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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 Gordon Laing, November 2007

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 Verdict

Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FX33 is a good, solid compact digital camera. It’s smaller than many rival models, built to a very high standard, offers a stabilised zoom with useful 28mm wide angle coverage, and gives you quick and easy access to most of the key settings. So long as you keep the sensitivity low, the image quality is pretty good too.


Anyone familiar with Panasonic’s range will however notice the above equally applies to its predecessor the FX30, and it’s true the new FX33 only offers minor improvements. The extra Megapixel doesn’t make much difference and the boosted 6400 ISO is operating in a fantasy land. But the inclusion of face detection is worth having while Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode really does an uncanny job of knowing what you’re trying to photograph. Together they make the FX33 – along with Panasonic’s other July 2007 launches – a joy to use in automatic.

As for the downsides, there’s no manual control over shutter and aperture. More importantly, noise artefacts are still an issue, although compared against its predecessor we’d say while the FX33 doesn’t capture discernibly greater real-life detail, it holds it together much better in terms of colour saturation at 400 and 800 ISO. So while we once again have another compact which looks best kept to its lowest sensitivities, at least it appears an improvement over its predecessor.

So before wrapping up, how does the FX33 compare to the competition?

 



Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30

 
 
 
 

The new Lumix FX33 is little more than a tweaked version of its predecessor, the FX30 – the body, lens, controls and operation are essentially identical. The older FX30 may be a Megapixel worse off, but you’d hardly notice in practice, and its maximum sensitivity of 3200 ISO is effectively as pointless as the 6400 ISO option on the new model. Pixel-peepers may prefer the output of the new FX33, but they’re pretty close in practice.

So far, so similar, but the older FX30 is missing out on its successor’s face detection and excellent Intelligent Auto mode, both of which make automatic photography as close to foolproof as you’ll find today. We’d say they’re worth getting the new FX33 for, but if you can live without them, the FX30 remains a superb compact with decent stabilisation, 28mm wide angle and a small, well-built body. If you can find it on-sale cheaper than the FX33, it's worth considering. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 review for more details.

 

Compared to Canon Digital Ixus 860IS / PowerShot SD870

 
 
 
 

Canon’s Digital Ixus 860IS / PowerShot SD870 is another excellent compact digital camera with many similarities to the Panasonic FX33. Both have 8 megapixel resolution, optical stabilisation and share roughly the same zoom ranges with 28mm wide angle coverage. The Canon body is slightly taller, but features a bigger 3in screen on the back which looks great. It’s lacking the widescreen movies of the FX33, but does offer time-lapse recording just like the PowerShot G9. Neither model allows you to manually adjust the aperture or shutter though.

It’s a tough one to weigh-up, although the Panasonic FX33 is cheaper – its smaller 2.5in screen playing a factor in price. The ultimate decision will however boil down to which model you personally prefer the look and feel of. See our Canon Ixus 860IS/ PowerShot SD870 review for more details.

 

Compared to Fujifilm FinePix F50fd

 
 
 
 

For roughly the same money as the Panasonic FX33, you can buy Fujifilm’s FinePix F50fd. Go for the Fujifilm and you’ll get 50% more Megapixels (12 to the Panasonic’s 8), manual control over the aperture and shutter, and some neat approaches to using the flash for indoor portraits. So for the same money it’s the better camera, right?

Not quite. The Fujifilm F50fd is let down by a pedestrian 3x optical zoom which misses out on the FX33’s 28mm wide angle coverage, and is nowhere as smooth either. Its sensor-shift stabilisation certainly works, but in our tests wasn’t as effective as the Panasonic. And the screen, while slightly larger at 2.7in just didn’t look as good, nor were the controls as well thought-out. That said, the good points are pretty compelling, so if they outweigh the cons for you personally, then the F50fd is well worth considering. See our Fujifilm FinePix F50fd review for more details.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 final verdict

Ultimately the Panasonic Lumix FX33 may not offer a great deal more than its predecessor, but it brings genuine benefits to what was already an excellent compact. So you get the small, well-built body of the FX30 with its 28mm wide angle coverage, effective stabilisation, widescreen movies and decent controls, but now also enjoy face detection and one of the most cunning automatic modes we’ve yet tested.

The only real downsides are a lack of manual control over the aperture and shutter, and of course noise artefacts at higher sensitivities. To be fair though, both affect most compact digital cameras, and in Panasonic’s favour, the FX33’s 22 scene presets give you plenty of creative flexibility, while the noise levels actually appear to be a slight improvement over its predecessor.

So if you’re not bothered about full manual control and can avoid higher sensitivities – or pixel-peeping – then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 is a great compact camera. It’s smaller than most of the competition, offers a stabilised lens with 28mm wide angle coverage, and some of the best automatic features around. This combination edges the FX33 beyond its predecessor and into our Highly Recommended category. The FX33 ain’t perfect, but most people would be very happy with it – and if you fancy a bigger 3in screen, consider the FX55 version.




Good points

28mm wide angle and optical stabilisation.
Slim body and shorter than many rivals too.
Very good Intelligent Auto mode.
Quick and easy access to settings.

Bad points
Best-used at 200 ISO or below.
Little or no manual control.
No control over noise reduction.
Bigger 3in screen of FX55 may be tempting.



Scores

(relative to 2007 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

18 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
18 / 20
18 / 20

87%

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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