Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2 digital camera

Panasonic LUMIX FT2 review: Whether you're a fan of the sand, surf or snow, Panasonic's ruggedised LUMIX DMC-FT2 digital camera can take all the shocks and splashes of your outdoor activities, offering vibrant photos, fun effects and HD video recording

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Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2

Pros

  • A well priced, rugged digital camera; versatile for use in a variety of outdoor situations, including cold and wet environments

Cons

  • Need to ensure lens is wiped clean after use under water; hard to view images on 2.7in LCD screen in bright daylight

Bottom Line

This 14.1-megapixel digital camera is really fun to use, and it can take lots of knocks and scrapes. It offers plenty of functions and tools to make photography fun, with enough built-in help to make sure your snaps come out right. Add in the high-definition video option, and this is a great hybrid digital camera to toss in your bag before heading out on your next adventure.

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Last year Panasonic moved into the rugged/tough camera market. For a company that is well know for its ruggedised notebooks such as the Toughbook range, it's surprising Panasonic took a while to embrace this space.

The new Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2 fixes many of the quibbles we had when we tested the previous generation LUMIX DMC-FT1. It now offers plenty of new features and effects, making it a strong competitor to the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 digital camera. Plus the new DMC-FT2 is priced at $599 — $100 less than the asking price of the original DMC-FT1 when it launched.

Testing this camera at a variety of seaside locations yielded great results. My travel companions at Byron Bay, NSW (where I holidayed for a long weekend) were excited to get their hands on the camera, mucking about with it on the beach and in the surf. Physically it’s a solid digital camera, weighing close to 150g, and it is available in an array of vibrant colours including turquoise blue, bright orange and yellow, as well as the standard silver colour. Its secure wrist strap, rubber padding, reinforced glass and carbon resin mean you will feel safe handing it over to anyone to use, or simply chucking it into your backpack and heading out the door.

This LUMIX digital camera features a 28mm, wide-angle Leica lens and a 14.1-megapixel CMOS sensor (up from 12.1Mp on the DMC-FT1). The big improvement is in the increased waterproof level, with the camera able to survive to a depth of 10 metres (the previous model only went to 3 metres). It’s shockproof from a height of 2 metres, and also freeze-proof to -10 degrees Celsius, putting this camera on par with the Olympus Mju Tough 6010 rugged digital camera.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2 still sports the rotational mode dial, a slider zoom and the five-way controller found on the first model. The video and play buttons have swapped position, but they still allow for quick access to recording video and viewing captured images. Flash and macro functions are also easily accessed, and the rotational mode dial skips to intelligent auto, snow, beach, sport and other scene modes quickly. The zoom slider is slightly raised at either end, and is more tactile than the previous version.

Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto (IA) mode — available in both the still and video modes — allows a novice user to capture great snaps as they happen. Panasonic has improved the optical image stabilisation (OIS) and added new intelligent resolution technology to the DMC-FT2.

The best way to see how easy a camera is to use is to navigate the camera’s features without referring to the user manual. Our manual remained untouched, and we were off snapping in a flash. The DMC-FT2 offers a series of shooting modes; we quickly feel in love with the results from the cameras’ new happy mode, which enhances the colour, saturation and brightness of the images. With the previous version we noted sluggish performance when writing to the SD card and in burst mode. This has improved considerably with the DMC-FT2, possibly a result of the reengineering of the image processing technology. The camera fires up quickly, and the sluggishness we experienced on the DMC-FT1 has gone.

brightonbeachbabes

These images of bathing beauties taken at Melbourne’s Brighton Beach bathing pavilions were captured using happy mode on the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT2, resulting in lovely vibrant images.

As you can see from our test shots, colours are punchy and vibrant. We could happily wade into the water, and even submerge ourselves to capture the splashing sequence and the summer fun in the water. In our test shots we noted little chromatic aberration, and as you can see the droplet details are clear and images sharp.

It’s important to note that although the camera is perfect for in water use, it can be hard to see the 2.7in LCD screen when taking photos on bright days. In fact we often simply had to point and shoot outdoors and check out the results when we were back on land. Great for candid snaps, but harder if you want to frame a scene precisely.

It’s also important to wipe both the LCD screen and the lens after in action use, as it can easily smudge when used in outdoor situations. Some shots may look clear on the LCD screen, but one grain of sand or a drop of water may ruin your image's clarity.

brightonsmudge

You need to make sure there’s no water on the lens when you return to dry land, otherwise blurry images will result.

The scene modes can be used for video recording as well as snapping still images. In our tests we favoured the film grain, pin hole, photo frame and underwater scene settings. Many more modes are available including fireworks, starry sky, flash burst, hi-speed burst, aerial photo, portrait modes, baby and pet modes. Panasonic has added High Dynamic mode, which enhances a scene with moderate exposure (even if it contains both bright and dark areas).

 HighDynamic

In our tests of a landscape scene at dusk, High Dynamic mode lifts the sunset colours in the clouds, contrasting nicely darkness of the skyline and water.

 filmgrain

Film grain mode adds an interesting effect to photographs.

When using the IA setting the camera will automatically adjust settings for the best results, leaving you to select from standard, happy, black and white and sepia modes.

byronsunsetstandard

Byron bay lighthouse at sunset taken in standard mode.

byronsunsethappy

Byron bay lighthouse at sunset taken in happy mode.

byronsunsetsepia

Byron Bay lighthouse at sunset taken in sepia mode.

 byronsunsetbw

Byron Bay lighthouse at sunset taken in black & white mode.

Face recognition has been upgraded to register up to three face images for each person, thereby increasing the accuracy. In our tests this feature worked well and it’s ideal for ensuring your friends and family stand out from the crowd in the surf, on the sporting field or wherever you capture the action. Plus when you download the files back on your PC the included photo software has a face recognition function, letting you search and sort photos on your PC based on the person.

The DMC-FT2 digital camera can record high-definition video using the AVCHD Lite format, capturing footage at a resolution of 1280x720 (720p). Panasonic has added a video divide function to allow for fast editing on the go. By dividing your video into two sections you can quickly shorten or delete unwanted video on the fly — a boon for travellers. The wind cut function ensures that any video taken outdoors keeps the high-quality audio you want, not the ambient noise you don’t need. The 4.6x optical zoom (28-128mm) can also be used when shooting in video mode too, and you can also use the camera’s HDMI port to view footage directly on your TV.

We were impressed by the results we got using this camera in a variety of test environments, taking photographs in dark rainforests, in the surf and on the sand, as well as bright daylight. This camera is a great addition to your travel bag, and it can take plenty of knocks and bumps. The extra features and scene modes add fun to the photography, and the video settings allow this compact digital camera to double up for camcorder duties too.

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Read more on these topics: Panasonic, digital cameras, photography

John

1

What formats does it shoot?? It would be good to know if it shoots only jpeg, if it shots RAW or TIFF???

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