- Features a built-in electronic viewfinder
- Waterproof to 31m (102ft)
- Introduces 4K Photo Modes
- Supports USB charging
- Doesn’t shoot in the RAW format
- Small 1/2.3-inch size sensor
- Zoom operation is slow
- Buttons are fairly small
- 1/2.3-inch 20.4MP sensor
- 4.6x (28-128mm f/3.3-f/5.9 equivalent) optical zoom lens
- ISO 80-3200 (extendable to ISO 6400)
- 0.2-inch 1,170k-dot electronic viewfinder
- 3-inch, 1,040k-dot LCD screen
- Waterproof (up to 31m / 102ft), shockproof (to 2m/6.6ft), freeze proof (to -10°C), dustproof and pressure resistant (to 100kg/220lbf)
- 10fps continuous shooting
- 4K Photo Modes
- Compass and altimeter
- 22 creative filters and panorama mode
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- 300-shot battery life
Hands-on with Panasonic’s new tough compact, the Lumix FT7
Just when we thought Panasonic might be thinking about calling it a day in the rugged compact sector of the camera market, a new model has surfaced in the guise of the Panasonic Lumix FT7.
This latest compact camera from Panasonic takes over from the discontinued Lumix FT5 and is designed to sit above the company’s basic tough compact, the Lumix FT30.
Early summer is often the time of year when a flurry of new tough compact cameras arrive. It coincides with when backpackers, families and adventurous types start searching for a suitable camera that allows them to shoot off-limits where sand, water and dirt are prone to damaging mobile devices that aren’t designed to be used in such harsh, demanding environments.
I was invited to try out the Panasonic Lumix FT7 prior to its official launch on a coasteering and sea kayaking jaunt around Lulworth Cove in Dorset. My first impressions of this rugged little compact are found below.
The Panasonic Lumix FT7 is built around a 1/2.3-inch sensor, which features a 20.4MP resolution. This is a different chip to the 1/2.3-inch 16.1MP sensor used within the Lumix FT5 and offers a sensitivity range of ISO 80-3200, with the option to extend it as high as ISO 6400 in challenging low-light environments.
Interestingly, the Lumix FT7 doesn’t feature a Leica-licensed lens anymore. Instead, it’s equipped with a 4.6x optical zoom (28-128mm f/3.3-f/5.9) made by Panasonic.
We’re told the reason for this change is to ensure the price of the Lumix FT7 hits its sub-£400/$544 price point at the time of launch. To help keep handheld shots steady during unstable activities, the FT7 also features Power OIS (optical image stabilisation).
Unlike the Olympus Tough TG-5, the Lumix FT7 doesn’t offer the option to shoot in RAW, leaving users with little choice but to record images in the less versatile JPEG format. The good news for adventurous types who like to shoot movies is that the FT7 offers the ability to shoot 4K video, with 30p,25p and 24p recording modes all available.
Slow motion movie recording is possible in Full HD (1920×1080) at 120fps or 100fps and Panasonic’s excellent 4K Photo modes (4K Burst Shooting, 4K Burst (Start/Stop) and 4K Pre-burst) spill across from the company’s mirrorless models. With the latter it’s possible to shoot a continuous burst at 30fps before extracting an 8MP still image – great for situations where you might struggle to fire the shutter at a perfect moment.
On the subject of high-speed shooting, the Lumix FT7 can also shoot high-resolution images at 10fps in single AF (AF-S), or 5fps with AF tracking.
The Panasonic Lumix FT7 is altogether a more robust camera than the Lumix FT5. It’s shockproof from a height of 2m (6.6ft), crushproof to 100kg, freezeproof down to -10°C, and waterproof to a depth of 31m (102ft).
Compared to the Lumix FT5 and Lumix FT30, which can be used at depths of 13m/43ft and 8m/26ft respectively, the Lumix FT7 allows anyone who likes to dive to capture underwater images from considerably deeper depths than your average tough compact.
One of the standout features on the Lumix FT7 is its electronic viewfinder. Although extremely small (0.2in), it has a 1,170k-dot resolution and makes for a great way of composing images in high-contrast conditions where reflections can cause havoc on the rear screen.
Unlike most EVF’s though there’s no eye-sensor to detect when the camera is raised or pulled away from your eye. To switch between the screen and EVF you’re required to use the LVF button.
