'Waterproof' Camera Group Test (Q2 2009)
When we started this group test, we were trying to find out how good the current generation of waterproof cameras are, and which would be best (if any) should you decide to only take one camera with you to the beach or on a holiday involving some water activities. What we found was a distinct split in the specifications of cameras, with some featuring 3x optical zoom and VGA video recording while others featured wider zoom ranges and HD (720p) video recording. All cameras featured either 10 or 12 MP sensors, full-resolution ISO ranges from 50-1600, and 2.5- or 2.7-inch LCDs at 230K dot resolution.
Features aside, when you are purchasing a camera, what you really want to know is which camera will consistently produce the best image quality. And on that front this review quickly turned into a story of two groups of cameras, with the Canon D10 and Panasonic TS1 producing better results than all the other cameras in this group, and the TS1 producing the best high ISO image quality. It was also interesting to see that the Pentax W60 was not that far behind the image quality leaders at lower ISO settings.
The four other cameras in this group are not completely useless; certainly if you only need to produce small (5x7) prints or display images online, then all of these cameras will produce decent enough results. But considering that most of these lenses only extend to 100mm on the telephoto end, there may be situations where you might want to crop the image (and all these cameras allow you to do this in camera), or if there is that once-in-a-lifetime shot that you capture that you want to print really big it's nice to know you've got the best image quality available for your money.
It is interesting that Panasonic (for which the TS1 is the first attempt at a waterproof camera) and Canon (for which the D10 represents the first waterproof camera in the PowerShot line) are the two that managed to produce the best image quality of the group. Where the D10 uses more sharpening at lower ISO settings and more noise reduction at higher ISO settings, the TS1 images are less sharp at low ISO settings and employs less aggressive noise reduction at higher ISO settings, producing a more even output across the range. The TS1 has a wider zoom range, a greater ISO range, is more pocketable and more feature-packed, and the battery is CIPA rated to 340 shots which is best in group (where the D10 is only rated to 220). Operationally it doesn't seem as responsive as the D10 and it is not waterproof to such great depths. In essence, though, the TS1 seems to be the camera that you can use all the time and occasionally take underwater, while the D10 is the camera designed to be used underwater which you can also use all the time if you choose.
Image quality: outdoors / daylight
In good light the Canon, Panasonic (at least at the wide end) and Pentax W60 models are a cut above the rest. While the D10 beats the TS1 and W60 by way of its higher level of in-camera sharpening, but the other pair come back with their wider zoom ranges. Despite the D10 having a higher resolution sensor than the W60, the actual detail resolved is fairly close. The TS1 while very close to the D10 and better than the W60 at the wide end of the zoom range is noticeably softer at the telephoto end, falling behind the D10 and W60. Overall we consider them to be equal best of the bunch.
The W80 and Olympus Tough 6000 are slightly better the the Tough 8000 and Fuji Z33, and manage to resolve better detail than the other two cameras. In good light all of these cameras should be able to produce an image that is good enough for a nice print at 8x10 or under, or for web viewing resolutions, but taking a closer look reveals that the D10 and W60 are clearly better than the other cameras in this group.
- Best of the bunch: Canon Powershot D10, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, Pentax Optio W60
- Middle of the road: Pentax Optio W80, Olympus Tough 6000
- Bottom of the class: Olympus Tough 8000, Fujifilm Z33 WP
Image quality: Low light / High ISO
High ISO image quality is more difficult to judge but it is clear that the Panasonic achieves the best balance of noise reduction and retained detail. The Canon and Pentax W60 take a different approach to noise reduction, with the D10 being more heavy handed and, while this means less visible noise, it also means there is also less detail left behind and the high amount of chroma noise reduction makes the image seem desaturated. The W60 on the other hand leaves behind more noise and noise reduction artifacts, but also manages to retain more detail.
Of the other four cameras the Tough 6000 and W80 manage to retain just enough detail to be better than the Tough 8000 and Z33 - which both reduce the details in the image to not much more than watercolor-like smudges.
- Best of the bunch: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
- Middle of the road: Canon PowerShot D10, Pentax Optio W60
- Bottom of the class: Pentax Optio W80, Olympus Tough 6000, Olympus Tough 8000, Fujifilm Z33 WP
Image quality / performance: Flash
Here the winner is clear. The D10 managed to get the balance between ambient light and flash illumination just right to produce the most pleasing image of the whole group. This was the one areas in which the Panasonic really disappointed.
- Best of the bunch: Canon PowerShot D10
- Middle of the road: Pentax Optio W60, Pentax Optio W80, Olympus Tough 6000
- Bottom of the class: Olympus Tough 8000, Fujifilm Z33 WP, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
Image quality / performance: Underwater
The purpose of this group test was to test waterproof cameras, and underwater they all seemed to work pretty well, but the D10 (which seems to have been designed first and foremost for this environment) was both the best performer and the easiest to use, with a clear interface and big buttons. The W60 slips behind here because the interface was not as easy to use, and sharpness and detail was just not as good as the D10.
