Panasonic DMC-TS3 : A great camera for mountain bikers

Panasonic DMC-TS3 : A great camera for mountain bikers

 

Is this the ultimate mountain biking and outdoors digital camera?

My ever useful WR-90 Circa 1992

Some may remember a day when the electronics in film cameras were simple or even non-existent. We had lots of options for snorkel & beach disposable cameras, even a few waterproof models like the Pentax WR-90. For years my Pentax kept me going through skiing, biking, white water rafting and just plain using in the rain.

When digital cameras came out the only option was a waterproof housing such as offered by Canon and Olympus. The cameras were not cheap and the fully waterproof housings often cost between $250 and $500.

The cheap option is a ziplock bag, Pelican Case or keeping the camera in an inside backpack pocket, but getting the camera out in time can be a challenge.

Forward a few years and the market now offers numerous models by Fujifilm, Olympus, Canon, Pentax and Panasonic. We reviewed a number of these last year.

Recently the updated Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 came to my attention as probably the ultimate option for the do-it-all camera with a rugged design.

The Basics

The TS3 offers 12.1 megapixes of resolution, full HD 1920×1080 full-HD videos, GPS, Compass, Altimeter, Barometer, and video light. The rugged features of the camera are; waterproof to 40 ft*1, shockproof to 6.6 ft*2, freezeproof to -10c and dustproof.

A 28mm wide angle lens is reasonable for scenery, but a wider 25mm found in some competitors would be nice. Possible restrictions on this wide angle are from the solid rectangular ring that affords premium protection to the lens. The 4.6x optical zoom also has the benefit of working during video mode. Unlike some other competitors, there are no external moving parts for dirt to get embedded. The Lock and latch mechanism for the Battery & SD card door is very solid.

In the Hand

Panasonic has improved the design from previous models such as the TS1 & TS2 as it has a new rounded profile which felt stable in my hands. Tripod mount placement is middle of the base although the lens is offset to the left of the mount. buttons for shutter release and power are recessed flush with the body which should prevent errant shutter releases. A dedicated video mode button is also present which offers quick switching from video to still mode. This is more common of late with higher quality pocket digital cameras and a nice feature.

Previous Panasonic digital cameras I have owned had a manual switch to change from shooting to playback, creating a delay as you had to manually switch back before you could resume shooting. A dedicated button on the TS3 lets you just press the shutter release again to resume shooting. Great for not missing any of the action.

The Features

The  advanced Sonic Speed AF system and high speed CCD sensor provided almost instantaneous focus lock and shutter release, also great features for recording the action. Claimed shutter release lag time is as short as approximately .005 seconds and in the store this was very much the case.

A 2.7″ screen provides bright and clear viewing and the menus are simple and effective. Quick access menus let you quickly adjust most functions on the camera and the GPS records locations, time, altitude and more. Panasonic continues it’s iA mode which provides scene recognition and adjusts appropriately to the best settings. Additionally you can choose from numerous pre-defined scenes such as beach, snow, fireworks, portrait and more. One new feature is the 3D mode whcih provides for Panasonic 3D compatible TV ready images. This is an emerging market, but could be a lot of fun in the right locations.

“The LUMIX TS3 is Panasonic’s ‘take anywhere’ digital camera – whether it is for carefree, everyday shooting with its easy-to-use features, high-quality lens and video capabilities, or for the active user who will appreciate the rugged design in any season – for activities such as hiking, skiing, camping, diving, snorkeling,” said David Briganti, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “Last year’s LUMIX TS2 was a highly-regarded rugged camera and with the TS3, we just built on its success with new features, like GPS, a compass, altimeter and barometer, making this the ultimate camera for the outdoor user.”

Current pricing for the Lumix TS3 is approximately $399 and is in stock at London Drugs and other authorized Panasonic dealers.

Conclusions

If you are in the market for a rugged do anything camera which you can stuff in your back pocket without worry about dirt, dust and a bit of abuse, this might be the perfect camera for you. From high def video to 12 megapixel resolutions, you’ll find everything you need in a nice compact package.

Pros: Snappy action, dedicated video button, playback button instead of switch, designed for use in all conditions
Cons: Battery life was good for a day if using GPS features, HD video editing needs a powerful home pc

Sample Photos

Some photos from a recent Island Cup Series mountain bike race in Powell River

Quick video from footage at the same race

 

powell river xc from Kookjai Media on Vimeo.

 

Find more on the Panasonic Canada website.

Specs

DMC-TS3
2.7″ LCD with 12.1 MP and 4.6x optical zoom

  • Waterproof up to 12 meters (40 feet)*1
  • Shockproof up to 2 meters (6.6 feet)*2
  • Freezeproof up to -10°C
  • Dustproof*1
  • 12.1 megapixel
  • 4.6x optical zoom
  • 6x intelligent zoom
  • Wide 28mm LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens
  • 2.7″ Intelligent LCD (230K pixels) with wide-viewing angle
  • Still images (3D recording)
  • Intelligent auto mode
    - POWER O.I.S. (Optical image stabilizer)
    - Intelligent ISO control
    - Face detection
    - Face recognition
    - AF tracking
    - Intelligent scene selector
    - Intelligent exposure control
    - Digital red-eye correction
  • Venus engine FHD processor
  • AVCHD Movie mode with audio
  • Micro HDMI output
  • DMC-TS3D (orange)
  • DMC-TS3A (blue)
  • DMC-TS3R (red)

MSP: $399.99

*1 This camera is waterproof / dustproof and complies with IPX8 and IP6X ratings.
*2 This camera has passed a drop test from 2 meters (6.6 feet) in height in accordance with “MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock”.

Comments

  1. No extended moving parts is a good feature. But to be really good for mountain biking, it’s gotta be easily adaptable to handlebar, camera or chest mounts. That’s where the real fun of a digital camera comes in – movies on the fly!

    • I do like the middle mounting for this reason. balances the weight. It’s not as light as a GoPro but for the versatility it’s pretty solid.

      Found a helmet tripod mount from Photojojo.com but don’t see it there anymore.

  2. GPS Roxie says:

    Hey Wandering Justin!
    Check out the RAM mounts for handlebar mounts, they have tons of modular mounts that interact with the camera thread on the camera itself!
    Ciao!

  3. thanks for the review and the specs–this looks like a great option!

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