Below the electronic viewfinder there’s 3.0in 1,040k-dot LCD. Unlike other Panasonic pocket-size compacts like the Lumix TZ200 and other tough compacts already on the market, touch screen operation isn’t supported.
Other useful features include a built-in altimeter and compass. Images can also be GPS geo-tagged to ensure you always remember exactly where your adventures took place.
The camera’s built-in Wi-Fi connectivity ties in well with the Panasonic image app for quick and easy wireless transfer of images. The FT7’s DMW-BCM13 battery meanwhile is capable of shooting 300 shots using the LCD or 250 shots using the EVF.
Other nice touches include USB charging and the addition of a built-in LED light, which can be used independently from the camera’s shooting functions when an additional light source is required. As well as being available in blue, the Lumix FT7 will be available to buy in orange or black.
Build and Handling
The Lumix FT7 shares a likeness to its predecessor in the way the lens is positioned off-centre. It also improves on the previous design in a number of ways.
For starters it’s noticeably larger in the hand and benefits from a more pronounced handgrip. This gives you more to wrap your fingers around and contributes to a considerably better handling experience as a result.
On the top plate you’ll notice it has a much larger shutter button that’s easier to find. As I quickly discovered though, it’s very sensitive and requires a very gentle press to activate autofocus. Alongside the shutter button you get a On/Off button and movie-rec button to commence movie recordings immediately.
Other changes are found at the rear. Panasonic has positioned the new 0.2in, ,1,170k-dot resolution EVF centrally above the screen and there’s dioptre control right beside it.
The general arrangement of buttons below the zoom controls have been tidied up and there’s now a dedicated 4K Photo button. This is one of two function buttons at the rear of the camera that can be setup and customised as you like from the easy-to-navigate main menu.
At the side of the body, behind the weather-sealed door, you’ll find a single SD card slot and USB port. Having the option to charge the camera via USB is an important feature to look for on a tough compact and you can clearly tell when it’s charging as a bright red LED indicates at the rear beside the Q.Menu button.
The knurled plastic sections of the body provide a good level of grip where it’s needed and my thumb rested comfortably are the rear. Compared to the Lumix FT5, which had a tendency to feel rather slippery when it got wet, the Lumix FT7 feels more secure and less likely to slip from your grasp.
My pre-production sample survived an impact from arm’s length onto a hard floor without any sign of damage and turned on straight away. The weather seals did their job and prevented water entering the camera when jumping into the sea from height and when it was submerged for long periods.
The Panasonic Lumix FT7 has advanced and it hasn’t. New additions like its electronic viewfinder, 4K video recording and excellent 4K Photo modes are welcomed and be extremely useful for the types of die-hard adventurists who are attracted to this type of camera.
The handling has improved too, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who hoped Panasonic’s next tough compact might support RAW and possibly include a larger 1in-type sensor rather than the small 1/2.3in size sensor we’re so used to seeing on this type of camera.
For casual users who want an easy to use waterproof camera that can be used deeper below the surface of the water than most other tough compacts, the Panasonic Lumix FT7 ticks the right boxes.
More serious photographers who demand the best image quality and low-light performance are likely to put their money towards and underwater housing for a 1in sensor compact or DSLR.
While I enjoyed my experience of using the Lumix FT7 above and below water, I did notice a couple of issues on my early pre-production sample. The speed of the zoom from wide to telephoto and vice versa was fairly slow, taking over 3 seconds in each direction. Unfortunately, a couple of shots were missed because I simply couldn’t zoom out fast enough.
It also had an irritating precautions message on startup, which slowed the process of capturing shots as soon as the camera was switched on. Hopefully both of these issues will be aresolved by the time the final production models hit online retailers and stores in July.
The Lumix FT7 is the most advanced tough compact Panasonic has ever made. It improves on the Lumix FT5 in a number of ways, albeit not the key areas I hoped it might.
Had Panasonic successfully equipped the Lumix FT7 with a 1in sensor, they’d have really shaken up this sector of the market. It does make you wonder who will be the first camera manufacturer to release a 1in sensor tough compact?
As things stands, the Panasonic Lumix FT7 has some strong competition in the tough compact camera market from the Olympus Tough TG-5 and Nikon Coolpix W300.