Some time ago Molly wrote a blog post about the various digital cameras we have owned and the two that we currently use. Occasionally we post a photo that was taken with a phone or an old camera but for the most part we use our Canon Digital SLR XSI or our water proof Olympus Stylus Tough. Unfortunately it seems that our Olympus may have gone swimming one too many times. It no longer takes those clean crisp shots that so impressed us when it was we first bought it (used). All of the features of the camera still work, but I suspect that a small amount of moisture got inside the housing and has somehow compromised the optics or sensor.
We probably need to replace our Olympus now and will definitely need another waterproof/shockproff/dustproof camera. At work we have started purchasing waterproof cameras to document our field work. Using these cameras at work and on weekends has given me the chance to try out the competitors to the Olympus.
First was the Fujifilm XP2; I took this camera to Thailand. At first I was very impressed that it was 50% cheaper than the Olympus and seems very comparable. It is slim, fast, and stitches together panoramic photos quite well. But then I began to notice the unforgivable flaw of this camera: it does not have very good optics. Distortion is a major problem and can be noticed in just about any photo that has a flat horizon. You can see some examples of this problem in my blog post about oil platforms in the Gulf of Thailand. The other possible flaw with this camera is the waterproof doors. They just don't seem to be as well designed as some of the other cameras, and considering that our last camera had a leak, this is high on my list of concerns.
While I would still recommended the Fujifilm for some people, I don't think I would buy it myself. Those warped horizons and distorted corners are just too distracting in the scenery shots we love to take.
The next camera I tested was a Panisonic Lumix DMC-TS3. This might be the best point and shoot waterproof camera available right now. This 14MP camera is waterproof to 40ft, shock proof to 6.5 ft, has a built in GPS with an barometer and heading sensor, 4.6X optical zoom, image stabilization, and takes full HD video. Perhaps the most impressive feature of this camera is the fact the the optics are made by Leica. While this might not mean much to all of you, just take my word that Leica does not make cheap optics. When it comes to optics, you get what you pay for. You commonly see Leica's stamp on products that are all about optics such as spotting scopes and laboratory microscopes.
So how does the Panasonic Lumix perform? Very Very well. Just as I would hope for a camera that costs $350. This camera continues to impress me after using it for a few weeks. Check out Molly's last post to see some photos I captured using the sport mode. While taking these dynamic shots of Molly and our friends back lit by the sunset I was impressed by the camera's speed. It is probably twice as fast as our DSLR. So now I have a dilemma. Do we save up and buy one of these amazing Lumix cameras for ourselves? Or do we buy the newest Olympus Stylus Tough? The new Olympus has many of the same impressive features and after all I already own extra batteries and a charger for the Olympus.
Readers, let me know if there are any other waterproof cameras you recommend. Or don't recommend.