Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      Panasonic’s latest waterproof, drop-proof, dust-proof and frost-proof camera with AVCHD Lite High Definition video recording.Hard on the heels of the popular DMC-FT1 comes Panasonic’s latest ‘rugged’ digicam, the equally slim, but even tougher, DMC-FT2. Resolution has been increased to 14.1 megapixels and the body of the new model is waterproof to 10 metres instead of three. It can also withstand a drop of two metres (up from 1.5 metres) and is usable at temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. . . [more]

      Full review


      Hard on the heels of the popular DMC-FT1 comes Panasonic’s latest ‘rugged’ digicam, the equally slim, but even tougher, DMC-FT2. Resolution has been increased to 14.1 megapixels and the body of the new model is waterproof to 10 metres instead of three. It can also withstand a drop of two metres (up from 1.5 metres) and is usable at temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius.

      Like its predecessor, the FT2 resembles a standard slimline point-and-shooter – although it looks and feels much tougher and more substantial. Rubber padding plus reinforced glass and carbon resins inside the camera ensure the body is airtight so water, dust and sand are kept out.

      Both accessory ports (see below) are lockable and have thin rubber seals around the covers, which work like o-rings. A brush is provided for removing dust and grit from these seals. The camera comes with a 12-month warranty that should cover these seals. Extended warranties are available.

      Design and Ergonomics
      Superficially, the new model resembles its predecessor, except for a shallow indented channel that crosses the front panel. The control buttons are as petite as they were on the FT1 – and difficult to operate with gloved fingers. However, the shutter button remains relatively large and is textured for easy recognition by touch.


      Front view of the DMC-FT2 in iridescent blue. (Source: Panasonic.)


      Top view of the DMC-FT2. (Source: Panasonic.)

      No viewfinder is provided – and none can be fitted. Nor can you fit an external flash unit. The tripod socket on the base of the camera is still plastic-lined, indicating this camera hasn’t been designed for regular tripod-mounting. The battery and memory card share a compartment in the base beside the tripod socket. Unlike its predecessor, the FT2 accepts the new SDXC cards – as well as the regular SD and SDHC media. The side port contains an HDMI socket for connecting the camera up to an HD TV set via an optional HDMI cable, plus a dual-purpose slot for USB/AV out.

      The main change to the rear panel has been to swap the positions of the play and movie buttons. The mode dial has been reduced slightly in size but is otherwise unchanged and the zoom rocker on the top panel has a more rocker-like shape.


      Back view of the DMC-FT2. (Source: Panasonic.)
      The 2.7-inch 230,000-dot LCD monitor is unchanged but has a thicker covering panel for added protection. A built-in sensor detects the ambient light levels and automatically boosts the screen’s backlighting by up to 40% when you’re shooting outdoors in bright sunshine. In dimly-lit environments, the frame rate is slowed to obtain a clearer picture for composing shots.

      A new feature is the protective silicon jacket that’s included in the box. It clips on over the front, top, bottom and side panels to protect the body shell from scratches and has perforations to expose the lens, flash, AF-assist lamp and main control buttons. Like its predecessor, the FT2 comes in some funky colours, with iridescent blue, orange and yellow as well as the standard silver casing.


      Colour options for the DMC-FT2. (Source: Panasonic.)
      Otherwise, most of the attractive features of the original FT1 have been retained, including support for AVCHD Lite video recording with 1280 x 720-pixel resolution and the compact 4.6x optical zoom lens. Carrying the Leica DC Vario-Elmar branding, this lens uses folded optics to remain within the camera body. It’s not particularly fast, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 at the wide position and f/5.9 at full tele zoom. But its wide angle coverage, which is equivalent to 28mm, is handy for underwater shooting.

      Focusing down to 3cm, the lens provides scope for some good macro shots – especially with the new Macro Zoom setting. This function uses the same system as the digital zoom function (cropping the frame and interpolating resolution up to the pre-set value) to focus to 5 cm at the tele end of the zoom range. Some edge softening occurs as a result. AF tracking is disabled.

