2013 Waterproof Camera Roundup
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 (FT5)
16MP | 28-128mm (4.6X) Zoom | $359/£276/€349
>> Click here to read full review
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 (known as the FT5 outside of North America) is a rugged camera that has been stuffed with virtually every feature imaginable (see below for a list). It replaces the DMC-TS3/FT3, and can take even more of a beating than its predecessor. Other new features include a higher resolution MOS sensor (16MP CMOS vs. 12MP CCD), Wi-Fi with NFC capability, faster burst shooting, true 1080/60p video recording, and much more. Battery life has also been improved by 20%, due to the use of a more powerful battery, which is alway helpful on cameras with battery-draining features like GPS and Wi-Fi.
- 16.1 effective megapixel MOS sensor
- F3.3-F5.9, 28-128mm equivalent zoom lens (4.6X)
- 'Power OIS' optical image stabilization
- Waterproof to 13m, shockproof from 2m, crushproof to 100 kgf, freezeproof to -10C
- 3-inch LCD with 460,000 dots
- Manual exposure control
- Built-in GPS with compass, manometer, landmarks, and tracking
- Wi-Fi with NFC allows for image sharing and remote control with smartphones/tablets and Mac/PC
- 1080/60p movie mode with stereo sound
- 'Torch Light' illuminates your subjects while recording movies
- Optional marine case lets you take camera 45m underwater
As we said, that's about as full-featured as you'll get on a rugged camera. About the only thing you won't find on the DMC-TS5 are built-in maps for use with the GPS.
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 very secure.|
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 kgf (220 lbf), freezeproof to -10C (+14F), and dustproof.
|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. Read our full review of the DMC-TS5 to find out how.
|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).|
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.
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.
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.
|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.|
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.
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.
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. Once the photos are on your phone or tablet, they can be forwarded on to social networking sites or e-mailed.
For more on our Wi-Fi experiences, check out the full review of the DMC-TS5.
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.
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.
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