Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 waterproof digital camera
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 review: This budget waterproof camera is great for basic beach and travel use, but its image quality in poor light is mediocre
- Cheap, easy menu operation, sturdy
- Interface is too slow, overly smudgy images at higher ISOs
Often the cheapest cameras are the ones that put up with the most punishment. If you're looking for a knock-around point-and-shoot digital camera to take to the beach, for bushwalking or for use with kids, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 should suit your needs perfectly. It doesn't have great image quality unless you're in bright light, but for a sunny beach day it does a good job.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 is a 14-megapixel, waterproof digital camera that's $200 cheaper than the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT1 and Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2. It's a reasonable choice if you're after a budget point-and-shoot camera that can take plenty of punishment, including surviving snorkelling or swimming. Its overall image quality isn't up to par with high-end compacts like the Canon PowerShot S95 or Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5, but in sunny conditions it can pull off clean and sharp photos.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 digital camera: Design and interface
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 looks very similar to the FT1 and FT2, with a near-flat front finished in brushed metal. The 4x zoom lens doesn't extend from the camera's body; obviously it's designed to reduce the chance of water or dust getting in. The front is otherwise clean, with the buttons confined to the camera's top and rear panel.
The power, shutter and iA auto mode button are on the camera's top, along with the built-in microphone. The rear of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 is logically and simply laid out, with discrete zoom buttons, a playback button, mode selector and menu controls. The controls are well laid out and will be simple for even novices to use. The camera's 2.7in LCD screen has a low resolution but is bright enough to use in direct sunlight.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10's menu system is equally easy to understand and use, and switching between the camera's various scene modes and settings is easy after a few minutes' practice. It's not especially attractive and button input takes a split-second too long to register, though.
The camera is dustproof, shockproof against drops of 1.5m, waterproof to 3m and freezeproof in conditions of up to -10 degrees Celsius. These are the same basic specifications as the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT1, but at a saving of $200.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 digital camera: image quality and performance
The LUMIX DMC-FT10's 14-megapixel sensor is able to capture good quality images on bright days, but in dim lighting images quickly become smudged and lack detail. We took the camera for a trip to the beach to test its performance, and out of the water it did a good job of reproducing detail in portrait and landscape photos. It lacks the RAW file support of high-end compacts and only saves images as JPEGs, which limits the amount of editing that can be done after a photo is taken.
Detail in bright lighting — generally at the base ISO of 80 as well as ISO 100 — was acceptable, but any shots requiring an ISO of 400 or above exhibited noticeable smudging as a result of heavy-handed digital noise reduction. This also means photos taken at the long end of the camera's zoom, which lets in less light than the wide end, are more often than not softer than we would have liked.
Movie quality was acceptable but unspectacular, with the image quality of the 1280x720, 30fps footage generally a little too smudged and overly smooth for our liking. For spur-of-the-moment recordings it does a fine job that looks good when viewed on the camera's monitor.
The 4x zoom lens built into the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 covers a focal length of 35mm-140mm, making it well suited to general purpose use but not great for landscape shots — a wider focal length, like the 28mm of the LUMIX DMC-FT1, would be better. It has a small amount of barrel distortion at its widest setting and moderate pincushion distortion at longer focal lengths, but nothing too debilitating to image quality. We would have liked the lens to be faster, though — especially at full zoom, the slow maximum aperture forces higher ISO levels to be used, degrading sharpness and clarity.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 was not particularly fast in our tests. We measured start-up times to be around two seconds, so we'd recommend keeping the camera on constantly if you're the kind of person who wants to quickly snap an image without waiting. Shot-to-shot time was also lacklustre, with the camera's buffer taking around a second and a half to save each image to the SD card. Shooting longer 720p HD movies also prevents the camera's other operations while the movie saves.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 digital camera: Conclusion
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT10 is a mixed bag; its good specifications and low price are offset by image quality that we didn't fall in love with. If you're looking for a happy-snap camera that will stand up to the rigors of an active life, it is a decent choice. If you enjoy taking photos as a hobby, look for a camera with better image quality.
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