Panasonic’s latest compact camera, the Lumix DC-FT7 (also know as the DC-TS7), is a new “rugged” camera. That is, it has a number of tough credentials, which make it ideal for shooting in a wide variety of different conditions.
It is waterproof down to 31 metres (making it the class leading product), shockproof from a height of 2 metres, freeze proof down to -10 degrees and crush proof up to 100kg. It also has a 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor, plus a 4.6x optical zoom lens, with an equivalent focal length range of 28-128mm.
Panasonic has added an electronic viewfinder to the Lumix DC-FT7, in a difference from its predecessor, the FT5. This 0.2-inch, 1170k-dot device is there for such times when shooting in bright sunlight might prevent you from using the 3.0-inch, 1,040k-dot screen.
Other features of the FT7 include wi-fi connectivity, 4K Video and 4K Photo modes, digital filters, geo-tagging (via your smart device), plus a raft of useful “adventure” type features such as a compass, altimeter and a torchlight function.
We joined Panasonic at the launch of the FT7, using it in a number of ideal conditions for testing the camera. At that time, the camera was a pre-production model. We have now had the opportunity to use a full production version of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 camera, and have updated this review accordingly.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 / TS7 is available in 3 colour versions: orange, blue and black, priced at £399 / $449.
Ease of Use
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7’s tough features make it feel robust and solid in use. It’s light and pocket-friendly, but reassuringly weighty enough to make it feel like a solid piece of kit – you certainly feel reassured that it could withstand a few knocks and scapes.
We’ve used the camera in a range of different conditions, including underwater. It’s in these kinds of conditions that cameras like the FT7 need to be different from normal cameras – as in they need to have easy to use buttons and settings. The buttons which you need to use to make all the changes to settings are set apart from the body fo the camera, making it easy to find them when you’re using them in such tricky situations. There’s no touch-sensitive screen here – not really a shock considering the FT7 is designed for underwater use where touch sensitivity isn’t really an option. It might arguably have been nice to have touch control when using the camera out of the water, but the buttons do a good job none-the-less.
On the top of the camera is a very large shutter release button. This might be unusual on a standard type camera, but when you need to find the shutter release when your hands are very cold, or you’re taking a photo underwater, it makes a lot more sense.
|Front of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7|
The majority of the buttons on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 are grouped to the right hand side, which again makes it easier to operate the camera in slightly tricky conditions – or if you’re using it one-handed. The buttons are a little on the stiff side, but this might be something which gets a little looser with prolonged usage – but it’s a good indication of how well sealed the camera is.
Buttons here include a mode button for choosing the different exposure modes on offer (there’s not a huge plethora of options here – but there are some scene modes, intelligent auto, program mode, manual mode, creative control and so on).
There’s also a button for directly accessing Panasonic’s 4K Photo option, and another for changing the display option, or for playing back your images. The delete button doubles up as a quick menu button, which gives you access to the most commonly used settings you’re likely to want to change on a regular basis.
|Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7|
To zoom the lens, you’ll need to use the rocker switch on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7, which is marked with a W (wide), and a T (tele). The tele button can be a little too easy to press when you’re tightly gripping the camera and placing your thumb on the thumb rest. It’s not much of an issue when using the camera in ordinary settings – but if you’re doing something a little more “out there”, such as kayaking or open-water swimming, accidental zooming can occur on occasion.
Another point about using the camera when in typical “tough” conditions is that there’s no way to turn on an electronic level. Trying to frame your shot while you’re potentially doing something unsteady is tricky, so a feature like this would be very handy – and a shame not to see it when it’s found in other Lumix cameras.
|Top of the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7|
Charging the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 takes place via the port which is hidden behind a study door. To open the door you need to slide a lock switch first, and then slip open a door latch, which makes sure you don’t accidentally open it while in precarious conditions such as underwater or in the middle of a sandstorm and let foreign objects into the camera. Usefully, you can charge the camera via USB – this is great for camping and such like where you might not have a proper plug socket, but instead you can charge it using a battery pack.
