My brother and I recently hiked up to the base of Notchtop mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park to get some dawn images of Lake Helene. To have enough time for the 3.2 mile hike up, we had to meet at the trail head at the ungodly hour of 3:15 AM…which actually meant that I had to get up at 1:45. Ouch. It was a great hike though and we had the advantage of an almost full moon which provided some nice light on the trail.
Nikon D300, 18-200mm, Singh-Ray Gold & Blue Polarizer, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 200
We arrived at Lake Helene well before twilight so we had enough time to explore the area before we had to set up our cameras. We ended up finding Two Rivers Lake which is just to the east of Lake Helene. Above you can see the nice pre-dawn view from Two Rivers Lake. We both stood in the shallow water to take the shot. I used my Singh-Ray Gold and Blue Polarizer to accent the great colors of the sky.
After grabbing a few shots at Two Rivers, we had to hustle back over to Lake Helene to setup in time for sunrise. We ended up getting sorta cornered in a marshy area along the shore and weren’t able to navigate to the best vantage point in time for first light. But I think I came away with at least a “blog worthy” image of Lake Helene. I would have preferred some clouds in the shot, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers :)
Nikon D300, Tokina 11-16mm, Singh-Ray Color Combo, f/16, 2.5 sec, ISO 200
It was pretty chilly up there at 10,580 feet. / 5AM. I thought a lot about the approaching fall and winter and how I need to discover a new level of perseverance and determination in myself if I’m going to get some good winter shots this year.
For awhile now I’ve been wishing I had a simple point and shoot camera to take with me on trips so I could capture some of the more typical vacation moments and leave the serious photo work for my Nikon D300. Of course the Nikon would provide much better image quality and features than a compact camera, but who wants to lug a bulky DSLR and lens around if you’re just going out to dinner or documenting some touristy moment?
Since I’m going to Hawaii in September and might be doing some snorkeling…I thought it would be nice to get a compact camera that was waterproof…actually submersible, not just weather sealed. I didn’t know if such a camera even existed. I also wanted some video capabilities since my D300 was made just before the recent DSLR video feature craze. With these parameters in mind, I quickly discovered the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1. I had already been impressed with the Lumix TZ5 that my family and I got my Dad for his birthday last year, and the TS1 seemed to have all the features I wanted, so I went ahead and ordered one.
Overall, I have been pleased with the TS1. The very first time I took it out was on a whitewater rafting trip with my co-workers down the Poudre River near Fort Collins, Colorado. It was the perfect test for a camera like this. The TS1 got completely submerged in water several times, knocked around in the class 3 & 4 rapids and even smashed between the floor of the raft and the sidewall. It performed very well in this environment. The still photos that we took that day impressed me for their sharpness, low noise and relatively good exposure. Of course, the TS1′s quality is no where near that of a DSLR, especially at ISOs over 400, but I never expected a tiny waterproof camera to blow my socks off with image quality. It does, however, produce more than adequate images for casual snap shots and video clips.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, f/3.3, 1/1000, ISO 80
Speaking of video clips, you can see one below. It’s a little choppy, but that might be because I de-interlaced the video when I converted it for the web. Finding a program on the Mac that could open the AVCHD lite video files was a major challenge. Toast Titanium 10 of all programs was able to open and convert the videos.
The most serious flaw I’ve encountered with the TS1 is how easily it is disabled at cooler temperatures. On a recent sunrise hike up to Lake Helene (10,580 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park, the TS1′s autofocus system became totally confused and would not focus on anything. The temperatures up there were likely in the upper 30s to low 40s which is really nothing as far as cold temperatures go. Granted I was not carrying it close to my body to keep it warm during the hike, but I really think a camera that’s touted as being so rugged should be able to stand a few hours of 40 degrees.
Other gripes about the camera are really very minor. Overall it produces nice images & HD video, is reasonably compact and rugged with regards to water and being knocked around. I’m sure it will serve me very well. Just be warned that it may let you down on those cold alpine mornings!