The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4 certainly looks the part, with its toolbox type exterior and lens lurking behind toughened glass. We also get an integral flash and autofocus (AF)/self-timer lamp.
Plus, along one end of the faceplate is a raised hand grip. A rubber coating to this section would have better facilitated a stronger hold, however.
The shutter release button on the Panasonic FT4 is large and obvious. And another practical concern is that the other buttons are too small to be operated with gloves, while the shiny front and back surfaces are slippery with dry fingers, never mind wet ones.
This camera may be tough, but Panasonic realises it still has to draw the eye of potential buyers too, and didn't want to go too big and bulky. As it is, the camera surface feels more slippery between the fingers than we'd have liked. Good job then that it can cope with being dropped.
Pictures and video are composed via the 2.7-inch LCD display at the back, which offers a standard resolution of 230k dots. While that's so-so, it's not the Panasonic Lumix FT4's main selling point, so the best you can say is that visibility is adequate, although you'll still be cupping a hand around it in strong sunshine.
While there's no shooting mode dial here, there is at least a mode button that summons up a self-explanatory menu of mode icons.
Presumably to aid damp digits, there's no lever or rocker switch for operating the 4.6x optical zoom, the equivalent of 28-128mm in 35mm film terms. Instead, we get two separate buttons ranged alongside each other that your thumb hops between to arrive at the framing desired.
Otherwise, a multi-directional command pad is provided for tabbing through menu settings, with a central menu/set button for calling them up and effecting any changes.
To avoid having to fiddle around in this manner in the wet or cold, Panasonic has provided its Q.Menu (Quick menu) button, which is now default across the Lumix range, to provide a shortcut to key settings such as resolution and ISO speed.
Handling is overall pretty straightforward, although bigger buttons, or even controls with a roughened non-slip surface, would have gone down a treat.