Switch on the DMC-FX33 and the first thing you notice is that this is not the quickest camera on the block - it takes about four seconds to power up and prepare itself for action. The menu system is simple, and the set-up menu only involves navigating a couple of tabs. However, once up and running, it’s fairly responsive: the shutter lag is minimal and the autofocus system pretty sharp.
The control dial lets you quickly flip through the various operating modes on offer. Normal picture mode takes care of settings such as focus, exposure and white balance, and is pretty much what you’d expect from an automatic system. But flip the dial back one setting and you get the Intelligent Auto (IA) mode.
Slow to start up, but quick to take snaps
If Normal mode is an autopilot, then IA is an autopilot on steroids, because it first determines the type of picture you’re taking - and then makes the appropriate settings. This includes switching on the image-stabilisation system if camera shake is detected, activating the face-recognition system if people are in the shot - and then deciding what settings are best for both the subject and its surroundings.
Presumably, the next version of this camera will include a built-in voice chip, which tells you when you’re standing in an incorrect shooting position...
The other settings operated by the control dial are for macro, playback, scene mode and clipboard. The latter is a bit of an oddity as it lets you take a shot, review it and then decide whether you want to store it on the memory card. We racked our brains to see why you’d want to do this, rather than simply recording a shot, reviewing it and then deciding whether to keep it or delete it.
Not for manual-mode lovers
The scene mode offers a cornucopia of program settings that include portrait, night, sports, party, food, baby, soft skin, pet, candle light, party, beach, snow, fireworks, high speed burst and even underwater. With so much choice, you might well be left wondering what setting to make if you wanted to photograph your food whilst dining at a candlelit dinner party on a beach at sunset.
Panasonic and Noise
It's not just the megapixel race that gives us noise on this camera. Panasonics are renowned for noise at anything over ISO100. I use a fantastic FZ20 with that amazing 12x Leica zoom and am constantly impressed by the class-leading glass stuck on the front, and constantly annoyed by the noisy low-light performance.
Swings and roundabouts ... if you live somewhere bright, get a Panasonic and marvel in the optics. If you live in gloomy Scotland, get a Canon or get a tripod and learn to work in low-ISO.
Re: Image Noise
Yep, it's the price we (as a society) pay for being obsessed with the megazoom and megapixel arms race. The sensors have to stay small to allow practical zoom ranges in a pocketable camera, and the (alas) vast majority of people still think an 8Mp camera is inherently better than a 6Mp one, all things being equal, when for the same size sensor the 6Mp one will deliver significantly less noisy images and still be perfectly adequate for printing at typical sizes.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers play to the mass market, and the retailers can't explain this kind of thing to the average customer. Retailers don't want low megapixel cameras on their shelves because they simply don't sell against the often inferior high megapixel stuff. As a result, the megapixels and zoom ranges carry on up and up as the image quality flushes itself down the loo. If you want to avoid bad image noise in a new camera, you have little choice but to go down the dSLR route now.
Still, console yourself with the fact that the successor to this camera (the DMC-FX35, announced in January) has 10Mp and a 4x zoom for only a minutely larger sensor, which will inevitably be still worse on the noisy image front.
Looks that way - probably been used one handed ...
Mine's the mac with the white stains in the lining near the pockets.
Isn't that a pube in between the I and the 8 on the keyboard close-up shot????
Paris because she'll need this video team for her next hamburger commercial