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Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT3 Rugged Point and Shoot Digicam
Panasonic are big players in the compact camera market and are most popular for their Lumix series of cameras. Cameras, being electronic gadgets are susceptible to natural weather conditions and also calamities due to clumsiness on the part of the user. Panasonic have taken all these factors into consideration and launched the LUMIX DMC-TS3(FT3), which is specially geared for active outdoor use.
12.1 megapixel CCD sensor on this rugged camera
This is not their first venture into the rugged camera terrain as they have sported previous versions of the DMC-FT3, which are namely the DMC-FT1 and FT2. Panasonic is also known for other similarly designed products such as the Toughbook.
Design and Build Quality
The Panasonic Lumix FT3 we received was orange in colour. Customers have the choice of three other colours, as well - silver, blue and red. The camera is made entirely out of hard plastic and is a bit bulky but that’s a given with rugged cameras. The look of the FT3 has not changed much since the previous versions, rather, the FT3 is a bit bulkier than the FT2. We noticed that the review sample that we received had bits of colour paint wearing off.
The DMC-FT3 is fitted with a 12.1 mega pixel CCD sensor and features a 4.6x optical zoom lens. The lens is tiny and is part of the body of the camera. There is an auto focus assist light located next to the the LED flash at the front of the camera. A 2.7-inch screen is also present, which is pretty good in clarity and colours. The controls for the camera are all positioned to the right of the screen. The spacing of all the buttons at the rear of the camera are nicely spaced out but at the same time look a bit chunky. Panasonic have added separate buttons for the zoom control as opposed to the conventional rocker or trigger controls.
Buttons are nicely spaced out
A common feature we’re noticed is the dedicated button for video recording. The spacing of all these buttons is good and all the controls are easily accessible. On the right of the camera is the battery bay and along with the battery, the bay houses the memory card as well as the ports for HDMI and digital AV out. The battery bay has a locking system which prevents it from opening by accident under water.
The overall design of this camera has a very sporty and rugged feel to it. Panasonic claims the camera is shockproof up to 6.6 feet and waterproof upto 40 feet. The casing of the product does suggest this to be true and we did try out the shockproof-ness of it. The camera is on the bulky side, but since it is a compact camera, it can easily fit in one’s pocket and can be used easily with one hand and due to the fair amount of spacing, one can easily manage to use the functions buttons.
Designated video recording button
The Panasonic Lumix FT3 is a camera that is abundant in features. We have come to see over a period of time that Panasonic have been adding a whole lot of features in their point and shoot range of cameras which definitely heats up the competition. The camera features a LEICA 28mm wide angle lens with folded optics technology. The Lumix FT3’s main features are its rugged qualities. Apart from it being shockproof up to 6.6-feet, waterproof up to 40 metres, Panasonic claims that it is freezeproof up to minus 10 degree celcius and something that was not seen in their previous versions - dustproof. The company explains that there is a rubber padding and reinforced glass inside the camera that results in an airtight body protecting against water immersion, dust and sand.
Though the rugged features of the DMC-FT3 may be the selling feature of this camera, the other very interesting features include GPS, 3D image capture and 1080p HD video recording in AVCHD format. The AVCHD format features almost double the recording time in HD quality compared with conventional Motion JPEG. Other features seen on this model, which were not present earlier are the decrease from 14 MP to 12.1, larger form factor and a significant bump in video recording from 720p.
HDMI connectivity option is available
The interface is simple to maneuver around in and is similar in design layout to the higher end Panasonic TZ series of cameras. The iAuto mode is the camera’s intelligent Auto mode and like most cameras, tweaking of settings is very limited. Ability to switch on or off the LED auto focus assist, burst mode and GPS is also available through this setting. In the normal mode, one can easily customize the settings according to their choice. This is basically the camera’s manual mode for capturing images. There is the ability to tweak points of focus, ISO sensitivity, white balance, enable GPS settings and other settings.
Lock for the cover to protect against water seepage
In the 3D shooting mode one can capture images by panning the camera 10 cm to the right. These images however, cannot be viewed on the camera itself because the screen is not 3D enabled. To view these 3D images, one has to connect it to a 3D ready television. Overall, the amount of features seen on this camera is very impressive.
Being a rugged camera meant for the great and wild outdoors, we put it through some rather different forms of testing apart from our image and video quality tests. Since the camera is shockproof we tossed it in the air and let it drop to test its mettle. It not only survived the fall but also came out mostly unscathed. We also dunked the camera in a bucket of water and shot images from it. No surprises here, the camera survived the task and shot well with a fair amount of detail being observed. We tested the camera using the Underwater mode and the detail noticed was really good. We also tested it under water using the iAuto mode and it shot well, however, unlike the Underwater mode, the ripples of the water could be made out.
Natural outdoor colours
The pictures shot really well during our testing which was done outdoors. All images shot in low ISO sensitivities shot rendered well with colours appearing as they should. The greens all looked natural and there was no colour fringing or image noise. At higher ISO settings we noticed that there was very little image noise. Overall images shot outdoors did well.
Black and white macro image quality provided depth
While shooting pictures indoors we noticed that there was very little noise and images did not appear grainy. There was no colour supplementation and colours appeared as they should. While enabling the flash of the camera, it illuminated an area of around 10 feet. The flash was not that bright and no shadows were cast. Macro images shot really well and there was a lot of depth of field noticed.
Camera worked well under water
We paired the camera with a Samsung UE55D8000 to check out the 3D image capabilities this camera offers. The 3D images that we shot had a fair amount of depth. However there was some graininess noticed as well with a couple of pictures. The GPS feature of this camera did not seem to pick up the area we were in. So we were not able to test this feature even after repeated trial attempts.The Panasonic DMC-FT3 has a 940 mAh lithium - Ion battery and the company rates the battery life at 310 images.
Sport looking with funky colours
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 is priced at a market operating price of Rs. 27,200. This is on the pricier side of point of shoot cameras. Though it has some amazing features and delivered on all performance fronts, the price is a bit of a let down. However, if a person is really into heavy duty out door activities like mountain climbing, snorkeling and adventure sports in general and has no issues with the cost of the product; this may be the ideal camera.