmentally speaking. Even battery life was decent in the sub-freezing weather. I should note, however, we left the GPS feature turned off to preserve battery life.

HANDLING

I must add a disclaimer right up front. We LOVE Panasonic cameras. We use a ZS20 as our go-to camera for many of our travel photo and video projects. So, the learning curve of the TS4 was very shallow for us. The menu system is typical Panasonic and very logical. Like all Panasonic pocket cameras, the TS4 fits comfortably in the hand. It comes with a wrist strap, but we prefer a lanyard to better protect the camera. The power button, shutter release and Movie buttons are on the top of the camera to the right of the GPS hump. On most days in Antarctica, we were forced to use the camera with heavy waterproof gloves which poses a challenge with tiny buttons, but with patience, it could be done. Less elegant was trying to manipulate the Control Ring on the rear of the camera with gloves on.


The TS4 stood up to the cold of Antarctica

Instead of a Mode Ring, Panasonic uses a button which allows you to choose your shooting mode from the LCD menu. Most likely this is done to make it easier to keep the camera waterproof. Changing modes is straightforward and logical. There is a single, built-in LED that can be used to cast a little extra light when shooting in the dark. I really like that.

IMAGE QUALITY

I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the photos produced by the TS4 given the size of the lens. Quality is not up to the standards of our ZS20, but landscape shots at wide angle were pretty good. As you might expect, as light decreases, so does picture quality and zooming does not help matters, either. Low light photos and video can get pretty noisy, but still it is an improvement over the TS3.

TheTS4 claims it can shoot a burst up to 3.6fps, but I cannot verify that claim.

Video quality is better than your high-end smartphone, but not up to the quality of the ZS20. You can zoom the lens while recording, but you might hear some motor noise in your recording. Like most CCD cameras, the TS4 is prone to display vertical streaks when shooting bright reflective scenes, like sun shining on water. And, on more than on occasion, I found myself inadvertently covering up the small microphone on top of the camera with my left forefinger.

TOUGHNESS

This is where the TS4 really shines. The camera can definitely take a beating. We did a couple of drop tests (on dirt and carpet), dunked it in freezing water in Antarctica and subjected it to hours of use in snow and freezing rain. The camera designers placed the battery, memory card and ports underneath a single waterproof door with a rubber seal and secondary locking mechanism. I have seen models with two doors, which is twice as likely to leak, so a single door is a smart design. Whenever you open the door, the camera will warn you upon startup to secure the door with the secondary lock.


The TS4 loves to play in the snow!

WHAT I LIKE:

  • Very tough design
  • Good photo quality
  • Bright LED screen
  • Good battery life
  • Built-In LED light

WHAT I DON'T LIKE:

  • Video quality is just average
  • Microphone can easily be covered by finger
  • Vertical streaking on bright subjects (CCD)
  • Poor low-light performance

SUMMARY

The TS4 is a great camera for anyone who needs a tough, durable camera for outdoor duty. I might like to keep one around my neck when riding my motorcycle. If it rains, so what? The TS4 can take it in stride. The photo quality is very good in well-lit conditions. It was the perfect companion for our Antarctica trip, as you can see by the photo examples below.

SAMPLE PHOTOS


Click on the thumbnails below to view the full-size images.











SAMPLE VIDEO

Below are some video clips shot with the TS4.

Panasonic Lumix TS4 Sample Clips from Cruisereport on Vimeo.




     
     
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One Comment
 
MARTY
 
Thanks for this in-depth camera review. All great info.
 
Thursday, December 27, 2012 6:18 PM  
 
 
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