Hey, we need more variety in our camera reviews… so here’s my review of the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP; a waterproof, bubbly looking digital camera from Fujifilm. Visit the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 photo gallery for full-sized photos, or hit the link for the full review of the camera.
DPInterface Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP Review
Brad Soo – May 28th, 2009 (Updated June 3rd, 2009)
The FinePix Z33 is an affordable, waterproof digital camera with a fun design. The camera features 10 megapixels of resolution, a 3X zoom lens, 2.7 inch LCD and SD/SDHC support (versus the proprietary xD-Picture cards on past Fujifilm cameras).
With stiff competition from its waterproof-only peers as well as rugged digital cameras, how well does the FinePix Z33 hold up in today’s market? Let’s discover now.
Size and Weight
(219.3) 103.6 x 66.9 x 48.8 mm (190 g) – Canon PowerShot D10
(172.2) 92.0 x 59.6 x 20.6 mm (110 g) – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP*
(179.5) 97.5 x 60.0 x 22.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S60**
(181.1) 95.3 x 63.4 x 22.4mm (149 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
(178.2) 95.0 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm (182 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
(184.4) 98.3 x 63.1 x 23.0 mm (163 g) – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
(180.4) 99.0 x 56.0 x 25.4 mm (145 g) – Pentax Optio W60*
(172.0) 97.9 x 57.8 x 16.3 mm (124 g) – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card
I don’t doubt Fujifilm’s claim about the Z33’s size and weight… it IS the smallest and lightest waterproof camera out there (umm, it isn’t ruggedized to survive harsher conditions like some of the competition though). Don’t mind the camera’s design which makes it look big (it’s just an illusion) – in reality, you can slip it into any pocket or purse to carry around
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 comes with an average bundle:
- NP-45 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- Camera software CD (FinePix Viewer)
- User’s manual
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 doesn’t come with a memory card but comes with 50 MB of built-in memory instead – that doesn’t hold a lot of photos: just 10 Fine pictures at full-resolution. And here comes the biggest surprise; the FinePix Z33 takes only SD/SDHC memory cards, dropping support for the proprietary xD-Picture card format. That’s a good move by Fujifilm… is this the beginning of their transition away from the “strictly Olympus and Fuji” xD-Picture cards? Time will tell. Back to the topic, I’d suggest using at least a 2 GB high-speed memory card with the camera.
220 shots – Canon PowerShot D10
200 shots – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP*
140 shots – Nikon Coolpix S60**
230 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
240 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
340 shots – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
205 shots – Pentax Optio W60*
200 shots – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 uses Fuji’s NP-45 lithium-ion battery and in terms of battery life, its numbers are slightly below average compared to other cameras which are waterproof/rugged. With a rating of 200 shots per charge, you might consider picking up a spare battery if you plan to use the camera often.
There are several accessories available for the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 and they are a silicone case, various camera cases, a float strap (useful for underwater shooting).
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 is a bubbly little digital camera which comes in your choice of four colors: green, pink, blue or black. The camera is waterproof down to 3 meters (10 feet) and dustproof, but don’t mix up ‘waterproof’ with ‘rugged’ – the FinePix Z33 is not meant to withstand drops or extreme temperatures.
Build quality is good; the camera feels solid in hand and it’s easy to hold too – There’s a small raise bump on the front for your right hand and all of the FinePix Z33’s controls are rubberized. However, there are two things that I wasn’t a big fan of – the FinePix Z33 lacks any sort of lens protection (neither an external nor a built-in lens cover) and the camera’s “navigation pad” (if you can call it that) feels awkward to use.
Over here is the front of the Fujifilm FinePix Z33. The camera features a rather ordinary 3X optical zoom lens; equivalent to 35 – 105 mm with an aperture range of f3.7 – f4.2. There’s no image stabilization of any sort with this lens so you’ll have to rely on bright light, high ISO speeds or your own steady hands. One accessory that I would HIGHLY recommend is a camera case/pouch since the Z33’s lens comes with zero protection (no included or built-in lens cap) and it sticks out further in front than the rest of the camera’s body – so it’s very prone to scratches, dirt and fingerprints.
