Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      Panasonic’s latest waterproof camera adds a GPS antenna, Full HD video and a LED light to improve video quality when shooting in low-light and under water. Panasonic’s DMC-FT3 represents the third generation of a line that began in with the FT1, which set the benchmark for rugged, waterproof cameras. The lens hasn’t changed since the first model; nor has the LCD monitor. After a brief flirtation with 14.1 megapixels on the FT2, Panasonic has returned to 12.1 megapixels for the FT3 but added some worthwhile improvements. . . [more]

      Full review


      Panasonic’s DMC-FT3 represents the third generation of a line that began in with the FT1, which set the benchmark for rugged, waterproof cameras. The lens hasn’t changed since the first model; nor has the LCD monitor. After a brief flirtation with 14.1 megapixels on the FT2, Panasonic has returned to 12.1 megapixels for the FT3 but added some worthwhile improvements.

      Regardless of what attracts you, Panasonic currently offers some of the best cameras available in this class. Thoughtfully designed and well built, they combine a straightforward user interface with excellent performance so it’s no wonder the FT3 was recently selected by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA) in Europe as the Best Rugged Compact Camera released in the past 12 months.


      The DMC-FT3 is offered in four colours: silver, red, orange and blue. (Source: Panasonic.)

      Most potential purchasers would consider the addition of an integrated GPS receiver as the main purchasing incentive, although many would be lured by the upgrade to Full HD video recording using the ‘full bottle’ AVCHD format instead of reduced resolution AVCHD Lite provided in the previous models. A few could even be seduced by the camera’s 3D shooting mode, which is stills-only.


      The images above show how the styling of the FT-series cameras has evolved; from left: FT3, FT2, FT1. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The table below shows how the camera has evolved since the FT1 was released in January 2009.





      Waterproof to

      12 metres

      10 metres

      3 metres

      Shockproof to

      2 metres

      1.5 metres

      Integrated GPS




      Image processor

      Venus Engine FHD

      Venus Engine HD II

      Venus Engine HD

      Effective resolution




      Aspect ratio options

      4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1

      4:3, 3:2, 16:9

      Movie file formats

      AVCHD/ Motion JPEG

      AVCHD Lite/Motion JPEG

      Max. movie resolution

      1920 x 1080 pixels

      1280 x 720 pixels

      ISO range (manual)




      Max. burst speed (high res.)

      3.7 fps

      1.8 fps

      2.3 fps

      Buffer memory

      7 frames

      5 frames

      5 frames

      3D capture




      19MB internal + SD/SDHC/SDXC

      40MB internal + SD/SDHC/SDXC

      40MB internal + SD/SDHC

      Dimensions (wxhxd)

      103.5 x 64.0 x 26.5 mm

      99.3 x 63.1 x 24.3 mm

      98.3 x 63.1 x 23.0 mm

      Weight (body only)

      175 grams

      167 grams

      162.5 grams

      Build and Ergonomics
      Despite being slightly larger than its predecessors, the FT3 retains the slim, boxy body and folded-optics lens of its predecessors. The body styling has been refined since the FT2 and the new model has a gentle moulding on the right hand side for a more comfortable grip.


      Front view of the FT3 in blue. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The metal front and rear sections are screwed together at each of the four corners and chunky plastic buffers at strategic points to minimise impact shock if the camera is dropped. As with the FT2, the FT3 has a shock-resistance rating of two metres and its build quality is as good as its predecessors, reinforcing your confidence even further. It also withstands temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius, making it usable in ice and snow.

      The 10 mm wide indentation running across the centre of the front panel carries over from the FT2, although it stops short just before the grip moulding. The location of the lens and its surrounding frame is unchanged from both previous models and all three appear to have the same diminutive flash tube, although the FT3’s is augmented by a new LED light that doubles as a self-timer indicator and AF-assist lamp as well as providing additional illumination for shooting video clips in dim lighting.


      Top view of the FT3 in silver. (Source: Panasonic.)

      A bump on the top panel houses the GPS receiver, which is essentially the same unit as in the TZ series cameras. (We’ll cover it in more detail below.) Aside from a single microphone hole, the rest of the top panel has just three buttons covering power on/off, shutter release (now circular instead of rectangular) and direct movie recording.


