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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 Digital Camera Review$399.99
An intelligent auto mode is available for beginners, although we wouldn't quite call it beginner- "proof." Some advanced features aren't locked out, like focus tracking and much of the menu system. This approach certainly appeals to consumers like us, but we think all our grandparents might be confused by the extra options.
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.
Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes
14 scene modes are available from the mode menu and since the camera is intended mostly for outdoor use, you won't find the vast selection of options that another model would feature. There are settings for pets, babies, sunsets, etc. But the most useful scene mode must be high sensitivity, which uses pixel binning to increase maximum ISO to 6400, but reduces resolution down to only 3 megapixels.
Built-in photo editing options are quite limited, and only include functions like crop, resize, and some light video editing. We don’t expect many photographers to edit their photos on the top of a mountain, or under the sea, so this isn’t a huge drawback.
The TS4's menu designs are dated and unintuitive, but the software is so fast and responsive that we actually don't mind too much.
This series' menu hasn't been updated for awhile. The TS4 uses both a quick menu and a main menu, and both are necessary to shoot effectively. The quick menu is convenient and contains most of the options you'll need from day to day, with a few critical omissions. Most notably, custom white balance (which is relatively important with this camera) is not located beside white balance presets in the quick menu, and is instead restricted to the slower main menu.
All options are at least legible, so if you're anything like us, you'll quickly master the menu's quirks and find yourself getting faster and faster with it.
A printed Basic Owner's Manual ships with the TS4, though you'll really want to pop in the included CD-ROM, which contains an electronic version of the full length manual. No in-camera help features are available.