Design and Key Features

The Lumix DMC-TS5 is one of those cameras that you know is tough as soon as you pick it up. It's made almost entirely of metal, and the visible screws on the front and back make it look more like a tool that a camera. The lens receives some extra protection from a protruding metal flange that surrounds it. The TS5/FT5 is available in four colors (which may not be available in all regions): orange, blue, silver, and black.

While the TS5 has a good-sized grip (above), it's made of a slippery material that doesn't feel secure.

At left you can see that, like most of its peers, the controls on the rear of the camera are very cramped, with little room for your thumb.

The DMC-TS5 is 'proofed' in five different areas. It's waterproof to 13 meters (43 feet), shockproof from 2 meters (6.6 feet), crushproof to 100 kg (220 lbs), freezeproof to -10C (+14F), and dustproof.

The lens has both water-repellent and anti-fogging coatings. In our 'dunk' test, water fell right off the lens, though it did tend to collect at the bottom of the flange that surrounds it. The lens does seem to be quite the fingerprint magnet, so keep that cleaning cloth handy.

The TS5 has a single door - kept secure by two locks - that protect its I/O ports (USB+A/V output), battery, and memory card slot. As you'd expect on a rugged camera, there's a rubber gasket behind that door to keep water and dust from getting inside the camera.

All of the rugged cameras we've tested recently carry numerous warnings about using the cameras outdoors, especially underwater. They remind you to make sure there's no debris on the seal, and to lock the doors before you take the camera out into the elements. Panasonic has gone a different route, hassling you every time you turn on the camera - until you learn the 'trick' to turning it off.

That's easier said than done though - turning off the warning screen requires going to the setup menu and choosing 'Precautions' at the top of the list. Despite what is says on the first screen, you'll need to scroll through all twelve pages of warnings before you hit the Set button, at which point the warnings are finally gone.

The Lumix TS5/FT5 has a 3" LCD with 460,000 dots. The screen is sharp and colors are vivid, but the real story is its unmatched visibility outdoors (with Auto Power Monitor turned on). On the top of the camera you'll find the power, shutter release and dedicated movie recording button. There's also a lamp that illuminates when the GPS is in use.

The displays on the majority of rugged cameras that we've recently tested have middling to poor outdoor visibility - especially those of the OLED variety. Panasonic has figured out a way to make its displays just as bright outdoors are they are indoors, assuming that you've turned on the Auto Power Monitor function. As one might expect, brightening up the LCD will reduce battery life, though Panasonic doesn't say by how much.

The built-in flash has a maximum range of 5.6m at wide-angle and 3.1m at telephoto, though that's calculated with Auto ISO.

To the right of the flash is an LED illuminator, which can brighten up your subjects in movie mode. It's also serves as the TS5's AF-assist lamp.

While the TS5's flash numbers sound impressive, they don't reflect real-world usage, as they're calculated with the ISO sensitivity set to Auto. The maximum sensitivity in that mode is 1600, which will result in very noisy photos. If you reduce the sensitivity to a more reasonable ISO 400, the flash range drops to just 1.4m at wide-angle and 0.8 m at telephoto. Flash-lovers, you've been warned.

You can bring up a shortcut menu by pressing the Delete/Q.Menu button on the back of the camera. This menu covers the most popular options on the TS5. The main menu is well laid out, easy to navigate, and features descriptions of each item.

It's worth mentioning that in order to get to the recording menu shown above, you must first pass through a gateway menu, which lets you jump to movie, GPS, Wi-Fi, and setup options, as well.

Shooting Modes

The Lumix DMC-TS5 has a host of features for those who prefer a point-and-shoot experience. The highlight is certainly its Intelligent Auto mode, which handles scene selection, face detection and recognition, smart contrast adjustment, and an Auto ISO mode that detects motion and sets the sensitivity accordingly. The camera can also switch into its handheld night shot and HDR modes if it deems them necessary. If you want a bit more control over camera features, you can switch to a Programmed Auto mode.

