The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 was launched in January 2011 and is a compact camera designed for use outdoors, for example, when taking part in water sports or when skiing. The camera is available in two bold colours, blue and red, for just under £300.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3: Features
The FT3 has a 4.6x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 28 - 128mm, and a 12.1 megapixel sensor. It is designed for the active and it is waterproof to a depth of 12 metres, freezeproof down to -10℃, shockproof to 2.0 metres as well as being dust-proof.
The location data of where images are shot can be embedded in to images exif data thanks to the built-in GPS unit, with these images locations then being able to be viewed on social media internet maps. The FT3 can also show the county, state, city and landmarks. The camera also has a compass, altimeter and barometer for orientation, altitude and pressure data respectively.
Full HD movies can be recorded at 1080p, with the camera also utilising the optical zoom lens, Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) and iA mode during recording. There is also an LED for shooting movies in dusky underwater environments or at night.
4.6x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 28 - 128mm)
12.1 megapixel CCD sensor
Waterproof to 12m
Freezeproof to -10℃
Full 1080p HD Movie recording
POWER O.I.S. with Active Mode
Built-in GPS & Location Information Indicator
3D Photo Mode
6x intelligent zoom
Extra optical zoom
ISO100 - 6400
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3: Handling
First impressions of the FT3 are that it is a strong camera, well built to withstand extreme shooting conditions. The only external part of the camera which moves is the cover where the battery and memory card is stored. There are two chunky buttons on the cover, one which opens it and the second is a lock ensuring that the cover doesn't accidently open and allow water in. The camera also asks you to make sure the lock is secured when you switch the camera on. After testing the camera underwater some water marks were left on the front of the lens so it requires a good clean after use.
The buttons are fairly typical for a compact camera, with a dedicate button for movie recording, which is becoming more common. The buttons are easy to press and won't prove much of a difficulty even when wearing gloves. The camera menu system is well laid out and everything is labelled so there is no guess work going on when selecting a scene mode, for example, as was found on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS37.
The camera is ready to shoot within a couple of seconds of switching on and focus speed is really quick. CIPA rate the battery life at 310 shots, although constant use with GPS switched on is likely to reduce the battery life. To shoot continuously the FT3 has Burst Mode which Panasonic claim can shoot up to seven shots at 3.7fps, whereas in testing, it was capable of 2.5fps. High-speed burst mode allows the camera to shoot up to 10fps but the file size is limited to a maximum of between 2 and 3 megapixels.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3: Performance
The FT3 consistently takes well exposed images with good reproduction of colours. At both ends of the lens detail is really good throughout the images. The digital zoom image below combines both intelligent and digital zoom, for a total of 24.2x optical zoom. When switching the camera to macro mode it can focus down to just 5cm and superb looking macro images.
Noise at ISO100 is minimal and at ISO200 there is just of touch of noise present. Noise slowly increases through the ISO range from ISO400 to ISO800, with images remaining sharp. ISO1600 is where detail and sharpness starts to worsen. Although not represented in the test charts below, the camera can extended to ISO3200 and ISO6400 when shooting using high sensitivity, although the image size is reduced. Images using this mode can be seen further on in this review.
ISO100, 1/2, f/5.7, 19mm (35mm equiv: 108mm)
ISO200, 1/5, f/5.7, 19mm (35mm equiv: 108mm)
ISO400, 1/10, f/5.7, 19mm (35mm equiv: 108mm)
ISO800, 1/20, f/5.7, 19mm (35mm equiv: 108mm)
ISO1600, 1/40, f/5.7, 19mm (35mm equiv: 108mm)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 has a wide range of scene modes available including: sports, snow, beach and snorkeling, underwater, portrait, soft skin, transform, self-portrait, scenery, panorama assist, night portrait, night scenery, food, party, candle light, baby, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, hi-speed burst, flash burst, starry sky, fireworks and aerial photo.
Below are example images using some of the scene modes. The scenery mode gives a boost to the blues and greens in the image, making the dull day the shot was taken on look quite bright and sunny! The portrait mode with flash has taken a pleasing image with no red-eye visible.
High sensitivity, ISO3200, 1/15, f/3.7, 6mm (35mm equiv: 34mm)
Auto white-balance is perfectly capable of taking pictures with the correct white-balance, which can be seen from the shots taken in our studio under both incandescent and fluorescent lights. The incandescent preset has left a slight magenta cast in the image. There is no fluorescent preset available, so you are relying on the AWB preset under these lighting conditions.
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/5, f/4.5, 8mm (35mm equiv: 47mm)
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 2/3, f/4.5, 8mm (35mm equiv: 47mm)
For a touch of creativity the camera also has a high dynamic mode, with three different settings (standard, art and black and white), as well as film grain and pin holes modes. There are examples of all these modes below as well as a further example using high-sensitivity mode.
High sensitivity, ISO3200, 1/30, f/3.3, 4.9mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
The video below was shot at full 1080p HD. For an example video using optical zoom during recording, please visit the ePHOTOzine YouTube page.
Value For Money
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 costs £298.99. There are plenty of cameras on the market which are designed to be used in conditions normally considered unsuitable for a camera. At the cheaper end is the Fujifilm FinePix XP10, waterproof to 3m, shockproof to 1m and freezeproof to -10°C costing £99.00. At the higher end is the Ricoh G700SE, waterproof to 5m, shockproof to 2m and freezeproof to -10°C costing £649.00. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 offers the best performance regarding water and shockproofness at 12m and 2m respectively.
Having recently reviewed the Olympus TG-610 my first thoughts when picking up the FT3 were that it didn't feel quite as strong and tough as the TG-610. During testing the FT3 performed and handled just as well with the main differences being features and therefore price. If GPS is important to you in a camera designed for an active lifestyle then the FT3 is the camera for you. If not, the TG-610 costs £100 less and has a macro LED light and TAP control.
With a strong set of features including GPS and excellent performance, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 comes recommended.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3: Pros
No other camera is waterproof to 12m
Shockproof and freezeproof
Full HD videos
Good image quality
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3: Cons
Quite heavy for a compact
Front of lens prone to staining when shooting underwater and requires a regular clean