Not all waterproof cameras are created equal, so it’s important to check just how durable one is before it gets a darn’ good dunking. The 12.1MP Panasonic DMC-FT1’s specs make it seem fairly robust, but a closer inspection reveals it’s not quite as tough as some of its rivals.
It’s waterproof to a depth of 3m for around 60 minutes, built to withstand a fall from 1.5m and even dustproof – though that can’t really be designated a ‘sexy’ feature. Put next to comparable water babies like Canon’s PowerShot D10 (waterproof to 10m) and Pentax’s Optio W60 (waterproof to 4m for two hours), and it’s tempting to give the FT1 some tiny armbands.
Features to the max
This isn’t particularly gloomy news, as the FT1 is a substantially built compact. It feels solid without being clunky and has a slim, tactile design that makes it pocketable and easy to hold at the same time.
The menu is detailed, with plenty of creative functions to help maximise shots, and it boasts Panasonic’s iA (intelligent Auto) system, which controls the optical image stabiliser, ISO setting, face recognition and AF tracking. The FT1 also serves up features relevant to its water-friendly status with an underwater mode and a Beach&Surf AE preset.
For all its features, the menu is simple to navigate. Where things get complicated, though, is the number of fiddly external controls. Cameras as compact as this are always going to have small buttons, but on this occasion it often hinders quick operation.
Where the FT1 steals a march on the Canon and Pentax models is its 2.7in LCD, which is wider and more satisfying to use than these competitors. It can also capture HD movies (like the Pentax Optio W60, at 1280x720) and incorporates a mini-HDMI output so you can connect the camera to a high-def TV and watch your movies.
Panasonic has also hooked up with audio guru Dolby, whose Digital Creator technology – used here for the first time on a digital compact – boosts audio performance on movies.
A variety performance
There’s a good deal of variety to the Panasonic FT1 and versatility is definitely its strongest suit, with on-camera editing options like resizing, trimming and levelling only helping further.
It’s a shame, then, that stills simply aren’t as mesmeric as we’d like. There’s a tendency towards over-exposure when using auto settings, but the real disappointment comes from a lack of vibrancy. The images are often just a bit flat.
Ultimately, the FT1 is a solid effort, but where we wanted a gloss finish we have to settle for matt.