I've had a few people ask me about beach friendly cameras, or ski friendly cameras or water friendly cameras over the last couple of weeks. After a couple of questions I determine that they are really talking about water and shock resistant point and shoots and not a proper underwater camera like a Nikonos. (this is where those who think I am dissing non-Nikonos users send me hate mail or rude comments). I have taking the time to look at many that are available now and while I wont name the ones I dont like, I will name one that I think pretty highly of and that is the DMC-TS3 from Lumix (Panasonic).
Despite my distaste for silly naming conventions, I will refer to the camera as the TS3.
Since the lens is the most important part of the camera to me, I want to start by praising the DC VARIO ELMAR and if sounds like a Leica lens, it is. Its a 28mm equivalent lens so a decent wide angle field of view with aspherical elements. The lens offers 4.6x of optical zoom. It also has digital zoom but friends dont let friends use digital zoom.
Rated at 12.1 megapixels, the camera produces sharp images that enlarge well without a lot of pixelation. Low light performance is decent and the full HD video is very good. The built in flash is like most point and shoots, good for closer distances with that DMV license look, lousy for distance.
The camera has a built in GPS. You can actually see your location on the back screen in addition to geotagging your photos. GPS is a love or hate thing with most people but I like the geotagging capability.
Overall the fit and finish is really nice without a plasticky feel. The camera is readily available in orange, red and blue. Compared to the other water/shock protected cameras in the price range, I like the Lumix a lot more.