I was not able to find the perfect point-n-shoot camera. However, I was able to find an adequate camera. After a bit of back and forth and research, I purchased a Fujifilm Z33 waterproof camera today.
It was a trick to balance feature set and price. I knew that I wanted something waterproof, but there were several possibilities. I started off looking at the Canon D10, which looked like it was going to be a great camera, but the cost was higher than I wanted to go. It also looked a bit clunky and bulky to me. On the opposite end was the Vivitar 6200W. It was certainly cheap enough, but that came at too high a cost in lost features – no optical zoom, AA batteries, only 6 mp, and a long list of other deficiencies. That narrowed it down to the Olympus waterproof series, the Panasonic waterproof cameras, and Fujifilm cameras rounding out the middle tiers.
I had two distinct criteria for this particular purchase. First, it had to be available locally. I have a paddling trip to Congaree National Park coming up this weekend, so I didn’t want to wait for an online order. I wanted instant gratification, and that ruled out the Panasonic cameras. Secondly, the price had to fall within a reasonable range of a couple of gift cards I had gotten for speaking and singing engagements. That ruled out the Canon and the upper end Olympus waterproofs. It finally came down to a battle between two cameras – the Z33 and the Olympus Stylus 550 waterproof camera.
Both the Fujifilm and the Olympus were available form either Target or Best Buy locally. Both were in the same price range. I was able to find mixed reviews online for the Olympus, but not too much for the Fujifilm. Fortunately, I was able to try both of them out at Best Buy. I ultimately decided on the Fujifilm, even though it was about $20 more, because it uses standard SD cards (as opposed to micro-SD for the Olympus) and I liked the response time for images. While not a speed demon, it was still had a faster response time than the Olympus.
I haven’t had a chance to take many photos, but there are several things I really like about the camera. The back buttons operate in either one-click or toggle mode. If you want video, press the button and it automatically starts recording. Press the same button to stop. Pressing the flash button will cycle through the flash modes – no menu to try to navigate. Simplicity seems to be the key. What menus there are seem to be fairly easy to navigate, but are not as easy as some of the Nikons I’ve used.
The camera has some cool built-in features. In addition to the usual bells and whistles for images modes, etc, there is an “online auction” mode which will let you combine several images into one, say, if you wanted to show several angles of an object that you wanted to sell on e-Bay.
While it doesn’t have a great zoom range, the Z33 does have a decent macro mode. Images take a maximum zoom in macro mode came out fairly sharp.
The camera can even be set to full manual mode, giving the user complete control over exposure and aperture. That’s fairly rare for a point-n-shoot.
What I DON’T like about the camera is that it does have limited zoom and ISO range. It does tend to be very noisy in low light. However, I’m hoping to be outside with this most of the time. We’ll see if digital noise becomes a problem as I’m paddling through a dark cypress swamp. The main thing that bothers me about the camera is that there is no sliding protective cover for the lens. There is only a stationary plastic cover, which could be subject to scratching and damage. I’ll just have to make sure I don’t keep this one in my pocket all the time like my last cameras.
I did some comparison shots between the Z33 and the Nikon S550 that I’ve been using. As you can see from the images below, the S550 has a wider image, but the Z33 has better color saturation. You can see a hint of blue sky in the Z33 image, whereas it gets washed out in the S550 image.
I tried to do a macro comparison, but every shot I took with the Nikon was blurry or focused on the wrong area. The Fuji just seem a bit easier to use in macro mode.
I’m not necessarily saying that the Fujifilm Z33 is a better camera. I’m just saying that I was pleased with its performance in comparison. There are some things that the Z33 just won’t do, or probably won’t do well. For those, I’ll probably still rely on my trusty Nikon S50, even though it’s currently being held together by rubber bands.
Maybe the rubber bands will make it a less likely target for theft, too.
But back to the Z33 and the reason I bought it. My friend Paul W observed that out on paddling trips was when he frequently encountered the best views, and wanted the best possible camera. I agree, and that’s why I still plan to carry my big Nikon D50 DSLR in its waterproof Pelican box when I go paddling. However, for those moments when I want to take a shot right away and not worry about an expensive camera getting wet, I’ll have my Z33 right at hand.