Next to the lens are three more items: the self-timer lamp, microphone and the Z33’s built-in flash. The flash is quite powerful (Auto ISO) with a range of 70 cm to 3.9 m at wide-angle and up to 3.4 m at telephoto.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has a large 2.7 inch LCD on its back. The screen is sharp with 230,000 pixels and has good low-light and just so-so outdoor visibility. Fujifilm has a bad habit of ‘not giving the full picture’ (no pun intended) and the LCD here only covers 97% of what the camera really sees. So your final picture will always be a little more than what you see on the camera’s LCD.
To the right side of the FinePix Z33’s LCD display are its controls, consisting of two columns of rubberized buttons. While the buttons are nice and tactile, and not easy to accidentally press (means you can rest your thumb on the buttons without worrying), I don’t like the weird four-way controller that’s “built in” to the rows of buttons.
The upper two buttons are to operate the camera’s optical zoom lens. Next up is the direct playback button and dreaded four-way navigation pad, which will take some getting used to:
- Up – Delete photo
- Down – Self timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, couple timer, group timer)
- Left – Macro (On/Off)
- Right – Flash setting (Auto, on, off, slow sync; redeye reduction available for all settings)
The FinePix Z33 features two interesting self-timer modes: couple and group timer – both work in conjunction with the camera’s face detection system. Couple timer waits until two faces are detected in a frame before taking a picture; you can even set how close the two faces have to be before a picture is taken (near, close, very close; represented by one, two and three heart shaped icons respectively).
Group timer works in a similar way, sans the ‘distance detection before a shot’ option – you can set the number of faces (up to four faces) the camera needs to detect in a frame before it takes a picture automatically. As the name suggests, group timer is quite useful when you want to be in your own group photos.
To the lower right are three more buttons: MENU/OK (for bringing up the camera menu and confirming items), DISPLAY/BACK (for toggling on-screen information and going back to the previous screen in the camera menu) and the camera’s dedicated movie button.
By now, you would’ve established that the FinePix Z33 isn’t a very complex camera. At the top of the Z33, you’ll find just three things: the camera’s speaker, shutter button and power button.
Fujifilm has also kept the rest of the FinePix Z33’s design simple with no features on the sides of the camera
At the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount and a sturdy, sealed compartment door which hides three things: the camera’s SD/SDHC card slot, battery and connectivity port (For USB 2.0 High-speed and video out connections).
Taking pictures (Shooting mode)
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 displays a decent amount of on-screen information – exposure and some shooting details, a simple 3-step battery indicator and compositional gridlines. What’s missing here is a live histogram.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has several image resolution settings to choose from: 10 MP, 3:2 8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP and VGA. There are also two image compression options available: Fine and Normal. A 2 GB memory card will hold around 400 “Fine/10 MP” photos or 800 “Normal/10 MP” ones.
Unlike other digital cameras (and even some of Fujifilm’s own cameras), the FinePix Z33 doesn’t have a “Quick” or “F-menu” of any sorts. Instead, everything is put into its main menu (which thankfully is just 3 pages long):
- Shooting mode – see below
- Face detection (On/Off)
- Exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments)
- White balance (Auto, shade, daylight, fluorescent [warm or cool white], incandescent)
- Image resolution and compression
- Movie quality aka resolution (VGA 640X480 or QVGA 320X240)
- ISO sensitivity (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- High-speed continuous shooting
- Continuous shooting
- Autofocus mode (Multiple, center)
- Enter setup – customize things like date and time during the first time you’re using the camera for the first time
The FinePix Z33 allows you to select a shooting mode via an on-screen interface. The main shooting modes are automatic, scene recognition, manual, anti-blur and successive movie. Well, to elaborate a bit, manual isn’t exactly “manual exposure” – it just unlocks menu items so you can adjust settings like ISO and white balance; and anti-blur mode just boosts ISO as high as needed to get a sharp photo.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has a rather plain face detection system: the camera can detect up to 10 faces in a frame and the Z33’s software based redeye removal system works automatically if the flash is used.
