IRL: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 and iBattz's iPhone 5s cases

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 and iBattz's iPhone 5s cases

We didn't mean for this week's "IRL" to be all about ruggedized products, but hey, these things happen. After the break, Edgar talks about trading his PowerShot D20 for a Panasonic Lumix TS5, while Darren tests out not one, but two cases designed for the iPhone 5s.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5

IRL Panasonic Lumix DMCTS5

It was that time of the year again. That time to go far away from the concrete jungle that is New York City, to a place with white-sanded beaches, sky blue waters and lots of delicious eats. This time, though, I left my Canon PowerShot D20 at home and brought the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 instead.

Not only does Panasonic's all-terrain point-and-shoot camera feature better specs than Canon's offering (namely, the 16.1-megapixel MOS sensor, Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens and wireless sharing), but it never hurts to try new things. On paper, the TS5 definitely appears to be the better option, though the D20 has nothing to be ashamed of -- especially when it costs about half as much and is over a year old at this point.

But let's cut to what really matters: picture and video quality. As you would expect (and hope) from a $399 ruggedized shooter, the Lumix TS5 takes some sharp, well-balanced shots, thanks in large part to that high-sensitivity sensor and Leica optics. This includes images I took in the pool and ocean, where Panasonic relies on modes such as Advanced Underwater to keep things stabilized and as clear as possible. Video, on the other hand, is merely "okay," but I honestly wasn't expecting much out of the TS5 -- the 1080p (at 60 or 30fps) is nothing to write home about, with footage often looking rather choppy and high in contrast.

Still, what matters to me is how much fun one can have using a camera like the TS5. Yes, photos and videos weren't the best, but I could've never put my DSLR through many of the scenarios a beach resort demands. Of course, I also would've been just fine taking the less expensive PowerShot D20 -- but hey, there's something about that orange color...

-- Edgar Alvarez

iBattz iPhone 5s cases

IRL Panasonic Lumix DMCTS5

Every so often, I end up somewhere your average smartphone isn't supposed to go. But here's the thing: I carry an iPhone, and I feel quite naked without at least one pulsing connection to the internet on my person. As fragile as the iPhone is, folks who find themselves in situations such as this are pretty fortunate: there's a ton of accessory outfitters out there offering cases that are engineered to handle the elements. After picking up an iPhone 5s, I had the chance to test out a pair of cases from iBattz.

The Mojo Refuel Armor and the Mojo Refuel Aqua (said to be the world's first waterproof removable battery case) both ship with a standard I9300 battery. This is interesting for one primary reason: it's a fairly standard cell, which is user-replaceable. Most iPhone battery cases ship with a sealed battery, so if you're the type that plans on breaking free from power plugs for weeks on end, there's some allure to iBattz's approach. Both are capable of doubling the life of one's iPhone 5 or 5s, and without question, these are the most insanely rugged iPhone cases I've encountered. The upside? You could probably spike your encased iPhone with the force of one Rob Gronkowski, and the handset would be no worse for the wear. The downside? These cases are positively enormous. As it turns out, it takes bulk to provide protection.

I love the fact that the Aqua allows full access to the screen, however. While it's obviously designed for dips in the ocean, novices who frequent ski resorts could put it to use as well. At $74.95-plus, neither of these come cheaply, but the MSRP stings a little less if you look at it as an investment in security. All that said, you can forget about using your fingerprint sensor with these cases on -- I suspect that's something I'll end up saying about nearly every protective iPhone case that comes out, though.

-- Darren Murph