Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 (Blue)
Typical Price: $389.95
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is a fast-shooting, easy-to-use rugged compact camera with excellent features to justify its high price.
The bad: The TS3's photos and movies look soft.
The bottom line: GPS and fast shooting performance make the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 a worthy rugged point-and-shoot even if its photos and videos aren't the sharpest.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is the manufacturer's third shot at a high-end rugged camera. (It's the fourth if you include the more budget-friendly DMC-TS10.) The price continues to hover just south of the $400 mark, but Panasonic has again bulked up the feature set and durability claims.
The big add-in feature this time is GPS, which makes perfect sense for a rugged camera. After all, it's tough to mark down where you were when you took a picture when there are no street signs. The TS3 is just slightly more durable than its predecessor, the TS2, being waterproof to approximately 40 feet under water compared with the latter's 33 feet. It's also shockproof to approximately 6.6 feet, freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof. It's not crushproof, though, so you'll still have to be careful not to step on it or run it over.
Other key specs include a 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 4.6x internal zoom, a 2.7-inch LCD, and a 12-megapixel high-speed CCD sensor. The sensor is a new design, and it's paired with Panasonic's Venus Engine FHD processor. This combo allows for high-speed burst shooting--full resolution at 3.7 frames per second--and full HD movie capture in AVCHD format. There's also a bright built-in LED lamp to help when shooting in darker environments, which is good because low-light photos and movies aren't the greatest.
|Key specs||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.1x2.5x1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.9 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4.6x, f3.3-5.9, 28-128mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); Motion JPEG (.MOV)/MPO (3D photos)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 30fps (progressive; 17Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 310 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; external charger supplied|
|Bundled software||PhotofunStudio 6.1 HD Lite Edition (Windows); Super LoiLoScope trial version (Windows)|
The TS3's photo quality is like a lot of point-and-shoots--good with a lot of light, but noticeably worse in low-light conditions. Below ISO 400 you'll get very good results with nice color and decent detail. However, internal zoom lenses don't typically produce the sharpest results, and add in a rugged camera's extra lens protection and, well, you get fairly soft photos. Add in noise and noise reduction at higher ISO sensitivities and you may not want to view or print your results at larger sizes. Plus, there's a visible increase in noise at ISO 800 and above that causes color problems.
Basically, don't expect to be able to take this 30 feet underwater without additional lighting and be able to make huge prints of what you capture. It's more likely you'll end up with good photos you can share online, which for most people will be good enough. In shallower waters such as with snorkeling or in a pool, you'll get better results, though you probably won't have a lot of fine detail when viewing at 100 percent. As a pocket camera to take along with you to the beach, hiking in the woods, or flying down the slopes, it's a solid option, though.
Color is very good, but again, it depends the ISO sensitivity you're shooting at. With plenty of light you get bright, vibrant results. At sensitivities above ISO 400 colors start to look a little dirty and washed out. Exposure is generally good, too. The auto white balance is a warm under unnatural light, so you'll want to use the appropriate preset or take a manual reading when possible.
The lens has some barrel distortion at the wide end and slight pincushioning at the telephoto end. Despite its softness, the TS3's lens is consistent edge to edge and in the corners. There is fringing in high-contrast areas of photos, but it was typically only visible when photos were viewed at full screen or print sizes.
Video quality is slightly better than an HD pocket video camera; good enough for Web use and undemanding TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras and you may see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects. The zoom lens does function while recording and is quiet while moving so it won't be picked up by the mic. However, there is the chance you'll get no audio at all because the mic is easily covered by your fingers when holding the camera.
|General shooting options||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Sports, Snow, Beach & Snorkeling, Underwater, SCN, 3D Photo|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, 1-point AF, 23-point AF, Spot AF, AF Tracking|
|Macro||2 inches (Wide); 1 foot (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy (only in iA mode)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||7 shots|
Shooting modes are all for point-and-shoot use. A press of the Mode button brings up eight options. Intelligent Auto has you covered with simple put-it-there-leave-it-there shooting, while Normal Picture gives you a little more control with options for ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, and focus and metering selections.
