The Chuck Norris of cameras, or a photographic Frank Spencer in ruggedised clothing? We put Panasonic’s tough snapper through its paces
Are you a well-travelled adventurer likely to find yourself in need of a camera whilst wading through a marsh, scaling a sheer rock face or trudging through frozen tundra? Or just a cack-handed fool liable to dropping your gadgets on the nearest hard surface? Well, the Panasonic FT2 is billed as the camera for you.
Bright young thing
Panasonic has clad this 14MP point-and-shoot in a suit of brightly coloured plastic armour (you get the choice of orange, blue or yellow).
This gives the snapper the toughness chops to withstand the sort of mistreatment that would leave most gadgets a crumpled pile of twitching circuit boards: it’s freezeproof to -10 degrees centigrade, waterproof to a depth of 10m, impervious to dust and able to shrug off a 2m fall onto concrete.
The battery and memory card hatches are also lockable, to prevent them springing open and exposing the FT2’s vitals in the event of a drop.
King of the rugged cams
There are a few ruggedised cameras that can boast similar tough-guy talents (the Olympus Tough-8010 and Casio EX-G1 spring to mind), but the Panasonic FT2 manages to outstrip its rivals in two vital areas: usability and image quality.
Take the zoom control, for instance. Most ruggedised cams eschew the standard circular zoom dial in favour of something less likely to snap off on a piece of Andean mountainside, and the FT2 is no different. But its zoom rocker is a lot more fingertip-friendly than the Olympus 8010’s two separate buttons.
There’s also a mode dial, which you won’t find on most rivals. This allows you to flick rapidly between full auto, intelligent auto and the various scene modes (for example, landscape and portrait), although you won’t find full manual controls and pro-friendly stuff like the ability to shoot in RAW format.
The JPEG snaps it does turn out are sharp and bursting with vibrant colours, and to our eyes they’re marginally better than the Olympus 8010’s efforts – and significantly better than the Casio EX-G1’s.
As is customary with today’s premium point-and-shoots, you can also capture HD movies in detail-rich 720p (either in AVCHD Lite and Motion JPEG format).
Don’t expect Hollywood-level loveliness, but it’s fine for recording those white water rafting, snorkeling or lion taming moments you don’t want to let pass by.
All in all the Panasonic FT2 is hard to dislike, especially if you’re looking for a tough camera. Sure, its 4.6x optical zoom might be bettered by other point-and-shoots, but those can’t go toe-to-toe with a boulder or the Arctic and still come out working.
Panasonic FT2 review
Easy to use and capable of great snaps, the FT2 is the finest rugged camera we’ve seen