      Back view of the FT3 in red. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The 2.7-inch 230,000-dot LCD monitor is unchanged from the FT2 and no viewfinder is provided so you’re forced to use it for shooting, replaying shots and adjusting camera functions. Despite automatic adjustments to ambient lighting it’s not particularly easy to read when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine. A power-saving mode lowers its brightness and reduces resolution to conserve battery life.

      Some reshuffling has occurred on the rear panel, notably with the replacement of the mode dial from the previous models (which could be re-set accidentally) by a single button that accesses a sub-menu containing similar shooting modes. The wide and tele zoom buttons have also migrated from the top panel to the upper edge of the back where they are more accessible.

      A large circular speaker grille sits where the movie button was on the FT2, while the playback button is located just above the mode button. The display and Q-Menu/delete buttons are essentially unchanged, aside from being round instead of square.

      As on previous models, all these buttons are small and some potential users will find them too small. They’re difficult to operate with gloved fingers and their close spacing means you may press two at once – or the wrong one. The small size of the camera also makes it tricky to keep steady underwater in even a mild swell, a characteristic shared with its predecessors.

      The battery and card slots are located in the same compartment as the interface ports (USB/AV-out and HDMI). This is a significant improvement on the FT2 which had separate port covers for these terminals. Another improvement is in the location of this compartment.

      Instead of being in the base of the camera (where it was blocked when the camera was tripod-mounted), it opens downwards below the wrist strap tether point and has a double lock plus o-ring seal. Panasonic supplies a brush with the camera for removing grit from the o-ring surroundings.

      The tripod socket in the base of the camera is appears to have a more solid lining than the previous models. We’re not sure what it’s made from but it looks to be able to tolerate regular tripod-mounting.

      The wrist strap is comfortable and secure for shooting both on land and under water but we’d have preferred a neck strap for the latter as it enables the camera to be tucked into a wetsuit, leaving your hands free for swimming. (Swimming with a camera in one hand seriously cramps one’s style!)

      Like the FT2, the FT3 comes with a silicone jacket that fits over the front, top, bottom and side panels to protect the body shell from scratches. Holes in the jacket expose the lens, flash, AF-assist lamp and main control buttons.

      When you switch the camera on a Precautions’ screen pops up a second or two. Unlike the FT2, you now have the option of moving on to actually using the camera instead of having to view a 59-second slideshow describing the steps you must follow to prevent water from entering the camera.

      GPS Functionality
      GPS units appear to be in vogue for Panasonic and Olympus as both companies have added them to their latest ‘tough’ cameras. The system in the FT3 provides the data most travellers demand, displaying the country and region, township and landmark data based on information covering covers 203 countries or regions and more than a million landmarks.

      An internal clock automatically adjusts to the local time when GPS is enabled, removing the need to re-adjust camera settings when travellers move between time zones. Images with the location names are sorted alphabetically in the virtual folder created within the camera, making them easy to locate when you want to pin-point shots on the maps provided by social media or on Google maps.

      The FT3 also features a built-in compass plus an altimeter and barometer that respectively display and record orientation, altitude and atmospheric pressure, on land as well as underwater. The barometer also works as an indicator for depth and pressure underwater. The camera takes measurements every 90 minutes and retains them for 24 hours.

      Altitude values are displayed as relative altitude (the difference in altitude between two places) and are estimated using the relationship between altitude and atmospheric pressure that is used by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. You can set the base altitude anywhere from -600 to +9000 metres using the camera’s menu. Underwater measurements from the altimeter and compass can’t be relied upon as these parameters can’t be measured correctly at depth.

      As with all GPS receivers, the module in the FT3 only works when it can locate enough satellites, which means it needs a clear view of the sky. If you move indoors or under a dense canopy of leaves – or in among tall buildings – it will lose the satellites and be re-set to the last recorded position. But it worked perfectly for all our underwater recordings, which were in depths of less than five metres.

      As an adjunct, the FT3 includes a Travel Date log, which is accessible in the iAuto, Program, Sports, Beach, Snow and Scene modes. You can set the departure date for a holiday in advance and the camera will log each day, allowing you to playback all shots taken on a selected day or add a date/time stamp with the Text Stamp function.

