Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 Rugged Camera: The Clumsy Photographer's Friend Could Be the Best in Class

Rugged cameras aren't just for mountain climbers; Panasonic's excellent-looking TS2 point-and-shoot would be a good choice for sedentary folks like myself who simply drop shit all the time. It also features HD video recording and, no lie, a "happy mode."

Panasonic's introducing three new cameras today, the most interesting of which is the TS2, so let's start there. The TS2 is a 14.1MP update to the TS1, and in terms of ruggedness, it's waterproof to 10 meters—three times more than its predecessor—shockproof to two meters (which Panasonic oddly finds equal to ten feet—it's not, I'm pretty sure), dustproof, and able to withstand temperatures as low as 14° F (the previous was only to 32). It's got the usual array of autofocus, face recognition, image stabilizer and a 6x optical zoom, but what I really like is the "happy mode":

Happy Mode – New Scene mode that optimizes color, saturation and brightness to make both photo and video more vivid and true to the color the users remember when they took it.

The TS2's pricing and release date are, annoyingly, still to be announced. But the camera improves the specs we found lacking in the original, so this could be the best rugged camera out there. [Panasonic]

PANASONIC'S RUGGED DIGITAL CAMERA GETS TOUGHER – WATERPROOF TO 33 FEET, FREEZEPROOF, SHOCKPROOF*1 – WITH THE ABILITY TO RECORD HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO

New Panasonic LUMIX TS2 Features a Rugged Design, Allowing for Extreme Outdoor Use, Yet Still Easy to Use to Capture High Quality Photos

Secaucus, NJ (January 26, 2010) – Panasonic today introduced the new LUMIX DMC-TS2, a successor to the company's first rugged digital camera designed for active outdoor use, the LUMIX DMC-TS1. Featuring High Definition video recording capability, in the AVCHD Lite format, the new 14.1-megapixel LUMIX TS2 further strengthens its toughness when compared to its predecessor and is waterproof to 33 feet (10m), shockproof to 10 feet (2m), freezeproof to 14° F (-10° C) and dustproof*1.

"We have been very pleased to see that consumers found true value in Panasonic's first rugged digital camera, knowing that they could take it on their outdoor adventures where it could withstand drops, water and dust. But even more, we saw that users enjoyed our LUMIX TS1 for their daily photo needs – they were able to take high-quality video and photo without worrying if they casually tossed it in their bag or used it in the rain," said David Briganti, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. "The new LUMIX TS2 gets tougher and we expect it to be a key product in 2010, as its rugged features are becoming even more desirable for active users, especially with this year's new freezeproof capabilities. Families will enjoy this digital camera, both for their own outdoor activities, vacations, but also so they can allow children to take photos without the anxiety they might otherwise feel of damage."

With its enhanced toughness, The LUMIX TS2 features an airtight body protected against water immersion, dust and sand. The new model is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet and dustproof, which can be attributed to its rubber padding and reinforced glass and carbon inside the camera. Furthermore, the LUMIX TS2's cover panel for the LCD is thickened by 1.3x compared to the predecessor LUMIX TS1 to withstand increased pressure underwater. The LUMIX TS2 is shockproof, encased with shock-resistant material, and its folded optics design protects its lens when dropped during operation. Furthermore, the lens unit is protected by a supplementary damper to absorb the force from shock impact. Also, all components including the lens unit, have been tested to endure temperatures as low as14°F (-10°C). For increased durability, the Panasonic LUMIX TS2 will come with an optional silicon jacket that helps protect its exterior from scratches.

The Panasonic LUMIX TS2 features Sonic Speed AF (Auto Focus), which enables a super-fast response time, and a shutter release time lag as short as approximately 0.005 second. With the camera's quick response, it is easier to capture sudden, spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. Combining that with the Sonic Speed AF (Auto Focus) that lets users lock on the subject in approximately 0.24 second(wide-end) / 0.28 second (tele-end)*2 and the short startup time of approximately 1.1 second.

