Cameras For a Rough World

olympus tough
The Olympus Tough TG-810 is waterproof to 30 feet, shockproof from six feet and has built-in GPS support - by Olympus

It’s not easy being a small electronic device sometimes, the world can be a rough place. Some of you might be looking for a camera for the kids that can stand up to the rigors of the playground, the park and the back yard water slide. Others may need a camera that can get bounced around in the glove compartment and may be called upon to work in any weather conditions. Or perhaps a camera that can survive a bruising climb up a mountain trail in a backpack or road trip in bicycle panniers.

For those situations, you need a tough camera. No sissy electronics will do, you need something that can take it and still deliver decent photos.

Luckily there are cameras engineered for a rough world.

Olympus Tough TG-810

Capable of being dropped from a height of 6 feet, can survive underwater to a depth of 30 feet, and can even take being stashed in a snowbank.

The 13.8-megapixel CCD chip does yield great results underwater or in low light, but overall the camera will survive the rigors of being dragged around in the field. The Tough TG-810 has built-in GPS so you’ll know where the pictures were taken.

Video specs are okay, but not great. You’ll get 720p at 30 fps.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

This rugged compact not only sports built-in GPS, but also a compass, barometer, and altimeter. It’s dust proof, waterproof down to 40 feet, and shock resistant to falls up to 6 feet. And, oh yeah, it takes pictures.

Again this camera has a 12.1-megapixel CCD type sensor, which means you’re giving up a little in low light performance, but you gain full 1080 HD video at 60 fps.

Nikon Coolpix AW100

With the Nikon Coolpix AW100 you step up to a 15.9-megapixel CMOS sensor in a camera that still has an integrated GPS transceiver, but this time coupled with internal mapping software. Video is 1080p at 30 fps.

The Coolpix AW100 is shockproof to a height of 5 feet, waterproof to a depth of 33 feet and, like the Olympus, can survive an extended period in a snowbank. Which begs the question of how much time people are spending in snowbanks? Because that seems to be a big selling point for camera manufacturers.

Life is hard, but with one of these tough customers, you’ll at least be able to get good photos while buried in snowbanks.


Olympus Tough TG-810 to Nikon Coolpix AW100

Nikon Coolpix AW100 to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Olympus Tough TG-810 to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

Panasonic Announces New DMC-GX1

Panasonic DMC-GX1
The new Panasonic DMC-GX1 to upgrade the GF series - by Panasonic

Panasonic launched a replacement for the highly regarded Lumix DMC-GF1 labeled the DMC-GX1. In the GX series Panasonic seems to be taking aim at more advanced users.

Many consider the Lumix GF line, with their interchangeable lenses, small form factor, RAW output, and rangefinder styling to be one the original entries in the mirrorless market that has grown in popularity. Unfortunately, the GF1 successors, the GF2 and GF3, never achieved the market acceptance of their predecessor. With the new DMC-GX1, Panasonic seems determined to push farther into the higher end of the camera market and reclaim the glory days of the GF1.

In the DMC-GX1 Panasonic returned the better build quality and ergonomics of the GF1 with an updated feature set and improved specs.

Packing a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, with an impressive ISO range of 160-12,800. At reduced resolution the DMC-GX1 can snap off an impressive 20 frames per second.

Panasonic bumped up the video specs as well with the DMC-GX1 delivering full 1080 HD video at 60 interlaced frames per second, along with a stereo microphone.

The LCD screen is also a touchscreen interface with features such as tap to focus on a subject.

New electronic leveler
The GX1 has a built-in electronic leveler

Panasonic seems to be aiming for the niche currently occupied by the Samsung NX200 and Sony Alpha NEX-5 series.

Available in mid-December with an expected price tag of $700 for the body only, or $800 for the kit with the standard 14-42mm zoom lens. The mount is compatible with both the Panasonic and Olympus line of Micro Four Thirds lenses.

From the beginning I’ve questioned the commitment of Panasonic and Olympus to the Micro Four Thirds concept. With APS-C size sensors available at similar price points, I question the utility of the smaller and oddly sized Micro Four Thirds chip.

All the same the DMC-GX1 seems to be a capable performer with very good build quality and attention to detail. If Panasonic and Olympus would ever start pushing the Micro Four Thirds line as a price competitor, they might have something.



The Future of Digital Photography Is Connected

picture of telephone poles
The future of digital photography is connected

Whether you’re shooting snapshots of friends and family with one of the new wifi-enabled Panasonic Lumix FX90s (review) or professionally with your trusty Canon 5D MKII, the biggest trend in digital imaging right now is connectivity. Whether your camera is set up to enable real time connectivity or not, it’s a trend that’s going to influence both the selection of cameras and how you do business as a professional.

You can blame improving camera phones for raising expectations for immediate sharing, but the trend has been developing since the world wide web came into being.