      New Settings
      The addition of a 3D Photo mode brings the FT3 into line with Panasonic’s latest digicams. This setting causes the camera to capture 20 consecutive shots in a burst as you move the camera horizontally. The lens is set to the wide position and the image size at 1920 x 1080 pixels. ISO sensitivity is increased in line with the shutter speed.

      The two shots that combine best to produce a stereo pair are kept and overlaid to make an MPO (multi-picture) file, while the rest are discarded. These images can be viewed on MPO-compatible equipment such as a televisions, digital photo frames and printers. 3D movie recording is not supported.

      Panasonic has also added the Lumix Image Uploader, which enables image and video sharing via Facebook (for digital photos) or YouTube (for videos). Users can checkmark the photo or video files they want to share, connect the camera to a PC with the supplied USB cable or insert the memory card directly into a connected card reader. The uploading launches automatically and provides an easy-to-follow menu to guide users.

      There’s also a new Beach & Snorkelling mode that optimises settings for shooting at depths up to three metres. You can fine-tune the colour balance in this mode with the White Balance adjustments.

      A special Underwater mode is used for shots taken below three metres as well as when the camera is in the optional marine case that withstands depths up to 30 metres. The same colour adjustments are available in this mode and you can also lock focus with the AF Lock to ensure sharper pictures of fast-moving subjects.
      Handheld Night Shot is a new multi-shot setting in the Scene pre-sets. It records a rapid sequence of up to 10 shots and combines them to produce a single picture with reduced noise and blurring.

      The Clipboard mode on the FT2 is replaced by a Text mode in the Scene pre-sets, which can be used in the same way for photographing timetables, maps and other printed information.

      Image Sizes
      Three aspect ratio settings are provided for recording still images, all of them in JPEG format. Two quality settings are available: Fine and Standard. Compression rates are similar to other Panasonic digicams. Average file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio






      4000 x 3000




      3264 x 2448




      2560 x 1920




      2048 x 1536




      1600 x 1200




      640 x 480





      4000 x 2672




      3264 x 2176




      2560 x 1712




      2048 x 1360




      640 x 424





      4000 x 2248




      3264 x 1840




      2560 x 1440




      1920 x 1080




      640 x 360





      2992 x 2992




      2448 x 2448




      1920 x 1920




      1536 x 1536




      480 x 480



      Video capture has evolved in line with current market demands. In the FSH mode, which uses the AVCHD format, continuous movie recording is supported for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. For the GSH and SH modes, continuous recording is supported for up to 13 hours, 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The maximum capacity in Motion JPEG mode is 2GB.

      AVCHD video clips are always recorded with a 16:9 aspect ratio and frame rate of 50 interlaced, which delivers an output at 25 frames/second. Motion JPEG clips can be recorded in 16:9 or 4:3 format with a frame rate of 30 frames/second. Typical recording times are shown in the table below.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode

      Picture size

      Bit rate

      Recording time/8GB card




      1920 x 1080

      17 Mbps

      29 min, 59 sec


      1280 x 720

      1 hour, 3 min 35 sec


      1280 x 720

      Motion JPEG



      1280 x 720


      8 minutes 24 seconds



      640 x 480


      22 minutes 12 seconds


      320 x 240


      1 hour, 3 min 35 sec

      n.a. – no bit rate provided for Motion JPEG recordings

      Continuous autofocusing is engaged in Movie mode and the stabilisation defaults to Active Mode Lite, which uses electronic stabilisation. The image frame becomes smaller as a result. A Wind Cut filter is available for suppressing wind noise and the camera’s LED lamp can be switched on when shooting in dim lighting. Three settings are available: auto, on and off.

      Playback and Software
      Nothing much has changed here and both have been covered in our review of the DMC-FT2. A 30-day trial version of Super LoiLoScope, a Windows-only video editing application is included, along with a raw file converter based on Silkypix Developer Studio.

      Still pictures from the review camera were similar to those from the FT2 we reviewed. and sharp and artefact-free for the size of the sensor. Colours were naturally recorded under a wide range of conditions, a factor confirmed in our Imatest tests.

