Fortunately, even with all this protection, the TS4 still functions like a regular point-and-shoot. Controls are easy to master, as is the interface. Actually, the TS4's all-button controls are nicer than on Panasonic's compacts that use switches for power and to change from shooting to playback.
|Key specs||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.1x2.5x1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.9 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4.6x, f3.3-5.9, 28-128mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); H.264 AAC (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 30fps (progressive; 17Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 310 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; external charger supplied|
|Bundled software||PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.1 Advanced Edition (Windows)|
The battery, SD card slot, and Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports are all behind a locking door on the right side of the camera. Battery life is good, being CIPA-rated for 310 shots. On the other hand, if you're going to be away from a power outlet for an extended period of time, you have little choice but to buy extra batteries; there is no option to charge via USB. That's not unusual, but with a rugged camera like the TS4 it's more of an issue.
One of the main attractions of the TS4 is the built-in GPS. Once you've turned on the receiver -- this can be done from the Q.Menu or from the main menu -- you can have the camera retrieve the GPS information for your current location. In tests this took anywhere from less than a minute to several minutes depending on how much open sky was above me. Once locked, the TS4 can display country, state, city, and landmark information and continues to update itself every minute. You can then go into the GPS Area Select menus and pick the correct information for your location.
For example, if you're standing in the middle of New York, it could quite possibly have a couple pages of landmarks to pick from. Also, you can choose to limit what area information is attached, in case you only want the name of the city, for instance. The area information now covers 203 countries or regions all over the world and more than a million landmarks in 82 countries or regions.
The camera also has an altimeter (with logging) and depth indicator, compass, and barometer.
Movies can be recorded with GPS data as well. However, the location information can only be viewed when videos are played back on a computer using the bundled software or directly from the camera connected to a TV. If you don't want to view your clips with those methods, you'll probably want to stick with the non-GPS AVCHD format option to save on battery life.
As for shooting modes, a press of the Mode button brings up 10 options. Intelligent Auto has you covered with simple put-it-there-leave-it-there shooting, while Program gives you a little more control with options for ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, and focus and metering selections. If you want even more control, a Manual mode lets you pick shutter speeds and apertures as well as turn on exposure bracketing.
Then there are four active outdoor scene modes for shooting sports, underwater, beach and snorkeling, and snow scenes as well as access to 13 other scene modes. For the most part they are the ones you'd find on any point-and-shoot, but you do get a Handheld Night Shot that takes several 3-megapixel pictures in a row and then combines them into one image to reduce motion blur and noise and a Panorama Shot that makes it easy to capture 360-degree horizontal or vertical panoramic pictures.
The last spot in the mode menu goes to the TS4's 3D mode, which works by clicking off multiple shots as you move the camera horizontally across a scene and then picks the two best for overlaying to create a 3D MPO file that can be played back on 3D-enabled TVs, computers, and digital photo frames. The results are good, but your subject has to be motionless, as does everything in the scene. Any movement really kills the effect. It's a nice extra to play with, but it's still not a must-have mode.
Conclusion: Recommended (but not for upgraders)
|General shooting options||Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Program, Manual, Sports, Snow, Miniature Effect, Beach & Snorkeling, Underwater, Scene, 3D Photo|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, 1-point AF, 23-point AF, Spot AF, AF Tracking|
|Macro||1.9 inches (Wide); 1 foot (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Vivid (in Program and Manual modes), Happy (only in iA mode)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||6 shots|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)