Panasonic's FT5 camera shines in sternest tests

The Life: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 is one tough customer, a camera that can take the knocks and still come up trumps.

The Lumix DMC-FT5 packs an impressive array of photographic power. Courtesy Panasonic
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Waterproof, drop proof, freeze proof and dust proof, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FT5 is one tough camera.

It joins a growing list of so-called "rugged" devices being offered by most of the industry's big names.

Packed inside the FT5's nearly full-metal body is an impressive array of photographic power - an image-stabilised 16 megapixel sensor, a wide-angle 4.6x zoom lens and full-HD video capture - as well as gadgetry - GPS tagging, a barometer, an altimeter and a number of intriguing wireless tethering abilities.

But a list of features can only tell so much. The pocket-sized powerhouse begs for a field test.

On a recent visit to Wadi Shab on Oman's east coast, the camera produced mostly positive results, capturing sharp, bright images from the dramatic valley floor. Focus and the fully automatic exposure mode were quick and accurate. Of particular note was the macro, or extreme close-up mode, which excelled.

Landscapes were less impressive, producing sometimes bland colours, but this was probably to be expected in the harsh and hazy lighting conditions. Few cameras will excel under the glare of the midday desert sun.

As we scrambled over boulders and plunged down to wade or swim across emerald pools, the Panasonic's rugged features shone. Held around the wrist or zipped into a pocket, the camera was an unfussy companion, taking its share of bumps without any complaint or bruising.

Our journey ended in a water-filled cave where teenagers dove from rocks above into the deep water. My amateur video efforts easily captured the action - both from above and below the surface.

The Panasonic was clearly in its element here. And as I looked around at the handful of other tourists nearby, I noticed my immediate neighbour was sporting the same camera and probably thinking the same thing. It's safe to say we won't be the last FT5 users to make this observation.