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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS33 review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS33
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £199
inc VAT

Looks great on paper with its touchscreen and 8x zoom, but a surprising number of flaws add up to a disappointing camera


1/2.33in 14.0-megapixel sensor, 8.0x zoom (28-224mm equivalent), 162g

The FS33 is one of the first cameras we’ve seen from the flurry of new models that were announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s typical of the kind of compact cameras we can expect this year, with a 14-megapixel sensor, 720p video recording, SDXC support (for cards in excess of SDHC’s 32GB limit), a wide-angle lens and a 3in touchscreen. All this is wrapped up in a sleek aluminium shell in a choice of black, silver or red finishes.

The move to 14 megapixels is the last thing the compact camera market needs – it’s about as useful as a front-wheel drive hatchback with a 200mph top speed. Few people have any real use for such a high resolution – 10 megapixels is plenty for an A4 print – and any benefits it brings in terms of detail come at the expense of higher noise levels. Panasonic certainly isn’t the only company to place impressive sounding specs over image quality – Canon, Casio, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Samsung and Sony all have 14-megapixel, 1/2.3in sensors in their new compact camera ranges – but that makes it no less frustrating.

The increasing use of touchscreens isn’t something we particularly relish, either. Admittedly, a high-quality touchscreen such as the one on the iPhone is a pleasure to use, but this one isn’t nearly as responsive, failing to register around 30 per cent of our prods. It’s exploited well by the touch-activated spot focus mode, but for all other functions, we found it to be significantly slower than having buttons. The FS33 does have a few buttons for accessing menus, but all photographic settings except the zoom and shutter release require multiple pokes at the screen.

One feature that helps the FS33 stand out is its 8x zoom. That’s not as big as the 12x zoom offered by Panasonic’s TZ range, but the FS33 is slimmer and lighter than these models. The 28mm wide-angle setting is great, but the maximum aperture is on the small side at f/3.3 for wide-angle and f/5.9 for telephoto shots. Another disappointment is that Panasonic’s updated Power OIS stabilisation system for counteracting camera shake is absent, with the camera using the older, less capable, Mega OIS system instead.

720p video is increasingly common even on budget digital stills cameras, and its quality is a key differentiator between point-and-shoot cameras. The FS33 can capture 720p video, but it’s let down by the fact that the zoom and focus are fixed for the duration of clips. We also observed some strange glitches during panning shots that, while shooting, we attributed to problems with the stabilisation system. However, examining the footage back on the PC, we discovered that the pans were smooth but that there were gaps in the audio. The amount of video noise also leapt up or down at these points, so it seems that the camera runs into difficulties when the automatic exposure demands that the sensor’s gain is adjusted. Whatever the reason, the result was audio dropouts and distracting changes in noise levels.

As we feared, noise played a significant role in our image quality tests too. It wasn’t particularly visible in shots taken at ISO 80 in bright light, thanks to Panasonic’s superior noise-reduction processing. Low-light shots at ISO 800 looked scrappy and extremely short on detail, though. Focus was generally sharp, but wide-angle shots exhibited heavy pincushion distortion. We also found that the autofocus misbehaved at the full telephoto position, refusing to focus on subjects closer than five metres away, even though the camera claimed to be able to focus down to two metres at this zoom position.

Panasonic’s cameras have an enviable track record in our reviews, but this is one occasion where the company has misfired. Its image quality and 8x zoom range can’t compete with the fantastic Fujifilm F70EXR). If 720p video is a must, we’d recommend holding out for its recently announced successor, the F80EXR.

Basic Specifications

Rating **
CCD effective megapixels 14.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.33in
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 230,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 8.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 28-224mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 4,320×3,240
Maximum movie resolution 1280×720
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG; QuickTime (M-JPEG)


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied 40MB internal
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 300 shots
Connectivity USB, AV
HDMI output resolution N/A
Body material aluminium
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier 5.6x
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 162g
Size 57x100x27mm

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £199

Camera Controls

Exposure modes auto
Shutter speed 8 to 1/1,600 seconds
Aperture range f/3.3-10 (wide), f/5.9-18 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 80 to 1600
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 4 presets, manual
Additional image controls none
Manual focus No
Closest macro focus 5cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, spot, face detect
Metering modes multi, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer