WHEN PHOTOGRAPHY GETS ROUGH | Darrin Henry
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 compact is our fun camera for street stuff and experimental photography. Small, blue and boxy, it tags along wherever the ‘big camera’ goes.
We’ve owned a few compacts over the years, but for a while now our ‘little’ camera has been this gleaming point and shoot.
The reason we chose this model was simple, we wanted a camera to take underwater and this one rated well with a 13m/43ft capability and good reviews.
That first time we submerged it completely we held our breath in more ways than one! But over a year on it’s still performing flawlessly after multiple dips in the sea, outings in the rain and many other very wet excursions. Top of the list has to be our visit to Niagara Falls in Canada.
One thing we did do right at the beginning was read the instructions carefully on how to keep water out of the camera, and that has probably been why this little chunky clicker continues to get used nearly every day.
Here’s a quick run-down of what impressed us and what didn’t with our adventure compact.
A Review of the Lumix DMC-FT5
Pros & Cons – Good points first.
Ultimate survivor – this camera was built to go where the action is. Panasonic boasts it is waterproof, shockproof (from 2m high) and freezeproof (down to -10 C). We’ve tested and can vouch for the underwater capability. Not brave enough to try a drop test yet and a lifetime habit of looking after cameras means it hasn’t happened accidentally, either! But it’s a reassuring comfort to know these things when out and about.
Movie maker – The Lumix DMC-FT5 shoots 1920×1080 full-HD video! It’s pretty fantastic at this; a capability which surprised us. We sometimes use a monopod or tripod for extra stability in video mode. Check out these two videos shot with our Lumix; the first of a train that runs through Hanoi, Vietnam, squeezing between the houses. The second video shows rough sea at the wharf on St Helena, here you will see we took advantage of the waterproof capability to dramatic effect.
Photo Quality – ultimately the Lumix DMC-FT5 produces great results under the right lighting conditions – as is the case in all photography. We have some samples here in this post. The 16MP quality is quite impressive providing, once again, you pay attention to light and stability, something that applies to all compacts.
Memory – In HD movie mode you need an SD memory card that can process video data at high speed. We use a single 32GB Ultra Fast SD/HC card with a write speed of 80MB/s which works perfectly and has proved to be more than enough space for what we get up to. We’ve never felt the need to get a second card.
The Big Screen – the back of the Lumix is virtually all LCD screen which is great for composing and reviewing shots especially as there is no traditional viewfinder. The 3 inch display itself is brilliant; bright and sharp.
Zoom and 28mm wide-angle – Generally we avoid using the zoom facility on compacts; the strength of these cameras is keeping it wide-angle and moving your own position closer. That said the 4.6X optical zoom on the Lumix is pretty good and delivers crisp shots (if you keep it steady). But the 28mm wide-angle is superb, perfect in tight corners or shooting street photography on the go.
Panoramic & Macro – These two features on the Lumix DMC-FT5 are easy to access from the simple button layout and deliver good quality results. The panoramic are ideal for Facebook cover images.
Special effects – While I’m not a fan of colour processing special effects, a lot of people are and will be pleased to know this camera has a repertoire of post production tricks. These include: Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, Toy, Miniature, Sepia, One Point Colour, Low Key, High Key, Star and Retro.
The special effects are applied after a picture has been captured. You get a chance to review the effect before saving, and best of all the original image is also retained.
Simple and easy to use – The main features are accessible from an easy to understand set of buttons. If you have big fingers these buttons may be a little fiddly, but we have no complaints. If you want to shoot video, there’s just one button to press right there on the top; a second press will stop it. Simples.
Not so good points.
Chunky – This camera is not your streamlined, aerodynamic street racer. It’s more Land Rover than Porsche. But it’s one of those modern, stylish, sport Land Rovers, so not a problem if you like that sort of thing!
No Lens Cover – The lack of lens cover worried me at first but it hasn’t caused any problems, it’s just a little strange to get used to after being so paranoid about protecting the DSLR lenses. It helps to know reinforced glass is used in the lens for extra protection.
Open Door Policy – There is the one hatch door on the side which reveals the battery compartment, SD memory card and socketry for connecting a USB or HDMI cable. The door itself is lined with a thin rubber coating to seal the compartment to make it watertight. Although the door and rubber seal looks and feels a bit fragile, we open and close the camera about four to six times a week for more than a year and it’s fine. But the key word is, ‘careful.’
Battery life – The battery that’s included can run down suddenly if subjected to an all day shoot. Spare batteries are quite easy to purchase. We bought two spares and rotate their use. Power is therefore not a problem but it does mean opening the watertight compartment each time to access the battery.
Low light – in bright, well lit situations the Lumix DMC-FT5 produces some great pictures. In low light, as with any compact, it struggles a bit as the shutter speed drops. But, stabilising the camera helps immensely; our bean bag is useful here. The built in flash is basic, but as good as any other compact and gets the job done.
The Lumix DMC-FT5 can do some other cool stuff – allegedly! We haven’t actually tested these features, but for gadgety photographers it also boasts Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, an on-board GPS module, a compass, altimeter and even a barometer. Downloading the Lumix app allows the camera to be controlled from a smartphone.
When it comes time to replace this camera, it is very likely we will upgrade to a newer model.
When we want to get technical and produce professional grade images, we use our DSLR. Everything on that camera is set up in manual; ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, etc. But, when we want point and shoot fun, the Panasonic Lumix is the perfect buddy!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 Technical Details:
White Balance: Auto, 5 preset, White Balance Adjust
Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
LCD: 3in, 460k-dot
Metering System: Intelligent Multiple
Sensor: 16.1MP, 1/2.3in MOS
Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 50p, 50i, AVCHD / MP4
Exposure Modes: P, M, Scene, iAuto
Flash Modes: Auto, Red-eye, Forced On, Slow sync, Off
Connectivity: microHDMI, USB
Lens: 4.6x optical zoom, 28-128mm
ISO Range: 100 – 6400
Power: Li-ion rechargeable battery (LI-90B)
Shutter Speeds:30 – 1/1300 sec
File Formats: JPEG, AVCHD, MP4, MPO
Dimensions: 109.2 x 67.4 x 28.9 mm
Manufacturer’s camera overview and specs