There are plenty of scene modes available on the TS5. Some of the more notable scenes are handheld night shot (which combines several exposures into one, reducing noise and blur), HDR (combines three different exposures, improving the range of brightness captured), and starry sky (essentially a bulb mode). There's also a time-lapse mode, which captures photos over a period of time, which can be saved separately, or as a video.

HDR mode

HDR off, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, f/3.3
HDR on, ISO 200, 1/160 sec, f/10

Above you can see the HDR feature in action. While there's no doubt that HDR restores highlight tone and brightens shadows, it comes at a price. The HDR image is substantially softer and, if you look in the trees, really smudged. This may be due to the fact that the ISO is set to Auto in HDR mode, and the camera selected ISO 200 in this particular scene.

There are also four scene modes for more 'adventurous' photography. They include sports, snow, beach & snorkeling, advanced underwater modes. The beach & snorkel mode offers an 'underwater color reproduction' option, which helps remove the blue cast that often comes along with taking photos below sea level. The TS5 will use its depth gauge to warn you if you're approaching the camera's 13 meter limit.

Creative Controls

It goes without saying that the DMC-TS5 has a lot of special effects, which Panasonic calls Creative Controls. The usual suspects are all here, including expressive (pop color), toy camera, miniature effect, soft focus, and selective color.

The expressive Creative Control makes colors really pop. The soft focus filter certainly lives up to its name.

An added bonus on the Lumix DMC-TS5 are manual exposure controls. By pressing the Mode button and selecting 'M' mode, you will be able to adjust the shutter speed and aperture. The shutter speed range is 4 - 1/1300 seconds, while the aperture choices require a bit more explanation. At any given focal length you'll have two aperture choices to choose from. For example, at wide-angle, you can select from F3.3 or F10. At full telephoto, those numbers jump to F5.9 and F18. Those small apertures aren't really as reported - photos would look awful due to diffraction. The camera uses a three-stop neutral density filter to cut down on the amount of light coming through the lens, which simulates using a small aperture.

Other manual controls include white balance and exposure compensation. Speaking of which, the TS5 offers an auto-bracketing feature, which is one way to always ensure proper exposure.

Sweep Panorama mode

Like the vast majority of compact cameras released in the last year, the Lumix TS5 has a 'sweep panorama' feature that covers up to 180 degrees.. You simply press the shutter release button, pan the camera in your direction of choice, and press it again to stop. The image is stitched together instantly. More than likely, the camera is just using its video capture system to perform this trick.

Panasonic touts the fact that the TS5 is the first camera that lets you apply special effects to panoramas. All of the Creative Controls are available, save for soft focus and star filter. We're not sure if anyone's been clamoring for such a feature, but hey - it's there if you want it.

The above sample was stitched properly, with no visible seams, although the man at middle-right has been a bit mangled.

ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/10

The maximum image size for horizontal panoramas is 8000 x 1080, while vertically oriented images are 1440 x 8000.

Wi-Fi

The Lumix DMC-TS5 has an extensive, but distinctly clunky Wi-Fi feature. On the surface, it sounds good: you can remotely control the camera, send photos to your mobile device or PC while photos are taken (or later), and view them on a Panasonic HDTV. What's more, the camera has built-in NFC (near-field communication), which lets you pair your camera and smartphone simply by tapping them. While the smartphone connectivity worked well, trying to connect to a Mac or PC, or use NFC is an exercise in frustration. It didn't help that the camera - which supports 802.11b/g/n - has really poor Wi-Fi reception.

Above you can see the general flow of setting up a Wi-Fi connection where the camera is the host. If you want to join a protected network, you'll have to use this clunky T9-style keyboard. Here's where a touchscreen display would've come in handy.

There are two routes you can take for getting Wi-Fi up and running on the TS5. You can connect to an existing network, or have the camera set up its own. Joining an existing network can be easy or frustrating. If it's an open network, it takes just a few button presses. On protected networks using WPS, it's still fairly simple. If your router does not have WPS then you'll have to enter the password using the old school keyboard pictured above, which requires a lot of button-pressing.