A new feature of the FT7 is the addition of an electronic viewfinder. It’s handy to have if the screen really is reflecting bright light and it’s hard to compose, but it’s not a finder you’ll likely want to use for all your shots – it’s a little on the small side, and you need to press a button to activate it.
|Tthe Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 In-hand|
One annoying feature is that every time you switch on the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7, it asks you if you want to review the precautions for using the camera underwater. To get rid of this, you can either select no, or press the back button on the back of the camera. It’s a couple of seconds wasted every time you switch on the camera and can lead to missed shots. This is especially annoying when you’re trying to grab a shot while doing something like extreme sports – I’d hoped that the full production sample would include a way to get rid of this feature, but it doesn’t seem to be possible.
During my use with the pre-production FT7 model, I found that on occasion it struggled to focus quickly or accurately. Focusing seems to be better for the full production model, generally locking on to the most appropriate target quickly and easily. There are still moments when the focus isn’t perfect though, so it’s worth keeping an eye on it – and taking more than one photo just to make sure. It’s also worth switching to 1-Area focusing and using the focus and recompose method (it’s not possible to move the focus point) to ensure that the exact target you want is in focus.
All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.
Although it may seem odd to say this, the quality of the images captured by the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 are almost of secondary importance to the situations in which you can capture said photos. While the images here may not be as good as from other sources, the fact that you can dive with it, chuck it around, go to a really cold location and so on, is the real selling point.
That is not to say that photos are terrible. Far from it – colours are generally nice and vibrant, while if you keep images to small size, the overall impression of detail is good. I’d avoid using the camera in very low light situations where possible, but otherwise noise is also kept to a minimum.
However, it’s probably also true that a high-quality smartphone will produce photos of equal quality. If therefore you’re planning on buying a camera to use purely as an everyday holiday camera, you may be a little disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want the opportunity to use a camera in more challenging conditions, you should still be pleased.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 competes closely with the Olympus Tough TG-5, but in terms of image quality the TG-5 probably has the edge here – whether you choose to go for the FT7 therefore may well depend on brand preference, and/or whether you require the extra waterproofing depth.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 has eight sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 80 and ISO 6400.
ISO 80 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
ISO 6400 (100% Crop)
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7’s 4.6x optical zoom lens gives you a focal range of 28-128mm (in 35mm-camera terms).
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 handled chromatic aberrations pretty well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.
Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7’s macro mode allows you to focus down to 5cm from your subject. It’s close enough to capture plenty of detail, but can’t match the impressive results you can get from the 1cm macro modes offered by some tough cameras.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7’s built-in flash includes four modes when shooting in Normal Picture mode: Auto, Auto/Red-Eye, Forced Flash On and Forced Flash Off.
Forced Off – Wide Angle (28mm)
Forced On – Wide Angle (28mm)
Forced Off – Telephoto (128mm)
Forced On – Telephoto (128mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any red-eye.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 has a maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds, which isn’t really long enough for most night photography.
