The FT2 is a spitting image of the FT1, with the same rough, tough and almost armoured look to it. Handling is pretty much identical, although the slightly painful yet incredibly effective sliding zoom control has been replaced with a kind of left-to-right rocker switch that's easily confused with the shutter-release button. The battery compartment features a reinforced locking system, but apart from that there's no real change in design. The screen is still limited to its 230,000 dots but it does have good viewing angles.
One new feature is that the FT2 is now supplied with a separate silicone case for extra shock protection and improved grip with wet hands (the metal body can be a bit slippy). The only downfall is that the case blocks access to the battery compartment. Another nice touch is that the wrist strap can be adjusted to fit tightly around your wrist, so you won't have to worry about the camera slipping off when you're out and about in the wilderness.
There's nothing out of the ordinary to mention here as the FT2 has fairly bog-standard performances. Start-up takes three seconds, focusing takes a little over a second, and there's a noticeable wait between taking two shots. It's not terrible, but we've seen better, even on other Panasonic cameras. Perhaps the most irritating thing is that the FT2 is slightly less responsive than the model it replaces. Perhaps the processor is having trouble handling this over-abundance of pixels?
The lens features a periscopic zoom. In wide-angle mode, pictures are fairly sharp in the middle but the edges are less well defined. In telephoto mode, the picture is generally less sharp and has an overall hazy appearance. Interestingly, this isn't a weakness we noticed in the FT1, even though it technically has the same lens. Could this be a random variation between the two models or greater sensitivity to diffraction? With a 14-Megapixel sensor and a lens aperture of just f/5.9, I'd say diffraction is almost certainly an issue. On the whole though, the results are fine and picture quality in 20 x 30 cm prints remains excellent.
The sensitivity test holds no surprises, as 1.42 µm light sensors simply can't capture more light than the 1.53 µm sensors used in the 12-Megapixel model. Upgraded image processing largely compensates for this, but we noticed a slight loss in sharpness as low as 200 ISO, with smoothing and noise visible from 400 ISO on a 30 x 40 cm print or a full-screen view. At 800 ISO, noise becomes more of a problem. In fact, you have to wonder what the point of so many pixels is if, on the one hand, they make the sensor less sensitive, and on the other hand, the lens simply isn't designed handle them. Don't even get me started on the increased file size and slower photo recording times ...
The FT2 records 720p HD video in the AVCHD Lite format. Picture quality is smooth and sharp, and you can even use the zoom, which is slower than in photo mode for smoother transitions. Sound isn't as good as on the TZ7 or TZ10, and the microphone is a little too sensitive to breathing noises. Recorded sound quality is just about average.