      The Mega O.I.S. stabilisation system in the FT1 has been replaced by an upgraded Power O.I.S. system, which claims to almost double the camera-shake correction. Panasonic has extended the shutter speed range in the Normal Shooting mode down to one second (instead of 1/8 second in the FT1) to take advantage of this increased shake resistance. It’s also supported by a new (and faster) Venus Engine HD image processor with two CPUs.

      The mode dial carries the same settings as the FT1’s, with the default setting being between the iA (Intelligent Auto) mode, which lets you select the image size and aspect ratio, switch the burst capture on and off, select one of four ‘Colour Effect’ modes (Standard, ‘Happy’ (boosted saturation), B/W and Sepia) and operate the Face Recognition functions (see below). Face detection operates by default whenever the camera identifies human faces in a scene.

      The Normal Picture mode (indicated by a camera icon), provides full access to the menu settings, enabling users to adjust functions like white balance, ISO sensitivity, AF settings, stabiliser modes and bracketing and add wind-cut filtering when shooting video clips. Separate mode settings are provided for Sports, Snow and Beach & Surf before you reach the Scene mode, which contains 26 pre-sets: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candlelight, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Hi-speed Burst, Flash Burst, Starry sky, Fireworks, Aerial Photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, High Dynamic, Photo Frame and Underwater.

      The Clipboard mode is used for photographing timetables, maps and other printed information while you’re travelling. Shots are saved in the built-in memory to keep them separate from normal shots. Only two picture sizes are supported: 2M and 1M.

      Panasonic has added a few new functions to the FT2, the most useful among them being support for optical zooming when shooting movie clips and the new LED white self-timer/AF assist light, which switches on automatically when shooting stills or video in dim lighting. It helps to ensure fast and accurate autofocusing and is handy when shooting underwater, despite its limited ability to penetrate water with indifferent clarity.

      The autofocusing system has also been upgraded to the new Sonic Speed AF system, which is also used in the DMC-TZ10 and claims a lock-on time of 0.24 seconds at the wide position and 0.28 seconds at the tele end of the zoom range. Start-up time is approximately 1.1 second.

      Other additions seem more like novelty items that may appeal to snapshooters but would have little interest for more serious photographers. The iA mode now includes Face Recognition, a function that recalls registered faces and optimises the focus and exposure to make registered faces sharp and correctly exposed. If you switch on the Face Recognition setting in the main menu, you can ‘register’ up to six faces and input details like their name and birth date.

      There’s also a new Panorama Assist mode for shooting and stitching panoramas. You can set the recording direction in four directions (left/right, right/left, down/up and up/down) and use the semi-transparent image displayed on the screen as a guide for setting up the next shot. The shots are combined in the supplied software (see below).

      A special Photo Frame mode is provided for snapshooters who would like to produce photos with attractive borders. Unfortunately, it’s of limited use for scrapbookers as the image is reduced to 2-megapixel resolution, which is only just enough for a 15 x 10 cm print.

      One annoying feature in the new camera is the ‘Precautions’ screen that pops up a second or two after the camera is switched on. Don’t be tempted to skip this ‘slideshow’ because the camera will keep reminding you about it until you’ve viewed it all the way through (59 seconds). The same detailed instructions are also provided in the user manual in case you need to re-check them at any time.

      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






      4320 x 3240




      3648 x 2736




      3072 x 2304




      2560 x 1920




      2048 x 1536




      640 x 480





      4320 x 2880




      3648 x 2432




      3072 x 2176




      2560 x 1712




      2048 x 1360





      4320 x 2432




      3648 x 2056




      3072 x 1728




      2560 x 1440




      1920 x 1080





      640 x 480



      Aside from supporting zooming while shooting video clips, the FT2’s movie capabilities are unchanged from the FT1. Continuous movie recording is supported for up to 15 minutes – or 2GB. AVCHD Lite video clips are always recorded with a 16:9 aspect ratio, while Motion JPEG clips can be recorded in 16:9 or 4:3 format.

