Up until recently, if you wanted a camera that could take a beating as well as head underwater, you were stuck with Olympus' Tough range of cameras and that was it. Nowadays, pretty much every major camera manufacturer has got its own tough camera for sale, and last week I got to spend some time with Panasonic's new FT2 rugged snapper, the successor to the long-life FT1 while at Panasonic's Lumix launch in Melbourne.
Just to be clear, this isn't a review. As nice as it was on Brighton Beach that day, I wasn't prepared to hop into my birthday suit to test out the quality of the underwater shots. What I can tell you is that I was really impressed by the colour reproduction out of the water for such a highly specialised device.
As you can see from the photos below (which have been resized for the web but are otherwise untouched) the colour is incredibly vivid for a tough camera. The photos are reasonably sharp as well, and the face detect mode did a good job of correctly exposing faces when it needed to.
In terms of hardware, there's a bit of a spec bump from the FT1, with the FT2 shooting 14.1MP shots, as well as being even tougher (10 metres waterproof, 2 metre drop proof and -10ºC freezeproof). The camera will also shoot AVCHD Lite video.
On the downside, the LCD screen is difficult to see in direct sunlight, which is something you'd expect to overcome in an outdoors type camera. Also, the unit I was shooting with's internal lens (which doesn't have a cover, incidentally) was loud when zooming. To the point that I could hear it even when the camera wasn't up against my face. I didn't really test the video function, but I imagine any zooming while recording would make it onto the soundtrack.
Also, despite withstanding a drop from 1.5 metres onto gravel easily, it did mark the metal case noticeably.