Fresh out the technology gate, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is already turning heads and raising eyebrows, not to mention flying off the shelves. The third generation of the TS series, the camera itself is designed for the active lifestyle (or maybe just the careless college kid) and has more features than can fit on the box.
First and foremost, the Lumix TS3 is an underwater camera. There are a lot of cameras out there for the more active, outdoors crowd - but they aren't meant for under water. The Lumix TS3 is a waterproof digital camera up to 40 feet, making it great for snorkeling and boat trips, but not for diving. The underwater digital functionality of the Lumix TS3 is one of four main selling points for the rugged camera. Additionally, the TS3 is a shockproof camera up to 6.6 feet, according to the MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock test standard. Essentially that just means the camera is internally prepared to withstand a fall from a moderate distance. It still gets dings and the lens is capable of scratches, but the vital components of the camera are safe.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is also a dustproof digital camera to the IP6X standard, meaning the finer particles of dust stay out of the chassis of the camera during hikes, sports, and beach trips (though leaving it in the sand still isn't a smart idea). The fourth major feature of the camera's durability is its ability to withstand cold temperatures: the Lumix TS3 is a freeze-proof digital camera down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, a normal temperature for activities like skiing.
The GPS function on the shockproof digital camera shouldn't be confused with a common location-finding feature. Rather, it's more for geo-tagging the exact location of where the photo was taken. The GPS initially takes a while once booted up, so it's not something to do in a hurry. But it is fully functional (particularly in open areas) along with the compass, altimeter, and barometer. And not a common feature found on an underwater digital camera.
But regardless of ruggedness, the most important part of a camera should always be the picture quality. With some setting adjustments, the 12.1 megapixel underwater digital camera with a LEICA DC 28mm wide-angle lens takes wonderful outdoor pictures and fantastic 1920 x 1080 AVCHD video. But there are distinct drawbacks.
The flash is either on or off, and that leads to extremely flash-washed pictures in low-light situations. The IAuto mode and Active Outdoor Scene modes lend greater functionality to the generally abysmal point-and-shoot automatic modes, though the best decision is to always find the proper settings manually. The IAuto mode is geared towards outdoors shots, so it can lead to grainy photos otherwise, thanks to the high isolation and fast shutter speeds. That being said, the fast-motion action pictures with this waterproof digital camera are exceptional to anything else in the market, thanks in part to the high-speed CCD sensor and Venus Engine FHD.
The 3D photo mode feels like more of a gimmick and less of a practical feature, though it is available for a user with time to take the 20 panning shots necessary - and the VIERA 3D television at home to view it on. The Lumix TS3 does offer some incredible shutter speed options for night shots - up to a 60-second exposure - that are rare for regular point-and-shoots, much less an underwater digital camera. The 2.7-inchd LCD screen minimizes glare but still doesn't do the pictures justice. The best results always come after being cleaned up a little on the computer, though the white balance, auto-focus features, and other quick adjustments made available on this underwater digital camera do allow for the user to take great pictures pre-final adjustments.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 is the top in its class for a handheld camera. But it's also in a rare class. It's an underwater camera, a shockproof camera, a dustproof camera, and a freezeproof camera. And after all that, it's still a great digital camera - for the right lifestyle. The versatility of the camera does lead to some sacrifices when it comes to basic indoor shooting, but the overall quality, durability, and feature-list of the Lumix DMC-TS3 makes it the best choice for an active owner.
Underwater Digital Camera Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3