Feb 132011
 
Sorry.  I can’t help myself.

This isn’t the usual kind of camera I’ve been acquiring lately, but I was looking for something that was very easy to carry around and would be resistant to hazards.  I hadn’t looked at Panasonic cameras recently after an uninspiring experience with a Lumix LM2.  Panasonic chose to invoke noise reduction even in the RAW files (an action which prompted an online petition drive) and the overall performance wasn’t all that great.  The only happy news from the experience was that I sold it on eBay for more than I paid for it.

But on my recent short vacation back to Oregon, I got thinking on the need for a pocketable compact camera again.  My brother gave his wife a Panasonic and as I played around with it, I found that the user interface was acceptable, and the feature set allowed a certain amount of flexibility.  The things I didn’t like were the retractable lens and the startup delay that lens imposes.  Also, those retractable lenses represent a pathway for stuff to get inside the camera mechanism.

I spent a few hours online researching manufacturers sites and looking at reviews.  After visiting a few stores, I decided on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Some major factors in my decision were:  Wide-angle lens (the equivalent of a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera); weatherproof/waterproof; folded lens path (no delay on startup for the lens to extend); and optical image stabilization (I just think it’s a better solution to move one lens around than to move the entire sensor around).  Orange?  Since they didn’t offer it in black…

Folded Lens Path -- Allows Camera to be Sealed.

Early in January I went to my usual test location — the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy facility of the National Air and Space Museum — to give it a try.  It’s not a brightly lit venue, and the lighting is mixed.  This puts you right at the edge of a camera’s performance, so you can blow a shot without really trying hard.  A good place for a test.

Images.

There are some brief exposure notes under each image.  I used a monopod for all the shots, with the camera’s image stabilization turned on.  Post processing was in Photoshop; adjusting the curves (for white and black point), cropping a little, Noise Ninja, and some light sharpening

f/3.3 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 400

f/3.3 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/3.5 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

f/4.0 @ 1/5 sec, ISO 400, -1/3 stop

To be certain, there is no way that these images can reveal all the performance details of the camera.  Noise reduction is smeary and chunky — and you can’t turn it off and just use a post processing tool such as Noise Ninja.  In terms of image quality, the TS2 is nowhere close to what I can get with my Leica M8 and a Zeiss or Leica lens.  But I certainly find the results acceptable for the purpose of having a camera that’s handy and rugged.

And, naturally, a little over month after I bought my TS2, Panasonic announces the TS3.  The TS3 adds GPS and also has a little bit of a grip on the right side (the lack of a grip was mentioned in several TS2 reviews).  Oh well.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

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