Panasonic LUMIX FT3 review
Review Date : Tue, 3 May 2011
Author : Paul Nuttall
With full lifeproof capabilities, the LUMIX FT3 is equipped to take everything you can throw at it. But the question is, does it stand up as a camera? We find out...
|Pros:||Bursting specification, reassuringly sturdy design, lifeproof capabilities|
|Cons:||High price tag, low-res LCD screen, no manual modes|
If you're an active person, spending time in the surf, on the beach and generally out in the elements, the chances are that quite a few cameras have bitten the dust in your hands in the past. However, there are now a clutch of compact cameras which proclaim to be able to meet your every ask, with a bevy of proofing capabilities available. The Lumix FT3 is the latest lifeproof model from Panasonic, and offers a one of the most advanced specifications of its type. So, does the FT3 manage to combine a lifeproof body with excellent functionality and images? We take a look...
As mentioned in the introduction, the Panasonic Lumix FT3 is designed to take almost anything that your can throw at it. The compact is waterproof to a depth of 12 metres, shockproof against a drop of 2 metres and freeze-proof right down to -10℃, as well as being dustproof for good measure. Where previously such proofing would have meant that other areas of specification would have to be compromised, that's not the case with the FT3.
Under the bonnet, the Lumix FT3 features a specification up there with any good compact camera. A 12.1MP sensor is, interestingly, a 2MP downgrade on the resolution of the model's predecessor, and it should in turn perform better at higher ISO settings. The sensor, which is newly developed, is paired with Panasonic's Venus Engine FHD - the processing engine promises consecutive shooting of some 3.7fps, right up to 10fps in reduced resolution, while Panasonic claims a shutter lag of just 0.005 seconds, as well as focus times improved some 28% on the models predecessor.
With regards to improvements on the previous FT series model from Panasonic, the FT3 features several more. Notably, the video capture on the FT3 is now full HD, as opposed to the previous AVCHD Lite seen on the FT2. The FT3 now captures video in AVCHD format, but at a full resolution of 1920x1080 making it full HD capture.
The Panasonic FT3 also makes headlines in being the latest Panasonic to offer 3D image capture. In 3D mode, the FT3 captures 20 consecutive images taken when capturing whilst panning and then combines the two most suitable images in a 3D composite in MPO format. The resulting image is then viewable on Panasonic VIERA TVs, as well as any MPO compatible TV, viewer or photo frame.
Another addition that will no doubt titillate the outdoor photographer is built-in GPS functionality. The technology, the very same found on Panasonic's TZ series of compacts, seamlessly tags images with latitude for future reference. The FT3 also features a compass, altimeter and barometer, all of which combine to both display and record orientation, altitude and barometric pressure respectively, which will no doubt push the buttons of the budding explorer in you.
There are few lifeproof cameras on the market that exhibit there capability more graphically than the Lumix FT3. The body has a reassuringly weighty feel to it, although it is light enough so as to not be a noticeable burden for any outdoor photographer. The front panel of the camera comprises of a single sheet of brushed metal, affixed by a screw in each of its four corners. Also present is a large and well protected flash, alongside which sits a small fixed LED light for macro illumination in low light conditions such as underwater.
Another noteworthy feature of the FT3's design is the well thought out buttons. The shutter release is pleasingly large and raised on the top panel of the compacts, with enough space between it and both the power and dedicated movie record button, to assure that even with cold fingers nothing is pressed without intent. The same is true on the rear of the camera - each button, be it the zoom functionality, image playback or the command d-pad, are all well spaced and raised enough so as to be easy to use in difficult conditions.
The models LCD screen is well protected and performs well in low light, while the overall feel of the compact is not far removed from your standard compact camera, which is a feat in itself considering both the amount of technology and the amount of proofing the model packs under the hood.
As mentioned previously, apart from the obvious adjustments made to cater for difficult shooting conditions, the FT3 performs much like your standard compact camera. Power-up times are fast, although not the quickest, while the camera continues to be fast in use.
Everything about the FT3 is geared towards the outdoor photographer. The menu system is nice and clear and, when combined with the bright LCD screen, will be easy to navigate even in the brightest of light. Other elements of the camera, including autofocus and metering, all perform as well as can be expected. Image quality is respectable, although there are a few issues – image sharpness falls off quite drastically towards the edges of the frame, for example, although colour reproduction is good in general.
Despite a few misgivings with image quality, and the fact that the camera features a very high price tag, there are few 'tough' compacts to match the FT3 as an all-round package.