Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4

The FT4 is a capable tough camera for the rugged action-adventurer.


7.9
CNET Rating

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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

The Panasonic range of tough cameras has proved their place in the rugged arena, and is now up to the fourth generation with the FT4. Not much has changed from the previous camera in this range from last year — in fact, it's almost identical to the FT3 on the outside and the inside.

The 4.6x optical zoom, 2.7-inch LCD screen and 12-megapixel CCD sensor are all the same as before. Waterproofing is still rated at 12 metres, while it is dustproof and freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius. The image processor has been given an overhaul, which is claimed to improve photo quality from the previous model. Buttons at the back of the camera are small, but sturdy enough to withstand a range of drops, bumps and scratches.

Small buttons at the back are sturdy, but underwater, it can be a little slippery. It's definitely best to select all your shooting options before going underwater.
(Credit: CBSi)

Like many other tough cameras, the FT4 comes equipped with a range of features tailor-made for action-adventurers. These include a GPS logger, a compass, altimeter and barometer.

In a rather unusual, but welcome move, Panasonic has equipped the FT4 with manual exposure control. While there are only two adjustable settings for aperture, depending on how far the lens is zoomed, it's still better than what most other cameras offer.

Other shooting options include intelligent automatic and program mode, as well as sports, snow, underwater, miniature and 3D photo modes. If you enjoy shooting flowers opening or clouds traversing through the sky, the FT4's time-lapse more will automatically snap a series of photos, without you needing to stand behind the camera at all times. First, you need to set the duration of the time-lapse, which can be set anywhere from 1 to 30 minutes of photo-taking. You can also select how many photos to take during this period — from 10 to 60 images. When the camera is done with capturing the photos, it stitches them all together so you can view them in one fluid shot.

An example of a panoramic shot, captured on the FT4. This camera lets you construct panoramic images on either the horizontal or vertical axis, and from either direction. Click the image for the full-sized version.
(Credit: CBSi)

While many other manufacturers make you buy extra accessories, Panasonic has been rather generous by throwing in the silicone jacket for the FT4, free of charge. Floatation straps, however, are optional extras.

Full HD video recording is available on the FT4, in either AVCHD or MP4 format. To see more images from the FT4, click through to our gallery.

Compared to

Olympus Tough TG-1 Panasonic Lumix FT4 Canon PowerShot D20 Nikon AW100
12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS 12.1-megapixel CCD 12.1-megapixel HS CMOS 16.0-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS
3-inch OLED (610,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
4x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 5x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.41.50.4
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 1.62.60.5
    Canon PowerShot D20
  • 1.61.80.1
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1.810.3
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 2.11.20.3
    Olympus Tough TG-1

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 5
    Olympus Tough TG-1
  • 2.7
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1
    Canon PowerShot D20

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Panasonic rates the battery life at 310 shots.

Image quality

For general-purpose photography and underwater snapshots, the FT4 does a fine job. Colours are rendered accurately, and saturation falls on the natural rather than unnatural side of the spectrum.

The Leica-branded lens delivers sharp-looking results, except when zoomed in to the telephoto extreme of the focal length. This is when sharpness drops off considerably, especially towards the left and right sides of the frame. At the widest end of the lens (28mm) there is some barrel distortion present.

Over-processing is a problem with the FT4, particularly when observing images at 100 per cent magnification. For small prints and web display, images look fine. It's only if you want to do serious cropping or enlarging that this over-processing becomes a problem.

An example of an underwater image from the FT4. While the photo straight out of the camera has a distinct green tinge, it can easily be corrected in post-processing. This colour cast is a common issue with waterproof cameras.
(Credit: CBSi)

After the camera has been used underwater, the lens can become smudgy and affects image quality by making everything look particularly soft. Video quality is good, and audio remains reasonably clear when used underwater, as well.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/250, f/5.8, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/160, f/10, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/250, f/3.3, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/200, f/3.3, ISO 160

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

For a good all-rounder waterproof and tough camera, you can't go past the FT4. A bigger and higher resolution LCD screen would help it stand out from the pack even more, and differentiate it from the earlier FT3 model. Given the two cameras are so similar, we'd suggest to try saving a bit of cash by finding the older model, if you can.

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