I’m not really a fan of point-and-shoot cameras these days thanks to testing out a few mirrorless system cameras but that’s not to say point-and-shoots don’t have their uses. In fact, there is a category of point-and-shoots which does interest me and that is rugged camera category. These little tough cams as they are sometimes called are meant to withstand some pretty intense conditions, conditions which you would normally not want to subject your expensive DSLR or mirrorless system camera too and one that no ordinary point-and-shoot can handle either. These cameras are waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, and freezeproof and can take quite a bit of abuse. Almost all the major camera manufacturers make at least one. You may remember the PENTAX Optio WG-2 that I looked at a couple weeks ago. This was the first rugged camera I’ve ever used which means that as I look at more, that WG-2 will be the basis for many comparisons. Today, I have the pleasure of looking at one of Panasonic’s rugged camera offerings, the Lumix DMC-TS20. The Lumix DMC-TS20 is waterproof up to 16ft, shockproof up to 5ft, and freezeproof up to -10 degrees C. It also features a 16.1 megapixel sensor with Mega O.I.S. and can record movies in HD.
To start things off, Panasonic sent me the red DMC-TS20 which has a rather nice look to it. The body is mainly metal with a metallic matte finish to it with the exception of the raised face which has a brushed look to it. Surrounding the outer edge of the camera, there is a matte black metal band that helps seperate the front and read sections and adds a bit of contrast to the overall design of the TS20.
Looking at the front of the camera, you can see that it is rather plain when compared to the more heavily decorated PENTAX Optio WG-2. It is your basic rectangular compact camera shape so don’t expect to get a lot of envious stares. The front is mainly all flat with the exception of a raised rectangular section that has a brushed texture to it instead of just a plain matte finish. The lens is pushed to the far top right corner of the camera and has a gunmetal border surrounding it. Again like the WG-2, there is no lens cover. Instead it too uses a clear screen of some type to keep the lens protected. To the left of the lens, you’ll find the AF-assist light and the flash unit, both of which sit flush with the face. The rest of the face is adorned with logos, text, and the familiar Leica plate on the bottom right corner which most Lumix cameras carry.
Moving clockwise to the side, you’ll see the black band that I mentioned earlier. There are grooves on this side, though I do not know what they are for or the purpose of them. They are probably just decorative, but other than that, this side is rather plain as well so I won’t focus too much on this side.
The rear of the camera is where you’ll spend a lot of your time with the DMC-TS20. Like most compact cameras in this segment, the layout is pretty standard and will be familiar to anyone who has owned a point-and-shoot camera. Most of the rear is occupied by a 2.7″Â TFT LCD Display with anti-reflective coating. Â The screen has a more familiar 4:3 ratio to it and isn’t a widescreen unit like in the WG-2. The screen however sits fairly flush with the rear unlike the WG-2 which was raised. To the right of the screen you’ll find a 4-way directional pad and 7 additional buttons. Two of the buttons up top are for zoom while the others are pretty standard for mode, playback, menu, display, and the Q.menu/back. As you can see, the buttons have a chrome look to them which helps you see the buttons better at a glance. Â The buttons do have a nice clicky feel to them except for the zoom buttons which feel a bit squishy. Also for some reason, the mode and playback buttons are recessed a bit while allÂ theÂ other buttons are raised. I have a feeling this is so your thumbs have some place to rest without accidentally pressing these 2 buttons.
Turning the TS20 clockwise again, we come to the other side of the camera. Unlike most cameras I’ve looked at so far, Panasonic uses this side of the camera to house the door which opens up where the battery and SD card go and also where the USB port is located. What I really like about this design is that the door itself blends seamlessly with the hand grip for the camera. I also like the door being on the side as when you pair the camera up with a tripod, you can still get access to the battery and SD card without having to remove the tripod. The door is gunmetal in color and matches the surrounding piece around the lens. Most waterproof cameras have some kind of locking mechanism for the door and the DMC-TS20 is no different. Unlike the PENTAX though, this camera has 2 locking mechanisms to keep you from accidentally opening this up underwater. The top lock is what keeps the door shut while the bottom lock is to keep the top lock from activating. If you open the door up, you’ll find a nice orange silicone like seal to keep water out of the battery and SD card compartment.
The top of the camera is very straight forward. Up here you’ll find the mic, power button, shutter release button, and the movie record button. The on/off button is a bit recessed which keeps you from accidentally turning the camera on while in your pocket or in a bag. The shutter release is raised making it easier to feel this button right away. The movie record button is recessed here which I actually like because it keeps you from accidentally recording a movie when you don’t want to.
The bottom of the camera is pretty basic with just the tripod mount socket here and the speaker for the camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS20 may not be as flashy as the PENTAX Optio WG-2, but what it lacks in flash, it makes up for in its minimalistic, functional design that will be immediately comfortable for anyone who has ever used a point-and-shoot compact camera. Size wise, the TS20 is more pocketable than the WG-2 as it is thinner and not as wide. The flatness of the camera also makes it easier to slip in and out of your pockets. The camera though does not scream TOUGH like the WG-2 did with its Ironman like exterior, but I can appreciate the almost full metal construction and handsome looks.
That’s it for the initial hands-on portion of the review. Stay tuned for a full review in the next week or so where I’ll take a look at real world usage, the image quality, and how much abuse the Lumix DMC-TS20 can actually take.
- Black – Panasonic Lumix TS20 16.1 MP TOUGH Waterproof Digital Camera (Black)
- Red – Panasonic Lumix TS20 16.1 MP TOUGH Waterproof Digital Camera (Red)
- Orange – Panasonic Lumix TS20 16.1 MP TOUGH Waterproof Digital Camera (Orange)
- Blue – Panasonic Lumix TS20 16.1 MP TOUGH Waterproof Digital Camera (Blue)