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Which Rugged Camera Should You Get?

just tell me what to get panasonic ts1

Question: I'm planning a vacation with my wife and kids this summer, and I want one camera to cover it all. Something small enough to take around with us wherever we go, and most importantly, super durable and waterproof so we can take it to the beach without giving daddy a heart attack. Any suggestions?

Hey reader: "Tough" cameras have definitely been the rage lately, with several of the big manufacturers recently unleashing new models into the wild. Over the past few years, Olympus has definitely led the way in this category with its Stylus Tough series of nearly unbreakable cams.

But we aren't in love with the Olympus photo quality. So we were excited when Panasonic brought out the ultradurable DMC-TS1 earlier this year.

The TS1's Venus image processor and Leica lens produce photos with great color and sharp details -- even in dim indoor settings. And the TS1 shoots 720p high-def video, compared to the other toughcams' standard-def footage. The video file format, called AVCHD, is a little tricky to work with -- initial users had issues getting their video into iMovie, for example, but most of these issues have been smoothed out. And for now, the TS1 is your only option for capturing HD with a rugged, pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera.

The TS1 is a tough cookie -- able to withstand 1.5 meter (five-foot) drops and immersion in up to three meters (about 10 feet) of water. That's perfect for snorkeling or surviving the accidental plunge in the pool. It probably won't work for scuba diving, but for that you'd want a camera with a bigger lens to capture more light, anyway. (It gets dark down there!) Being sealed against water, the camera also keeps out dust, not to mention beach sand.

Finally, the TS1 has the best form factor of the "toughcam" lot that we've seen. Unlike Canon's decidedly bulky D10, or the avant-garde Olympus Stylus Tough 6000, the TS1 looks pretty much like a standard, svelte pocket cam. Less than an inch thick, it slips easily into any pants or jacket pocket (or purse).

While it's pricier than the rugged rivals at about $400, the TS1 is worth it for the great pictures that it can take, virtually anywhere.

Panasonic Lumix DSC-TS1

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