This is a selection of sample images from the Panasonic Lumix FT7 camera, which were all taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
1/125s · f/10 · ISO 80 – 28mm (35mm)
1/160s · f/10 · ISO 80 – 28mm (35mm)
1/320s · f/5.8 · ISO 80 – 120mm (35mm)
1/320s · f/5.9 · ISO 80 – 256mm (35mm)
1/400s · f/3.3 · ISO 80 – 28mm (35mm)
1/60s · f/3.3 · ISO 160 – 28mm (35mm)
1/800s · f/3.3 · ISO 80 – 28mm (35mm)
1/60s · f/3.3 · ISO 100 – 28mm (35mm)
|Metrics||Dimensions (W x H x D)||116.7 x 76.1 x 37.3 mm (4.59 x 2.99 x 1.46 inch)|
|Weight||Approx. 319 g with Battery and SD Memory Card (0.70 lb)/Approx. 293 g without Battery and SD Memory Card (0.65 lb)|
|Pixels||Camera Effective Pixels||20.4 Megapixels|
|Sensor||Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter||1/2.3-type High Sensitivity MOS Sensor / 21.1 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter|
|Lens||Aperture||F3.3 – 5.9 / 2-step (F3.3 / 10(W), F5.9 / 18(T))|
|Focal Length||f=4.9 – 22.8mm (28 – 128mm in 35mm equiv.)/(30-140mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)|
|Extra Optical Zoom (EZ)||6.4x (4:3 / 10M (M)), 9x (4:3 / 5M (S))|
|Lens||LUMIX DC VARIO/8 elements in 10 groups/(5 aspherical lenses / 6 aspherical surfaces)|
|Optical Image Stabilizer||POWER O.I.S. (On / Off)|
|Digital Zoom||Max. 4x (When Digital Zoom is used simultaneously with Intelligent Zoom, you can only increase the zoom ratio up to 2x.)|
|Focus||Focusing Area||Normal: 30 cm – infinity/AF Macro / Intelligent Auto / Motion Picture: Wide 5 cm – infinity / Tele 30 cm – infinity|
|AF Assist Lamp||Yes (On / Off)|
|Focus||AF / AF Macro / Macro Zoom/Continuous AF (during motion picture recording)|
|AF Metering||Face Detection / Tracking / 49-area / 1-area / Spot|
|Shutter||Shutter Speed [Still Image]||Approx. 4 – 1,300 sec (Shutter Type: Mechanical Shutter)/Approx. 4 – 1/16,000 sec (Shutter Type: Auto)|
|Shutter Speed [Motion Picture]||Approx. 1/30 – 1/16,000 sec|
|Finder||Viewfinder||0.2″ LVF (Live View Finder) (1,170k dots equiv.), Field of View: Approx. 100%/Magnification: Approx. 2.53x / 0.45x (35 mm camera equivalent)|
|File||File Format||Still Image: JPEG (DCF/Exif2.31)/4K PHOTO: MP4/Motion Picture: MP4 (Audio format: AAC 2ch)|
|Recording Modes||Recording Mode||Intelligent Auto, P, M, Scene Guide, Creative Control, Sports, Snow, Beach&Surf, Underwater, Panorama Shot|
|Creative Control mode||Expressive / Retro / Old Days / High Key / Low Key / Sepia / Monochrome / Dynamic Monochrome / Rough Monochrome* / Silky Monochrome* / Impressive Art / High Dynamic / Cross Process / Toy Effect / Toy Pop / Bleach Bypass / Miniature Effect / Soft Focus* / Fantasy / Star Filter* / One Point Color / Sunshine* (22 filters) *For photos only.|
|Scene Guide||Clear Portrait / Silky Skin / Backlit Softness / Clear in Backlight / Relaxing Tone / Distinct Scenery / Bright Blue Sky / Romantic Sunset Glow / Vivid Sunset Glow / Glistening Water* / Clear Nightscape / Cool Night Sky / Warm Glowing Nightscape / Glittering Illuminations* / Handheld Night Shot / Clear Night Portrait / Soft Image of a Flower* / Appetizing Food / Cute Dessert / Freeze Animal Motion / Monochrome *For photos only.|
|Burst Shooting Mode (Approx.)||H: 10 frames/sec, M: 5 frames/sec*, L: 2 frames/sec*/*AF Tracking|
|4K Photo Mode (*2)||4K Burst: 30 frames/sec/4K Burst (S/S): 30 frames/sec/4K Pre-Burst: 30 frames/sec, approx. 2 sec/Exif Information: Yes (Each JPEG image cropped out of the 4K burst file complies with EXIF.)|
|Motion Picture Recording (*2)||MP4||[4K] 3840×2160/4K/30p: 100Mbps/4K/25p: 100Mbps/4K/24p: 100Mbps/[Full HD] 1920×1080/FHD/60p: 28Mbps/FHD/50p: 28Mbps/FHD/30p: 20Mbps/FHD/25p: 20Mbps/[HD] 1280×720/HD/30p: 10Mbps/HD/25p: 10Mbps|
|High Speed Video(*2)||[HD] 1280×720 FHD/25p (Sensor Output is 100fps)|
|Continuous Recordable Time (Motion Pictures) (*2)||Continuous Recordable Time (Motion Pictures) (*2)||FHD/50p: Approx. 80 min (rear monitor), 75 min (LVF)|
