Panasonic's FS-series cameras are designed to be simple but classy, and that describes the 14.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-FS33 perfectly. But it still packs a few surprises, notably an 8x wide-angle zoom that Panasonic's somehow managed to cram into a slim, elegant body. That makes the camera's £160 price tag look even more tempting.
Feels pricier than it is
The FS33 arrived at the same time as the Lumix DMC-FS30 and, in case you're wondering, the only difference between them is the size of the display -- it measures 75mm (3 inches) on the FS33, and 69mm (2.7 inches) on the FS30.
What's interesting about the FS33 is that it's almost a compact superzoom, yet it's much cheaper and smaller. There's not much practical difference, after all, between an 8x zoom and a 10x zoom.
The FS33 combines a simple, elegant design with a top-class finish and excellent materials. It feels like it should cost more than it does. It's pleasing and responsive in use, too. Panasonic says it's worked on the start-up time, using 'parallel' rather than conventional 'linear' processing so that the camera is ready to shoot in just under a second after you push the power switch. Panasonic's new 'sonic speed' autofocus is fast too, and very nearly up to Sony Cyber-shot standards.
This camera has a touchscreen interface, so you can focus in the normal way or tap on the screen to choose your focus point. Tapping the screen doesn't take the picture as well -- you still have to press the shutter button -- but it's a quicker way of choose the focus point than using directional controllers.
The picture quality is rather good too. It's best not to expect much from these 14-megapixel sensors, but Panasonic seems to have overcome the usual image-processing issues, combining good textural detail rendition with effective noise control. ISO 800 is dodgy and ISO 1,600 is just a step too far, but the FS33 delivers pictures that are well above average right up to ISO 400.