With the popularity of Olympus' mju range of ruggedized compacts, and Pentax's waterproof Optio W series, it was only a matter of time before Panasonic decided to cut itself a slice of the outdoor sports camera market.
The DMC-FT1 is the first Panasonic compact to be waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. It's a pretty distinctive camera, with a brushed steel body and macho-looking protruding bolt heads, although those are most likely cosmetic. I suppose there are only so many ways that one can sensibly design a rugged pocket compact, so any resemblance to the Olympus mju 770 SW is no doubt coincidental.
The FT1 is waterproof to a depth of three metres, drop proof from a height of 1.5m, and fully dust proof, making it a good choice for the beach or ski slope. It features a 12.1-megapixel CCD sensor, an internal 4.6x zoom lens with a 28mm wide-angle, and a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor that is specially thickened for extra protection. The screen brightness automatically adjusts in 11 steps as the surrounding brightness level changes.
The FT1 is a point-and shoot camera, and features Panasonic's Intelligent Auto function. It also features HD video recording, and like the TZ7 it uses the AVCHD Lite recording format to maximise recording time.
The camera also has an improved Face Recognition feature. When a face is recorded several times, the camera will prompt you to register the face. If the familiar face appears into your frame again, the camera will display the name you specified for that person and prioritize focus and exposure so that the registered face is bright and in sharp focus.
The FT1 will be available from March in a choice of sleek silver or cool blue.