By Josh Fate
Picking up the camera can be a little deceiving the first time, because of its very light, but it still maintains a sturdy feel. The camera fits very well into your right hand and is fairly easy to operate with just the one hand. On the back of the camera is a very simple button layout, which allows you to easily change the camera's shooting modes and view your stored images. Casio camera's are among the easiest and fastest on the market when it comes to capturing video, thanks to the One Touch video record button. Along side the shortcut buttons is the camera's 2.5-inch LCD screen, which is used for framing and viewing your images. Although the LCD is bright enough to see in most situations, it is not adjustable and gives off reflections in direct lighting, making it difficult to see.
Performance from the Z33 is on the slow side, even for an entry level model. When you turn the camera on, 2.4 seconds pass before the camera is capable of capturing its first image. The camera's shutter lag is 2/10 - 3/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and ranges from 9/10 to 1.5 seconds when allowing the auto focus to work. It's shot-to-shot delay, the time between camera shots, is 2.4 seconds without the flash, and when using it, 2.6 seconds. The Z33 also features a continuous shooting mode, allowing the camera to capture 10, full sized images in just 6.8 seconds (1.47fps). This mode can also be used with the flash, however, you will see a big decrease in speed while you wait for the flash to charge. 10 images with the flash takes 19.2 seconds (0.52fps). All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x, 2GB SD memory card, Auto mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
The quality of our outdoor image samples show that the camera captures a sharp image with good exposure but the colors that are slightly dull or washed out. Framing your images is accomplished with a 3x optical zoom lens that has a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 35.5-106.5mm. This lens is OK for shooting landscapes, as the 35.5mm wide end is not as wide as most camera's on the market today, while the telephoto end is not enough to get you very close to a distant object. This range is great for shooting portraits, as you will have less barrel distortion on the wide end for your group shots and the telephoto end allows you to remove unwanted people or objects from your composition. When shooting with the wide end, you will see some barrel distortion as well as some chromatic aberrations, which can easily be seen in our museum shot. At the telephoto end of the range, the barrel distortion disappears and the aberrations are handled better.
As with our outdoor shots, our indoor samples also show how sharp the image is from edge to edge. As long as enough light is provided to allow for the camera's minimum exposure, the exposures turn out excellent. For an entry-level camera, the low and mid ISO settings are very good. ISO 64 - 400 are sharp enough to show fine details, such as the stitching in the flag, while noise doesn't become apparent until ISO 400. Although the noise at ISO 1600 really hurts the quality of the image, ISO 800 is not too bad and works for smaller prints. As you can see in our flash image, from just 5 feet away at ISO 64, the built-in flash doesn't provide enough power. To compensate, the camera raises the ISO, adding noise, as seen in our Portrait shot.
One of Casio's most useful features is the One Touch video recording button. This allows the camera to be ready to record at all times, no matter what shooting mode the camera is currently in. From the quality menu, you are able to pre-set the movie quality ahead of time so everything is ready to go. Our video quality results were descent, with very little artifacting, but the auto white balance does struggle a bit as the subject moves and lighting changes. This can come into play anywhere there is uneven lighting or shadows. Recording sound for your videos is the camera's built-in mic. This mic is very sensitive so that it can record the sounds of your subject a few feet away. It will also record all background noises, some of which you might not notice at the time of shooting. These noises will be very noticeable when you play back your movies. To help avoid this, be careful where you position yourself.
Powering the Z33 is a 3.7V, 710mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. During our tests, we were able to capture 125 images and movies while only consuming about half of the battery's power. This easily supports Casio's claims of being able to record 210 images or 1 hour and 40 minutes of video. The included battery charger allows you to easily keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times. This is a great idea if you plan on taking long shooting trips or vacations.
Bottom Line - The Casio Exilim Z33 is one of the most affordable entry-level digicams on the market. Featuring a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, face detection and a One Touch video record button, it definitely doesn't fall short on features. Sporting Easy, Auto and numerous "Scene" modes, it is easy for anyone, no matter how much photography experience they have, to grab this camera and start shooting. For an entry-level camera, the image quality is very good, but the performance is a little slow. With a MSRP of US $119.99, this is a good option for anyone on a budget, as is the Canon PowerShot A480.
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