Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3

Like all tough and waterproof cameras the FT3 has its downsides, though it's one of the best models you can buy.


8.2
CNET Rating
3.2
User Rating

View more from Panasonic »

About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Design and features

After proving its tough camera chops with the previous FT1 and FT2, Panasonic's third generation of subterranean, go-almost-anywhere cameras has come into its own.

In terms of significant changes, the FT3 has acquired a GPS, compass, altimeter and barometer for all your sea-faring ways. These are all accessible via the display button, which you need to press a few times to bring the options up on screen. The GPS responds quickly and provides a location lock within 20 seconds, provided you are in an open area and not indoors or surrounded by trees. Location information can be displayed on the screen if an appropriate place is found from the FT3's list of over 1 million landmarks.

Underwater it can now last to 12 metres and can be dropped from 2 metres, freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius and dustproof. Don't try to stand on it or leave it in your back pocket, though, as it's not crushproof. Overall, the body design has improved vastly, with a side grip making it easier to hold and to use. There's a double-locking side panel that opens up to reveal a slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards as well as the battery, micro-HDMI and mini-USB port. Buttons at the back are all well placed, with the zoom rocker replaced by physical buttons. We could imagine trips to the snow with chunky gloves might make for some interesting shots given the buttons are so small.

The FT3 has eight main recording modes: intelligent auto, normal picture, sports, snow, beach & snorkelling, underwater and scene options. This is on top of the other picture modes that Panasonic Lumix cameras have long been endowed with, including "happy mode" for saturating colours in photos, as well as the more standard black-and-white/sepia tones.

Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3Panasonic FT3

Click through to see images taken on the FT3 and TZ20. (Credit: CBSi)

Like the TZ20, the FT3 also has a 3D photo mode that takes a series of shots and combines them in-camera to produce the 3D image (which can only be viewed on a compatible TV or photo frame). Lens specifications remain largely unchanged from the earlier model, though — it still has a 28mm wide-angle and 4.6x optical zoom in an internal folding lens design. The microphone is rather inconveniently placed just in the position over the lens where your fingers naturally fall to hold the camera, so beware when shooting video.

The FT3 comes with a silicone case in the box, which can be used to cover the camera even further for protection against scratches. The lens, flash and rear panel all remain exposed.

Compared to

TG-810 vs. FT3

Olympus Tough TG-810 Panasonic Lumix FT3 Sony Cyber-shot TX10
14-megapixel CCD 12.1-megapixel CCD 16.2-megapixel Exmor R
3-inch LCD (920,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (921,000-dot)
Waterproof 10m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 5m, shockproof 1.5m
5x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 4x optical zoom
28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 25mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging
HD video (720p) HD video (1080i) HD video (1080i)
AU$499 AU$549 AU$449

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Panasonic Lumix FT32.210.4
  • Sony Cyber-shot TX101.31.60.4
  • Olympus Tough TG-8101.520.7

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Sony Cyber-shot TX1010
  • Panasonic Lumix FT32.5
  • Olympus Tough TG-8100.6

Panasonic rates the battery for the FT3 at 310 shots. We couldn't quite get the FT3 to reach its claimed 3.7-frames-per-second shooting speed in continuous mode.

Image quality

The biggest issue that rugged cameras have is overall image quality. There's always a price to pay for having the meanest and toughest-looking body around, and, unfortunately, that's also the case with the FT3. Things aren't all bad, however, as this camera is definitely able to deliver some very nice-looking photos in the right situations. Colours are vibrant and punchy without being over-saturated, while exposures are accurate.

The issues are really the overall noise profile of the FT3, giving images at full magnification some speckles that we'd much rather not be there. Also, sharpness isn't particularly strong for the lens, particularly when zoomed in to the full extent, which is to be expected given the internal zooming configuration. White balance also suffers from some warm tinges when used indoors or under artificial light.

FT3 ISO 400

An image taken at ISO 400 showing plenty of colour noise (100 per cent crop inset). (Credit: CBSi)

Underwater the FT3 performs well, but it's unlikely that images will be clear enough to make significant-sized enlargements. Certainly for web display, colours are good, particularly when using the dedicated scene modes.

Video is now in full 1080i HD AVCHD and the camera also comes equipped with Power OIS (optical image stabiliser) active mode, which is designed to decrease blur in videos, particularly in moving video. We tested it out in a jet boat (video below) and, while it was not perfect, it definitely looks better than if the footage was shot without the feature activated.

Like other tough cameras, the HD video produced by the FT3 is not good enough to surpass a dedicated camcorder, but is fine for web use and some TV display. Like its image quality, the FT3's video has a punchy and bright image with good exposures (all automatic). Sound quality is fine.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/1000, f/3.3, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/640, f/3.3, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/80, f/3.3, ISO 1600

Exposure: 1/320, f/5.3, ISO 1250

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

Like all tough and waterproof cameras the FT3 has its downsides, but it's one of the best models you can buy. Primarily, the decision will come down to image quality — the FT3 is good, but not great at taking photos. The Sony TX10 edges it out slightly in this respect, but then it's not as strong or as fully featured as the FT3. The FT3 is available in silver, orange, red and blue, and Australia is also getting the optional marine case (AU$449), which extends the waterproofing to 40m, as well as a flotation carrying strap and case.

