Panasonic has just launched the Lumix DMC-FT3, a tough update to its FT2 model and as you can probably guess from the title of this article, we’re the first to grab the new camera for a quick photo shoot in the wilds of Bracknell and a mini hands-on play just days after it’s official launch.

The new model, called the TS3 in the US, is it has to be said, is tough. Firmly aimed at the more adventurous amongst us, the new camera looks and feels like it would be able to take a beating without getting too worried about it.

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That’s handy if you plan to take this up a mountain, to the beach or just out and about with your kids.

On the camera front it's the usual good fare from Panasonic with a 12.1-megapixel snapper with 1920 x 1080 full-HD AVCHD video shooting on board.

It has a 28mm wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens, complete with a folded optics design and has a 4.6x optical zoom. The zoom was responsive, but we weren’t able to take any pictures with the camera so we can tell what the quality was like, you’ll have to wait for our review for that. Sorry.

There’s also scene modes, an easy menu system and zoom functionality, blah, blah, blah.

The cool factor here though is the tough elements.

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That means, and this wasn't the case on the FT2, that all those connections, battery and the SD card slot are tucked away in one compartment to the side of the camera. There is a sliding lock and then another lock to ensure that you aren’t getting in accidently – or more to the point dust and water aren't getting in. Even if you do slide the first lock it’s bright red underneath so you can spot that its only half safe.

But there is more, oh yes, like a compass that tells you what way you are pointing and a barometer and altimeter. Probably not so needed on a trip to the park, but no doubt life saving when you’ve got cocky and gone off-piste.

The compass worked well responding to our spinning on the spot, while the camera also gives you height readings as well. Both can be turned on or off on the display and completely to save battery life.

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The GPS function shows the name of the country, region, state, county, city or town that the pic was taken with the area information covering 203 countries or regions. Plus, there's more than a million landmarks from over 78 countries in the database as well.

The major upgrade from the FT2 though, is that the FT3 has 3D photo shooting, which works by taking 20 consecutive pics and overlaying the best two, to create a 3D image which you can look at on any MPO compatible 3D display.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to test this feature out, nor where we able to test the FT3’s rugged claims of it now being waterproof to 12m, shockproof to 2m and freezeproof to 14ºF (-10 degrees C). It's also dustproof, which is handy for deserts and haunted houses.

We were going to wait until our Panasonic reps turned their backs for a drop test, but alas they never did. Damn.

The new camera is out in March and we’ll be doing our best to bring you a review as soon as we get a retail sample.