This is the dawning of the age of aquariums.
Pentax and Olympus have sold shockproof, water-resistant cameras for a few years now, but with the compact camera market saturated and the economy in the tank, other camera makers are following them with rugged cameras of their own. Nobody wants a frail camera, so why not offer durability and waterproofing as an explicit feature?
The Photo Marketing Association (PMA) offered a perfect venue to show off the new features with cameras immersed in aquariums, hanging from climbing walls, and encased in ice.
These cameras typically lack many of the bells and whistles of typical compact cameras. For example, it's hard to squeeze a long zoom range out of a lens that's hunkered down within the protective confines of a tough chassis. But taking your camera snorkeling, swimming, or surfing could be a good way for a lot of people to add a little more variety to their photography lives.
The Panasonic DMC-TS1, shown here in an aquarium, can shoot HD video as well as 12-megapixel still images and will be available this spring. It works up to 10 feet deep underwater and is shockproof and dustproof. It's due to ship in April for about $400.