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Initial post: May 8, 2009 8:47:29 AM PDT
J. Stewart says:
I just got this camera and am putting it through tests before committing to keep it (during the return window), to see if it performs well enough to replace my canon PowerShot and flip as an all-in-one.

If you read the manual, it spends two pages with warnings and instructions for underwater use. Besides the obvious specs (10 feet and 1 hour per session), there are a lot of other caveats. For example, even though it is "shock proof" if you do ever drop it they no longer will endorse that it is waterproof unless you have the service center replace the seal. So, put another way, if you use it within spec but it leaks, they will look for any evidence of a drop, no matter how minor, and use that as an excuse to void the warranty on the repair.

Then lets say you get through the first year when the Panasonic warranty ends. Panasonic also says you need to have the service center replace the seal as a routine precaution, even if you have never dropped it or used it underwater. So if you get an extended warranty, with them or any other company, and you don't replace the seal and it later has water damage - even from splashing and not a full submersion - again, that's an excuse not to honor the extended warranty because by not replacing the seal you are not operating within the specifications set by Panasonic within the manual.

So you would think if they designed the camera to specifically require an annual seal replacement they would be setup for that to be a reasonably routine procedure? Think again. I called Panasonic directly about this. They have only ONE service center in the entire U.S.A. in Illinois. So you have to ship it to them, at your expense, and wait typically 14-17 business days (their estimate). And here's the kicker. They treat the "routine" seal maintenance, required by their own operating specifications, as an out-of-warranty repair" and subject it to the standard flat repair rate of $140 + parts. So even though you are doing exactly what they designed the camera to do, they want to charge you almost half the value of the new camera annually to continue to use it as specified.

Bottom line -- if Panasonic really believed in the underwater capacity, they wouldn't require you to spend 50% of the cost to service it as a "repair" every year.

So your choices, as designed and intended by Panasonic, appear to be to either only use it (super carefully) underwater for the first year, then never again, or invest in a 50% of new value (now, assuming it doesn't start discounting in the future, which it of course will) required maintenance annually to keep using it for its intended purpose. Or, three, ignore their suggested seal replacement and know you are SOL if it leaks. And since I have read many horror stories of users with basically all these waterproof models, including Panasonic's camcorder model, leaking even when used correctly, that's a pretty risky bet...

That seems like a scam to me, either way you look at it. Either the underwater feature is really a marketing gimmick that Panasonic doesn't really want to backup or they are counting on most people having not researched the costs of the annual servicing well enough to know that the cost of ownership for this model will be vastly disproportionate to its up-front cost relative to other models.

I am now thinking about returning this on this point alone, but will wait to see the pic and video results. If they are excellent, I guess I may take my chances. Otherwise it seems crazy not to spend the same or less on a model with a bigger sensor or zoom (ZS3) or smaller form factor with a great picture rep (SD960) and smaller price.

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2009 9:22:37 PM PDT
Thank you for this insightful post. I would definitely have assumed the waterproof feature would be designed as a permanent capability for the life of the camera, without the need for the annual maintenance you describe. I will make sure I read the fine print from now on...I appreciate your thoroughness. At this point, I think I will take your advice and look at the ZS3...better specs (minus the "-proofs") for about the same price.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2009 9:41:26 AM PDT
W. Lee says:
Just an fyi for other users: Olympus SW-850 had the same fine print regarding its waterproof seals. I did not inquire about the cost but I am pretty sure its similar. Thanks for the review. I am debating between this one and the canon d10. The d10 probably has better pics but this has better video

Posted on May 13, 2009 9:44:46 AM PDT
J. Stewart says:
I'm giving up on the underwater feature. While I suspect the D10 does have better pics, if my 3-year old SD7000 is indicative, the D10 is too big and bulky for my general trip use and I also don't like the lack of a wide-angle lens or the HD video (as you noted). Good luck with your decision.

