A small, silvery compact, the FX33 is the next step up from the FX30, offering a heady 8Mp resolution, critical 28mm wide angle and a modest 3.6x optical zoom. It's point and shoot with style. And wide angles.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Specifications
- Sensor: CCD - 8.1 Million pixels
- Image Size: 3264x2448 pixels
- Lens: LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT, 7 elements in 6 groups, 28-100mm f/4.6-16.4mm (3.6x optical zoom)
- LCD monitor: 2.5in. (207k pixels)
- Focus: TTL Auto
- Macro mode: 5cm
- ISO Range: 100-1600
- Shutter speed: 8-1/2000sec
- Exposure: Program AE
- AF modes: 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, 5-point, Spot
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Storage: SD, SDHC, MMC
- Batteries: Li-Ion battery pack
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 94.9x51.9x22mm/132g
If you want a 28mm wide angle lens on a compact, then you'd also want to consider the Samsung L74W which costs £169 but is 7Mp with the same focal length but a bigger LCD or the Canon Digital IXUS 860 IS which boasts 8Mp, 3in. LCD and a slightly longer lens up to 105mm, but costs £299.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Modes and features
The FX33 nails its colours to the mast early on. This is a camera for those who want the best results with the least effort. This means that there's a standard program mode, with exposure compensation and ISO control available, a choice of Scene modes, and the Intelligent Auto function that does everything for you bar wiping noses and picking up litter. In fact the FX33 shares many similar traits to the higher-resolution FX100 such as the 28mm wide angle lens and the way the mode dial sits half under the top plate. Where it stops is that the FX100 is rather more sexily designed, though this isn't an ugly camera to look at itself.
The top of the camera houses a little on/off slider and the zoom rocker/fire button, but that's it. Everything else is on the back. A four-way joypad button configuration sits around a central selection button, while two further buttons below allow for deleting images and changing the display options. The joypad buttons themselves cover exposure compensation, the timer, flash and the option to review images. That's your lot, which is pretty button-light.
The three main photographic modes are program mode, intelligent Auto mode, and Scene mode. The iA mode kicks in all the automated functions like ISO control, face detection, MEGA IOS shake reduction and automatic scene detection. To be honest, if you're going to use a camera in automatic, you may as well let it try to get everything right, so this host of features is very welcome.
When in Program mode, there's less control than you might otherwise be used to. Exposure compensation is there and will be used as there is no choice for metering - this I found to be a handicap as the default metering was keyed into exposing for the ground at the expense of the sky. There is a choice of focussing options, from one to five points, including fast focussing capability though this needs good contrast to work well. However, once set up, this is unlikely to be visited again.
That brings us to the Scene modes which have usual selections like portrait, landscape and their variations like soft skin portrait, fireworks, starry sky, night portrait, sunrise, kids, parties and candlelight. There's even underwater and aerial photos and those high contrast scenes like beaches and snow. No sunrise option, and trying to get an exposure of a couple of seconds only is difficult as the camera doesn't offer enough control for that.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Build quality
No complaints here as the two-tone silver metal body is well made with a decent quality finish to the buttons, though they can be hard to press if you have large fingers. The lens feels solid and the battery compartment is sprung so once unlocked it flips out without any undue force required. The on/off button is small but sturdy and unlikely to be activated in either direction by accident. The zoom rocker feels a little lightweight, but not in any danger of falling apart.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Flash options
The built in flash has a range of 5m in wide angle mode, which is decent enough for a compact camera. There are options for Auto, Auto/Red eye reduction, Forced on, Slow Synch and Forced off.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Performance
The FX33 does have a similar feel and look of the bigger, and rather impressive, FX100, but at a lower level. As far as performance goes, the FX33 starts up with a typical 3-4secs delay as the lens emerges from the body and takes nearly as long to shut down. However, none of what has gone before gives any indication of exactly what this camera can do in burst mode. For a very short time in can capture nearly 3fps, but only until four images have been grabbed. That's not the surprise though. Put the camera into extended burst mode and it will deliver a continuous 2fps so that in our burst mode test over 10secs, it captured an astonishing 20 images. Those are 8Mp images each as well. If you're going to be grabbing a handful of images at a time and want to use a handy little compact to do it, this is class-leading performance.
Macro is reasonable, at 5cm. Not as good as some with their 1cm super macro, but better than those camera's that only manage 10cm or worse.
Focussing is fine for a compact though if you're impatient, there is that fast focus option as well. The zoom is a little pedestrian, and with only a range of up to 100mm equivalent focal length, walking closer to things will benefit you more.
In terms of colour reproduction, the FX33 like to put out plenty of blue in wide-open landscapes, though the AWB is easy to fool into giving water an extra-blue tinge as well. Other colours are strong and images tend to be well saturated right out of the tin. The quality isn't amazing, as pictures are a little soft and there is distinct bittiness in landscapes and portraits when looked at closely. The FX33 might look similar to the FX100 but the image quality isn't anything like as good. It is however, perfectly fine for the intended user of this camera.
A final point goes to the face detection system in use in the iA and Portrait scene modes. On some cameras this leaves a lot to be desired, failing to lock onto the face and/or losing track when the camera is moved. Not so here. The FX33 easily picks the face out and is much more accurate about tracking it than most other compacts with this feature.
Good colour rendition throughout though blues are very bright, leading to any mixes being weighted towards them.
This sunrise scene shows dramatic colouring, though the ground had to be lightened a little to bring it out of shadow.
While colouration in this Program mode shot is fine, there is significant noise in the shadow areas and the skin tone is patchy.
In Portrait mode there's some noise but skin tones are smoother, colour is good, contrast is reduced and the result is better.
Colours are good, fringing is well controlled and the exposure is fine. Detail tends to disappear in the mid-distance though.
Macro mode offers a reasonable 5cm minimum distance and produces plenty of detail in this shot of a car wheel.
The AWB has tinted the lake surface with more blue than was there, and there is haze in the distance.
This macro shot uses ISO800, which results in the central area being detailed but everything else looking soft.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Noise tests
There's very nice detail in the ISO100 shot, but noise and artefacts are clearly visible in the grey card. At ISO200 the noise is becoming more colourful with green and purple, but the image is also slightly softer. At 400 the noise is more colourful and visible in the plain areas, and the image is softer again. At ISO800 there's a noticeable deterioration in the image. The noise is much sharper in the plain areas, but also the petals lose a lot of detail and become quite messy. If you weren't printing this large it's still usable in colour though. At 1250 it's much worse again with the red colour starting to darken as well. Finally, at ISO1600 there's no real detail in the petals or central areas, the plain areas are heavily textured and the colour has shifted. It's poor, but largely what you might expect from anything other than a Canon compact.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Verdict
While it can feel a little limited compared to the more powerful sibling, the FX100, the FX33 is a perfectly capable little camera. It's well built and can happily tumble around the bottom of a bag before being called upon to grab a holiday or family member shot. It has a good ISO range though ISO 1250 and 1600 are only usable either very small in colour, or in black and white. It might not deliver outstanding clarity and detail, but the images are certainly well saturated and will draw no complaints in this market sector. The FX33 also has that burst mode performance party trick as well. The build quality, decent overall performance and the 28mm wide angle lens, combined with the general ease of use make it an ideal compact to carry around on holiday or in the bottom of a bag, waiting to be called upon for family or pet shots.
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Plus points:
Good build quality
28mm wide angle lens!
Easy to use
Face detection actually works
Astonishing burst rate
Panasonic DMC-FX33 Minus points:
Image quality average
Lacks user control
Noise visible at ISO100
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX33 costs £219 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.