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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 Digital Camera Review$399.99
The worst part of handling the TS4 is the inconveniently placed lens. Anytime you're shooting with two hands, you're in danger of obscuring the lens with an errant finger. We recommend shooting exclusively with one hand, but this introduces its own problems....
The armored chassis is quite slippery in the hand, and with no dedicated rear traction, the thumb needs to rely on the zoom buttons for support. That's sort of a cruel coincidence, because the zoom buttons are by far the muddiest, and give the worst tactile feedback of any keys on the entire body. So it's hard to detect when your thumb is accidentally pressing one in.
Many of these problems will alleviate themselves with practice, but they're still annoyances that add to the learning curve.
Buttons & Dials
Most buttons on the rear and top panel have great tactility for a toughcam, however the labels are etched into the chrome, making them difficult to read and adding to the overall learning curve. The layout has not changed since the TS3, meaning a nice dedicated mode button is located directly below the playback button. It also may be worth noting the exposed bolts at the right corners of the rear panel actually look sort of like buttons, and even we have to admit we tried to press them once or twice.
Underneath a sturdy plastic sheet on the rear panel is the camera's LCD monitor. It measures only 2.7 inches diagonally, offers only 230,000-dot resolution, and doesn't render previews very accurately to the final shot. However the monitor is very well suited to outdoor use, with brightness that's more than sufficient and a nice wide viewing angle. Brightness can even be set to change automatically based on outside lighting conditions.
Image stabilization, on the other hand, is empirically better in this camera than most on the market, just like the TS3 before it. In a device specifically intended for outdoor adventuring, stabilization can make or break the product. We're happy to report Panasonic has carried over the TS3's extremely effective optical stabilizer for use in the TS4. With the feature turned on, we measured a whopping 51% sharpness improvement in our shaker test, and absolute sharpness was some of the best we've seen.