Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400 with Waterproof Body
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
August 16, 2009
Overview

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 is a lightweight, ruggedized, fit-in-your-pocket, twelve megapixel compact point-and-shoot with an excellent 4.6X Leica zoom lens, optical image stabilization, 30 fps 720p HD video, and rated waterproof to three meters (10 feet).

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

Panasonic with the Lumix DMC-TS1 has turned out a quality-built compact point-and-shoot in the “waterproof” category. However, rated to only three meters depth, this little gem can in no way be classified as a “dive” camera even for the casual fun user, and should be considered more suitable as a watersports camera where frequent drenchings and shallow dunkings are the rule. That aside, it is “ruggedized,” and will take those occassional hard knocks and drops without disintegrating into a multitude of small useless pieces.

The DMC-TS1 has a top-of-the-line Leica lens, the DC 4.9-22.8mm (28-128mm 35mm equivalent) f/3.3-5.9 Vario-Elmar, with in-the-lens Mega O.I.S. image stabilization, and is paired with a 12.1 megapixel (effective) 1/2.33” CCD that produces images that are sharp, well exposed, of excellent color with well rendered fine detail even at higher ISOs.

Features abound on the TS1 with, for example, twenty-four Still Picture modes, seventeen Movie Scene settings, six White Balance options, five Autofocus modes, ISOs from 100 to 1600 with special High Sensitivity settings up to 6400, and Shutter Speeds from 8 to 1/3000 seconds with extra long exposures of 15, 30 and 60 seconds under the Starry Sky scene mode. Additionally, it turns out standard 4:3 video in 640 x 480 and 320 x 240, 16:9 at 848 x 480; plus, 720p HD at 1280 x 720, all at 30 fps and Quicktime, too. All in all, quite a list.

But all is not rosey. The TS1 does have a caveat: It’s slow; although not the slowest. Power up to first shot takes almost two seconds. Shot to shot with autofocus takes over two seconds. Writing each image to a card takes 2.5 seconds, while zooming the lens across its full range takes almost three. However, this slow zooming does have an advantage: it permits zooming during video recording, which most cameras don’t allow. So, if you can live with those numbers, the Panasonic DMC-TS1 is a great little camera for the money.

Pros
  • +
    Image quality
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    Lens-shift image stabilization
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    720p HD video
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    Build quality
  • +
    Size
  • +
    Battery life
Cons
  • -
    Very slow zooming
  • -
    Slow operation
  • -
    Waterproof to 3 meters
  • -
    No optical viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400 with Waterproof Body
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.6x
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Size: 3.9 x 2.5 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 300 shots
  • Waterproof: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
2
Pentax Optio W60
Customer Rating
Price $599.99 $449.99
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Effective Sensor Resolution
12.1 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 28 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
128 mm 140 mm
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Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.3 f/3.5
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Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.9 f/5.5
Min Focus Distance (not macro) 11.8 in. 19.7 in.
Min Focus Distance (macro) 2.0 in. 0.4 in.
Image Stabilization Type Optical (in-lens) None
Power to First Shot Time 2.0 sec 2.7 sec
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Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.4 sec 0.4 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.3 frames/sec 0.7 frames/sec
HD Video Available Yes Yes
Max Video Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels 1280 x 720 pixels
Max Video Frame Rate (max resolution) 30 frames/sec 15 frames/sec
Min ISO Setting 100 50
Max ISO Setting 6400 6400
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LCD Screen Size
2.7 in. 2.5 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230000 pixels 230000 pixels
Video Zoom Available (while recording) Yes Yes
Size (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
Weight (with batteries) 6.5 oz 5.8 oz
Battery Life 340 shots 205 shots
2
Pentax Optio W60

Pentax Optio W60 comes in a very close second. Image quality is almost as good as the TS1’s, except at higher ISOs, even though the W60 has a 10 megapixel sensor instead of 12. It is rated waterproof to 4 meters (13 feet) instead of three, has a slightly longer 5X zoom lens (28 to 140mm equivalent), 720p HD video, but only at 15 fps; and is about the same size and weight as the TS1.

Pentax Optio W60 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400 with Waterproof Body
Where to buy
Pentax Optio W60
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Size: 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 205 shots
  • Waterproof: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

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