I have a new point-and-shoot camera to replace my venerable Canon Digital IXUS 400. Panasonic UK have kindly given me a brand-new DMC-FX33 compact camera (mmm, a black one too 🙂 ), one of only 30 in the country at the moment, and I must say that I’ve been having great fun with it since I got it.
A First Look At The DMC-FX33
As much as I love my Nikon D200, I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to compose a shot through a viewfinder. I find it easier to really “see” what I’m photographing by seeing it on a view screen, and I’ve become a big fan of the screen on the back of the DMC-FX33. It’s bright, it’s clear, it’s sharp, and most importantly it’s usable outdoors on a sunny day. It also has that surprisingly-rare quality of being pretty accurate. I’ve only put a couple of hundred shots through the FX33 in the week that I’ve had it, but so far all the photos have looked pretty much the same on the camera as they have on my MacBook Pro.
The other feature of the DMC-FX33 that I’m really enjoying is shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio. This mode turns the camera into a 6 megapixel model (down from 8 megapixels in 4:3 aspect ratio), but don’t let that put you off! Combined with the wide-angle 28mm lens that the camera’s equipped with, it gives you an interesting alternative to a DSLR for composing shots.
I almost forgot to mention the face recognition. This feature automatically detects the face of a person in the shot, and ensures that the face is in focus. It seemed to work very well indeed when I terrorised my wife with the camera one lunch time, and I’m looking forward to trying it out properly at work’s Christmas Party later in the year!
But what’s really handy is that the DMC-FX33 is about the same size and weight as my mobile phone, which means that it easily slips into a pocket without being a burden. I love having a camera with me at all times, in case something catches my eye, and the DMC-FX33 is perfect for that.
Battery life is a lot shorter than my old Canon Digital IXUS (larger screens and more megapixels all add up to consuming more power per-shot with each new generation of kit; my D200’s battery life is also a lot less than the D100’s that it replaced).
Shots Taken With The DMC-FX33
The majority of the shots I’ve taken with the DMC-FX33 so far have been on the “intelligent auto mode”. This is the camera’s fully automatic mode, where the camera becomes a true point-and-shoot model.
The camera also features a “normal mode” (where you can override some of the automatic settings if you choose), plus plenty of scene modes – all accessible from a mode wheel on the back of the camera body.
Looking at the histograms, the DMC-FX33 sets the exposure to avoid any dark areas being completely black; this results in too many blown highlights on sunny days and in challenging scenes. To work around this, I’ve setup the ‘normal’ mode on the camera to deliberately under-expose shots by two stops, and otherwise to be identical to full automatic mode. These two modes sit right next to each other on the mode wheel on the back of the camera; switching between the two to suit the scene is no trouble at all.
The DMC-FX33 also has a barely-perceptible blue hint to all the colour shots I’ve taken so far. It gives a nice effect to black and white shots in particular, as well as landscapes featuring blue skies. I need to take more shots with little-to-no blue in the scene to make up my mind how much it detracts from other types of shots.
The camera also features a macro lens, which is always a plus 🙂 I haven’t done much with the macro mode yet, but these closeups of my computer monitor appear crisp and clean enough.
The one downside (and it’s reportedly common to all 8 megapixel compact cameras) is that photos taken with the DMC-FX33 show much more fringing than photos taken with my older Canon Digital IXUS 400. For the target audience of this camera, that’s not a problem, but if you’re absolutely religious about the quality of your photos, I’d recommend looking around for one of Panasonic’s 6 megapixel cameras instead.
Added To My Kit Bag
… and my pocket! Although I’m going to miss my Canon Digital IXUS 400 (it has taken some great shots over the years!), the DMC-FX33 has replaced it for now. It’s much smaller and lighter, which means I really can have it with me all the time, and I’m really sold on both the 16:9 widescreen mode and the wider angle 28mm lens in particular.