Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gear in Review - Camera

This is the beginning of a Gear Review series that will cover the gear that I am using, that I have Trail tested and will update each review periodically as the trip progresses.

 Self-timer used

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

  -Altimeter / Depth Indicator / Compass / Barometer / GPS
  -12.1 mega Pixel
  -28mm Wide-angle Lens
  -Optical: 4.6x
  -Extra Optical: 5.7x (4:3 / 8M), 7.3x (4:3 / 5M), 9.1x (4:3 / under 3M)
  -Intelligent: 6x
  -Digital: 4x
  -(Max. 18.4x combined with Optical Zoom without Extra Optical Zoom)
  -(Max. 36.3x combined with Extra Optical Zoom)
Many other specifications are provided at the linked Panasonic wesite

The Story
Problem, I needed another camera! I had a fairly nice Kodak that had an unfortunate snow-boarding accident. I spent $100 to have it fixed, and the shots have never been the same, a tinge of blur on the left side of every picture taken.
I bought a cheaper Kodak and it also took nice pictures, had a decent zoom and was small and light-weight. A humid morning killed that camera in Dolly Sods! That's all it took. The camera was in a plastic bag, it had rained the night before but the camera was in a bag in a backpack with a rain cover under a tarp. And yet when I removed the camera from the bag to take a picture of a gorgeous sunrise from Bear Rocks, the screen became full of condensation and the camera breathed it's last, even after instantly removing the battery, and putting the camera in the freezer when I got home.
After going through two cameras in less than a year I was determined to get one that could live through my life-style, that is outside and on the go, with occasional bumps and bruises. I began searching and came upon several cameras that styled themselves as 'ruggedized'. After reading reviews, and having worked for a couple years with Panasonic Toughbook ruggedized laptops, I decided to go with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3... the only problem was that it hadn't been released yet! The TS2 was still being sold, but heading towards EOL. I decided to wait it out, put in a pre-order and go without a camera for a few months, with the hopes that it would arrive in time to go to Stehekin, WA for the Volunteer Vacation. The camera did arrive in time.
The camera took hundreds of very nice pictures, the battery life was good. The GPS, altimeter, barometer, and compass were nice features. After using the camera for 9 days we were hiking back to base camp with tools in hand. The shovel I carried banged, and not hard, into the camera that was in my cargo pocket. The back LCD screen cracked and spider-webbed. The camera still took pictures just fine, but with the screen compromised I figured the water-proofing was also compromised.
After the trip I sent the camera back to Panasonic, free of charge for warranty repair. The LCD screen was back-ordered for over a month, and a couple months after sending it in I got a fixed camera back. While I'm glad they made good on it, it took way too long. 

The pictures are decent, the stabilization is good, the color is true. However, you must understand that the zoom is not great the lens is contained within the housing so optical zoom is limited, and digital zoom always becomes lossy very quickly. The camera is rugged, but from experience, not invincible. I have taken pictures with it while swimming, but I would not go scuba diving with it, though I would probably go snorkeling.
The GPS takes forever to find satellites and it really must be under clear unobstructed skies. Even with the GPS left on the battery lasts for a long time, several days of constant use. In the time I was in Washington I changed the battery once.

All in all I'm glad I purchased the camera and it will be traveling the Appalachian Trail with me.