Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP Overview
Overview by Mike Tomkins
Review by Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells
and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 07/15/09
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP is, says the company, "Life Proof". Featuring a newly designed body that's waterproof to ten feet (three meters), the Fuji Z33WP's front panel holds a Fujinon-branded 3x optical zoom lens offering a range from a 35mm-equivalent wide angle to a 105mm-equivalent telephoto. Behind this lens sits a 1/2.3" CCD image sensor with ten megapixel resolution. The Fujifilm Z33WP includes no form of mechanical image stabilization - only what the company calls "Picture Stabilization mode". Essentially, this boosts ISO sensitivity / shutter speeds to freeze blur, at the expense of some image noise / detail. ISO sensitivity in the Fuji Z33 ranges up to a maximum of ISO 1,600 equivalent at full resolution. The Fuji FinePix Z33WP's rear panel also has no provision for an optical viewfinder, instead opting solely for a 2.7" LCD display with 230,000 dots of resolution.
The Fuji Z33WP doesn't offer much in the way of manual controls, instead focusing on simplicity and ease of use. Focusing choices are either Multi or Center AF with Face Detection capability that can detect up to ten faces in a scene. As well as being linked to the autofocus system, the Fujifilm Z33WP's face detection function offers automatic red-eye removal. Shutter speeds range from 3 seconds to 1/1000 second, and apertures from F3.7 - F8.0 at wide angle, or F4.2 - F9.0 at telephoto. These are controlled automatically, with seventeen scene modes offering the Z33WP's main method of controlling the look of images. There's also an SR Auto scene recognition mode which automatically selects from a subset of six different common scene types and adjusts for exposure, focus, white balance and ISO sensitivity as appropriate. The Fuji FinePix Z33 is also capable of recording VGA or QVGA videos at 30 frames-per-second with monaural sound. Movies are saved in AVI format using QuickTime Motion JPEG compression, and are captured using a dedicated Movie record button which is separate from that used to trigger still image capture. Note that it is it is not possible to use the Z33's optical zoom lens during movie recording.
The Fujifilm FinePix Z33 stores its images on SD or SDHC cards or in 50MB of built-in memory. Power comes from an NP-45 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, CIPA rated at 200 shots per charge. Available from late March 2009 with pricing of about US$200, the Fuji FinePix Z33WP is available in black, pink or green finishes for US market customers.
Fuji Z33WP User Report
by Shawn Barnett
Easily the most endearing camera of the bunch, the Fujifilm Z33WP doesn't just look good, it feels great to hold and use. Its skin is smooth and taut like a ripe nectarine. That sounds ridiculous in a camera review, but hold one and you'll want to take a bite. It's the smallest camera in this roundup, and I'd say it has the best engineered body of the bunch, at least from a marketing standpoint.
Its 3x zoom, ranging from 35-105mm is quite average, but for the price, don't be too surprised. The maximum aperture of f/3.7 does not recommend it as an indoor camera, however, nor does its lack of true mechanical image stabilization. Its 2.7-inch LCD looks great, if a little dim in bright sunlight.
Look and feel. Organic, curvaceous, cohesive: all are good words to describe both the look and feel of the Fujifilm Z33WP (can't say as much for the name). A large silver circle surrounds the smallish lens and cover glass, which seems to stretch the smooth skin around it to conform to its shape. Modern graphics etched into the skin just beneath the slight hint of a flash oddly and stylishly proclaim "Fujifilm WP Z," which is not the camera's name. Just above or next to the Fujifilm logo, a small lip rises subtly and usefully.
Controls. On the back of the Fujifilm Z33WP, the rubber-covered button matrix is more beautiful than functional, casting off the standard four-way navigation cluster, forcing the four arrows into its ten-button, two-row matrix. Pay attention and it works just fine. The soft, rubbery rise gives the only thumbgrip on the Fujifilm Z33WP, and to achieve that you have to rest your thumb on the upper right corner of the LCD, covering part of the view.
