Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4

      Photo Review 8.8

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
       - You require a tough, waterproof, solidly-built camera with an easy-to-use menu system.
       - You’d like some degree of manual exposure control.
       - 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.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You require a viewfinder. 
       - You want to shoot raw files (the FT4 can’t).
       - You want high burst capacity at high resolution.

      Full review

      Panasonic’s new DMC-FT4 continues to claim the title of the best underwater camera Photo Review has reviewed so far. Designed for outdoor adventurers, surfers, snorkellers and boating enthusiasts, like the FT3 it is built to withstand rough treatment.

      It’s waterproof to 12 metres, can withstand a drop of two metres, tolerate temperatures down to -10 º C and is also dustproof. Because the new model is a relatively minor update to its predecessor, the sensor, LCD monitor, lens coverage and video capabilities are unchanged.

      It would be difficult to justify an upgrade to the new model if you already own an FT3, although owners of older models will probably welcome the additions in the new camera. This could also be true for owners of waterproof cameras from competing brands.

      Build and Ergonomics
       Nothing much has changed in this area, which is covered in detail in our review of the DMC-FT3 (INSERT LINK). The tough-looking camera body is almost identical to its predecessor, although a black colour option replaces the FT3’s red model.


      Colour options for the new DMC-FT4. (Source: Panasonic.)
       As with the FT3, the metal front and rear sections are screwed together at each of the four corners. The location of the lens and its surrounding frame is unchanged from previous models. The built-in flash and LED light are also unchanged.


       Front view of the DMC-FT4. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens is a tiny bit slower than the equivalent in the FT3 but covers the same zoom range (28-128mm in 35 mm format). The lens unit is protected by a supplementary damper to absorb impact shock, while rubber padding and reinforced glass inside the camera provide additional protection.


       The top panel of the DMC-FT4. (Source: Panasonic.)


      The rear panel of the DMC-FT4. (Source: Panasonic.)

      No changes have been made to the layouts of either the top or rear panels and it’s disappointing Panasonic hasn’t provided a higher-resolution screen in this update. The buttons also remain small and difficult to operate with gloved fingers.

      The battery and card slots are located in the same compartment as the interface ports (USB/AV-out and HDMI). It’s located in the right hand side panel and opens downwards below the wrist strap tether point. A double lock prevents it from being opened inadvertently.


      Side view of the FT4 showing the battery/card compartment in the locked position. (Source: Panasonic.)

      No change has been made to the quality or location of the tripod socket. The wrist strap remains awkward to swim with and the camera can be difficult to keep steady underwater in even a mild swell, a characteristic shared with its predecessors. Interestingly, the review camera wasn’t supplied with the protective silicone jacket provided with previous models.

      What’s New?
      Keen photographers will doubtless be more interested in the addition of a manual shooting mode than the changes to GPS functionality. It’s accessed via the Mode button and allows you to change aperture and shutter speed settings.

      Unfortunately, there are only two aperture settings: wide open and stopped down, the actual f-number values varying with the zoom, as shown in the table below. Maximum apertures step quickly down from f/3.3 at 4.9mm to f/5.9 at 22.8mm, as shown in the table below.

      Focal length

      Max. aperture











      The minimum aperture is fixed at f/10. Coupled with the small sensor size, this seriously restricts the ability of the lens to focus selectively for blurred backgrounds so there’s not a lot of point in offering this adjustment.

      Shutter speed adjustment is much more comprehensive and covers form 60-second exposures to 1/1300 second in 1/3EV steps. Using manual mode is a little tricky. Pressing the Mode switch displays all the shooting modes, from which you select the M mode using the arrow pad.

      You then enter the M mode by pressing the Menu/Set button and press the up button on the arrow pad to display the setting screen. Pressing the Display button lets you toggle between aperture and shutter speed settings. A linear Manual Exposure Assistance display on the screen plots the exposure value as changes are made. 

      Other settings accessed via the Mode button include the iA (full auto) and P modes as well as pre-sets for Sports, Snow, Beach and Snorkelling, Underwater, Miniature Effect and 3D stills shooting. There’s also a SCN setting with a sub-menu containing 14 pre-sets: Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama Shot, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity and Through Glass.

      The High Sensitivity mode boosts the ISO to a top value of ISO 6400 but with reduced image sizes (2048 x 1536 pixels with 4:3 aspect ratio being the largest).  Images are reduced to the same degree in the Handheld Night Shot mode, which records a burst of shots and combines them to create a single image with reduced noise and jitter.

      The same reduction in image size occurs with the Hi-Speed burst mode, which can record up to 100 frames at 10 frames/second (fps). With the normal burst setting, capture rates for full-sized frames are unchanged at 3.7 fps but the buffer memory can only hold six frames, instead of seven in the FT3. When flash is used, up to five shots can be captured, again at reduced image sizes. Flash Burst is only available in Program AE (P) mode.

