HandlingThe FT4 is basically a clone of last year's FT3. It has the same rugged, adventurer 'Land Rover' kind of look as the previous model, and we couldn't spot any changes to the exterior casing apart from a new red stripe in the middle of the handle. Obviously, that doesn't change the product's handling in any way. We therefore recommend you take a look at the 'Handling' section of our Panasonic Lumix FT3 review for more information. In a nutshell, though, grip is decent enough, mainly thanks to the small, rounded handle, but the zoom control on the back of the camera isn't particularly user-friendly.
The real downside remains the screen, as the FT4 uses the same 2.6-inch display with 230,000 dots as the FT3, and gives the same kind of results onscreen. Viewing angles remain excellent, but colour reproduction is still way off the mark (delta E = 10). Similarly, the gamma is too low, which makes it hard to see any difference between light greys and white. So aside from the screen's lack of definition, you shouldn't rely on the onscreen image when sorting and deleting photos, which is a bit of a shame in a £300 camera. Plus, with a decent screen, this camera would have walked its way to a four stars in this category.
ResponsivenessThe FT4 behaves in a very similar way to the FT3. You may remember that not long after testing the FT3, we invested in new timing equipment, which largely improved the accuracy of our results. The slight differences in speed we noticed between the FT3 and the FT4 may therefore be due to the fact that we used different timing equipment to measure the results.
The FT4 takes over two seconds to start up, which is a little slow. The photo saving time has been improved, however, now standing at a second, which isn't bad at all.
The autofocus is exactly the same as in the FT3. In other words, it works quickly in good light and it's still on the better side of average in lower-light conditions.
Picture QualityIn this section too, the FT4 doesn't hold any surprises, as it has the same lens and 12-Megapixel CCD sensor as the previous model.
The ISO tests give very similar results to the FT3, with visible granularity at 400 ISO, which gets stronger at 800 ISO. At this setting, smoothing also becomes more visible and a kind of purple marbling effect can be seen in dark or shadowy parts of the picture.
With BSI CMOS technology now commonplace in the camera market—even in mid-range models—it's surprising to see Panasonic stick to a CCD sensor in its high-end waterproof camera. In comparison, BSI COMS sensors in the likes of the FZ150 handle sensitivity in a much better way.
VideoThe FT4 has the same high-speed CCD sensor as the FT3. Picture quality is sharp if a little dense (under-exposed). Plus, the optical zoom is active and works more slowly than in photo mode to keep transitions smooth. Although the zoom motor can be heard in quiet scenes, it's still relatively discreet. However, sound is recorded in mono and an incessant hissing noise spoils quieter moments. All in all, audio quality could be better in this camera.
- Waterproof to 12 m, shockproof to 2 m
- Image quality at wide-angle settings and low ISO settings
- Simple interface, effective iA mode
- Image quality in video mode
- Advanced GPS tools
- Lens quality could be more consistent across the frame
- Noise and smoothing visible from 400 ISO
- Low-def screen
- Sound in video mode
The Panasonic Lumix FT4 is a straight copy of the FT3. Its only new feature is a boosted GPS which is a minor, if pleasant, addition. This year's FT camera is still likely to retain its position as top dog in the waterproof compact market in 2012, but it doesn't change the game in any significant way. Plus, it still has a fair share of downsides (the screen, in particular).