Panasonic DMC-FT2: shockproof, waterproof camera

Panasonic DMC FT2 camera

Panasonic DMC FT2 camera

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This camera epitomises the "just work" requirement for digital cameras. It has quite a modest feature list - no wireless interface, no GPS, only 5x optical zoom, for example - but it makes up for these omissions by doing everything else really well.


Waterproof

On the face of it I can't see how the camera is waterproof to 10m; it has all of the buttons and dials that you'll find on any other camera. I can only assume that all of these controls are engineered to closer tolerances and have membranes to keep the water out. There are two doors that allow access to the battery, memory card (SD-HC) and data ports; these doors click very firmly into place, and feature locks to prevent accidental opening.

The optical zoom had to be compromised to make the camera waterproof. There is just a flat glass plate in front of the lens system, and nothing appears to move as you zoom in and out. This is a compromise you should seriously consider, as lenses that move in and out are quite vulnerable and liable to get damaged by dirt or knocks.

By the way, every time you turn the camera on, you will get an annoying message asking if you want to read the precautions for underwater use. You will get this message until you've selected 'Yes' and then waited until the slide-show of precautions is complete. If you press any button during the slide-show, you will still get the message the next time you turn on the camera.

Shockproof

The camera comes with a rubber-like jacket, which makes it pretty much un-droppable and pretty well protected if you do drop it. The jacket is quite bulky and can't be used with a tripod, and makes the camera a tight squeeze into a case designed for the DMC-FT2 (eg, the DMW-CFT1E-S); however, it's probably worth keeping it on for general use.

As I mentioned before, the lens system is protected behind a fixed glass plate, so you shouldn't be able to damage the zoom system if you drop the camera onto its front. Note that this is just my personal risk assessment, and not any sort of guarantee! A camera like the DMC-FT2 is most likely going to handle drops, dirt and general abuse much better than regular cameras.

Other features

It may be shockproof, but the camera is still exceedingly light and not too chunky - much lighter and thinner than the high-zoom TZ20, for instance.

You can easily record HD movies (with optical zoom and refocus during recording) from a single button press on the camera. You are limited to 1/2 hour of continuous recording time. One odd thing about the captured movies (as AVCHD Lite) is that they are buried in the 'misc' folder on the SD card, and are in ".mts" format, which Windows 7 recognises but Mac OS-X doesn't.

The dial is reserved for photo-shooting, so there is now a separate button on the camera to view your captured photos and videos. Much easier!

Photo capture modes include Sports (for fast action shots), Snow (for super-white snow) and Beach & surf (for those underwater shots). The Scene mode allows you to fine-tune the settings for lots of other more specific situations.


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