      GPS data logging capabilities have been enhanced with the addition of an altimeter, compass and barometer. The GPS displays the name of the country, state, city and key landmarks using the internal data library. Underwater, it provides a depth indicator as well as orientation data.

      GPS data is displayed on the LCD monitor, providing real-time information on where each shot it taken. It’s also stored in the image metadata, allowing easy access when searching image files and for locating where the photo was taken.

      Image Sizes
      Nothing much has changed for still photos since the FT4. Four 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



      For movies, Panasonic has retained two image formats, the primary one remaining AVCHD. However, it has abandoned  intraframe-only Motion JPEG compression scheme  in favour of the more efficient H264/MP4 AVC interframe video format.

      This has resulted in a few small changes to movie shooting modes, the most significant being the ability to record Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) clips in MP4, whereas they were only available with AVCHD. MP4 is easier to edit and upload to the internet so anyone who likes to share video clips in this way should be happy with the improvements.

      Only the VGA setting retains the traditions 4:3 aspect ratio; all the other settings use the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The camera defaults to this setting when recording to the internal memory.

      For both modes, continuous movie recording is supported for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. The maximum capacity in MP4 mode is 42GB. Typical recording times are shown in the table below.

      Video format

      Picture Mode

      Picture size

      Bit rate

      Frame rates



      1920 x 1080

      17 Mbps

      50i (Sensor output is 25p)


      1920 x 1080


      1280 x 720

      50p (Sensor output is 25p)


      1280 x 720




      1920 x 1080




      1280 x 720



      640 x 480


      Continuous autofocusing is engaged in Movie mode and the stabilisation defaults to Active Mode Lite, which uses electronic stabilisation. 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.

      The 3D mode is similar to the FT3’s and enables users to capture stereo pairs of shots. In this mode, you pan the camera across the subject, enabling it to record a sequence of frames at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. A guide is displayed on the monitor while this take place.

      Two pictures are automatically selected from the sequence and combined into a single MPO file. Focus, exposure and sensitivity settings are handled automatically by the camera and the zoom position is fixed to wide.

      3D capture isn’t available in movie mode and it doesn’t work with moving subjects. High contrast subjects, as well as those that are too dark or too bright and those with changing brightness levels will not produce acceptable results.

      Playback and Software
       All the necessary playback modes are supported, including single-frame with and without information overlaid, up to 16x playback zoom, index playback with 12 or 30 thumbnails and slideshow playback. Users can also select calendar playback to display shots taken at a specified time as well as filtered play showing shots selected by categories.

      GPS playback includes the ability to select the location name or landmark you wish to view or select an altitude on the graph to display all pictures captured at that altitude. Images can also be filtered by travel date or favourites tag.

      The FT4 also includes an Auto Retouch setting that balances the brightness and contrast in shots and saves the result as a new, edited picture. Resizing, cropping and text-stamping are also available and the Windows-only Lumix Image Uploader, which  carries over from the FT3, enables users to upload images and movie clips to image sharing sites.

      As with previous models, the primary uploading and editing application is PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.1 AE for Windows.  A 30-day trial version of Super LoiLoScope, a Windows-only video editing application is included. Both have been covered in our review of the DMC-FT2. (INSERT LINK)

       Still pictures from the review camera were similar to those from the FT3 we reviewed, and sharp and artefact-free for the size of the sensor. Slight colour shifts measured in our Imatest tests had little effect on easily-reproduced colours, although purplish-blues were a little off-the-mark and reds were slightly orangey (reflecting an inherent bias for underwater shooting). Overall saturation was modest for a small-sensor digicam.

      The lens was somewhat flare-prone when pointed towards a bright light source ““ both above and under water. Underwater shots benefited from a contrast boost during post-capture editing, even when the water was relatively clear. Slightly cloudy water tended to reduce contrast quite severely.

      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. As with the previous model, the Underwater scene setting produced excellent results  for both stills and video clips.

      Imatest testing showed the review camera’s resolution to be similar to the FT3’s and slightly below expectations for a 12-megapixel camera. Slight edge softening was observed and resolution trailed off steadily across the available ISO range, as shown in the graph below.


       We found the highest resolution occurred slightly out from the shortest focal length setting, although there was little difference in performance across the focal length of the lens. Slight edge softening remained constant throughout the camera’s  focal length range, as shown in the graph below.


      Lateral chromatic aberration was consistently negligible and we found no traces of coloured fringing in shots taken in contrasty conditions. Exposure levels were effectively metered but outdoor shots in contrasty lighting occasionally contained blown-out highlights and/or blocked-up shadows.

      The manual exposure mode enables users to set exposures as long as 60 seconds and we found most long exposures were noise- and artefact-free. However, noise-reduction processing, which is applied by default, tended to soften images from ISO 800 on. This processing also affected flash shots.

      The built-in 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. 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.

      Results obtained with the Handheld Night Shot mode weren’t as good as we found with the FT3 and higher light levels were required to obtain good results. This may be because the image stabilisation system was less effective than the FT3’s in this mode.

      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 faster than those from the FT3. The review camera powered-up in just over one second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.1 seconds without flash and 2.2 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.3 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took an average of 2.4 seconds to process each 12M/Fine image.

      In the continuous shooting mode we recorded six 12M shots in 1.6 seconds before capture halted. It took 2.6 seconds to process this burst. The High-Speed burst mode recorded 10 3m frames in 1.1 seconds. It took 2.4 seconds to process this burst.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You require a tough, waterproof, solidly-built camera with an easy-to-use menu system.
       - You’d like some degree of manual exposure control.
       - 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.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You require a viewfinder.
       - You want to shoot raw files (the FT4 can’t).
       - You want high burst capacity at high resolution.


      Image sensor: 6.12 x 4.55 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/3.5-5.9 zoom lens (28-128mm in 35 mm format)
       Zoom ratio: 4.6x optical, up to 4x digital
       Image formats: Stills – JPEG  (DCF / Exif 2.3); Movies – AVCHD, H264/MP4 AVC; 3D – MPO
       Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 Aspect: 4000 x 3000, 3264 x 2448, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480;  3:2 Aspect: 4000 x 2672, 3264 x 2176, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360, 640 x 424; 16:9 Aspect: 4000 x 2248, 3264 x 1840, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080, 640 x 360; 1:1 Aspect: 2992 x 2992, 2448 x 2448, 1920 x 1920, 1536 x 1536, 480 x 480; Movies – AVCHD:1920 x 1080 at 50i or 25fps, 1280 x 720 at 50p or 25fps; MP4: 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480 at 25fps
       Shutter speed range: Approx.  60-1/1300 seconds in manual mode
       Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
       Image Stabilisation: POWER O.I.S. (On with Active Mode (only for Motion Picture) / Off)
       Exposure Compensation: +/-2 EV in 1/3 EV steps
       Exposure bracketing: 3 frames, max. +/- 1 EV in 1/3 or 1 EV steps
       Focus system/range: Contrast-based AF with 23-area/1-area/Spot modes plus Normal, AF Macro, Macro Zoom, Quick AF On/Off (On in Intelligent Auto), Continuous AF (only for motion picture), AF Tracking, Face Detection; range:  30 cm to infinity; macro to 5 cm
       Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple metering with Program AE and Manual modes
       Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, P (Program), M (Manual), Sports, Snow, Miniature Effect, Beach & Snorkelling, Underwater, Scene (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama Shot, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Through Glass), 3D Photo
       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 plus White Balance Adjustment
       Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off; range: 0.3 – 5.6 m (Wide), 0.3 – 3.1 m (Tele)
       Sequence shooting: Max. 3.7 frames/second for up to 6 shots at full resolution; 10 fps available at reduced image sizes
       Storage Media: Approx. 20 MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC/SDXC expansion slot
       Viewfinder: No
       LCD monitor: 2.7-inch  TFT LCD with 230,000 dots and AR coating
       Power supply: Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 940 mAh); CIPA rated for 310 shots/charge
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 103.5 x 64.0 x 26.5 mm
       Weight: 175 grams (without battery and memory card)














      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


       Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


       4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/3.3.


      22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.9.


       Digital zoom; 22.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.9.


       Close-up; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/3.3.


       Backlighting; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/3.3.


      30-second exposure at ISO 100; 4.9mm focal length, f/3.3.


       10-second exposure at ISO 800; 4.9mm focal length, f/3.3.


      6-second exposure at ISO 1600; 4.9mm focal length, f/3.3.


       High Sensitivity mode; 4.9mm focal length,1/4 second  at f/3.3, 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 Handheld Night Shot mode (ISO 800); 22.8mm focal length, 1/5second at f/5.9.


       10mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/4.9.


       5.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/4.


       14.5mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/80 second at f/5.8.


      4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1300 second at f/10..


      Still frame from 1080p video clip shot in AVCHD format.


       Still frame from 1080p video clip shot in MP4 format.


       Still frame from 720p video clip shot in AVCHD format.


      Still frame from 720p video clip shot in MP4 format.


      Still frame from VGA video clip.


      RRP: $449 

      • Build: 9.0
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Image quality: 8.8
      • Video quality: 9.0