      Two picture sizes are provided for HD video clips and four for Motion JPEG video clips, all with frame rates 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/4GB card

      AVCHD Lite



      1280 x 720

      17 Mbps

      30 minutes


      1280 x 720

      13 Mbps

      40 minutes


      1280 x 720

      9 Mbps

      One hour

      Motion JPEG



      1280 x 720


      16 minutes 20 seconds


      848 x 480


      41 minutes



      640 x 480


      42 minutes 40 seconds


      320 x 240


      One hour 58 minutes

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

      Playback and Software
      Pressing the Play button displays the last image captured and you can progress through the shots with the horizontal buttons on the arrow pad. Shooting data can be toggled on and off by pressing the Display button.

      Everything else is handled through the menu system, which offers four playback modes: Normal Play, Slide Show, Mode Play and Category Play. Mode Play lets you choose between Picture, AVCHD Lite video and Motion JPEG video.

      Category Play lets you play shots based on the type of shots (generally scene type). Once you’ve selected the play mode, you can then access functions like resizing, cropping, levelling, title edit, text stamp and rotating, as well as tagging for Favourites, Print Set and Protect.

      There’s also a Face Recognition Edit function for entering and adjusting details of people you want the camera to ‘remember’. The Title Edit screen is used to enter names for this mode – as well as for the Baby and Pet Scene modes. It calls up an alpha-numeric display on the LCD monitor and letters are selected via the arrow pad buttons.

      The FT2’s software bundle contains an updated version of PHOTOfunSTUDIO HD Edition, which we covered in depth in our review of the FT1. Little has changed in the new version beyond adding the ability to grab individual frames from video clips. These frames are captured at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution and the software gives you an option of choosing where the folder containing them will be stored.


      Movie previewing in the PHOTOfunSTUDIO HD Edition now includes a frame-grabbing function.

      Photographs taken with the test camera looked natural under most types of lighting and were surprisingly sharp and artefact-free given the size of the sensor and resolution of this camera. The autofocusing system was accurate under most lighting conditions, even in low light levels, although we recorded a few ‘misses’ when shooting underwater video clips in slightly cloudy water and with low-contrast subjects.

      Not unexpectedly, our Imatest testing showed the review camera capable of higher resolution than the FT1 model we tested. However, we didn’t expect the edge softening in the new model to be so much less than its predecessor. Overall resolution remained slightly below expectations for a 14-megapixel camera, with the best performance occurring at a slightly longer focal length than the widest setting. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.


      Colour accuracy was improved in the new camera, although overall saturation was marginally higher. Both cameras showed a slight tendency towards a warmer than normal colour rendition, although neither excessively so. Resolution also remained higher at high ISO settings than we found with the FT1. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.


      The image stabilisation system was as effective as in the previous model, with both still pictures and video clips. When the camera set shutter speeds as low as 1/4 second, more than 60% of test shots were acceptably sharp with the stabiliser on. None was sharp with the stabiliser off, as shown below.


      22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/4 second at f/5.9; O.I.S. set to Auto.


      22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/4 second at f/5.9; O.I.S. set to Off.

      Exposure metering was also accurate, and backlit subjects were generally handled competently. However, shots taken in very contrasty conditions showed the limited dynamic range that characterises small-sensor digicams, along with noticeable shadow noise, even with low ISO settings.
      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%. Taking long exposures is only possible with the Starry Sky scene mode, which supports exposures up to record a 60 seconds – although only at ISO 80. The slowest shutter speed supported if you wish to adjust sensitivity settings is one second.

      A test shot taken at ISO 80 was noise-free and almost free of false colour artefacts. Test shots became progressively more noise-affected as ISO sensitivity was increased, although resolution wasn’t noticeably reduced, even at ISO 1600. Higher sensitivity (ISO 3200) is obtainable with the High-sensitivity scene mode but we would only recommend this setting for image printed at snapshot size or smaller.
      With flash, noise levels were noticeably lower with high sensitivity settings and it was possible to make acceptable A5 sized prints from shots taken at ISO 1600. The flash required an ISO setting of 200 before it could illuminate an average-sized room. However, exposures were even from ISO 400 to ISO 1600.

      Auto white balance performance was slightly better than 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. There’s no pre-set for fluorescent lighting and only a halogen setting for incandescent and neither provided full colour correction in our tests. However, manual measurement corrected both colour casts effectively.