When you're finally connected, you'll have four options: remote shooting, playback on a DLNA-compatible TV, sending images as soon as they're taken, or browsing images already stored on the camera.

If you're using a smartphone or other mobile device, you'll find need Panasonic's Image App for iOS or Android. You can then pair the two on a shared network or set up a peer-to-peer connection. If you have a smartphone that supports NFC, then you can do everything (including photo transfer) simply by tapping it against the bottom of the camera - in theory. We tried using NFC on a number of phones (and two TS5s running the latest firmware) but were unable to get it to work (and we're not alone). We reached out to Panasonic, who was unable to provide us with a reliable way of making this feature work.

When composing a photo on your smartphone you can adjust the zoom and take a photo. In 'playback mode' you can view the photos on the camera, and choose which are transferred over. Once they're on your mobile device, they can be sent onward via e-mail or other services.

Once you get your smartphone connected, you can do a number of things. You can remotely control the camera with decent live view quality, and control of the most important functions. As mentioned above, you can also have the camera send photos to your smartphone as they're taken, or you can browse through what's already on your memory card.

Another thing you can do with the smartphone app is send photos to websites such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, or Panasonic's own cloud service. Like everything else related to Wi-Fi, getting this up and running is a chore, and requires that you join Panasonic's difficult-to-use Lumix Club service. You must then set up the services you want for every network you use, which is rather user-unfriendly. One important thing to do is save these networks as favorites - especially if they're on a protected network - otherwise you'll be entering passwords again and again.

You can also send photos to a Mac or PC, but setup is difficult, and despite repeated attempts we couldn't get it to work at all.

In summary, we found the Wi-Fi experience to leave much to be desired. The easiest option is to just use the camera as the network host and use the smartphone app to connect to it. Everything else just did not work reliably in our testing, despite our attempts to work with Panasonic to resolve these issues.

GPS

The Lumix TS5 has a pretty nice GPS system. It not only figures out your longitude and latitude, but also your altitude or depth (using a pressure meter), your direction, as well as any nearby landmarks. The only thing you won't find are pre-installed maps.

In playback mode you can see the landmark, basic shooting settings, and a graphic similar to the one at right showing tons of GPS info. In record mode you can press the display button a few times to see current GPS information. The graph at the lower-right tracks barometric pressure.

The DMC-TS5 has a decent database of landmarks, which covers a good portion of the world. If the camera doesn't pick the right one, you can choose from other options, type in your own, or delete it entirely.

The GPS can also do some other neat tricks. One of them is altitude logging, which does just as it sounds. If you're going for a hike in the mountains, you'll be able to see a graph showing altitude over a period of time. The camera can track your route as well, which you can output to a KML file, which can then be imported into Google Earth.

By default, the GPS is very slow to acquire its location. However, if you download the Assisted GPS data from Panasonic, it'll be much faster. In relatively open areas - such as the rooftop of DPReview HQ - the camera figured out where it was in 30-60 seconds. If you're in amongst buildings in the big city, forget about it - the TS5 will struggle and eventually give up. This is common on cameras with GPSs.

Movies

The Lumix DMC-TS5 is the only currently shipping rugged camera that can record movies at 1080/60p, with stereo sound. That means that you get smoother video compared to 30p, without the interlacing found on cameras that use 60i. If you don't want to use the default AVCHD format, you can switch to MPEG-4 - which some find easier to edit and share - though the frame rate drops to 30 fps. You can record up to 30 minutes of continuous video with AVCHD, and for a bit less using MPEG-4 (which is subject to a 4GB file size limit).

The camera lets you use the optical zoom and image stabilizer while you're recording a movie, and focus can be adjusted continuously, if you wish. The built-in LED illuminator can be used to brighten up your subjects, though its range is limited to just half a meter.

The only manual control in movie mode is a wind cut filter. Movies can be 'divided' in playback mode, which allows you to remove unwanted footage. It's also worth mentioning that GPS data can be embedded in a movie.

You'll find a few sample videos on the following page.