Panasonic Lumix TS3
12.1 megapixels; Hi-Speed CCD sensor; 4.6x optical/6x Intelligent zoom; Optical image stabilization; 2.7-inch LCD monitor; Venus Engine FHD processor; 1080i HD video (AVCHD format); GPS geo-tagging and compass navigation; Waterproof to 40ft; Shockproof to 6.6ft; Freezeproof to 14F; Dustproof; Captures to SD/SDHC media cards; Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
The Panasonic TS3 has the potential to be one of the best rugged cameras of the year, at least judging by the stacked spec sheet. Its durability ratings are impressive, which is obviously one of the most important aspects of a rugged camera. It also has a built-in GPS unit for geo-tagging and compass navigation; if there's a kind of camera where it makes sense to have GPS, it's a rugged camera like the TS3. Also of note, it can shoot 1080i video, but it's built around a CCD-type sensor (apparently a new "Hi-Speed" type of CCD). It usually takes a CMOS sensor to achieve that video resolution, but CCDs do seem to perform more consistently in bright outdoor settings, so it's understandable why Panasonic would stick with old faithful. If the 3D photo gimmick is your thing, the TS3 also supports Panasonic 3D Photo mode, which shoots 20 consecutive images and picks two good ones to blend into a 3D image. You will need a 3D TV or computer monitor, however, to view the images. Last year's TS2 scored big points for picture quality compared to other tough-guy shooters, though users ran into a number of problems with fogging in the lens after a few minutes in water. We hope Panasonic tightened up the screws (or whatever the problem was) because we have pretty solid hopes for this shooter.