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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 review

Ben Pitt
20 Mar 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
350
inc VAT

Reassuringly rugged, respectable image quality and fast performance – a nicely rounded package

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Specifications

1/2.33in 16.0-megapixel sensor, 4.6x zoom (28-128mm equivalent), 214g

Rugged, waterproof cameras are perfect for skiing and watersports, but they're also a sensible option for the beach, fishing, mountaineering, off-road cycling, building sites and drunken nights out. If you tend to leave your camera at home for fear of damaging it, you can add your own lifestyle to this list.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

The FT5's rugged credentials are better than most. It's able to withstand submersion to 13 metres, drops from two metres and 100kg of pressure. Its blocky design inspires confidence but we found the small buttons tricky to press when wearing gloves. Otherwise, operation is straightforward, with a Q Menu button revealing the most often-used functions and a Mode button making up for the lack of a dedicated mode dial.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

GPS is built in and nearly all of our outdoor photos were accurately tagged, although one batch was mysteriously plotted in the Arctic Ocean. The GPS radio must be left permanently on to avoid long delays in calculating the position, but this didn't have the disastrous effect on battery life that we anticipated. A small LED blinks intermittently to remind you that the GPS is enabled – we wish there was a physical GPS switch that worked independently of the camera's main power button.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

This is the first FT-series camera to include Wi-Fi. It's essentially the same implementation that we saw in last month's Lumix SZ9, with an Android or iOS app handling wireless transfers and remote control. The FT5 adds the ability to use the app as a remote viewfinder while recording video – something that we'd anticipate using more often than remote photo capture. The camera can also transfer photos wirelessly to a PC or NAS over a home network.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

The accompanying Android app acts as a remote viewfinder while recording videos

It's extremely quick to take photos, averaging 0.7 seconds between shots in our tests. There are lots of burst modes on offer, including 10fps with fixed focus or 5fps with continuous autofocus. This is by far the best performance we've seen from a rugged camera, and it should come in handy for fast-paced outdoor pursuits.

The capable video mode is another useful asset. There's a choice of AVCHD recording at 50p or 50i, both of which give exceptionally smooth motion. We're more inclined to use the 25p MPEG-4 mode, though – YouTube converts the others to 25p anyway. It's definitely worth choosing MPEG-4 if you're using the Android app, as the remote shooting mode inexplicably drops the AVCHD resolution to 720p, and AVCHD videos can't be transferred wirelessly. Picture quality was excellent and autofocus and zooming were smooth, but there was a faint mechanical chatter in the soundtrack – possibly from the optical stabilisation.