Macro and scene modes
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has a decent handful of scene modes, which include natural light with flash, natural light, underwater, auction, portrait, landscape, sports, night scene, night tripod, sunset, snow, beach, museum, party, flower and text. Probably the only note-worthy scene modes are the three below, the rest are pretty self-explanatory:
- Natural light mode attempts to take a sharp, natural-looking photo (without flash) by increasing ISO
- Natural light with flash does the same thing as above, but with the flash on and ISO sensitivity/flash power optimized to prevent dark backgrounds of typical flash shots
- Night scene is for taking pictures at night and allows up to 3 second exposures (which isn’t much unless you’re snapping well-lit cities at night)
If you’re not a fan on hand-picking scene modes, the FinePix Z33 can do it for you in its Scene Recognition mode. In Scene Recognition mode, the camera analyzes your scene and automatically picks one of six preset modes (portrait, landscape, night, macro, night portrait and backlit portrait).
Right, let’s move on to macro now. The FinePix Z33 features an unremarkable macro mode – at wide-angle, you can go as close as 8 cm to your subject and down to 60 cm at telephoto. As far as other cameras are concerned (compact, waterproof or not), 3 to 5 cm at wide-angle is the average minimum focusing distance.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has a run-of-the-mill VGA (640 x 480) movie mode which records at 30 FPS with sound. Movies are recorded in AVI MJPEG format and limited to 2 GB per clip, a 2 GB card should hold around 35 minutes worth of VGA 30 FPS video. You can also opt to lower resolution to QVGA (320 x 240) 30 FPS… a 2 GB card will hold almost an hour worth of video at that setting.
Digital zoom is the only thing usable while recording movies. All-in-all, movie quality was average and should be usable for most users who want to post them on the web.
All performance testing of the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 starts up in 2 seconds which isn’t something I would’ve expected from a camera with no lens to extend. In decent to good light, the camera focuses quickly within 0.2 to 0.5 seconds and up till 1.2 seconds in low-light. Low-light focusing is just ‘tolerable’ but in situations without much lighting or contrast, the camera often gets stuck and can’t focus.
- Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.0 seconds, decent
- Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds on average
The FinePix Z33 has four continuous shooting modes (three of which shoot at full resolution), none of which are particularly impressive. Top 3 mode takes three pictures at under 1 frame per second, Final 3 mode shoots at the frame rate up to 40 shot but only saves the last 3 photos after you release the shutter. Long period is able to fill your memory card up with photos but shoots at a paltry 1 frame every 2 seconds (the camera constantly focuses after each shot).
The Z33’s high-speed mode is called Top 12 mode. The camera reduces resolution to 3 megapixels and takes 12 photos at 4.5 frames per second.
The FinePix Z33 is moves its lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.6 seconds and shuts down instantly since there’s no lens to retract. The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 isn’t a very fast digital camera – though its speed won’t get on your nerves, you WILL notice the Z33 hard at work, processing, more often than some other cameras. For the casual snapshot, the FinePix Z33 is fine, but don’t expect it to be one heck of a sports camera.
Let’s take a look at the FinePix Z33’s image quality right now:
Noise levels on the FinePix Z33 are typically uncharacteristic of a Fujifilm camera. The Z33 uses a traditional CCD compared to the Super CCD sensors found on Fujifilm’s more expensive cameras. Image quality starts out clean at ISO 64 but noise quickly shows up at ISO 100. Picture quality is still usable until ISO 200, where there is more visible noise (though it doesn’t show up in small to medium prints).
Noise levels increase significantly at ISO 400, so you would only use this setting for small 4 x 6 prints, at MOST (On a high-resolution digital photo frame, noise IS visible so be watch out!). From there image quality just becomes muddier, noisier and completely unusable at ISO 800 and 1600.
The FinePix Z33 doesn’t have any “high sensitivity” modes of any sort… and I’m really glad it doesn’t, just look at the noise levels of existing images (they can’t take ISO any higher)!
Lens quality is an area where the FinePix Z33 shines – distortion levels and chromatic aberration (Color fringing) were just about non-existent and edge sharpness levels were good. The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 also has built-in software based redeye reduction which automatically removes any redeye that the camera can find.