Another part of the equation is the trend toward social media and the democratization of news reporting. People expect news and information almost as its happening.

With the digital camera market basically saturated at this point, everyone who wants a camera already has one. From here on out the deciding factor for many consumers will be the features of the camera. As cell phone cameras get better, the impact will be most immediate in the point-and-shoot market.

I think the big picture impact on the low end of the camera market has been overstated. Camera phones have been getting better for a long time and sales of point-and-shoot cameras have remained fairly healthy. What will make the difference for consumers is connectivity. Phones have that feature built in, cameras will need to catch up to stay competitive.

These trends will combine to put pressure on professional photographers to start looking for ways to satisfy the customer’s desire for immediate gratification. While it’s unlikely the low end of the digital camera or cell phone camera market is going to make a dent in high end camera sales, there is already a push for more immediate delivery of product.

In the highly competitive market of digital photography, I believe this presents an opportunity for the technically savvy to set themselves apart with value-added services such as live blogging weddings and trade shows and packaging content quickly so guests can make product selections on the spot.

If you wait until the systems are pre-packaged so anyone can use them, it will be too late. The opportunity is there now, you just have to figure out the technical details.

It’s a Phone, It’s a Camera, It’s Panasonic’s Lumix Phone 101P

An Android phone with wifi and a 13.2-megapixel camera - by Panasonic

Most of us are comfortable with the concept of cameras in our phones. Some of those phone cameras have gotten pretty decent over the years. Maybe not anything you’d want to take to any kind of significant event, but in many situations better than not having any camera.

Panasonic has decided to take the camera/phone integration to the next level with the Lumix Phone 101P, available in Japan where they seem to get all the good toys first.

The Lumix phone packs a 13.2-megapixel CMOS Lumix sensor coupled with an Android phone running 2.3 (Gingerbread) on a dual core 1 GHz TI cpu. There are many of the usual camera software tools available, like Intelligent Auto.

On the back it sports a 4-inch QHD LCD screen with 960×540 resolution.

Besides both W-CDMA and GSM the Japanese models also include Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, wifi support, and a digital TV tuner.

The body is advertised as waterproof, but just how waterproof that is remains to be seen.

Either way, I want one. This isn’t going to replace my Canon 7D anytime soon, but it sure might replace my point-and-shoot and it will definitely replace my regular phone.

What’s more interesting is what this phone/camera may signal for the future of electronic news gathering. With a phone like this and wireless keyboard it would be possible to grab some pictures and movies and duck into a nearby coffee shop to file your stories, where you can also pay for your coffee with the integrated e-wallet. No laptop required. While that may not be this device, it may be something very similar.

Stay tuned for pricing and availability in the U.S. when announced.

New Panasonic Mirrorless Lenses

Panasonic announced two new electric power zoom lenses to match up with its Lumix camera line launched in August.  The lenses, in the premium X brand series, are billed as the first interchangeable power zoom lenses.  The Lumix G X PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 and the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 are specifically made for the Lumix G Micro Four Thirds System standard.  Here’s our comparison of the two lenses: Lumix PZ 45-175 vs Lumix PZ 14-42.
If your just thinking about a mirorless camera you can view our Lumix DMC-G3 Review and GH2Review, and if you haven’t decided on Panasonic you should also take a look at our Sony Nex5 vs Panasonic G3 roundup to see the differences to the Sony offering.
Both lenses feature Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating, rumored to be similar to the Nikkor coating, that cuts down on ghosting and flair.
Panasonic Power Zoom
The Vario PX 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 retractable power zoom - photo Panasonic

The Vario PX 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 is a retractable power zoom lens, making it a very compact addition to Panasonic’s line of  mirrorless micro four thirds cameras that weighs in at just 95 grams.  Internally it boasts 9 lenses in 8 groups for excellent clarity and reduced distortion through the entire zoom range.

Also included is Panasonic’s Power Optical Image Stabilization with a new type of gyro sensor, newly integrated with the power zoom technology to suppress large, slow movements.  Coupled with that hand held motion is dampened by the MEGA Optical Image Stabilization.

The lenses Light Speed focus system is driven by the AF stepping motor linked with the camera’s AF system cuts down the lag time by as much as 40 percent.

The Vario PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6 zoom has the same nano coating as its smaller sibling in the line and boasts 14 elements in 10 groups that moves throughout the zoom range without changing the overall length.  A neat trick for a zoom lens.

The weight is a thrifty 210 grams and the lens is only 3.5 inches (90mm) from the tip of the lens to the base side of the lens mount.

power zoom lens
The Vario PZ 45.175mm f/4-5.6 zoom - photo by Panasonic

The Vario PZ 45-175mm supports the same internal gyro sensor as the wider zoom and a seven-blade internal aperture.

Listed as around $450 for the 45-175mm and $349 for the 14-42mm.  Not available in all locations this week.