      Overall saturation was modest for a small-sensor digicam, but some slight colour shifts were detected, particularly in skin hues (which had a slight warm bias). The lens was somewhat flare-prone when pointed towards a bright light source – both above and under water.

      The Underwater scene setting produced impressive results for both stills and video clips. Above water, the autofocusing system was generally fast and accurate but it slowed noticeably underwater, probably as a result of the magnifying effect of this environment. We noticed numerous ‘misses’ when shooting underwater video clips, particularly when shooting fast-moving fish and if the camera wasn’t held quite steady. Slightly cloudy water and low-contrast subjects also presented problems for autofocusing.

      Exposure levels were effectively metered with all metering patterns. However, the inherent relatively high contrast in shots meant that outdoor shots in contrasty lighting often had blocked-up shadows.

      Imatest testing showed the review camera’s resolution was slightly below expectations for a 12-megapixel camera. However, resolution was well maintained throughout the available ISO range, as shown in the graph below.


      The highest resolution was recorded at the shortest focal length setting. Thereafter, resolution tailed off slightly to plateau at around 10mm. Slight edge softening remained constant throughout the camera’s focal length range, as shown in the graph below.


      Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low and we found few traces of coloured fringing in shots taken in contrasty conditions when they were enlarged to 100%. In the graph below, the red line separates ‘negligible’ from ‘low’ chromatic aberration, while the green line marks the border between ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ CA.


      Exposures longer than one second are only possible with the Starry Sky scene mode, which supports exposures up to 60 seconds – although only at ISO 100. Long exposures taken with this setting were noise- and artefact-free.

      In the P mode, the ISO 100 setting produced an under-exposed image, while ISO 200 shots were slightly under-exposed but usable. Test shots became progressively more noise-affected as ISO sensitivity was increased although little noise was evident in long exposures at ISO 1600.

      Using the High-sensitivity scene mode pushed sensitivity up to ISO 6400 (equivalent) but with a dramatic increase in noise and loss of colour fidelity. The new Handheld Night Shot mode delivered excellent results at ISO 4000. The image stabilisation system was as effective as in the previous model, with both still pictures and video clips.

      The flash was relatively weak, even for a digicam, and required at least ISO 400 sensitivity to provide adequate coverage for shooting groups of people at parties. Some softening was evident at ISO 1600 with even more – plus a loss of contrast – when the High Sensitivity Scene mode was used.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to the previous model. Although the test camera failed to remove the colour cast of incandescent lighting, it came very close to producing neutral hues with fluorescent lighting. The tungsten pre-set over corrected slightly. There’s no pre-set for fluorescent lighting but manual measurement produced good results with both lighting types.

      Overall response times were slightly slower than those from the FT2. The review camera powered-up in just over one second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.2 seconds without flash and 4.2 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.41 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took an average of 2.6 seconds to process each 12M/Fine image.

      In the continuous shooting mode we recorded seven 12M shots in 2.5 seconds before capture halted. It took 2.8 seconds to process this burst. The High-Speed burst mode recorded 10 3m frames in 1.1 seconds. It took 2.6 seconds to process this burst.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a slimline camera for snorkelling and shallow diving that can record HD video clips and good-looking still shots.
      – You want good wide-angle coverage and competent image stabilisation for shooting both video and still pictures.
      – You require a tough, waterproof, solidly-built camera with an easy-to-use menu system.
      – You can live with high levels of automation.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You require PASM shooting modes.
      – You want to shoot raw files (the FT3 can’t).
      – You want high burst capacity at high resolution.
      – You prefer using a viewfinder.





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/3.3.


      22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.9.


      Digital zoom; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/5.9.


      Close-up; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/30 second at f/3.3.


      Backlighting; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.9.


      15-second exposure at ISO 100; 7.2mm focal length, f/4.2.


      1-second exposure at ISO 800; 7.2mm focal length, f/4.2.


      1/2-second exposure at ISO 1600; 7.2mm focal length, f/4.2.


      Handheld Night mode; 7.2mm focal length,1/8 second (x10) at f/4.2, ISO 4000.


      High Sensitivity mode; 7.2mm focal length,1/60 second at f/4.2, ISO 6400.


