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The Panasonic TS6 is a surprisingly great rugged and waterproof camera. Over the summer, thanks to the pros at B&H Photo Video, I was able to put it to work while rafting on a river, camping, swimming in a mountain lake, and fly fishing. Better yet, I was able to use the Panasonic TS6 right alongside six other waterproof digital cameras — an experience that helps put the best features of the TS6 in perspective.
Panasonic TS6 Review
The Panasonic TS6 is a waterproof point-and-shoot digital camera that’s designed for rugged adventure around mud, water, dirt, and sand. While it has a 4.6x optical zoom lens — making it far more versatile than a smartphone camera or an action camera like a GoPro — this class of rugged waterproof camera won’t deliver the quality of a full-size camera. Then again, a full-size camera isn’t going to dive underwater with you at the beach for a little impromptu snorkeling.
That said, the Panasonic TS6 is a full-featured waterproof camera, offering up key rugged features like WiFi connectivity and GPS and altimeter logging. Still, what I tend to care about most is how the camera works and feels in hand — how it lets a guy like me snap photos and video while I’m standing waist deep in water.
So how does it feel? Solid. The TS6 has the right sort of rugged heft, and its specs support that impression: It’s waterproof down to 43 feet, shockproof in drops from 6.5 feet, freezeproof down to 14°F, and crushproof up to 220 pounds.
The F3.3 aperture 28mm wide-angle lens isn’t a super-wide angle lens that’s designed to capture first-person action video — again, like those found in a GoPro — but I could mount the Panasonic TS6 to a chest harness and I used it to capture some fly fishing video on the Owyhee River. Worked great, actually.
The Panasonic TS6 isn’t quite as fast to shoot photos with as the Olympus TG-4, but it’s damn close. For me to tell a difference, I had to shoot several photos side-by-side in my office in order to detect a difference. The point is, the Panasonic TS6 offers a fast and snappy experience: It powers on quickly and in automatic mode, detects the environment and delivers great photos quickly.
The TS6 also has an Intelligent HDR mode that takes multiple photos at different exposures, which the TS6 uses to build to give you a better composite photo. And the results? Pretty good. It works particularly well for outdoor shots that have bright sun or sky areas but also darker shaded areas. The result can be bright sky that maintains detail without washing out while the shadows will be exposed enough to see detail in things like tree trunks or the shadowed half of a person’s face.
In addition, the TS6 has an optical image stabilizer, which is handy if you’re out hiking and you’re a little winded and shaky but still want to snap a picture of a waterfall without worrying about your hand shaking.
The Panasonic TS6 rugged, waterproof camera is perfect for the river, beach, or muddy, dusty trails.
The Panasonic TS6 waterproof camera is one of the best in its class.
The LCD screen is large and sharp, and the controls are relatively simple and intuitive.
The TS6 features an easy on/off button and a large shutter button.
Best TS6 Feature? 1080p Video at 60 fps
The best feature of the Panasonic TS6, though, is that it shoots 1080p video at 60 frames per second (fps). Most every rugged camera shoots 1080p video, so why is the 60 fps important? At 60 fps, you get a good blend of image capture to make the action in your videos appear more smooth and less choppy. The faster your subjects move, the more important 60 fps is. If you’re taking video of your sweetheart strolling along a beach at sunset, 30 fps is fine, but if you’re playing beach volleyball, at 60 fps the ball will look more like a ball and less like a streaky blur.
If video is important to you, the Panasonic TS6 is a better choice than two key competitors in this class: The Olympus TG-4 and the Nikon AW130. Both only shoot 1080p video at 30 fps.
Moving on, the TS6 is packed with other features like underwater color modes and the ability to run the flash as a torch to illuminate underwater video. And, as you might expect, the TS6 will connect to your smartphone and let you use it as a remote control.
All-in-all, the Panasonic TS6 is a delight to use. It’s rugged, compact, and solid. The controls are intuitive, the shutter button has a great feel to it, and everything just comes together to work well. From my outdoor and indoor tests, the photo quality was essentially as good as every other camera in the rugged waterproof class, and the key standout feature is video that is a just a bit better than the competition.
One last note: Be sure to buy a fast, high-quality SDHC card. For the best overall value and fast speed, I use the SanDisk Extreme Pro — totally worth a few bucks extra over slower cards (because slower cards can sometimes limit camera performance).