Hands on impressions
A tough camera is a tough camera is ... a tough camera. That is, until you start to reach the limit of just how tough you can make a consumer point-and-shoot. There's only so much waterproofing and dustproofing that can be done before a device becomes more industrial than not.
With this in mind, Panasonic has released the latest iteration of its rugged FT series with a touch more toughness than the previous model, the FT4, but also with more connectivity options.
As well as the requisite 13 metre waterproofing, shockproofing from 2 metres and dust and freeze-resistance, the FT5 gives photographers plenty more ways of getting their photos and videos off the camera.
The FT5 has near field communication (NFC) inside, as well as Wi-Fi, built-in GPS and global navigation satellite system (GLONASS). Structurally, Panasonic is claiming that the FT5 is stronger than its predecessors thanks to an improved internal rib structure that can resist up to 100kgf.
In its natural element, the FT5 with the optional floating waterproof strap.
The camera's 16.1-megapixel MOS sensor gets a resolution boost from last year's FT4, but still maintains the ability to shoot in 1080/50p AVCHD or MP4 video.
With the Panasonic Image App (iOS or Android), photographers can use the built-in NFC and Wi-Fi to connect the FT5 with a smartphone or tablet. The app allows the smartphone to be a remote viewfinder, with control over the camera's zoom, exposure and shooting functionality.
Transferring photos and videos from camera to smartphone sounds great in theory, but often the practice is a touch more difficult. In our brief time with the FT5 and testing out the connectivity features, we found the process to be relatively straightforward.
First, the dedicated Wi-Fi button at the back of the FT5 will bring up a menu asking the user how they would like to establish a connection. Selections include being able to throw images to a Panasonic TV via DLNA, or to transfer to a smartphone. For the latter option, a pairing process needs to occur, which will allow you to choose to send single or multiple images to the device. The process is reasonably seamless, though some of the menu options could be worded a little more clearly for first-time users.
Underwater photographers will enjoy the FT5's capacity for capturing more natural maritime shots. As the red channel does not transmit as easily underwater as other colours, the FT5 compensates for this by boosting the hue. While there is a manual exposure mode available from the menu, it limits the camera to two selectable apertures depending on the focal length — just like earlier tough cameras.
On top of the connectivity options, the FT5 can shoot 10 frames per second in full resolution using the mechanical shutter, though that's with focus fixed on the first shot. Otherwise, with continuous autofocus, the number drops to 5 frames per second. Panasonic has also boosted the battery capacity to 370 shots, though presumably, this would be affected by extremes in temperature, something that a tough camera is regularly exposed to. We'll report on battery life findings in our full review.
Alongside the FT5, Panasonic also released the FT25, a lower-specced companion camera, waterproof to 7 metres, shockproof from 1.5 metres and dustproof and freeze-proof to -10 degrees Celsius. With a 25mm wide-angle, 4x optical zoom lens, this model will retail for AU$249.
The FT5 will be available from May in blue, orange and silver finishes for AU$499.
Lexy Savvides travelled to Adelaide as a guest of Panasonic.