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So far Canon and Olympus have launched water-resistant cameras, each of which can be dunked down to 10 metres, along with shockproof and dustproof features.
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-TS1 (also known as the FT1 in some parts of the world) is in similar vein. While having similar dust- and drop-proof features, it can be submerged only down to three metres and is shockproof down to 1.5 metres.
However… it can shoot 12.1 megapixel stills, up to a maximum image size of 4000×3000 pixels, printable to 34x25cm as well as AVHCD Lite video in resolutions up to 1280×720 pixels at 30 fps.
The Olympus camera can match the TS1/FT1 in video resolution but, as it uses MPEG4 resolution, the file size is approximately double that of AVCHD Lite.
Realistically, most people will splash around, taking pictures only to a depth of a metre or more; those who descend to the 10 metre level I figure will be serious divers anyway and demand more than a waterproof point-and-shoot camera for their sub-briny picture making.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1/FT1 is available in four metallic colours: blue, olive green, orange and silver; the review camera was styled in orange — not really to my taste! But here we come to my main whinge, aimed at not only the Panasonic dunk-and-dip camera but also the Canon and Olympus models: while all of these cameras are attractive, easy to hold and operate, none of them are properly ruggedised. How much better they all would have been with rubberized edges or corners, non-slip and hand-friendly.
The FT1 does have an optically stabilised Leica 4.6x optical zoom lens that exhibited no barrel distortion at the zoom’s wide end and only a little of the pincushion variety at the tele end. Its zoom range equates to 28-128mm as a 35 SLR equivalent focal length. I would have preferred a wider optic; after all, refraction will bash this down to 40mm when underwater. There’s no optical finder on the FT1 but it does have a 6.9cm LCD screen.
Having said this, the Canon has a 35mm wide angle (underwater 50mm) but the Olympus matches the Panasonic with a 28mm wide end.
You get only auto mode in exposure metering but the handy Intelligent Auto (iA) mode can be used for both for both still images and video shooting and ease the pain in getting the shot. Added to this is a whole truckload of scene modes that can nearly guarantee success with shots taken at night, portraits, panoramas etc.
When taking movies you still get access to auto focus and the optical zoom; it’s also worth noting that a Wind Cut function blocks out much of the wind noise in audio when shooting outdoors. In low light a built-in LED lamp automatically turns on while shooting video.
With face recognition, the camera will log familiar faces if recorded several times — once registered, if the face appears in the frame again, the camera will display the name specified for that person and maximise focus and exposure.
While it is correct that the camera can pass ISO 1600 to an extended sensitivity of ISO 6400, this is at the cost of reduced image size.
The camera can shoot its first picture about 1-2 seconds after startup, then following shots come in at about a second apart. I found the shutter button needed a little patience … sustained pressure was needed for more than a second: this is no bang and shoot button!
I enjoyed my time with the FT1 but felt there were a few things design-wise that were less than ideal: the external controls were very small and less than legible, with text labels embossed onto chrome buttons making them very hard to see above water and near-impossible to identify underwater.
Likewise, the mode dial that housed all the main functions — auto shooting, scene modes etc. These identifying icons were barely 3mm across. Far too small!
Quality: I found image quality was above average for a compact. On a punishing bush trek or splash around in the surf the FT1 would make an excellent image catcher.
Why you would buy it: you need a go-anywhere camera for stills and movies.
Why you wouldn’t: you don’t like the mini labeling of the camera controls.
Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi zones.
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar f3.3-5.9/4.9-22.8mm (28-128mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/1300 second.
Continuous Shooting: 2.3 fps.
Memory: SD, SDHC, MMC cards plus 40MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000, 4000×2672, 4000×2248, 3264×2448, 3264×2176, 3264×1840, 2560×1920, 2560×1712, 2560×1440, 2048×1536, 2048×1360, 1930×1080, 1600×1200, 640×480.
Movies: 1280×720, 848×480, 640×480, 320×240 at 30 fps.
LCD Screen: 6.9cm LCD (230,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, Motion JPEG, AVCHD Lite.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 98.3×63.1×12.0 WHDmm.
Weight: 183 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1/FT1 at Amazon.