Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 review

12.1Mp tough compact camera with GPS

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3

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Panasonic FT3 Review: Performance

During the test, the camera's GPS system did well to identify landmarks such as the British Museum, shopping centres and London Underground stations, although not without a few hiccups. Outside the British Museum, for example, it displayed the correct location, although once inside it mistakenly believed it to be inside the Cuban Embassy, a couple of minutes walk away.

Should this ocurr, the location can be amended for subsequent images from a list of nearby possibilities, and for any incorrectly named images that have already been captured the same list is stored so that embedded data may be amended at a later time.

Focusing speed is excellent, with the camera quickly identifying all relevant details and placing focusing points where necessary. Face Detection also works very well to spot subjects and highlight them with a box – during the test even managing to pick out the faces on statues – while AF tracking diligently locks onto subjects and keeps with them as they move.

It does very well underwater to maintain not just a clear view of the scene but its focusing speed too, while the menu remains readable. In quieter conditions it's also still possible to hear the various beeps as the camera focuses and is operated, and dropping it from a variety of heights up to the maximum 2m also shows no adverse affect on performance or operation.

The Panasonic FT3's metering system is reliable, but with a tendency to produce slightly bright images at default. This translates to a loss of highlight detail, and together with an occasionally cool auto white balance system can leave images lacking a little pep on the standard colour setting.

Otherwise, auto white balance performance is excellent, retaining the mood of even particularly awkward lighting conditions with aplomb. It seems that rather than going with convention and optimising images to be more pleasing and colourful, Panasonic is going for a more lifelike result which some may find preferable.

The overall level of detail in images is very good, and perfectly respectable for a £300 camera, but at 100% it's just short of excellent. Nevertheless, sharpness is set to exactly the right point – sharp, but not too sharp to destroy any neutrality – and images are generally clean and free from artefacts, save for a little noise reduction patterning on all sensitivities.

It's difficult to make any significant improvements in post-production without compromising image quality overall, although the little distortion at wideangle can be easily rectified.

In terms of noise, the camera exhibits a slight texture on all sensitivities, and by ISO 1600 images taken in low light show heavy signs of noise removal and a shift in colour. It's perhaps just as well that the camera's uppermost sensitivity options which run to ISO 6400 are restricted through a separate scene setting, as these show plenty of blotchy, unsightly noise and little detail - although for such a camera it's by no means the worst performance.

Finally, movies recorded by the FT3 show plenty of detail and are rapidly written to even slower memory cards. There's a little ambient noise and some whirring from the lens as it zooms, but the slow pace of the zoom really pays off with regards to keeping everything focused. The only issues regard lost highlights, thanks to the metering system's slight bias towards overexposure, and somewhat tinny and muffled audio quality.