The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 is low and compact, so it's a pleasant surprise to find they've packed in so many features. Still, for £200,from a compact, especially when there are so many cheaper 8-megapixel cameras with 64mm (2.5-inch) screens and 3x zooms.
There's not an ounce of fat on the FX33. The LCD display is the usual 64mm (2.5-inch), although Panasonic compensates for not giving us a bigger screen by making the camera frame little bigger than the screen. Apart from the small area to the right of the display where the controls sit, the rear of the FX33 is all screen, with no wasted real estate.
The impressive 22mm depth, flush-folding lens and long, low profile make the FX33 seem more like a mobile phone in size and shape. The weighty all-metal body feels extremely sturdy, with a snappy little metal door covering the USB slot. Colours available are classy black or silver.
The FX33 tops the usual 3x zoom with a Leica 3.6x lens, with a pleasingly wide 28mm equivalent, as opposed to the typical 35mm or disappointing 38mm on some compacts. However, the 8.1-megapixel sensor is the usual small 25mm.
Panasonic's excellent MegaOIS optical image stabilisation system is present and correct, which is truly impressive in such a small camera. In the OIS menu you can access an onscreen levels display that shows how much the camera is moving in real-time. It's fun, and educational, but unfortunately you can't see the indicator of how much your hands are shaking when you're actually in shooting mode.
Pointing and shooting is obviously the focus here, with lots of scene modes but a shortage of manual options. There isn't even shutter or aperture-priority mode. Instead, Panasonic have added a new 'intelligent auto' function, similar to Pentax's, which does almost everything except press the shutter for you.
In this mode you are only able to adjust the more obvious features, like turning the flash on or off. This mode prioritises faces, using the face detection feature. It's clever enough to switch to macro mode if the autofocus decides your subject is close enough.
Macro option of 50mm from your close-up subject isn't bad. There is a choice of 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios.Video mode allows you to shoot 848x480-pixel resolution widescreen movies at 30 frames per second, with sound. Intelligent ISO mode caps the ISO sensitivity level to ensure that noise doesn't creep into your pictures while you're not looking. ISO levels go up to a maximum of ISO 6,400, which is pretty high for a compact.
In playback mode, text and dates can be stamped onto photos, with the original saved or overwritten. Another useful feature is category sorting, which sorts images into categories like portraits, scenery, date-stamped images or movies, so you can review or make slideshows of a particular type of image. The last image taken can also be reassessed at any time with one-touch review.
If you're short on memory (and with only 27MB onboard you will be, without an SD card) the 'Clipboard' function allows you to take around 70 photos and preview them onscreen, without saving them to the memory card. It's an unusual feature, designed to keep information to hand, for example, by photographing a train timetable. How useful it will be will probably come down to personal taste.