Then there are four active outdoor scene modes for shooting water, beach, and snow scenes as well as access to 25 other scene modes (SCN) for those times when you want to get specific with your auto shooting or get creative. For the most part they are the ones you'd find on any point-and-shoot, but there are a few artistic ones like High Dynamic and Pinhole as well as a Handheld Night Shot that takes several 3-megapixel pictures in a row and then combines them into one image to reduce motion blur and noise. It does improve noise and detail, but the downside is that it really only works if your subject is stationary.
The last spot in the mode menu goes to the TS3's 3D mode, which works by clicking off multiple shots as you move the camera horizontally across a scene and then picks the two best for overlaying to create a 3D MPO file that can be played back on 3D-enabled TVs, computers, and digital photo frames. The results are good, but your subject has to be motionless, as does everything in the scene. Any movement really kills the effect. It's a nice extra to play with, but not a must-have mode.
There is no dedicated movie mode you enter to shoot video clips. Instead, you choose your movie recording settings in the main menu and push the record button on top next to the shutter release. (For more information on all the capabilities of the TS3, head to Panasonic's global site.)
Shooting performance is very good. Shutter lag is low thanks to a fast and accurate autofocus; it's just 0.4 second in bright lighting and 0.7 second in dim lighting. From shot to shot without the flash is only 1 second; adding the flash drags that time to 2.2 seconds, though. The TS3's time from off to first shot is 1.9 seconds. Its continuous burst is capable of up to 3.6fps, but in our lab tests it averaged 2.5fps. Still, that's pretty fast for this class of camera.
The TS3 looks and feels like it can take a beating. Judging by user reviews of Panasonic's previous rugged cameras, one might wonder if the TS3 will hold up to its durability claims. I had no problems with my review camera, but that doesn't mean problems can't happen. However, as with all rugged and waterproof cameras, there are handling precautions you need to take to keep water and dust out of the camera. Panasonic has stored information about these precautions in the camera for easy reference and a warning pops up when the camera's turned on.
Fortunately, even with all this protection, the TS3 still functions like a regular point-and-shoot. Controls are easy to master, as is the interface. Actually, the TS3's all-button controls are nicer than on Panasonic's compacts that use switches for power and to change from shooting to playback.
One of the main attractions of the TS3 is the built-in GPS. Using it is fairly simple, and the process has been streamlined from Panasonic's previous GPS cameras thanks to a dedicated spot in the menu system. Once you've turned on the receiver--this can be done from the Q.Menu or from the main menu--you can have the camera retrieve the GPS information for your current location. In tests this took anywhere from less than a minute to several minutes depending on how much open sky was above me. Once locked, the TS3 can display country, state, city, and landmark information and continues to update itself every minute. You can then go into the GPS Area Select menus and pick the correct information for your location. For example, if you're standing in the middle of New York, it could quite possibly have a couple pages of landmarks to pick from. Also, you can choose to limit what area information is attached, in case you only want the name of the city, for instance. The area information covers 173 countries or regions all over the world and more than half a million landmarks in 73 countries or regions.
For everyday shooting, attaching GPS information is probably not that exciting. But if you do a lot of traveling, hiking, or other activities where you might want to remember where you were, then it's a great feature to have. Longitude and latitude is seamlessly added to the EXIF data and, again, you can have the camera include country, city, state, and landmarks. The TS3 also has a built-in compass, altimeter, and barometer, which makes it a nice backup device for those things should you need them.
AVCHD movies can be recorded with GPS data as well. However, the location information can only be viewed when videos are played back on a computer using the bundled software or directly from the camera connected to a TV. If you don't want to view your clips with those methods, you'll probably want to stick with the non-GPS AVCHD format option to save on battery life.
