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Panasonic announces waterproof/shockproof Lumix DMC-TS1
by David Rasnake -  1/27/2009

Note: We've updated this story to include images of a sample TS1 that Panasonic had on display this morning. The manufacturer emphasized, however, that the design seen in these shots has not yet been finalized.

Today's most surprising Panasonic announcement came in the form of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, the manufacturer's first rugged, waterproof digital camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

The TS1, which claims to be shockproof, waterproof, and dustproof, is designed with both outdoor enthusiasts and general shooters seeking a go-anywhere camera in mind. Built with "rubber padding, reinforced glass and carbon resins inside the camera," the airtight/watertight TS1 can survive (and shoot) underwater at depths down to 10 feet, and is rated to withstand five-foot drops as well. The third component of the TS1 protection systems – dustproofing – makes the new model a logical choice for grabbing snapshots at the beach without worrying about sand finding its way into and destroying sensitive mechanisms.

Although they're new to Panasonic's Lumix line, these kinds of outdoor safeguards can be found on competitive models as well. Where the TS1 really differentiates itself is in its ability to capture HD video: using the same AVCHD Lite format that Panasonic is debuting in the new ZS3, the TS1's 1280x720 video clips take up a little more than half the space occupied by equivalent Motion JPEG movies.

Besides its HD video capture capabilities, the 12.1 megapixel TS1 is a unique among weatherproof cameras insofar as it features a true wide-angle lens with coverage out to 28mm. The Leica zoom covers a 4.6x range, putting the camera's telephoto reach at the equivalent of a very respectable 128mm.

Intelligent Auto functionality means the TS1 automatically calls upon scene presets (via an automatic scene selector), face detection, Intelligent Exposure and ISO Control, and even optical image stabilization as needed. The TS1 also sports Face Recognition, allowing shooters to register and name commonly detected faces; the camera then remembers these faces and can be set to prioritize exposure and focus on certain individuals, or search for pictures of a particular person in playback mode.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1

Like the ZS cameras, the TS1 features Panasonic's Venus Engine HD image processor, which supports high-speed burst shooting (up to 10 fps at reduced resolution, minimal shutter and AF lag times, and high-sensitivity shooting up to ISO 6400. Other hardware specs include an HDMI output, a lithium-ion battery pack that's good for nearly 350 shots, and a 2.7 inch LCD.

Like the rest of Panasonic's new lineup, the TS1 will be available for purchase in April. And like most of its competitors in the rugged/weatherized space, there's a premium to be paid for the TS1's capabilities: the new model carries a suggested price tag of $399.95.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 Specifications

Sensor 12.1 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD
Lens/Zoom 4.6x (28-128mm) Leica DC Vario-Elmar, f/3.3-5.9
LCD/Viewfinder 2.7", 230K-dot TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600 (High Sensitivity mode to ISO 6400)
Shutter Speed 8-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Scene, Beach and Surf, Snow, Sports, Clipboard, Motion Picture
Scene Presets Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, Underwater
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, User Set
Metering Modes Intelligent Multi
Focus Modes Face, AF Tracking, Multi, One Point, One Point High Speed
Drive Modes Normal, Burst, Self Timer
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
40 MB
File Formats JPEG, Motion JPEG, AVCHD Lite
Max. Image Size 4000x3000
Max. Video Size
1280x720, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Rechargeable 940 mAh lithium-ion, 350 shots
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input
Additional Features Mega O.I.S., iA Intelligent Auto mode, Intelligent ISO, Venus Engine HD processing, AF Tracking, face detection, Face Recognition, Intelligent Exposure