Posted on May 30, 2009 7:41:42 PM PDT
A. Axelrod says:
J. Stewart - thanks!
You stopped me in my tracks - The cost to replace the seals and other fine print is prohibitive! I really do want waterproof as Ikayak and snorkel, but agree the D10 is quite bulky. Hmmmm. Now what?

Posted on May 30, 2009 8:49:28 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
I ended up returning the camera. Having determined the underwater feature was dubious at best, at least after one year, I was also disappointed to find the pictures mediocre at best. I did many test shots with it and my 3-year-old 6 megapixel Canon SD700is (which I had planned to replace with this) and in most cases the old Canon's pictures were substantially superior (in every condition - indoor, outdoor, day, night, lots of light, low light, etc.). There's no point in "upgrading" to a new camera that takes worst pictures than your old one and has a token waterproof feature...

I am in the same boat as to what's next. I've ruled waterproof out. If I ever really need that feature, I'll get a waterproof housing for a camera instead. I am thinking about trying the Panasonic DMC-ZS3 because of its good reviews and excellent optical zoom capacity. But I am worried that the pic quality will be similar to the TS1 which is a non-starter for me. I suppose if I had a lousy compact camera before I might not have noticed, but as it is its hard to settle for something so clearly worse in quality. On the other hand I have read that the latest Canon's aren't as good picture quality-wise as the older generation like mine. So I'm starting the think the golden age of high quality point-and-shoot's disappeared when they pushed the senor resolution too high and ended up with more noise and worse handling of light for no meaningful pay-off other than the theoretical ability to print poster-sized prints. It's too bad - it seems like the marketing guys won the war against the camera tech guys and features and resolution trumped actual optic quality and the ability to handle light...

Good luck you your choice and let us know what you get and how it goes.

Posted on May 31, 2009 7:42:28 AM PDT
A. Axelrod says:
Been reading reviews and the Fuji Finepix F200 EXR has some excellent comments specifically, re: your comment on sensor resolution. (But Panasonic ZS3 has the great zoom and has better video). I use my Nikon digital slr when size and conditions aren't an issue so hard to give up on the waterproof issue. Will look again at the canon D10, or investigate waterproof cases, I suppose. Need to decide soon, cause the big kayak adventure is coming up!

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2009 8:01:41 AM PDT
J. Stewart says:
Yeah, the Fujifilm 200 EXR is on my very short list along with the ZS3 and the Canon SD960 (the 970 dosn't have wide angle so I ruled it out). Let us know how the D10 goes if you try it.

Posted on Jun 4, 2009 6:46:45 PM PDT
I traded in my Fuji F200 EXR and got the panasonic TS1 and have not regretted it. Most of the F200's pictures were crap. They ranged from blurry to grainy to dark. When you set it up perfectly the pics were great but you had to set up every individual shot. The automatic setting didn't work at all. The Panasonic is great. Just went snorkling in Hawaii with it with no problems. Pics were fantastic. Only problem I have with it is the uncovered lens glass, I am always touching it when it is in my pocket and leaving fingerprints on it. If you are anything short of a professional I would stay away from the F200.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2009 7:37:51 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
I guess that narrows it down to either the ZS3 or a new Canon for me, probably the Canon though I am still tempted to at least rule out the ZS3 before giving up on Panasonic when I can find it in stock again...

Posted on Jun 4, 2009 7:42:17 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
BTW, I spoke to Canon's repair center too just to see how their handling of the waterproof seal on the D10 varied from Panasonic, if at all. Very similar. Like with Panasonic it was hard to find someone with the answer since the product is new. I eventually did and they quoted $150 + shipping each way to replace the waterproof seal. The only upside is unlike Panasonic they do not specifically say you have to do so annually, but like Panasonic they basically say if there is the slightest crack or nick in the seal you need to. Also, they expressly say rin the user manual eplacing the seal is at user expense, so they don't even cover that in the first year. But because they don't require annual replacement, more extended warranties will honor water damage in policy than with the Panasonic where their annual replacement gives the warranty companies an out unless you pony up the $140+parts+tax+shipping a year.