One last thing regarding the GPS: once you've turned it on, the receiver stays on until you turn it off, until 2 hours have passed since it refreshed its position, or until the camera has been off for 3 hours. So even if you shut off the camera, it'll continue to update its location every 15 minutes. This is fine if you're shooting for an extended period of time, but it'll eventually make your battery run down. If you want the GPS to turn off when you shut the camera off, you must select the Airplane mode option from the camera's menu. This is all explained in the manual, but again, battery life is definitely something to keep in mind with features like GPS.
The battery, SD card slot, and Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports are all behind a locking door on the right side of the camera. Battery life is good, being CIPA-rated for 310 shots. On the other hand, if you're going to be away from a power outlet for an extended period of time, you have little choice but to buy extra batteries; there is no option to charge via USB. That's not unusual, but with a rugged camera like the TS3 it's more of an issue.
At almost $400, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is expensive for a point-and-shoot that produces fairly average photos and movie clips. Of course, what you're really paying for is the privilege of shooting those photos in conditions where other cameras--and smartphones--won't survive. The addition of GPS certainly makes the package more attractive, as does its relatively speedy performance.
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.
|Product Description||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 - Digital camera|
|Product Type||Digital camera - Compact|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||4.1 in x 1.1 in x 2.5 in|
|Supported Flash Memory||SDHC Memory Card, SD Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card|
|Integrated Memory||19 MB|
|Sensor Resolution||12.1 megapixels|
|Shooting Modes||Frame movie mode|
|Min Focus Range||19.7 in|
|Focal Length||4.9 mm - 22.8 mm|
|Image Stabilizer||Optical (POWER O.I.S. with Active Mode)|
|Red Eye Reduction||Yes|
|Microphone||Microphone - Built-in - Mono|
|Display||LCD display - TFT active matrix - 2.7 in - Color|
|Supported Battery||1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery - 940 mAh ( Included )|
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 3
4 Star: 1
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 2
1 Star: 2
Best of the 'Rugged' Cameras!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on June 9, 2011
13 out of 13 users found this review helpful
Pros: + Outstanding exposure balance
+ Battery life was great
+ The burst shooting works amazingly well for a P&S
+ Excellent color balance. Images are not over-saturated
+ There is comparatively little barrel distortion when close to subjects
Cons: - Accurate and rapid focusing is poor
- The macro feature is especially frustrating
Summary: I purchased this camera as an upgrade from my Fuji xp10. I also bought an xp30 and the Panasonic consistently blows it away.
GPS: First sat aquisition takes a while, that is to be expected. After than in clear view (no trees, etc) I have gotten quick consistent signals in Hawaii and decent signals in Washington. Hawaii is much better as would be expected because there are more available sat's the closer to the equator. If you are expecting performance on par with your Garmin device, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting the tiny gps sensor to work under most reasonable circumstances, then you will be pleased. The GPS data on the display screen is a nice bonus but again, don't fool yourself into expecting dedicated gps device performance.
Underwater camera: I've snorkeled in 75 degree salt water for four days in a row for not less than 3 hours. In clear water the underwater pictures are amazing. I never got anything close to this quality out of the XP10 and it is a good camera. It completely blows the XP30 away. The full 1080 movies underwater are also excellent, though to be fair I've only watched them on the 720 laptop screen. The camera has gotten a rinse in fresh water after each ocean bath and plenty of time to air dry. So far very good. I can't say enough about how much better the images are from this device.
Battery: yet another custom sized battery and accompying charger. I'm not going to pick on companies for having a custom sized battery too much, but for my sanity, please just make the darn camera charge over a standard usb plug. I see how having a seperate charger coudl allow me to run with one and charge another but really, the battery life is very good (2-3 hours of actual snorkeling with the camera on all the time and still only using about 60% of the battery.
Outdoor picture quality: Good. lots and lots of specific modes (everything from portrait, to sunset, to fireworks, etc..) good enough general use that I left the canon SX100 at home but I do miss the 10x zoom. I'm willing to trade off the zoom for the one device and the massive improvement in ruggedness.