Over the years, Fujifilm has had (and continues to have) a pretty good track record in terms of image quality… so what happened here, Fujifilm? It can be observed that they only did a half-hearted job with the FinePix Z33 (Probably because it’s an entry-level waterproof camera) and noise levels were higher than average. And what a pity too, because the FinePix Z33’s lens (unlike the imaging sensor) is of good quality. If you’re looking for a waterproof camera that you’ll only be using by the beach during summer (Read: Good lighting and low ISO), then the FinePix Z33 may fit the bill. But bring the camera anywhere else, into other shooting situations and you’re going to be disappointed with the results you will get.
Looking for full-sized photos? Head on to the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 photo gallery.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 has a very elaborate playback mode with some unique features. Let’s talk about the boring stuff first to get things over with; there’s print marking, voice clip attachment, image protection, trimming and rotation. You can also copy photos between the internal memory and storage card. Photos can be enlarged by 10X so you can inspect details/confirm focus and can be displayed in sets of up to 100 thumbnails or by date.
Some more interesting features include transition effects, a fancy slideshow feature with music and effects, face zoom (the camera can detect faces and automatically zoom into them), software-based redeye removal and face detection trimming (the camera can detect faces, crop them out and save them as a new file.
There are two movie editing options: movie trimming which allows you to cut front/back parts of your movie clips and Successive Movie where you can join up two or more individual movie clips into a single file.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 shows you exposure info and a small handful of shooting details in playback mode but lacks a histogram.
The FinePix Z33 is a waterproof (and dustproof) 10 megapixel compact camera from Fujifilm. The FinePix Z33 costs a good $100 to $150 less than its ‘true’ rugged competitors but obviously isn’t freeze or shockproof like those cameras. Its closest nemesis is probably the Olympus Stylus 550WP, similar price and feature set.
I wouldn’t call the FinePix Z33 stylish but its design surely breaks out of the normal square camera, round lens designs – I’d call it eye-catching (Especially once you pick either pink or green). The camera is easy to hold with a raised front ‘grip’ and nice buttons but the camera does suffer from two main issues: weird directional pad operation and no lens protection. That said, you had better pick up the optional silicone case or pouch to hold the camera if you value that 3X lens.
The FinePix Z33 has plenty of up’s as well as down’s. Bad news first: there’s below average battery life, lack of image stabilization and no manual controls. On the positive note, the Z33 spots several unique features – Couple Timer and Group Timer are the two new ones while we’ve already seen Natural Light mode and Intelligent Flash on previous Fujifilm cameras. There’s also a whole bunch of playback bells and whistles, including two very basic movie editing tools and functions to make pictures more attractive and blog-friendly.
Just by observing its feature set, it’s obvious that the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 is aimed at sociable, outgoing people and the youth crowd – go out and take some people pictures, maybe attend some beach and poolside parties (and of course the camera can survive dips and splashes). Unfortunately, Fujifilm thinks lightning fast performance isn’t one of the things that its target market will be looking for, apparently… the FinePix Z33’s speed is bearable but its continuous shooting modes are all below average.
Drawing a conclusion about the Fujifilm FinePix Z33 is tough – on one hand, it has some fairly fancy features, a unique design and very good lens image quality characteristics. But on the other hand, the FinePix Z33 has its flaws; particularly high chroma noise levels which limit you to using low ISO values in good light or else, you’ll be forced to run noise reduction software on high ISO shots later.
If you’re into taking outdoor photos, in situations that may get your camera wet sometimes, then the FinePix Z33 is a low-cost option you MAY want to consider. But I would also strongly recommend that you take a look at the competition (waterproof or not) as well.
- Low lens distortion and chromatic aberration, good edge sharpness
- Waterproof and dustproof; affordable if you don’t need a truly rugged camera
- Camera is easy to hold and has tactile, rubberized buttons (though see D-pad issue below)
- Powerful flash
- Unique Couple Timer and Group Timer features
- Scene Recognition mode and good selection of scene modes
- Face detection with auto redeye removal
- Elaborate playback mode with lots of features; two movie-related tools available
- High chroma noise levels; require additional post-processing on computer
- No manual controls
- No real image stabilization
- Below average battery life
- Camera’s lens lacks protection (no lens cap or built-in cover)
- Awkward operation for navigation buttons
- So-so overall performance; Unimpressive continuous shooting
- 2 GB SD/SDHC memory card
- Spare lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Camera case