Posted on Jun 5, 2009 8:11:21 AM PDT
A. Axelrod says:
I spoke with customer service at Panasonic (Canada). He said they don't REQUIRE replacement annually, but recommend it if the camera is used underwater often. I see that the text in the user manual reads 'The integrity of the waterproof seals may decrease after about 1 year, with use and age. To avoid permanently damaging the camera the seals should be replaced once each year.' Apparently 'should' doesn't mean 'must' and it depends on your usage. Then I spoke with a manager in the authorized service center (again, Canada) who explained that the degradation of the seals is caused by the pressure underwater, so if it is not underwater often the seals will last longer. All helpful info, but nobody seems to be able to give specifics. Also, they have not set a firm price yet on seal replacement cost, but expect it to be near $100. And yes, the shockproofing is designed to protect the camera mechanism, but not necessarily the seals and that is why the recommend a test with a vacuum device. Again, they couldn't give me a firm $$ for that test. The pitfalls of buying new technology, I guess. This thread has been very helpful as far as having a realistic idea of what ownership of this (or any other brand underwater camera means) I am mostly on the water, rather than under it, so think I will give it a try.

Posted on Jun 5, 2009 8:37:49 AM PDT
J. Stewart says:
I guess it's different in Canada. In the U.S. they have already decided that the price is the same as their one-size-fits-all out of warranty repair work. Here in the U.S. they do not require a replacement annually either. But they did state that if you get their extended warranty and have water damage after the first year and did not replace the seal they will not honor it. Similarly, I called three other extended warranty companies sold by major camera retailers and all of them said that if they manual "recommends" annual seal replacement and you don't do it and have damage that it would be considered user neglect and not covered. So, as I noted before, the net result is you effectively are taking your chances if you use the camera after the first year without paying almost 50% of the up-front cost to replace the seal each year. If you're not getting and extended warranty and are okay with that chance, then you don't have to replace them. As I posted previously, my issue is either they should make the seal replacement a lesser expense or they should honor extended warranties for water damage after the first year if there is no evidence of user neglect beyond not paying for the preventative annual seal replacement.

Canon is not much better. They too are making the seal replacement half the cost of the new camera. The only difference is since they did not specifically recommend annual replacement, the third-party warranty company said they would honor water damage repairs after the first year even if the seal was not replaced.

Posted on Jun 5, 2009 8:50:18 AM PDT
A. Axelrod says:
Agreed, they should be clearer and the cost is higher than reasonable. I am waiting for an answer back about the extended warrranty. But the eagles and starfish await. . .

Posted on Jun 13, 2009 10:01:58 AM PDT
T. Harward says:
No offense - but fine print is fine print - can you imagine the legal issues with creating a camera of such design? The warranty must be riddled with these confusing statements just to reduce the liability of the company. In reality I have heard only good experiences with Panasonic customer support and with the camera itself from various forum posts and reviews.

I'll wait until I have actual experience with the camera, which I have just purchased, and not just rely on worried speculation about the text of the agreement. Even replacement of seals every 1 year seems unlikely to me, and as others have said Olympus' tough series had the same fine print.

The bottom line is - I have not yet heard of any real problems with this camera - only this speculation based on the fine print. There is very little that worries me then, as I really only care about how well the camera actually works and not how paranoid a bunch of lawyers are.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2009 6:29:52 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
To each their own. I have said that I'm sure this will be a great camera for some people. It depends on your priorities. For me, I suspect actual underwater pics would be less than 5% of all my pics over time so the priority was on picture quality and my 3-year-old Canon 6MP compact blew this Panny away so it didn't make sense for me to "upgrade" to a camera with lesser PQ.