The Panasonic LUMIX TS2 features new image processing technology, Intelligent Resolution, which is incorporated in its Venus Engine HD II. With Intelligent Resolution technology, three areas – outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation – are examined pixel by pixel and automatically detected to enhance any degradation created during the digital zoom process or in high-sensitivity shooting, when details in an image tend to get lost in the noise reduction process. The outline areas are enhanced effectively to give the edges more clarity, while simultaneously giving a moderate accent to the textured areas so it looks accurately detailed. To the soft gradation area, such as a face, the increased noise reduction system of the Venus Engine HD II is applied to make it smoother. As a result of Intelligent Resolution, images are naturally clear and crisp in both photo and video recording. The Intelligent Resolution technology powers Panasonic's new Intelligent Zoom feature, which extends the camera's zoom ratio by approximately 1.3x while maintaining the picture quality – and enhancing the digital zoom and making it comparable to the quality of an optical zoom. Thus, with Intelligent Zoom, the Panasonic TS2 features a total zoom up to 6x.

The LUMIX TS2 features a 28mm wide-angle LEICA DC VARIO ELMAR lens that extends to a 4.6x optical zoom, giving consumers great shooting range. The wide-angle lens provides flexibility for all shooting scenarios, especially useful underwater where movement is often restricted and the shooting angle becomes important for composing shots. The LUMIX TS2 features a 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot Intelligent LCD with a wide-viewing angle that ensures high visibility during recording and playback, thanks to its automatic brightness control depending on the lighting conditions. Also, the LUMIX TS2 features a built-in LED light, which is extremely convenient when shooting in dark situations, such as underwater.

The LUMIX TS2 can record HD video in Motion JPEG and AVCHD Lite– with the latter format almost doubling the recording time in HD quality compared with the Motion JPEG format. To complement the HD video capabilities, the Panasonic LUMIX TS2 features Dolby Digital Stereo Creator, which enables high quality audio.

The Panasonic LUMIX TS2 features iA (Intelligent Auto) modem, a popular feature on LUMIX digital cameras, making them intuitive to use without changing any settings, as the technologies engage automatically. For instance, iA incorporates Panasonic's POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), which doubles the repression power compared to the conventional image stabilization system, MEGA O.I.S.

Other technologies incorporated into the LUMIX TS2's iA mode include:
Face Recognition – With new enhancements when compared to previous editions, Face Recognition allows users to register up to three different images for a person, helping to improve detection accuracy. Face detection is also included for up to 15 faces.
Intelligent Scene Selector – Automatically selects whichever of 6 Scene Modes – Macro, Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery and newly added Sunset – best suits the shooting situation.
Other iA Technologies: Intelligent Resolution and Intelligent Zoom, AF Tracking, Intelligent ISO Control and Intelligent Exposure.

Panasonic's iA is also available in video mode, and it automatically selects the most suitable Scene mode and helps to reduce blur due to handshake and improves focus, brightness and exposure. In addition, iA in video mode features Intelligent Scene Selector, which automatically switches between Normal, Portrait, Macro, Scenery, and Low Light modes according to the shooting environment.

Other features of the Panasonic LUMIX TS2 include:
Happy Mode – New Scene mode that optimizes color, saturation and brightness to make both photo and video more vivid and true to the color the users remember when they took it.
High Dynamic – New mode is newly added to the existing Scene modes. This mode helps to capture a scene with moderate exposure, even though the scene contains both bright and dark area together. The user can select one of three options, Standard, Art, or B/W, depending on the desired effect and personal taste to make the photo look natural to artistic.
Compatibility – Compatible with SDXC Memory Cards, including Panasonic's newly announced 64 GB*3 and 48 GB SDXC Memory Cards – to enable high capacity content storage and fast data transfer speeds. Also compatible with Windows 7*4.
Video Divide – Users can divide video into two sections to shorten or delete the unwanted clips directly on the camera. Users can also grab a still image from a video – all within the menus on the camera.
Battery Life – Can take up to 360 images on a single battery charge*5.

Pricing and availability for the Panasonic LUMIX TS2 will be announced 30 days prior to shipping date. The Panasonic LUMIX TS2 will be available in silver, blue, orange and yellow.