- Best of the bunch: Canon PowerShot D10, Pentax Optio W60
- Middle of the road: Pentax Optio W80, Olympus Tough 6000, Olympus Tough 8000,
- Bottom of the class: Panasonic TS1, Fujifilm Z33 WP
Ratings and recommendations
The Canon PowerShot D10 certainly put in an impressive performance both in and out of the water. It was one of the most responsive cameras to use, and at the same time it produced some of the sharpest and most detailed images of all the cameras in the group at lower ISO settings. On the downside the 3x zoom with no wide-angle capability might be a bit limiting in some situations. it is also the least compact camera in the group.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 was not far behind the D10 in low ISO image quality, and produced the best image quality in the group in low light. It also features the widest zoom range with more telephoto reach, though this also meant that images produced at the telephoto end of the zoom were a lot softer than those on the wider end. The TS1 featured the most comprehensive video mode of all the cameras in this group test, and was the only one with AVCHD lite recording functionality. It also has the highest rated battery life of all cameras in this group (according to CIPA standard tests). Despite all these features there were operational annoyances and poor flash performance that dragged down its overall rating.
The Pentax W60 was certainly feature-packed with a 5x zoom lens that starts at 28mm and the ability to record 720p video that, when combined with an impressive 50 - 6400 ISO range, make this a camera that should be near the top most potential buyers shopping lists. Overall performance was good, and it managed to produce image quality that was just about on par with the D10 and TS1.
Pentax appeared to have kept the attractive overall package of the W60 and increased the resolution and improved the video mode to produce the W80. The increase in resolution on such a small sensor and apparently inferior image processing saw image quality suffer at all ISO settings, and it was disappointing to see Pentax still not including image stabilization in this camera.
The two Olympus Tough cameras also feature lenses that start at 28mm (though the total zoom range isn't as impressive as the Pentaxes or Panasonic). The Tough series of cameras are certainly stylish and compact, as well as being robustly made, but there's more to a camera than rugged good looks. The image quality of the Tough 6000 was middle of the pack in most areas, while the Tough 8000 was just about the worst of the group. The Olympus cameras were also let down by their poor shot-to-shot performance and focus issues.
The cheapest camera of the bunch was the Fujifilm Z33, and it showed. It was the least well specified camera in the group, though it was also the most compact. While good-looking on the surface it produced some of the worst images of the group, as well as being relatively slow shot-to-shot. You should only consider this camera if your budget is tight and you're looking for something that will survive the beach (rather than actually getting well below the surface to shoot underwater).
So on, then, to the most important part of this review. And the winners are...
Test Runner Up: Pentax Optio W60
The Pentax W60 is certainly an attractive package, and with a 5x zoom lens that extends from 28mm to 140mm HD video capture, you would think that it would make a great competitor to the D10 and TS1 for winner of the group test. But looking closer you find that the 720p video is only recorded at 15 fps, and to get 30 fps you have to step down to VGA resolution. The lack of built-in image stabilization means that the W60 needs to use higher ISO setting to reduce camera shake compared to the D10.
Looking closer at the image quality, especially at lower ISO settings, the D10 constantly produces sharper more detailed results than the W60. The flash performance is also not as good at the D10, and the very poor red eye performance with flash is especially concerning. As a underwater camera the W60 can only be used to 3m / 10ft, which is far off the 10m / 33ft of the D10, and the interface of the W60 is harder to use while in the water than the D10. Ultimately if you are going to mainly use the camera out of the water, and need something that can fit easily in your pocket then the W60 is certainly worth a closer look.
Joint test winners: Canon PowerShot D10 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1
If you have even glanced at the rest of this review, then the winners should come as no surprise to you at all. The D10 produced the sharpest, most detailed images of all the cameras in this group test at low ISO settings, both in and out of the water. This, combined with responsive performance and a straightforward user interface that has been proven on other cameras in the PowerShot series, means that if you were shopping for a waterproof camera mainly to use in the water, then you can stop reading right now and go order the D10.
When you get out of the water the Panasonic TS1 starts to make more sense with its more pocketable dimensions, wider zoom range, long battery life and much better video capabilities. Certainly if you need a camera to live with day-to-day then the TS1 seems a more sensible choice. Image quality at lower ISO settings edges in favor of the D10 in sharpness and detail but at ISO 1600 the TS1 produces the sharpest and most detailed images of all cameras in this group test.