The two zoom buttons are at the top of this matrix, and at the bottom is a dedicated Movie button, something I appreciate. Unfortunately, it's a terrible location for a Record button, making for a less stable hold on this small camera. Be sure to use two hands to avoid dropping the Fujifilm Z33WP.
The shutter button also has a good two-stage feel. Though it's not as clear as the two Olympus Tough cameras, it's clear enough.
Shooting. The Fujifilm Z33WP is a pleasure to use. That small tight build makes using it fun somehow, an impression bolstered by the relatively good shutter lag times. At wide angle, it's 0.5 second for a full autofocus and capture cycle, and at telephoto it's a longer 0.72 second. Not bad, about what we're used to getting from a small point and shoot in 2009. Prefocused shutter lag gets even better at 0.037, which I call responsive.
Shot-to-shot in single shot mode is really bad, though, taking 3.6 seconds between shots. If you take multiple shots like I do to make sure the focus is right, it's a little frustrating. Startup is faster, at 2.2 seconds.
"Feels good in the hand" is trite, and really doesn't convey just how sweet the Fujifilm Z33WP feels. I predict instant impulse buys at camera counters.
But it's good we're reviewing it here, because it's not all good news. Optical and image quality are lacking. Is that really a surprise in a digital camera that's currently selling for $160-$200 online?
As fast as Record mode is, it's surprising just how slow Playback mode is. The camera animates each transition, sliding it on the screen in the default Wipe mode. Other options are Slide-in, Fade-in, and Off. I recommend Off for a sane playback experience
Corners are very soft, a softness that extends quite far into the frame. There's very little geometric distortion, happily, and though we call chromatic aberration "strong and bright" in our review, it's not going to be a huge issue in prints, because you're not going to be able to print that large due to the corner softness. Detail in the center never reaches sharpness, either. Is that due to noise suppression or optical deficiency? Hard to say.
As for noise suppression, even though it appears to be active, blurring the image, there's plenty of chroma noise to go around even at ISO 64. It's just not pretty no matter how you look at it, and the largest recommended print size is 8x10.
The Fujifilm Z33WP has a Trimming for blog option, which is appropriate due to the low image quality. It actually does a lot more than trim, though, it allows you to edit the image's brightness, contrast, and color, as well as several other effects.
Ultimately, the Fujifilm Z33WP is good at helping you capture images for printing at 4x6 sizes and for sharing on the Web. It's one of the sweet spots we were looking for, and the price is right.
Fuji Z33WP Lens Quality
Wide: Soft at center
Wide: Very soft at upper left
Tele: Soft at center
Tele: Very soft at upper left
Sharpness: The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP's wide-angle and
telephoto lens settings produced extremely soft corners, with blurring extending
quite far into the frame. At both zoom settings, the center of the frame is
also a bit soft, and the strongest blurring occurred on the left side (though
the right corners are still very blurry).
Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly little distortion at wide-angle, as we just noticed one pixel of pincushion distortion. At telephoto, there was no perceptible distortion of any kind, definitely due to the camera's processing (which also made accurate framing a little tricky, as the live viewfinder image didn't have the distortion correction applied to it, so showed a different image than that eventually captured).
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle
and telephoto is high, with bright pixels on either side of the target lines.
The distortion is noticeable in the FinePix Z33WP's images, and is no doubt
intensified by the strong blurring in the corners of the frame.
Macro: The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP's Macro mode captures fairly sharp details at the center of the frame, with very strong softening radiating from the corners. Some chromatic aberration is noticeable on the printed details of the dollar bill. Minimum coverage area is 1.62 x 1.22 inches or 41 x 31 millimeters. Flash performance is uneven and overexposed, with strong reflections on the brooch and larger coin. Thus, the closest macro shots will look best without the flash.
