What We Like

  • Good photo quality for its class; less highlight clipping than its peers
  • Very rugged body
  • Excellent LCD visibility
  • Some manual exposure control
  • Very fast AF in good light, brief shot-to-shot delays
  • Full-featured GPS with compass, manometer, and landmarks
  • Built-in Wi-Fi allows remote control and photo transfer with mobile devices
  • 1080/60p movie mode with stereo sound, long recording times
  • Strong battery life (with GPS/Wi-Fi off)

What We Don't Like

  • Details are smudged at base ISO (though likely not an issue for target audience)
  • Chromatic aberrations can be strong
  • Slow lens (in terms of maximum aperture)
  • Only two aperture choices in M mode
  • Weak flash
  • Overly complex Wi-Fi setup, with poor reception
  • In our testing, NFC feature did not work as advertised

Conclusion

The Lumix DMC-TS5/FT5 is the flagship model in Panasonic's rugged camera lineup. Panasonic has stuffed virtually every conceivable feature into the TS5, including a GPS, Wi-Fi, and NFC capability. While those are nice add-ons, performance and photo quality remain the most important 'features' a camera can have. In that regard, the DMC-TS5 rarely disappoints.

Design and Handling

The DMC-TS5 is a rectangular camera made almost entirely of metal. As soon as you pick it up you feel that it'll be able to take a beating. It can go up to 13 meters underwater, dropped from 2 meters, and have up to 100 kg of force applied to it. It's also freezeproof to -10C and dustproof.

The TS5's 4.6X, 28-128mm Leica-branded lens is actually one of its least impressive features. It's slow, with a maximum aperture range of F3.3-F5.9, and images display more troubling chromatic aberrations than many photographers would expect given the 'Leica' name emblazened on the front. Something else on the front of the camera that disappointed us was the built-in flash: it's quite weak. There's better news on the back side of the TS5, where you'll find one of the best LCDs in the compact camera world. It's sharp, but more importantly, incredibly easy to see outdoors or underwater.

Features

Like most of its rugged camera peers, the DMC-TS5 is focused more toward consumers than hardcore enthusiasts. Its great Intelligent Auto mode handles scene selection, face detection, plus intelligent contrast and sharpening features. There's also a large selection of scene modes - including a handy HDR option - and even more 'Creative Controls' (special effects). In a nod to the more advanced crowd, Panasonic has put a full manual exposure mode on the TS5. However, you're limited to just two aperture choices at any time - or rather equivalent apertures since the camera uses an ND filter.

One of the two major features on the DMC-TS5 is its built-in GPS, which is one of the better on the market. It'll locate itself in 15-30 seconds outdoors (with GPS assist data loaded), but like most cameras with GPS receivers, will struggle in the big city. The camera has a database of landmarks which can be automatically inserted into the camera's metadata. If you don't like what the camera picked as a landmark, you can change or remove it. The TS5 also features a compass so you'll never forget what direction in which you took a photo, plus a pressure sensor to keep track of altitude and depth.

The second feature, Wi-Fi, was a lot more frustrating to use than the GPS. Everything sounds great in theory - you can remotely control the camera, transfer photos as they're taken (or after the fact) and then forward them on to social networking websites or via e-mail - all from your smartphone. You can also send photos to DLNA-compatible TVs or your PC.

The best way to connect a smartphone or computer to the TS5 is to create an Ad-Hoc connection between the two. If you are logging onto a protected network, you'll have to type passwords (sometimes more than once) using a difficult-to-operate on-screen keyboard. A feature which was supposed to make connecting to your smartphone less painful is NFC (near-field communication). In theory, you'd just tap the back of your phone to the bottom of the camera and photos would be transferred (after pairing the two), but we couldn't get it to work reliably with firmware V1.2. It's worth a mention that the Wi-Fi reception is poor, which isn't surprising given how small the antenna is.

One last feature worth a quick mention is the DMC-TS5's movie mode. It can record up to 30 minutes of 1080/60p video with stereo sound, using the AVCHD codec. The optical zoom is available while recording, and the camera will keep your subject in focus. Panasonic should also be congratulated for including MPEG-4 support, for those who want something a bit easier to edit and share. Video quality is quite good for a compact camera.

Performance and Photo Quality

You generally won't do a lot of waiting when using the DMC-TS5. The camera starts up in under a second, and focuses very quickly in good light. Low light focusing isn't quite as impressive. After a photo is taken, you can take another in well under a second, with flash photos requiring about 3.5 seconds of charging time. There are a number of continuous shooting modes on the TS5, with the most impressive being a 5 fps mode with continuous AF (though it slows down after about a dozen shots) and a faster mode than can fire off seven shots at over 10 fps. Using the CIPA standard, the DMC-TS5's 370 shot per charge battery life number is excellent. However, once you turn on the GPS, automatic LCD brightness adjustment, or use Wi-Fi, expect the battery to be drained a lot quicker.

Photo quality is what we've come to expect from compact cameras with tiny, high resolution sensors. They look great when downsized or printed - which most TS5 owners will be doing - but if you view them at 100 percent, it's easy to find flaws. Those flaws include detail smudging (even at ISO 100) and a fair amount of chromatic aberrations. On the flip side, the TS5 exposes well and has less highlight clipping than your average compact. While we had some difficulty getting sharp photos underwater, the TS5 tended to avoid the bluish color cast that so many of its peers suffer from - and it offers a tool to reduce that effect if it ends up being an issue.

Final Thoughts

While the Lumix DMC-TS5 isn't a perfect camera, it handles its core functions well. It's responsive, easy to use, and produces photos that are on par with its peers. The Wi-Fi system needs some refining, and more importantly, the camera needs a faster lens and stronger flash. It is those last two issues that keep the DMC-TS5 from earning an award in this review.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 (Lumix DMC-FT5)
Category: Waterproof / Rugged Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Lumix DMC-TS5 is a good choice for those seeking a rugged camera with a robust feature set that includes a well-implemented GPS, plus Wi-Fi. The camera takes good quality photos for its class, has a great LCD, and offers a top-notch movie mode. However, its lens is on the slow side, and the flash is very weak. The Wi-Fi system could also be a lot more user-friendly.
Good for
Adventurous photographers looking for a rugged cameras with a great LCD, well-implemented GPS, and photo sharing via Wi-Fi. Video lovers will also appreciate the 1080/60p movie mode.
Not so good for
Photographers planning on taking a lot of flash and low light photos.
72%
Overall score

Samples

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 Review Samples

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