The 10.1-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z33 makes fewer compromises than other budget-friendly, ultra-compact cameras. Despite being primarily an automatic camera, you get more control over results than you'd typically get from a £75 model. Also, while it's got a long shutter lag in bright conditions, you'll be rewarded with good photos as long as your subjects aren't moving. Those seeking an inexpensive, basic point-and-shoot camera to keep with them for portrait and landscape shots will appreciate what the EX-Z33 offers.
Fits in a dwarf's trousers
The EX-Z33 doesn't feel like a cheap camera. Available in a choice of silver, blue, black and pink, the metal and plastic body is attractive, and so light and small that it'll fit in even tiny pockets. Part of the reason for that is the wee, 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD display. The screen is still plenty big enough to frame and view your shots with, though. Your thumb naturally rests between the right edge of the LCD and a dedicated movie-mode button.
One press of the movie button starts recording, while a second stops it and sends you back to shooting stills. You can take a still in the middle of recording video, but the movie stops recording when you do, starting up again after the capture. Below the movie button are playback and camera-mode buttons, a circular directional pad and a 'set' button, and menu and 'best shot' buttons.
All of the camera's settings are accessed through the menu button. For faster access to shooting options, a panel of settings can be opened on the screen's right side with a press of the set button (you can also leave them visible all the time). The left and right direction controls can be programmed to change settings such as ISO, white balance and exposure compensation. Oddly, though, neither has the option to change focus modes, so changing to manual focus or macro requires you to go into the full menu system.
Fortunately, it's easy to navigate through the various settings, which include a handful of unique adjustments, such as one that alters what your focus frames look like (hearts, stars, butterflies and so on), and another that fixes the settings you'd like the camera to remember each time you turn it off and on. There are adjustments for sharpness, saturation and contrast, as well as adding colour filters. You also get built-in support for Eye-Fi SD cards, for transferring photos off the camera via a wireless network connection.
Picture the scene
If there's one thing you can rely on Casio's cameras for, it's abundant scene modes. Accessed with a press of the best-shot button, the EX-Z33 has 22 scene types to pick from, including standard options like 'portrait', 'landscape' and 'night scene', as well as the more unusual options of 'soft flowing water', 'for eBay' and 'for YouTube'. There's also an 'easy' mode located in the menu options that locks down all but a couple of basic settings, with the camera handling everything automatically. The actual auto mode lets you adjust all of the EX-Z33's settings except shutter speed and aperture.
The movie mode shoots VGA-quality video, but it looked good in our tests, and is suitable for online sharing. You don't get use of the zoom lens while recording, however. Like most cameras in its class, the EX-Z33's continuous-shooting option uses the settings from the first shot -- including focus -- for all successive pictures.
Shooting performance is the weakest aspect of the EX-Z33. It takes 2.5 seconds to power on and capture the first shot. Then you'll wait nearly 3 seconds to take another shot, and 3.3 seconds if you're using the flash. The shutter lag is worse, though. In bright conditions, it's 0.8 seconds from pressing the shutter to capture. In dim conditions, that goes up to 1 second. Continuous shooting is pretty good, however, at 1.2 frames per second.
We were expecting the photo quality of this camera to be much worse than it is, given its price. Instead, the EX-Z33 actually takes very good photos at and below ISO 200. There's visible noise at all but the lowest ISO if you closely examine your photos, but it doesn't become much of an issue until ISO 400, at which point some yellow blotching is evident. The mix of noise and reduction is good enough to keep most fine detail, though. It isn't until ISO 800 and above that subjects get really soft and smeary and the yellowing becomes more noticeable. Your best bet is to stay at ISO 400 and below, so you'll either need to have plenty of light or use the flash.
Although it's not a wide-angle lens, there's visible barrel distortion at the camera's widest position. At just 3x, the long end of the zoom doesn't display any pincushion distortion. There was noticeable purple fringing in high-contrast areas on some of our test shots, but it's within a normal range for this class of camera.
Colours are pleasing and natural-looking, if not terribly accurate. The white balance is quite good, too. Photos were occasionally underexposed, but that's easily remedied by either adjusting the settings prior to shooting, using one of the best-shot modes, or utilising basic photo-editing software.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
The score we've given the Casio Exilim EX-Z33 doesn't really tell the whole story. Overall, it's a very good camera for the money. It's an attractive, uncomplicated, ultra-compact device that takes a decent snapshot. You just have to remember not to move until the camera captures your photo -- and the same goes for your subjects.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet