Lumix TS4 Waterproof Camera Review


I recently purchased this waterproof camera to take along on my kayak trip to the Everglades. It cost just under $300 online. The results so far are impressive, especially the high-res video.


After a month I’ve become pretty familiar with its basic functions, but the PDF-only manual is thick and there are lots of bells and whistles I haven’t tried (such as time-lapse). Here is my quick review…


It seemed to survive the salt water nicely, though I did not open the battery/card door during the trip and did not use it underwater. I bought a floating wrist strap that worked well. Very nice not to worry about getting it wet! There are two caveats however: 1) It is very easy to get water or salt residue on the lens window. Inspect and clean it often. 2) There are controversies on the web regarding water damage, warranty service, and required replacement of the door seal. My impression is the company is beginning to listen to customers who had problems and is making maintenance easier.

Basic Photography

The basic functions are all there and reasonably well implemented. The location of the wide/tele buttons took some getting used to (they are on the back where you can hit them with your thumb). The Manual Mode is a bit odd in that you only have two choices for aperture (f3.3 and f10 at full wide). I thought it was broken at first. (Perhaps there are only two apertures available in full auto as well? This might be a reasonable design compromise for a small camera.) Switching to shutter speed takes another button press. This is clearly a design flaw since most of the adjustment comes from the shutter. In Manual Mode it should default to shutter speed and aperture adjustment should require the extra step!


The video sequences I shot in the Everglades were truly impressive. I set the camera to capture high-res mp4. The raw files fill my desktop screen and I’ve had to reduce the resolution to use them on the web and DVD. I’ve edited the best clips together into a short movie so you can judge for yourself!

Panorama Mode

Based on one example, this seemed to work well…


 Handheld HDR

This is where the extra steps and awkwardness of Manual Mode became painfully apparent. The process was complicated by the fact that the “meter” hides itself between exposures, so I had to partially depress the shutter release each time I wanted to make adjustments. (Perhaps there is a setting somewhere that will override this? I should probably just revert to doing the exposure math in my head like we did back in the old days before meters became common. <smile>) That said I was able to get a few decent two-exposure HDR photos without too much frustration…



To get these quick-and-dirty high dynamic range (HDR) photos take two photos of the same scene with the same aperture at 1.5 and -1.5 EV. Then combine them in Photoshop or your favorite HDR software.


The gallery below shows a general sampling of the photos I’ve taken in the past few days. Overall I am quite pleased with this camera and its minor faults are more than compensated by being waterproof!

Kayak Sailing on Little Lake Santa Fe

Nice day for sailing! Wind was about 12 mph with some gusts, warm but not hot. I recently bought a 2010 used Hobie Adventure with the optional sail. It works amazingly well, especially considering how narrow the hull is! (The first day I took it out in heavier winds I turtled it. It was very easy to right and self-rescue!) To be very specific, the rig pictured here does not depend on the pedal drive (an amazing bit of engineering that!). It uses a two foot dagger board that inserts through a special slot in the hull. I also have the larger rudder installed. Below is my informal review…


The asymmetrical controls take some getting used to. The “tiller” is a small lever near my left hand. It works in reverse, you turn it the direction you want to go rather than away as in a traditional sailboat. The dealer had added a small pulley to the aft lift point for the sheet. I discovered that there was a small eye fitting near the dagger board that served well as an informal block. This allowed me to pull the sheet upward and sort of lock it over my leg. This position was comfortable, easy to maintain for an entire tack and could be quickly released if there was a gust. I found it more natural to sail on a port tack because of the controls. With the boat heeling to the right I could lean to the left and still have full control of both the tiller and the sheet. (I can actually reach my left arm out and around the hull to hold on!) On a starboard tack I was leaning away from the tiller and into the sheet. This was a bit awkward and limited my ability to hike out. Not a big deal, just a factor you don’t have in a standard sailboat.

This is serious sailing craft in winds from about 8 to 16 mph. In light air you’re better off paddling or pedaling. When the wind is gusty above 20 mph it becomes difficult to keep the sail trim for more than a few seconds. You’re forced to let the sail luff to avoid capsizing. On the other hand, the challenge can be part of the appeal! <smile> On a warm day with warm water this is a very safe boat to tip over. (There is also an option to partially reef the sail by rolling it on the mast. I have since tried this and it works well!)


The boat turned well both coming about and jibing. I was never “in irons” and since there is no boom there is nothing to swing across and hit you in the head. I used the paddle only to get off the shore. It points well and tacks upwind effectively. It seems to go fastest at a beam reach. When going downwind I discovered I could improve performance by holding the sheet out to the side with a free arm. The telltales are very useful, which surprised me for such as small sail. [The photos below were taken by Cathy Schell.]

Idiot America by Charles Pierce

Idiot America

How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Charles Pierce (2009)

This short confection of a book has a serious message… When “cranks” become mainstream and large segments of the population take them seriously, our entire society is at risk! He’s not against people with unconventional ideas, in fact he considers them to be an asset… a sort of check on the status quo. But an increasing number of cranks have won mainstream acceptance, and this is very alarming! Politics and religion are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

The narrative begins at a “young earth” theme park depicting a time when dinosaurs and humans lived side by side. Silly on the face of it, but considered a real possibility by many in the US. He then proceeds to tell the story of Ignatius Donnelly (1831 – 1901), the man responsible for several persistent modern myths including Atlantis. Fascinating!

Pierce returns time and again to the Three Great Premises:

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough. Fact is that which enough people believe.
  3. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

To premise #2 I would add the old standby: “Tell any lie often enough and it will be accepted as truth.” The “birther” and anti-vaccine movements come to mind, as does the statement made by John Kyl on the floor of the Senate that was “not intended to be a factual.” Too bad senators can’t be impeached for lying!

Number 3 is particularly disturbing because of what it implies for intellectual discourse. Individuals have no obligation to be skeptical or make reasoned arguments, they only need to believe something strongly enough until it “must be true.” Not a very good basis for informed discussion! No wonder we live in a world of information free voters.

And then there’s Bullshit, a topic laid bare in a delightful little book by Harry G. Frankfurt—On Bullshit (2005). He deftly explains the difference between BS and lying. When someone lies, they are making a conscious choice to deceive. They know the truth but wish to conceal it. The bullshitter on the other hand doesn’t know the truth and more importantly doesn’t care!

October 2013 Update: From Gail Collins at the NY Times, “Representative Ted Yoho was one of the very first members of Congress to verbalize the what-the-hey theory of global finance.” Putting the good faith and credit of the United States at risk? The very definition of a crank!