My point on the underwater feature has always been specific. By specifying in their user manual that the recommend annual seal replacement, they basically undermine any third party extended warranty coverage, including their own, after the first year unless you are willing to pay approximately 50% of the original cost of the camera every year to replace it. You can choose not to replace the seal but neither Panasonic or most (any that I surveyed) will honor a repair or replacement if you get water damage after the first year. I contacted Panasonic, Mack and Sage Max and all three took this position. Canon (I did not research the Olympus because almost every review said it had even worse picture quality than the Panasonic so that was a non-starter) also made it expensive to replace the seal, but they did not recommend annual replacement. As a result, Sage Max and Mack both said they would honor a water-damage repair or replacement after the first year even without seal replacement. That makes a big difference. The net result is either your take your chances with water damage, you stop using it after the first year or you spend a lot of money for an annual preventative damage because Panasonic declined to treat the preventative maintenance as a different category than a damage repair.

So to be clear, I didn't rely on the "fine print" - I spoke to Panasonic customer service and the repair center - four people in all, including a supervisor and a manager. Also, while the reviews have been good for this camera overall - which is why I gave it a shot - its not true that no one has had issues. I have read numerous reviews and posts from people who had water damage already, including at least one for this camera here on Amazon. I don't hold this against Panasonic - every underwater camera has similar posts. My point is it is more than reasonable to be concerned about possible water damage with any of these cameras so the warranty situation is a legitimate concern for some, including myself.

Enjoy your camera. Odds are everything will be fine. Combined with the picture quality compared to the old Canon, I just wasn't interested in going without a warranty after year one. That's not a priority for everyone...

Posted on Jul 1, 2009 4:19:22 AM PDT
Photos here (http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=panasonic&w=35752108%40N00) if anyone is interested. My camera is leaking through the lens, I think. There is never any moisture in the 2 doors.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2009 6:39:19 AM PDT
J. Stewart says:
Colin, bummer on the condensation. Hopefully Panasonic will resolve it for you -- let us know how it goes.

I am curious what settings you used for taking those pictures -- they look much better that the results I got with the auto and Intelligent Auto with all the factory default settings, particularly in the blur-free fast motion. And your underwater pictures are the best I've seen anyone ppost so far with this camera.

Posted on Jul 2, 2009 8:32:36 AM PDT
A. Axelrod says:
Colin, second what J. Stewart said - your pics are fabulous. Would also be interested in your settings.I bought the camera about a month ago, but haven't been underwater yet. My outdoor shots are excellent, but not too impressed with inside pics. Have you had the leaking resolved?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2009 8:21:29 PM PDT
C. Tran says:
Colin, beautiful pictures you took. Hope you can get the condensation issue resolve. Curious how that happened? An isolated incident or anyone else has had the similar problem? Likewise, as with other posters, what settings did you use for those pics? If you don't mind sharing your knowledge and educate me I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

Posted on Aug 25, 2009 8:25:04 AM PDT
We have had our Panasonic since its release date and have been on 3 trips since where we've used the underwater feature continuously with no problems, in the ocean and in pools.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2009 4:35:18 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
That's great. I'm sure, statistically, it will work for a majority of people. I just don't think its right for them to market the product for underwater use when their policies don't support it for continued use past the first year without reinvesting 50% of the purchase price annually. It's competitors can all be covered for continuous underwater use for 3 years by the major warranty companies but because of Panasonic's requirement to replace the seal and policy to treat the seal replacement as a standard damage repair, all the major warranty companies I queired said the warranty would be void unless you did this every year.

Posted on Aug 30, 2009 4:36:04 PM PDT
J. Stewart says:
INCLUDING Panasonic's own extended warranty product -- they don't even support their own camera unless you pay 50% of the purchase price for new seals every year...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 2:01:20 PM PDT
Daniel Landi says:
I took my TS1 to a trip to Tahiti and made some great underwater pictures while snorkeling and it worked great (although the battery empty out in the middle of a tour). I may have bumped it somewhere because the lens' frame got smashed (a tiny one). After that, the lens and even the LCD got some condensation after some time of use. It even happened during dinner while I was holding it (maybe a leak inside that evaporated from my hands warmth). Anyway, I'm not sure if these two events are related, but it really worries me. I will check with Panasonic tech support and I will post their answer here.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2009 11:21:22 PM PDT
S. Johnsen says:
great pictures. Will you share your settings with me also or post them?
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Initial post:  May 8, 2009
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