What’s rugged, compact, waterproof and cheap? The new Panasonic Lumix FT7 camera.

So what do we have here? A $599 camera. And, yes, that’s quite inexpensive for a camera that can literally shoot under water.

I know, all sorts of stuff is allegedly waterproof. You know, like many phones. But often that’s really just in case it slips from your fingers. Snatch it back out of the water within a few minutes and, so long as it hasn’t sunk too deeply, all should be fine.

However, the Panasonic Lumix FT7 isn’t like that. It is designed to operate underwater. Quite a lot of water, for quite a while. The camera has a formal IP68 ingress protection rating. That means totally dustproof, and safe for immersion in more than a metre of water for more than half an hour. But that understates it.

Tough stuff

Panasonic rates this camera as good for operating – not just being immersed in – fresh or sea water:

  • in not more than 30 metres (102 feet) of depth
  • for not more than 60 minutes.

In a mood to take some 4K video on the Great Barrier Reef? This camera will do it for you.

How deep is 30 metres? Very, very deep. As a rule of thumb you shouldn’t dive deeper than ten metres. Go deeper, and you’ll need to consult dive tables so that you know how long you can stay then and how to decompress safely. I understand that the bends aren’t pleasant.

Panasonic Lumix FT7

The Panasonic Lumix FT7 is tough as well. It conforms to the US Defence Department MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock standards. That involves dropping things from 122cm high (Panasonic actually used 200cm) onto their corners, ridges and faces a bunch of times. It will also cope with temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius.

And you can probably stand on it too. The Lumix FT7 can cope with loads of up to 100kgf. (Kgf? That’s just a fancy way of saying a weight of 100 kilograms.)

(But Panasonic warns that if it is dropped or hit, it should be inspected by Panasonic to make sure the waterproofing has not been compromised.)

Panasonic Lumix FT7 camera functions

So, once you’ve got it underwater, or out on a mountain hike, what can you do with it? Clearly a lot of Panasonic’s higher-end features have trickled down into this modestly priced unit.

It has a 20.4-megapixel sensor and 4.6 times optical zoom. That gives it a 35mm equivalent range from 28mm wide angle to 128mm telephoto. It has the usual rear monitor but adds a “Live View” finder. I guess you won’t use the latter under water. Dive goggles tend to get in the way. The rear monitor has tempered glass for robustness.

Panasonic Lumix FT7