|Actual recordable Time (Motion Pictures) (*2)||Actual recordable Time (Motion Pictures) (*2)||FHD/50p: Approx. 60 min (rear monitor), 60 min (LVF)|
|Exposure Parameters||Exposure||Program AE, Manual|
|Exposure Compensation||1/3 EV step, +/-5 EV (+/-3 EV for motion picture / 4K PHOTO)|
|Light Metering||Intelligent Multiple / Center Weighted / Spot|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto / i.ISO / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / 6400* *Extended ISO|
|Picture Quality||Still Picture Recording||4:3 5184×3888 (20M) (L) / 3712×2784 (10M) (M) / 2624×1968 (5M) (S)/3:2 5184×3456 (17M) (L) / 3712×2480 (9M) (M) / 2624×1752 (4.5M) (S)/16:9 5184×2920 (14.5M) (L) / 3840×2160 (8M) (M) / 1920×1080 (2M) (S)/1:1 3888×3888 (14.5M) (L) / 2784×2784 (7.5M) (M) / 1968×1968 (3.5M) (S)|
|Image Quality||Fine / Standard|
|White Balance||AWB / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / Flash / White Set/(White Balance Adjustment)|
|Photo Style||Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait|
|Picture Adjustment||Contrast, Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Saturation*, Color Tone**, Filter Effect**/*Except for Monochrome mode. **For Monochrome mode only.|
|Bracket||AE Bracket (Auto Bracket)||3, 5, 7 images in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV step, Max. +/-3 EV|
|Other||Digital Red Eye Correction (Red-Eye Removal)||Yes (On / Off)|
|Wi-FI||IEEE 802.11b/g/n/2412 MHz – 2462 MHz (1-11 ch)/WPA / WPA2/Infrastructure Mode / WPS|
|Self Timer||2 sec / 10 sec / 10 sec (3 images)|
|Display||Playback Mode||All, Picture Only, Video Only, Slideshow (All / Picture Only / Video Only, duration & effect is selectable), Calendar|
|Thumbnails / Zoomed Playback||12,30-thumbnails / Yes|
|Rating / Rotate Image / Protect||– / – / Yes|
|Show Histogram/ Show Highlights||Yes / –|
|Edit||Creating a Motion Picture from Still Pictures||Time Lapse Video|
|Resize/ Cropping||Yes / Yes|
|Title Edit / Text Stamp||Yes / Yes|
|Direct Print||PictBridge compatible|
|Setup||OSD language||Japanese, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish|
|Monitor||LCD Monitor||7.5cm (3.0″) TFT Screen LCD Display (1040k dots)/Field of View: Approx. 100%|
|Flash||Built- in- Flash||Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off/0.3 – 5.6m (Wide / ISO Auto), 0.3 – 3.1m (Tele / ISO Auto)|
|Media||Recording Media||SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card/(Compatible with UHS-I UHS Speed Class 3 standard SDHC / SDXC Memory Cards)|
|Built- in- Memory||–|
|Audio||Microphone / Speaker||Stereo / Mono|
|Interface||Interface||microHDMI typeD (*3), USB2.0 Micro-B|
|Power||Power||Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, 1250mAh, 4.5 Wh) (Included)/USB power charging|
|Battery life (Approx.)||Approx. 300 images (rear monitor), 250 images (LVF) (*1)|
|Standard Package||Included Software||・ The software to edit and playback images on computer is not bundled with this camera. Please use the software pre-installed to the PC or other general image viewing software to browse pictures.|
|Standard Accessories||Battery Pack, AC Adaptor, USB Cable, Hand Strap/・ Operating Instructions for advanced features is available for downloaded at Panasonic LUMIX Customer Support Site using PC, smartphone or tablet connected to the Internet.|
|NOTE||*1 Recording conditions by CIPA standard|
|NOTE||– Temperature: 23 oC (73.4 oF) / Humidity: 50%RH when monitor is on.|
|NOTE||– Using a Panasonic SDHC Memory Card|
|NOTE||– Using the supplied battery.|
|NOTE||– Starting recording 30 seconds after the camera is turned on. (When the optical image stabilizer function is set to [ON].)|
|NOTE||– Recording once every 30 seconds with full flash every second recording.|
|NOTE||– Rotating the zoom lever from Tele to Wide or vice versa in every recording.|
|NOTE||– The number of recordable pictures varies depending on the recording interval time.|
