Casio Exilim EX-Z33 review: Casio Exilim EX-Z33

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The Good Good photo quality for the money; one-button video capture.

The Bad Slow shooting performance; short battery life.

The Bottom Line As long as you and your subject aren't in a hurry, the Casio Exilim is a respectable budget-priced ultracompact.

6.4 Overall

Editors' note: The Casio Exilim EX-Z33 does not have sensor-shift image stabilization contrary to what was originally reported in this review. The feature rating has been lowered to a 6, lowering the overall rating for the Z33 to 6.4. The review has been adjusted to note these changes as well.

For a budget-friendly ultracompact, the Casio Exilim EX-Z33 is less compromising than other cameras in its class. For example, despite being primarily an automatic camera, there is more control over results than you typically get in a $100 model. Also, although its movie mode maxes out at a 640x480-pixel resolution, it has a one-touch button for quickly starting and stopping recording. And while it's got a long shutter lag in bright conditions, as long as your subjects aren't moving, you'll be rewarded with good photos. Those needing an inexpensive, basic point-and-shoot to keep with them for portraits and landscapes will appreciate what the Z33 offers.

Key specs Casio Exilim EX-Z33
Price (MSRP) $129
Dimensions (WHD) 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.1 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.5-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.1-5.6, 35.5-106.5mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 210 shots
Battery charged in camera No, external charger included
Storage media SD/SDHC card
Bundled software Photo Transport, YouTube Uploader (Windows only)

The Z33 doesn't feel like a cheap camera. Available in a choice of silver, blue, black, purple, and pink, the metal-and-plastic body is attractive and so light and small it'll fit in even tiny pockets. Part of the reason for that is the wee LCD; it's still plenty big to frame and view your shots, though. Your thumb naturally rests between the right edge of the LCD and a dedicated Movie mode button; one press starts recording and a second stops it and sends you back to shooting stills. You can take a still in the middle of recording video, too, but it stops recording the movie when you do and starts up again after the capture. Below that are Playback and Camera Mode buttons (both will turn the camera on to their respective modes); a circular directional pad and a Set button; and Menu and Best Shot (BS) buttons.

All of the camera's settings are accessed through the Menu button. However, 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 (or leave them visible all the time). You can also program the left and right directional buttons to change things like 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. Luckily it's easy to navigate through the various settings, which include a handful of unique adjustments like being able to pick what your focus frames look like (hearts, stars, butterflies) and what 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 color filters. You also get built-in support for Eye-Fi SD cards for transferring photos off the camera via a wireless network connection.

General shooting options Casio Exilim EX-Z33
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Tungsten, Manual
Recording modes Auto, Easy, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Spot AF, Macro, Pan, Infinity, Manual
Metering modes Multipattern, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, Purple, Sepia, Black & White
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

If there's one thing you can rely on Casio's cameras for, it's abundant scene modes. Accessed with a press of the BS button, the Z33 has 22 scene types to pick from including standard options like Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scene to the more unusual options of Soft Flowing Water, For eBay, and For YouTube. There's also an Easy mode located in the regular menu options that locks down all but a couple basic settings, the camera handling everything automatically. The actual Auto mode is more of a Program AE mode that lets you adjust all of the Z33's settings--just not shutter speed or aperture. The Movie mode is VGA-quality video, but it looked good in my tests, suitable for online sharing. However, you don't get use of the zoom lens while recording. One last thing: like most cameras in this class, the Z33's continuous shooting option uses the settings from the first shot--including focus--for all successive pictures.

Shooting performance is the weakest part of the Z33. It takes 2.5 seconds to power on and capture the first shot. Then you're waiting nearly 3 seconds to take another shot; 3.3 seconds if you're using the flash. What's worse, though, is the shutter lag. In bright conditions it's 0.8 second 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 seconds.

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