Both the D10 and the TS1 have flaws. For the D10 it's the not very compact dimensions, the not very wide zoom lens that extends only from 35mm to 105mm and the VGA-only video recording functionality. For the TS1 it is the soft images at the telephoto end of the zoom range, the sometimes very frustrating-to-use design and ergonomics decisions, the limited underwater ability (3m / 10ft vs 10m / 33ft of the D10), and the rather poor flash performance. Which of these flaws are deal breakers? Only you can decide this, and with the two cameras costing about the same price in most stores, the decision ultimately comes down to those differences.
In their own ways both Canon and Panasonic have, with their first attempts at waterproof cameras, shown the segment how to innovate. This leaves you with a really great choice when you only want to take one camera with you to the beach or on that tropical holiday. The hard part now is deciding if you are going to spend more time taking pictures in the water or out of it. Both the TS1 and the D10 are great cameras, and they are joint winners of our waterproof group test.
Group test written by Don Wan
Jul 22, 2009
Feb 18, 2009
Dec 20, 2011
Dec 15, 2011
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
|Moon 99% D55 C14 St-Zénon 20170806 DP by MarioSS|
from Best Picture of the Week
|Reeds on lake by kkardster|
from Abstracts in Nature
|Florence & the Machine by Dutch Newchurch|
from Second chances..
The days where you're more or less locked into premium or first-party flash units has gone. They're less than $50 now, so there's one less excuse not to get one. Here's our case for adding one to your kit, and a few pointers to get you going.
If you're shooting the solar eclipse here's a hint: don't fry your camera's sensor. Use a proper solar filter that offers at least 16 stops of light filtration, along with UV and IR filtering. More important? Don't look at it unless you've got solar filters. Sensors can be replaced, your retinas can't.
Photographer Rick Wenner recently captured an odd event called the Race of the Gentlemen with a rather odd camera: The Phase One XF IQ3 Achromatic, the world's only 101MP black-and-white digital back.
Buying used is a good way to save some dough, and with the right precautions you can protect yourself from falling victim to a scam.
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.
Lensrentals just did its first Cine lens comparison, pitting five top-notch 35mm primes against each other: the Zeiss CP.2 35mm T2.1, Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Sigma 35mm T1.5 FF, Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5 and Schneider Xenon 35mm T2.1.
A team of Google researchers have found that slightly warping watermarks when embedding them into images can help prevent automatic removal.
You don't have to empty your savings account to take your photography to the next level. These cheap buys cost about $50 or less, and come with outsized benefits for your photography.
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."
The latest flagship phone from Asus combines a 12MP 1/2.55" Sony IMX362 main sensor with a smaller Sony IMX351 chip for 2x zoom and a background-blurring portrait mode.
The company behind popular photo editor Picktorial 3 just released the X-Pack: a preset package that allows you to add Fuji's in-camera film simulation profiles to your RAF files in post.
Photoshop. GoPro. Every once in a while a product emerges that defines a category. And sometimes, it vanishes just as quickly as it arrived on the scene. This week's Throwback Thursday remembers the Flip, the pocket camcorder everyone had – until they didn't.
The Nokia 8's dual-cam combines the image data from a 13MP RGB sensor and a 13 monochrome chip for better detail, improved dynamic range and lower noise levels.
The company behind retail giant B&H Photo has agreed to pay out $3.2 million in monetary relief and back wages to settle a discrimination and harassment case from 2016.
After a popular Facebook teaser and some studio portrait samples, Godox has finally officially released the Godox A1 smartphone flash and flash trigger. Cheap, versatile and innovative, color us intrigued.
Canon’s EOS 5D Mk IV has won the European Imaging and Sound Association’s Professional DSLR of the Year award, making this the third year in a row that the brand has beaten Nikon to the top spot in the professional camera category.
A photograph and quote tweeted out by former president Barack Obama has officially become the most popular tweet of all time, receiving over 1.3 million retweets and 3.4 million likes.
Edward Weston was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, and in this episode of Advancing Your Photography we learn the extreme technique he used to capture one of his most famous still life photos.
Instagram just released a small update that will make a huge difference if you're active on the photo sharing app: threaded comment replies.
Venus Optics has announced the price and delivery date of the second lens to join its Zero-D line up: the 15mm F2 for Sony’s E mount. A lens they've dubbed, "the world's fastest 15mm rectilinear lens for full-frame."
Cinnac is a new social network for photographers that will help you separate your good photos from your great ones through a Tinder-like community-based rating system.
The Canon EF 35mm F2 IS USM is an understated jewel of a lens, and one that we've enjoyed on a variety of cameras since its release almost five years ago. Its relatively small size and image stabilization make it a versatile tool for a variety of photography - check out our sample gallery.
You don't need a fancy studio or tons of gear to capture the kind of classic product photography you see in magazines. In this video, Dustin Dolby shows you how to do it with just a couple of speedlights and some know-how.