|NOTE||– If the recording interval time becomes longer, the number of recordable pictures decreases.|
|NOTE||– CIPA is an abbreviation of [Camera & Imaging Products Association].|
|NOTE||*2 – Use a card with SD Speed Class with “”Class 4″” or higher when recording motion pictures.|
|NOTE||– Use a card with SD Speed Class with “”UHS-I Speed Class 3 (U3)”” when recording motion pictures with [MP4] in [4K] [High Speed Video] or [4K PHOTO].|
|NOTE||(SD speed class is the speed standard regarding continuous writing.)|
|NOTE||– Recording stops when the continuous recording time exceeds 29 minutes and 59 seconds with [4K].|
|NOTE||– When using an SDHC memory card: You can continue recording without interruption even if the file size exceeds 4 GB, but the motion picture file will be divided and recorded/played back separately.|
|NOTE||– When using an SDXC memory card: You can record a motion picture in a single file.|
|NOTE||– Recording stops when the continuous recording time exceeds 29 minutes and 59 seconds except [4K].|
|NOTE||You can continue recording without interruption even if the file size exceeds 4 GB, but the motion picture file will be divided and recorded/played back separately.|
|NOTE||– These are standard times taken at a temperature of 23 oC (73.4 oF) and a humidity of 50%RH.|
|NOTE||– The time available for recording varies depending on the environment, the interval between recordings, and the manner of use.|
|NOTE||– Actual recordable time is the time available for recording when repeating actions such as switching the power supply [ON] / [OFF], starting/stopping recording, zoom operation etc.|
|NOTE||*3 For [4K] video output, use an HDMI cable that has the HDMI logo on it, and that is described as”4K compatible”.|
On paper, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 is the probably just about the best underwater/tough model you can buy right now. It has all the specs you’d expect from a camera like this, particularly the best underwater credentials on the market, as well as a good range of other tough features. A number of other specifications, such as 4K Photo, inbuilt Wi-Fi and USB charging make it appealing for other reasons, too.
While on the whole, your smartphone (particularly if you have a high-quality one), will be more than adequate for taking pictures when you want to travel as light as possible, if you’re somebody who likes adventure holidays, then a compact camera like the Panansonic FT7 makes a lot of sense. Even if your adventures are relatively tame, such as summer afternoons on the beach or camping trips, having a waterproof and tough model is worth considering.
That said, Panasonic hasn’t done much to push the boundaries of what is expected from a tough compact with the FT7. We’re still waiting for somebody to release a one-inch sensor tough compact that will produce high image quality and not leave us with such a compromise. It would more-than-likely cost a lot of money to buy, but if you’re somebody who wants to properly document their costly adventures, such as skiing, snowboarding, kayaking and so on, spending a chunk of money on a brilliant camera may not be something you’re too worried about.
With an asking price of around £400, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 hardly represents an impulse purchase, either. Its biggest competitor is the Olympus Tough TG-5, which is currently available for around £380. On paper, the Panasonic TG-5 looks like the better option – and in some respects it is – it offers deeper waterproofing, an electronic viewfinder and more pixels. However, in reality, very few people need such deep waterproofing, the electronic viewfinder is best reserved for when you’re really desperate and the extra pixels can actually be a hindrance when it comes to low-light shooting.
If you like the Panasonic brand, or perhaps if you’re one of the few that needs 31 metre waterproofing, the Lumix FT7 is the obvious choice, otherwise, the Olympus TG-5 is probably the better one.