      Flash exposure at ISO 200; 22.8mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.9.


      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 22.8mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.9.


      Flash exposure at ISO 1600; 22.8mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.9.


      Flash exposure with High Sensitivity mode (ISO 6400); 22.8mm focal length, 1/30 second at f/5.9.


      Available light shot in room lighting; 10mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/4 second at f/4.9.


      Beach and Snorkelling mode: 11mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/80 second at f/5.2.


      Beach and Snorkelling mode: 12mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/80 second at f/5.3.


      Beach and Snorkelling mode: 12mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.3.


      Beach and Snorkelling mode: 15mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.6.


      Underwater mode; 9mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.0.


      Underwater mode; 12mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/5.3.


      iAuto mode; 10mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/80 second at f/4.9.


      Still frames from 1080p video clips.


      Still frames from 720p video clips.


      Still frames from VGA video clips.




      Image sensor: 6.13 x 4.60 mm CCD sensor with 12.5 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)
      Image processor: Venus Engine FHD
      Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.9-22.8mm f/3.3-5.8 zoom lens (28-128mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 4.6x optical, 4x digital zoom.
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (DCF/Exif2.3); Movies – AVCHD, QuickTime Motion JPEG; 3D – MPO
      Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 – 4000 x 3000, 3264 x 2448, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480; 3:2 – 4000 x 2672, 3264 x 2176, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360, 640 x 424; 16:9 – 4000 x 2248, 3264 x 1840, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080, 640 x 360; 1:1 – 2992 x 2992, 2448 x 2448, 1920 x 1920, 1536 x 1536, 480 x 480; Movies – HD Movie: 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 pixels, 50i (Sensor output is 25p); SD: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixels and 30fps
      Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/1300 seconds; 15, 30, 60 seconds in Starry Sky mode.
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      Image Stabilisation: POWER O.I.S. (On / Off / Active Mode for movies)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: Contrast AF with face recognition; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 5 cm
      Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple metering; Program AE
      Shooting modes: Intelligent AUTO, Normal Picture, Sports, Snow, Beach & Snorkelling, Underwater, SCN (26 pre-sets), 3D Photo; Colour Mode / Colour Effect: Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy (only in iA Mode)
      ISO range: Auto, i.ISO, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600; High Sensitivity mode (ISO 1600-6400)
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, White Set
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off; range 0.3-5.6 metres
      Sequence shooting: Full-Resolution Image, 3.7 frames/sec Max. 7 images; High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 7 frames/sec (image priority); approx. 10 frames/sec (speed priority) (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9, 2.5M for 1:1)
      Storage Media: Approx. 19MB internal memory plus expansion slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
      Viewfinder: No
      LCD monitor: 2.7-inch TFT LCD with 230,000 dots, 100% viewing angle
      Power supply: rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx 360 shots or approx 180 minutes of video per charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 103.5 x 64.0 x 26.5 mm
      Weight: Approx. 175 grams (without battery and card)





      Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer’s warranties.
      Ph: (02) 9029 2219

      Camera House


      Ph: 133 686
      The largest speciality photographic retail chain in Australia.

      Camera Pro

      CameraPro Pty Ltd
      Suite 607, 180 Queen St, Brisbane 4000
      Tel: 07 3333 2900
      Australian owned and run company based in Brisbane.



      Retailer of digital camera equipment and more.
      Secure online shopping and delivery across Australia.
      Ph: 1300 727 056
      Ph: 1800 155 067



      Comprehensive range of digital cameras and accessories online ( and an online print service (

      Digital Camera Warehouse

      174 Canterbury Road 367 High Street
      Canterbury Northcote
      NSW 2193 VIC 3070
      Ph: 1300 365 220

      Electronics Warehouse

      1300 801 885
      Australian retailer of Vapex rechargeable batteries offering factory direct prices and fast, free shipping Australia wide.



      Photographic Equipment & Supplies – Retail & Repairs. Click here for list of stores.

      Ted’s Cameras



      1800 186 895
      Big range of cameras and photographic products with stores in most states and online.




      RRP: $599

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Image quality: Stills – 8.8; Video – 9.0
      • OVERALL: 9.0