      Overall response times were better than those of the FT1. The review camera powered-up in roughly one second and shot-to-shot times averaged 0.5 seconds without flash and 1.4 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.15 seconds, which reduced to 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took an average of 1.9 seconds to process each 14M image.

      There’s only one burst mode on the FT2 and with it we recorded three 14m shots at 0.8 second intervals. Processing appeared to be on-the-fly as it took just 2.1 seconds to process a typical burst.

      Buy this camera if:
      – You’re looking for a slimline camera for snorkelling 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 FT2 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.


      Close-up; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/640 second at f/3.3


      Macro Zoom mode; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/100 second at f/3.5


      Wide-angle; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/160 second at f/10


      Telephoto; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/640 second at f/5.9


      Digital zoom; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/640 second at f/5.9


      Long exposure using the Starry Sky scene mode; ISO 80, 30 seconds at f/3.3


      Night shot with the normal shooting mode; ISO 800, 1/5 second at f/3.3


      High sensitivity mode; ISO 3200, 1/20 second at f/3.3


      Flash exposure at ISO 100; 1/60 second at f/5.9


      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 1/60 second at f/5.9


      Flash exposure at ISO 1600; 1/60 second at f/5.9


      Backlit subject; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/325 second at f/5.9


      14.3mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/400 second at f/5.6


      100% crop of the above image showing the relative absence of coloured fringing.


      Wide brightness range subject; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/125 second at f/5.9


      100% crop of shadowed area in the above image, showing shadow noise.


      100% crop of the highlight area showing blown-out highlights.


      Underwater shot taken in the Normal Picture mode with no editing; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/200 second at f/3.3


      The same shot edited by selecting the Auto Tone function in Photoshop.


      Underwater shot taken in the Underwater scene mode with no editing; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/30 second at f/3.3


      The same shot edited by selecting the Auto Tone function in Photoshop.


      Still frame from AVCGD Lite video clip shot underwater.


      Still frame from AVCGD Lite video clip recorded in normal lighting.




      Image sensor: 6.23 x 4.64 mm CCD with 14.5 million photosites (14.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 4.9-22.8mm f/3.5-5.9 zoom lens (28-128mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 4.6x optical, up to 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills- JPEG; Movies – AVCHD Lite/Quicktime Motion JPEG
      Image Sizes: Stills- 4:3 aspect ratio: 4320 x 3240, 3648 x 2736, 3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 640 x 480; 3:2 aspect ratio: 4320 x 2880, 3648 x 2432, 3072 x2048, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360, 640 x 42; 16:9 aspect ratio: 4320 x 2432, 3648 x 2056, 3072 x 1728, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080, 640 x 360; Movies – 1280×720 pixels at 30fps; 848 x480 at 30 fps, VGA/QVGA at 30 fps
      Shutter speed range: Normal – 8 to 1/2000 second (in Starry Sky mode: 15/30/60 sec.)
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      Image Stabilisation: Power O.I.S. (Auto / Mode 1 / Mode 2)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: Contrast-based TTL AF; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 5 cm
      AF modes: Normal/Macro, Continuous AF On/Off, Quick AF On/Off (on in Intelligent Auto)/Continuous AF On/Off, AF Tracking, Zoom Macro
      Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple metering; Program AE
      Shooting modes: Normal Picture, Sports, Snow mode, Beach & Surf, Clipboard, Intelligent Auto plus 26 Scene pre-sets
      ISO range: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, (In High Sensitivity mode: 1600-6400)
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced On/Off; range – 30 cm to 3.4 metres
      Sequence shooting: Approx. 1.8 frames/second; max 5 frames (Standard), 3 frames (Fine); hi-speed burst – max. 10 fps at 3M size
      Storage Media: Approx. 40MB built-in memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: No
      LCD monitor: 2.7-inch TFT LCD with 230,000 dots; 100% field of view
      Power supply: DMW-BCF10PP rechargeable Lithium-ion battery pack; CIPA rated for Approx. 360 shots/charge)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 99.3 x 63.1 x 24.3 mm
      Weight: Approx. 167 grams (without battery and card)





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      Rating (out of 10):

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