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Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP Review
by Allison Johnson -  8/21/2009

One look at the Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP and it's obvious that this camera is having more fun than you are. Fujifilm calls it the world's smallest waterproof camera, and they mean it. The Z33WP wraps up a 10.0 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom and a 2.7 inch LCD in a tiny water and dust-sealed body. Take a look at how it performed in and out of the water.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP


With their outrageous style and highlighter hues, the Fujifilm Z series cameras are geared to a young user (or one who's young at heart). But don't laugh it off just yet - after a couple of weeks' worth of shooting with the Fujfilm FinePix Z33WP, I've been pleasantly surprised by the images that it produced. It has some quirky interface issues, a couple of trouble spots worth mentioning, and it isn't exempt from the usual problems that crop up in this class. But taking into account who this camera is geared toward and what it can do, it shouldn't let its target audience down.


BUILD AND DESIGN
Though available in three colors, we landed a hot pink model for our review. Photos don't do it justice - this camera is seriously pink. It's a great color for the target user, assuming the target user is a girl. Look at the green and black models if the pink color doesn't suit you.

Behind all that neon glory is a 1/2.3 inch 10.0 megapixel CCD sensor that should provide plenty of resolution for cropping. A 3x internal optical zoom lens offers a little bit of magnification, but not a lot. With an equivalent focal range of 35-105mm, it doesn't allow for a particularly wide angle of view for panoramic shots either.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

The Z33WP promises waterproof functionality up to 3 meters (about 9.8 feet) underwater, and the watertight camera body is also resistant to dust. A waterproof camera offers plenty of exciting shooting opportunities that other point-and-shoots can't handle, and not just under the waves. The FinePix Z33WP isn't afraid of a sudden rain shower or a boat trip. Assuming they take good quality photos, a waterproof camera is a nice option to take along on vacations or day trips.

Without the shockproof and freezeproof features found in the likes of Canon's D10 and Olympus's SW and Tough lines, this is more a of a "vacation at the beach" camera than a tough, outdoorsy type.

And don't forget, this is the world's smallest waterproof camera. It fits easily into a large pocket or your poolside bag. I didn't think twice about it when it was in my purse over the couple of weeks I carried it around. If a small form factor is an important quality for you, then the Z33WP has a notable advantage over bulkier waterproof cameras.

Ergonomics and Controls
The button layout is a little unusual. Instead of a traditional four-way control arrangement, the buttons are stacked into two columns to the right of the LCD. This positions the directional buttons a bit awkwardly, and it took some getting used to before I was able to navigate menus without hesitation.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

The four directional buttons also serve as shortcuts to settings for flash, self-timer, macro mode, and the delete function in playback mode. Additionally, there are dedicated buttons for access to the menu, playback mode, and video capture mode.

Aside from the non-traditional layout, the buttons themselves are quite close together and are physically on the small side. Operating the FinePix Z33WP would definitely pose a challenge for someone with larger hands.

The Z33WP has a slight indentation on the front and a small thumb rest just under the zoom buttons, making it a little easier to hold the camera in the right hand (but not much).

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

The rounded curves of the camera edges slip easily even on dry land, so two-handed operation is a must. I'd recommend a wrist strap for use out of the water and a floating wrist strap if you plan on taking it to sea.

Overall, it's not an entirely natural or intuitive design. For fashion, though, sacrifices must be made.

Menus and Modes
The main shooting menu is straightforward, with options for ISO adjustment and exposure compensation positioned toward the top for quick access. I had no trouble mastering the menu system quickly, and I don't think the potential consumer for this camera will have any trouble either.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

My one complaint with the menu is the length. Scene mode options are all listed vertically, spanning a couple of screens, so it takes a little while to scroll through the entire menu.

Shooting modes are accessed through this main menu including:

SR Auto: Selects a scene mode automatically based on shooting situation
Manual: Offers control over white balance, exposure compensation, ISO settings, etc.
Natural Light & with Flash: Captures two images in succession, one with flash and one with natural light

I didn't shoot too extensively in SR Auto, but it worked reasonably well when I did try it out. One problem that cropped up and seems to be a trouble spot for most manufacturers is that the camera's sensor detects faces in scenes where there are no faces and photographs those scenes in portrait mode settings. This doesn't necessarily ruin your shot, but scene recognition technologies still have a few bugs to be worked out, and the Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP is no exception.

Display/Viewfinder
As you'd expect, the FinePix Z33WP is all about the LCD. There's no optical viewfinder, and the 2.7 inch, 230,000 dot LCD offers about 97% coverage. The LCD is predictably difficult to use in direct sunlight, but in general, it was adequate.