Previous Story

JVC GC-PX10

Digital Cameras
Next Story

Hands on with the Nikon Coolpix AW100



Add Your Review 11


* Below fields optional


Post comment as
NadiaD Facebook
1
Rating
 

"Doesn't work underwater, lost all my photos as a result of immersing it in 1 metre of water."

NadiaD posted a review   

The Good:Big promises

The Bad:Big disappointment

Waste of money - the FT2 fogged and flooded the first time I took it in the water. Took it back to the retailer, who replaced it under warranty for an FT3. Again, first time I took it underwater, it fogged and flooded. Subsequently I'm getting a refund for the purchase price, but am so disappointed to have lost photos from two separate holidays now thanks to the poor quality of this camera.

Buyer beware.

 

RpgD posted a comment   

I bought this camera in Aug 2011 to use it at BURNING MAN because of the dust out in the desert...it took GREAT photos BUT....I went snorkeling with it and after 15 to 20 minutes it started to act up with error message for the SD card (which I NEVER had issues with in the past)...Then the LCD screen developed bad spots...now it still acts up if I try to take pics in regular situations...I'm going to take it to PANASONIC CANADA and see if they will repair it...if they do I'm selling it....if they don't I'll just NEVER buy any Panasonic product ever again...

SueJ2 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"not water proof"

SueJ2 posted a review   

The Good:loved it in every other way

The Bad:whats the point if the camera dosnt work

I bought my FT3 last Jun worked brilliantly for 2 months and then had a fit, screen flashing wait signal continually. I had been very careful with its care, soaking cleaning etc cos i loved it so much and never took it deeper than a snorkel trip. I was still overseas for another month so didnt address repairs till my return. Panasonic fixed it and i didnt use the camera much till recently and about a month after i used it the flashing wait signal returned.

Sent it off for repair, repair company say it was incorrectly used so no warranty going to consumer affairs. will see if that gets me anywhere.

JeremyM1 Facebook
4
Rating
 

"Ok but not that impressed"

JeremyM1 posted a review   

The Good:Specs say it's rugged

The Bad:Hard to get a perfect picture due to image quality

I haven't used it under water yet but took it on a climbing trip in Kentucky. I was not really impressed with the picture quality. Lighting needs to be perfect to get pretty pictures. I had an Olympus Tough before this and bought my Lumix in hopes that the picture quality would be better. Unfortunately they take pictures about the same... At least the Olympus has a lens cover. I'm nervous about scratching my Lumix.

GlennA Facebook
5
Rating
 

"Good photos"

GlennA posted a review   

The Good:Good video

The Bad:No warranty - case corroding

Yes same thing my housing is starting to corrode on the FT2 after 12 months of use even with extreme fresh water soaking, rinsing and cleaning. I sent it back under warranty but Panasonic did not cover it. Glenn

 

Jimmie posted a comment   
Australia

My FT2 leaked on its first snorkelling dip. This was despite fastidious and time consuming rinsing, drying, patting, brushing and using the silicone cover. Panasonic tested it under warranty and found no fault. All pictures are now foggy and the camera is useless. I have now discovered that Panasonics have a reputation for leaking. They have started selling an optional waterproof case for $450.
Do not take this camera underwater. It is not waterproof.

edouard
5
Rating
 

edouard posted a review   
Australia

funny french commercial for the Lumix ft3 http://youtu.be/rO5pSA3U0eA

 

SamH2 posted a comment   

I'm heading to Uganda, Africa for 6 months in Decemeber at the end of the year. Now obviously I want a good, but tough camera just in case I accidently slip and drop it or for whatever situation can happen. However, I don't want to risk the taking 'bad' photos of my life time experience on a camera (especially when I go and see the Gorillas) I am so un-decided it's not funny.
Any advice or recommendations wouldn't go a stray.
Thank you!


Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3

  • NadiaD

    NadiaD

    Rating1

    "Waste of money - the FT2 fogged and flooded the first time I took it in the water. Took it back to the retailer, who replaced it under warranty for an FT3. Again, first time I took it underwater,..."

  • RpgD

    RpgD

    "I bought this camera in Aug 2011 to use it at BURNING MAN because of the dust out in the desert...it took GREAT photos BUT....I went snorkeling with it and after 15 to 20 minutes it started to act ..."

  • SueJ2

    SueJ2

    Rating1

    "I bought my FT3 last Jun worked brilliantly for 2 months and then had a fit, screen flashing wait signal continually. I had been very careful with its care, soaking cleaning etc cos i loved it so m..."

CNET Speedtest

Recently Viewed Products