The Casio Exilim EX-Z33 is a 10.1-megapixel ultra-compact camera with a 3x zoom lens and a 2.5in 230k LCD monitor. It's the most basic model in Casio's range, costing under £90, but if you're on a tight budget is it good enough?
The body design of the Casio EX-Z33 is as basic as the specification, a plain plastic case with an aluminium fascia and very simple controls. It’s very light at just 122g including battery and memory card, and at only 18.1mm thick it’s slim enough to slip into a shirt pocket.
Despite the budget price, the build quality is good and the camera feels surprisingly solid. It’s available in a range of colours including silver, black, blue and two shades of pink.
As with most basic compacts the 10-megapixel Casio Z33 isn’t exactly brimming over with interesting features. It does have the usual side-bar menu for quick access to often-used settings including picture size, flash mode, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation, but not much else. It offers face detection autofocus, but lacks the sophisticated auto-trigger shutter and blink detection of Casio’s more advanced models.
The main menu is also a bit barren but it does have a few options, with several autofocus modes including manual focus, a triple-shot self timer option, and even the option to customise the function of a couple of controls. The video mode is a bit basic by recent standards, with a maximum resolution of 848 x 480 at 30fps and mono audio, but it does start recording almost instantly.
The Casio Z33’s biggest surprise is its performance. In single shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of 2.2 seconds, while in continuous shooting mode it can maintain a fast 1.3 frames a second apparently indefinitely. There are many more expensive cameras that can’t match this performance.
Casio’s autofocus system has often been praised for its speed and accuracy, with even mid-range models like the Casio EX-S12 handily out-performing high-end premium compacts such as Canon’s IXUS range or Panasonic’s FX series. The Casio EX-Z33 benefits from the same technology, with an excellent nine-point autofocus system that in good light is as fast and accurate as anything on the market. However, the Casio Z33 has no AF assist lamp and its low-light focusing is very poor – an unfortunate handicap for a camera likely to be used primarily for social snapshots by semi-nocturnal teenagers.
Of course, when a camera is priced this low, a few compromises will have been made in its design, and unfortunately for the Casio Z33 that means sacrificing image quality. It has a slow f/3.1-5.6 lens with a focal length equivalent to 36-108mm. At wideangle it suffers from barrel distortion and chromatic aberration, while at telephoto length it loses contrast, with the images looking pale and hazy.
Add to this the very poor noise reduction and the phone-camera quality image processing and the result is very disappointing.
For a cheap budget compact the Casio Exilim EX-Z33 offers decent build quality, ease of use and surprisingly good performance. However, its very poor low light focusing and disappointing image quality are serious handicaps. Better to save up a few more pounds and get something a bit more capable.