Haven't done much indoor shooting yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if this camera gives up a little bit in that side of things. There are LOTS of good cameras for shooting indoors, but there aren't many that you can take snorkeling in the morning, drop on the gravel road loading up the car, and then rise and dunk into a snowbank in the evening. This camera impresses me more every day of vacation. I brought the xp10 as a backup but it hasn't even gotten out of the suitcase.
*** P.S. If you will buy this Camera I suggest you have compare price before you decide at: www.amazon.com/gp/*************?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%****%2Foffer-listing%2FB004KKZ0KG%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Ddp_olp_new_map%26condition%3Dnew%23&tag=***************&********=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957
Camera Leaks, and the Warranty Department is AWFUL!
Rating: 1 / 5
on January 12, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Color? The screen is nice....
Cons: Lens fogs up with temperature change
Warrenty Department is BAD
Wrist Strap broke after little use... luckily not IN the water
Summary: I purchased this camera last summer for its rugged and waterproof features. I noticed immediately that the pictures weren't the best quality. And that, when I took it underwater, the temperature change caused the lens to fog, making it impossible to move the camera in and out of the water for a clear picture.
After about one month of use, the macro button stopped working. Because they do not provide a phone number for the warrenty office, I sent it in as instructed. They did NOT contact me upon reciept of the product. In fact I had to contact them repeatedly during the TWO MONTHS that they kept the camera waiting for parts from Japan.
FINALLY they sent in back to be in September, after replacing parts. And the button still didn't work. So I called the office and talked my way up to the head of the warrenty department. She informed me that I was on the wrong setting. The camera was never broken in the first place.
Now maybe you can blame me for not pouring over the manual detail by detail. But I would think a technican in the warranty department would have noticed that BEFORE replacing parts.
Anyways, I got the camera back and took it on vacation to the Bahamas. I took it in the water and.... the screen froze. I opened the battery compartment and found water in there. I mean, I was snorkeling like 2 feet deep for 15 minutes! I thought maybe it was a fluke but experimentation proved me wrong. It leaks.
So much for waterproof. So now I have sent it back to the warranty department. I probably wont see the camera for another two months and will have to deal with the warrenty personnel again and there TERRIBLE communication skills.
One tough camera
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on April 8, 2011
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: -excellent photos and videos
-different modes are great
-lots of different features for any situation
-can go 42 ft underwater, be dropped up to 6 feet, and is dust proof
-holds my 32gb class 10 SDHC card
Cons: -gps takes a bit to update
Summary: Great price for all the features and ruggedness. I've owned the dmc-ts1 as well and love both of them.
User interface way too complicated and poorly designed.
Rating: 2 / 5
on September 9, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Waterproof feature has worked well for me both underwater and in the desert (keeping out dust), although the buttons need to be bigger so its easier to use underwater.
Cons: User interface way too complicated and poorly designed.
Summary: The poorly written user manual only exacerbates the problem. Very frustrating to use this camera. Often, I have to resort to Google to find out how to use the camera. For example, the camera settings are not all in one place. They are dispersed in a number of different places in the software, making it very hard to remember how to use it. I had a photographer friend help me once to figure out how to play back videos. It took him 15 minutes!
Good Camera, not very waterproof though....
Rating: 1.5 / 5
on June 25, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Compact, shutter exposure settings (Limited though), easy to use, good number of preset picture taking conditions.
Cons: Not waterproof
not the best images
Summary: I was happy with this camera until I took it on a snorkel trip (the reason I bought it). I am usually good with researching my purchases but guess I didn't dig far enough on this one to see that the waterproof capabilities are not as good as they claim....
I was snorkeling in the Caribbean for approx 30 minutes going no deeper than 4-5m as I had a vest on, when the screen went fuzzy and stopped working... I was nowhere near the 1hr / 20m underwater limit.... I am sending it in for repair, but find it rather crappy that I have to pay for the shipping and handling to a 3rd party Ontario to get it there!... will advise what happens...