Fuji Z33WP Image Quality
Color: The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP pushes strong reds quite a bit, and also oversaturates strong blues and oranges a little. Alternatively, yellows and greens are a little muted. Many digital cameras tend to pump up reds and blues to please the average consumer, who typically likes brighter than life color, but we felt that some of the reds on the Z33WP were a bit over the top in their brightness. In terms of hue, the Z33WP performed about average, pushing cyans toward blue, some oranges toward yellow, and some reds toward orange. Darker skin tones are pushed toward a warmer, orange cast, while lighter skin tones are pretty close to accurate. Pleasing and generally accurate color overall, with the exception of the over-pumped reds.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is already quite soft as
early as ISO 64, with some chroma (color) noise becoming visible at ISO 100.
Detail deteriorates from there, as noise levels continue to increase. Results
at ISO 400 are much less controlled than average, and images at 800 and 1,600
are more illustrative than photographic. See the Printed Results section below
for how this affects prints.
Tele: Bright, though uneven
Incandescent: Both the Auto and Incandescent white balance settings had trouble with our tungsten lighting test, as the Auto produced a reddish cast and the Incandescent setting a warm, yellow cast. The Auto result is close to acceptable; some users may like the warm tones, as being evocative of the original lighting.
Printed Results: Our sample of the Fuji Z33WP showed pretty severe softness all along the left side of the image, but it wasn't just a matter of a tilted sensor chip: All corners of the frame were very soft, so we suspect if the left side had been sharper, the right side would have gotten worse. If we just concentrated on the center of the frame, its prints at low ISO looked OK at sizes up to 8x10 inches, but it was hard to get around the extreme softness in the corners, and there was some fringing (chromatic aberration?) even in the center of the frame. Taking the corners into account, this is really a camera for making 4x6 inch snapshot prints or small photos for web posts. It's well-suited for kids to use at the beach or pool, as they're not likely to be critical about corner softness, and they'll find the camera's responsive shutter and cute-as-a-button looks appealing. For adults interested in memory photos, though, we suggest you look elsewhere. As usual, image quality degraded as the ISO increased, but we felt that images from the Z33WP did so a bit faster than those of some of its competition. The center of the frame stayed usable at an 8x10 inch output size up to ISO 400, but was a little marginal even there - And the soft corners still dominated our impression of the images. As noted, this is really a camera for making 4x6 inch snapshot prints, and you'll likely be happy with prints at that size up to about ISO 800. At ISO 1,600, color saturation dropped significantly, while detail loss was about the same, but noise was much higher: Even at a 4x6 inch output size, prints from the Z33WP's ISO 1,600 shots were flat and noisy looking; we don't think readers would find them acceptable.
Fuji Z33WP Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.50 second at wide angle and 0.72 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.037 second, quite fast.
Cycle time: Cycle time is on the slow side, capturing a frame every 3.62 seconds in single-shot mode.
Flash Recycle: The Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP's flash recycles in a fairly quick 5.5 seconds after a full-power discharge.
Fuji Z33WP Conclusion
The Fujifilm Z33WP and Olympus 550WP are in almost a dead heat for the title of least-expensive underwater-rated digital camera, but each has its own particular set of strengths and weaknesses. As you'd expect, there are some significant tradeoffs in optical and image quality that come from combining the words "least-expensive" and "waterproof" in a single product description, but frankly, there are times when having any pictures of a special event is more important than the absolute quality of the images. (Read Dave's article Good Photos or No Photos? for his perspective this.) When it comes to choosing between the two cameras, the Fuji Z33PWP wins on style and shutter response, but the Olympus 550WP wins on optical and image quality. (As we said above, the Z33WP should really be considered a camera for making 4x6 inch snapshot prints or web photos.) Which you go for may depend on who you are and what you want from the camera. The Fuji Z33WP would be a hands-down winner for kids, who'll appreciate its sleek lines, cute-as-a-button styling and who'll be more likely to need its faster shutter response. If you're a little less style-forward and able to wait (what can sometimes seem quite a while) for your shots, the higher image quality of the Olympus 550WP will likely carry the day.