The “iHandheld Night Shot” mode uses the same trick as some recent high-end smartphone cameras. It takes a burst of pictures and then constructs a composite image using the best parts of them.

Lumix DC-FT7
Sadly, underwater Canberra isn’t very picturesque

The camera comes with a charge cable and a 5 volt USB-style power supply. You charge the battery in-camera. It’s rated at 250 to 300 images of life per charge.

Swimming with the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7

Actually, I did very little swimming with the Lumix DC-FT7. But I did carry it around and found it quite fun and easy to use.

Autofocus was reasonably good and fairly fast. I could usually grab a shot within a second or two of switch-on. The camera always switches on in wide angle mode, so you learn to stab at the “T” button quickly when something’s further away. And while reasonably good, the autofocus did fail in perhaps a quarter of shots. It preferred not to be too hurried, so I basically took photos with a pause at half shutter, just to make sure the camera had a satisfactory grasp of the scene.

The field of view at 28mm (equivalent) was pretty much the same as with my Google Pixel 2’s camera. I preferred the latter’s images. There’s a lot more processing power in a smart phone than there is in a camera, and Google puts it to good use. The phone did a better job of enhancing brightness and popping the colours. But a little auto contrast enhancement in photoshop closed the gap.

Zooming

I am being hard here. The shots at 28mm were fine. And of course the Google was pretty much a fail when it came to getting in closer. Digital zoom on a phone is not a pretty thing. That’s where this camera shines. In a box not much bigger than a phone you can get, much, much closer to your subject.

Lumix DC-FT7
Out-of-the-water scene at wide angle
Lumix DC-FT7
Same scene, zoomed in

The other way – or the other place, rather – it shines is underwater. Unfortunately, here in Canberra there are no decent places to do underwater photography. Cameras are banned in public swimming pools for obvious reasons. And the rivers are murky. I took some underwater shots of tree roots through the murk. That proved that the camera worked, and it seemed to suffer no ill effects from the experience. If you are going to somewhere with more picturesque underwater subjects, this camera would be a worthy carry-along.

Wi-Fi

You can connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network if you like, but a direct connection from your phone to the camera is the way you’ll generally use it. You’ll need the Panasonic Image app on your phone – iOS or Android. Some models of camera will display a QR code on their monitor. You can use the app to scan this and it sets up a connection between phone and camera. This one doesn’t do that. Instead you have to use your Wi-Fi settings to choose the camera as an access point.

Lumix DC-FT7
Panasonic Image App showing what the camera is seeing

Once you’ve connected, you have several options. The main one I used was remote control: you can have the image seen by the camera showing on your phone, along with a bunch of controls. They include zoom. So you can do things like set up the camera near a bird bath and have it take photos or video from a distance.

Lumix DC-FT7
Better to pop out the card and use a fast card reader (top) when transferring files to computer

Managing files

The transfer rate was pretty slow when connected to a computer by USB cable. According to the Windows copy dialog, it ran at between 6.5 and 7.0Mbps. Copying 321 files – mostly photos with half a dozen videos – amounting to 1.73GB – took 4 minutes and 24 seconds. That works out at 6.72Mbps, or about the speed you can expect with a slow old USB memory stick. To copy the same stuff directly from the card using a fast Lexar card reader took only 42.6 seconds. That works out at 41.6Mbps. (I used the card provided with the camera by Panasonic, and it turned out to be a fairly slow card.) If you use a card with a higher speed rating, the speed discrepancy will increase.

Conclusion

With nearly five times zoom, the ability to shoot underwater, and respectable quality, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 is the ideal summer holiday camera. And since it’s tough, it should survive the experience.

Check out Panasonic’s website for the Lumix CD-FT7 here. Check out our reviews of some of Panasonic’s other cameras here.

Panasonic Lumix DC-FT7 digital camera
Name: Lumix DC-FT7 digital camera Price (RRP): $599 Manufacturer: Panasonic
Tough Compact Underwater capable Viewfinder
Slow USB connection
Features
Value for money
Picture quality
Ease of use
Design
4.3Overall Score