The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4 is an amazingly rugged camera that can take pictures and video under conditions that would destroy any normal compact. It can dive deeper and fall higher than almost all of its competition, and still manages to retain most of the performance, photographic quality and versatility of its land-based brand-mates. It has, in theory at least, some very useful features for the adventuring photographer, however in practice they are less useful than they might appear. The GPS system is unreliable at best, and drains the battery very quickly. It'll spend most of its time switched off, which brings into question why one would pay extra for something that is going to see little use. Other than that though, the FT4 is a great little camera for anyone into active outdoor sports.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4 Camera Specification :
- Image sensor : 1/2.33-type CCD sensor / 12.5-megapixels (total)
- Max. resolution : 4,000 x 3,000 pixels
- Zoom : 4.6x optical, 4x digital
- Focal length (35mm) : 4.9 - 22.8mm (28 - 128mm in 35mm equiv.)
- Maximum aperture : F3.3 - 5.9
- Shutter speeds : 60 - 1/1300 sec
- Auto-Focus : Contrast detection
- Manual focus : N/A
- Exposure control : Program AE, manual (min/max aperture)
- Exposure metering : Intelligent multiple zone
- Image stabilisation : Power OIS (optical stabilisation)
- ISO range : 100-1600 (HS mode 1600-6400)
- LCD monitor : 6.7cm (2.7in) TFT LCD, 230K dots
- Flash : 0.3 - 5.6m Wide, 0.3 - 3.1m Tele, ISO Auto
- Drive modes : Single, burst, continuous (at 2MP)
- Image formats : JPEG
- Video : Full HD 1080 50i, MP4/AVCHD
- Memory card slot : SD/SDHC/SDXC
- Supplied memory : Approx 20MB
- Battery : 940mAh Li-ion rechargeable
- Ports : Micro HDMI, AV output, USB 2.0
- Dimensions (W x H x D) : 103.5 x 64.0 x 26.5 mm
- Weight (body only) : Approx. 197g with battery and SD memory card
- Accessories : Wrist strap, manual, software CD
- Software : PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.1 Advanced Edition
- Warranty : 12 months
Apart from the lacklustre GPS feature, the FT4 performs extremely well. The start-up time is a little slow at five seconds, surprising for an internal-lens camera, but the shot-to-shot time in single shot mode is approximately 1.1 seconds, which is nice and quick. The FT4 has two continuous shooting modes, a full-resolution burst mode that can shoot six frames in approximately two seconds, and a high-speed continuous mode that can rattle along at 10fps for up to 100 frames, but only at 2MP resolution.
The autofocus system is very good, focusing quickly and accurately even in dim light or with moving subjects. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to test it underwater, but I've seen well-focused submerged shots taken with it. Panasonic's Power OIS stabilisation system has repeatedly proven itself to be extremely effective, and managed to cancel out shake even on shots taken while canoeing.
The FT4 can shoot full HD 1080p 50i/25p video, recording in either MP4 or AVCHD formats. Video quality is extremely good, and the single internal microphone is also surprisingly directional, with a digital wind cut feature that actually works.
Features and design
Like most "ruggedised" cameras the FT4 is fairly large and heavy. It measures 103.5 x 64.0 x 26.5mm and weighs 196g including battery and memory card, almost twice the weight of a typical pocket compact. Also in common with the breed the overall appearance is rather macho, with a metallic-coloured shell, exposed (but purely cosmetic) hex-bolt heads on the front panel and a chunky chrome box surrounding the lens. Despite its butch pretensions, it's not an unattractive design, and the control layout is sensible and practical. The buttons on the rear, including those for the zoom control, are quite small and I had some difficulty operating them while wearing gloves, but the shutter button at least is large and easy to use. The body design incorporates a small handgrip and the camera is easy and secure to hold. The FT4 is available in blue, black, white or the orange shown here.
Unsurprisingly for this type of camera the overall build quality is fantastic. The body is mostly metal and is immensely strong. It has a single waterproof hatch covering the battery, the SD card slot and the HDMI and USB sockets, with a locking latch to prevent accidental opening. The FT4 is one of the toughest adventure cameras on the market, waterproof to a depth of 12 metres (40ft) and able to withstand drops of 2m (6.6ft). Its main rivals in this respect are the Olympus Tough TG-1 (£309) and the Pentax WG-2 (£229), both of which can match it for depth. Like a lot of adventure cameras the FT4 also claims to be "freezeproof to -10 centigrade, but as I've repeatedly pointed out, most normal digital cameras are perfectly fine in sub-zero conditions as long as you protect them against condensation and keep the battery warm as best you can.
Price : £259.00