Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Rugged; Inexpensive.

The Bad Some details lost in image extremities.

The Bottom Line You can't fault the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20's rugged build quality. It's perfect if you need a go-anywhere pocket camera that you won't fear bashing around or getting wet. However, if picture quality is more important to you than a tough exterior, you might be underwhelmed by its results.

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Cameras are getting significantly cheaper for the tech spec that gets crammed into increasingly lean bodies. When I reviewed the Lumix DMC-FT3 last year it cost a not inconsiderable £329 for 12.1 megapixels. Today, you'll trump that pixel count for half the price.

Here, we meet the FT20, which sits alongside its older sibling at the 'rugged' end of Panasonic's current camera line-up. Costing around £160, its native resolution beats the F3 by a full 4 megapixels. What's more, the FT20 is both slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. But is it any better?

Specs

The price and size aren't the only specs that set the two apart. The FT20's zoom is 4x, equivalent to a respectable 25-100mm on a regular 35mm camera. On the FT3, the zoom extends slightly further to 4.6x. There's also an optical image stabiliser on the FT20 to even things out at the longer end.

The reason it's not exactly a superzoom is quite simple: like its predecessor, the FT20 is built like a tank, with no protruding parts, so it can't accommodate an external lens arrangement. It's designed to be freeze-proof to -10C, dust-proof, waterproof to 5m and able to withstand being dropped 1.5m. So, in every physical respect, it's the ideal traveller's camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 lens
There are no external lens features to be knocked or broken.

Shutter speeds top out at 1/1,300 second at the fastest end of the scale, and 8 seconds at the slowest, each of which should be fine for all but the most esoteric conditions. At 8 seconds, you shouldn't have any trouble taking attractive night-time shots of illuminated buildings or streaking headlights.

Many of the FT20's core specs are pedestrian. Sensitivity stretches from ISO 100 to ISO 1,600, with a fairly narrow compensation of +/-2.0EV in 1.3EV steps. To go any further, you'll have to enable the high-sensitivity scene mode, but this reduces the maximum resolution to a poky 3 megapixels.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 test shot
Panasonic has been forced to make a few compromises in building this rugged camera, but you'll still find all the controls you've come to expect.

Certainly bear these compromises in mind when choosing your snapper, but consider that each one has been made because you've opted for a rugged camera. Allowing the specs to dictate your buying decision would be short-sighted. This is a camera you'd buy because you want something that can withstand more than the occasional knock or touch of dampness. In that respect, it's got very little competition outside of Panasonic's line-up.

Photo tests

We set the FT20 to Intelligent Auto mode throughout these tests to best emulate how most buyers would put it to use. In general, the camera did a great job of picking the most appropriate sensitivity, aperture, shutter speed and point of focus in each frame.

Viewed full screen, the results were impressive. However, when zoomed to 100 per cent, so that each pixel in the image is given its own pixel on screen, some deficiencies become more obvious.

This image of a church and its grounds appears sharp when zoomed to fit your display. But closer examination of the lower-left corner, which isn't as brightly illuminated as the rest of the frame, reveals a pointillist effect -- it looks more like it was painted than photographed.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 test shot
Although sharp overall, there's some fudged detail in the darker areas at the bottom of this frame where the gravestone and landscaping look like they've been painted (click image to enlarge).

In many cases I found that the results were sharper at the centre than they were at the extremes of each frame. In this more evenly-illuminated shot, the clock at the centre of the tower is sharp, while the grass towards the edges starts to lose definition.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 test shot
While the level of detail in this frame is good at the centre, it's not so clear at the edge of the frame (click image to enlarge).

Similarly, while the colours on the front of this gatehouse are accurately captured, detail is lost in the surface of the driveway while the clock, which is in full sun, is overexposed. This led to further loss of detail, in particular on the painted motto beneath it, and on the minute hand.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 test shot
When viewed at 100 per cent zoom, it's clear that the clock on the top of this gatehouse has been overexposed. It's lost its motto and minute hand (click image to enlarge).

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Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20

Part Number: CNETPanasonic Lumix DMC-FT20

Typical Price: £160.00

See manufacturer website for availability.