PERFORMANCE
I have limited experience with underwater cameras, but I was impressed with some of the images that the FinePix Z33WP was able to capture in water. The images from the sink show nice detail and color reproduction.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

Taking the camera into a fountain in bright evening sunshine, however, produced mixed results. I tested the Z33WP in underwater mode and came up with some interesting yet flawed images. Chromatic aberration is visible in the shot below, though the green moss (or scum, whichever you prefer) is rendered nicely. You can make out the lettering on the black piping, but details on the coins are lost.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

Shooting Performance
As always, time is pretty crucial when it comes to capturing that perfect shot. Our timing tests proved the Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP to be acceptably fast and more or less on par with the competition.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S230
0.02
Pentax Optio P70 0.05
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
0.06
Canon PowerShot D10
0.08

Shutter lag was a reasonable 0.06 seconds, bringing it in just a hair faster than the PowerShot D10 in our studio tests.

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.23
Canon PowerShot D10 0.36
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
0.41
Nikon Coolpix S230
0.51
Pentax Optio P70
0.87

The FinePix Z33WP slows down a bit in AF Acquisition. Our test was conducted with the High-Speed function turned on. Without this function activated, the Z33WP found its focus in 0.58 seconds.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames* Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37
3 3.6 fps
Nikon Coolpix S230
2 2.2 fps
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700
10 1.6 fps
Canon PowerShot D10

1.2 fps
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
3 0.79 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The FinePix Z33WP isn't ideal for burst shooting. If a situation absolutely calls for continuous shooting, the camera will deliver three frames in "Top 3" mode at a rate of 0.79 fps.

Lens Performance
The Z33WP is equipped with an adequate 35-105mm f/3.7 lens. It offers good performance under good conditions and acceptable performance in fading light. Trouble spots include the usual areas of difficulty in the compact class. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was the problem that I saw most frequently. It appears at high contrast areas in challenging shots like the one below.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

This isn't unusual for such a small lens, but I saw traces of more chromatic aberration in photos like the one below.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

Operation of the zoom is a bit noisy, though that doesn't seem to pose any real problem to the photographer.

Barrel distortion and pincushion distortion were generally absent. Some very slight pincushion distortion is visible in the image at full telephoto below, but this kind of distortion was minimal.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Wide angle

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Telephoto

Video Quality
The underwater video capability provided a great opportunity to take a look underneath the water of a large fountain. The camera work is hardly smooth (my fault, not Fujifilm's), but it provides an example of video quality in and out of the water.

Image Quality
Details soften at the edges of photos like the leaves below, but a nice amount of fine detail is retained throughout the entire image.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP

As light fades, the FinePix Z33WP begins to struggle. Without optical or mechanical image stabilization, the slightest bit of camera shake will produce some blurring in photos. Using the flash to regain image crispness proved tricky as well. It overpowered subjects that were a few feet away, giving me a photograph that was just as bad as the blurry one sans flash.

Turning the flash off and relying on higher ISO sensitivity produced some fairly noisy photos, so the low light performance is a bit of a Catch-22.

I also had a difficult time finding the right adjustment for white balance while shooting with the Z33WP. The Fine white balance setting seems like the obvious choice for bright sunlight (indicated by a little sunshine icon on the menu), but I found it produced a bluish tone in my photos. The Shade setting seemed to produce more accurate colors, though highlights were a bit overexposed in these images. Personally, I preferred using the Shade WB setting for sunny conditions and during the hours of warm light before sunset.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Fine White Balance setting

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Shade White Balance setting

Our studio test of the Auto White Balance function produced a slightly warm image, as we expected.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

As I'd guessed from my experience shooting with the FinePix Z33WP, high ISO settings proved to be quite noisy. Our studio test shots show quite a bit of noise creeping in at ISO 400 and even 200.

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 64
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 64, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 100
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 100, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 200
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 200, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 400
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 400, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 800
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 800, 100% crop
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 1600
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
ISO 1600, 100% crop

By ISO 800 and 1600, images are so noisy that they should only be used as a last resort. There's also a significant loss of color in the ISO 1600 shot.

Additional Sample Images
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP
Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP


CONCLUSIONS
There's no doubt about it, this camera takes fun seriously. It's ready for a pool party and it wants to steal the limelight when it arrives. However, some of the problems I ran into while shooting with the FinePix Z33WP should be taken into account.


The camera struggles in difficult lighting conditions, and finding the right balance in shooting settings is sometimes tricky. Shooting in Auto and Scene Recognition mode will take some of these decisions out of the hands of the user, but it's a far from perfect overall shooting experience.

Don't count it out, though. It took some good quality images in and out of the water, it withstood our underwater testing, and it was generally a fun camera to use. For under $200, it's not a bad option at all, assuming you want all the attention that goes along with a flashy pink camera. And if you do, then flaunt it, baby, flaunt it.

Pros:

Cons: