Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: July 20, 2003
July 22, 2003
a slow start, Panasonic is finally making some compelling digital
cameras, most recently with their Lumix DMC-FZ1 model (see
our review). Now they've got two interesting point-and-shoot
models, namely the DMC-LC33 ($299)
and its 4 Megapixel sibling, the DMC-LC43 ($399).
I'll be covering the LC33 in this review -- the LC43 is identical,
except for the higher resolution and different body color.
are a lot of 3 Megapixel, 3X zoom cameras out there, with the
best one probably being the Canon PowerShot A70 (see
our review). How does the DMC-LC33 compare? Find out in our
in the Box?
DMC-LC33 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33 camera
Secure Digital card
AA alkaline batteries
featuring ArcSoft Camera Suite and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
included 16MB Secure Digital (SD) card is a good place to start,
but you'll probably want a larger one soon after purchasing the
LC33. The camera can use SD or MultiMedia (MMC) cards, though
Panasonic says performance is better with SD cards. SD cards
are now available as large as 512MB as of this writing.
LC33 uses two AA batteries, and Panasonic includes two non-rechargeable
alkalines with the camera. They'll last for a few shots and then
will end up in the trash can. I highly recommend picking up a
four-pack of NiMH rechargeable batteries (1850 mAh or greater),
and save the alkalines for emergencies only. Panasonic estimates
that you can spent 120 minutes taking pictures, or 4 hours reviewing
them in playback mode, with NiMH rechargeables.
you can see, the LC33 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no
lens cap to worry about.
could only hunt down one accessory for this camera: an AC adapter
($50). And good luck finding one, as I can't seem to find them
for sale anywhere except direct from Panasonic.
includes a whole bunch of ArcSoft's software with the LC33. This
includes PhotoImpression (for editing photos), PhotoBase (for
organizing photos), PanoramaMaker (for creating panoramic images),
and PhotoPrinter (for printing photos). All of these programs
are Mac OS X native -- and Windows compatible too, of course.
In addition to the ArcSoft software, USB drivers for Windows
are also included. When connected, the camera mounts on the Mac
OS X desktop -- it is also compatible with iPhoto.
LC33's manual is much like the one included with your DVD player
- detailed, but confusing, with lots of "notes" in
small type on each page. I can say that its better than Panasonic's
camcorder manuals, though.
DMC-LC33 is a compact camera made mostly of plastic. It's not
going to be as durable as a metal camera, but it does feel pretty
solid overall. It's easy to hold, with all important controls
within easy reach of your fingers.
dimensions of the camera are just 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.3 inches (W x
H x D, excluding protrusions), with a mass of just 215 grams
empty. Compare that with the PowerShot A70's numbers of 4.0 x
2.5 x 1.2 inches and 215 grams.
let's begin our tour of the camera now.
DMC-LC33 has an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens, manufactured by Leica.
The lens has a focal range of 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent
to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded.
the upper-right of the lens is the built-in flash, which seems
rather small to me. The flash has a working range of 0.3 - 2.4
m at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 1.4 m at telephoto. I guess the small
flash equals a small range! You cannot add a flash to this camera.
below the flash is the microphone, flash sensor, and self-timer
there's no AF illuminator on the DMC-LC33.
on to the back of the camera, we can see the LC33's 1.5" LCD
display. While it's a little on the small side, the LCD is bright,
images are fluid, and the resolution is fairly high. Viewing
it outdoors can be difficult, as is the case with nearly all
LCDs. Brightness is adjustable via the setup menu.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is average-sized.
There's no diopter correction wheel, which you can use to focus
the image in the viewfinder.
the right of that is the power switch.
looking at the items to the right of the LCD, we find the display
(toggles LCD and its info on/off), menu, and photo delete buttons,
as well as the four-way controller.
addition to its duties as menu navigator, the four-way controller
also does the following:
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) +
auto bracketing (three shots in a row with different EV values)
- flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced on,
slow sync, forced off)
- Review (quickly jumps to playback mode)
- Self-timer (2 or 10 second)
on top of the LC33, you'll find the mode wheel, zoom controller,
shutter release button, and continuous shooting button.
mode wheel has the following 8 options:
of those items are self-explanatory (and I'll get to some of
them later). What is this "simple mode"? Well, it's
just as it sounds -- you get a smaller menu that is easier to
comprehend. You also don't get very many settings -- what you
see above right is all there is in simple mode.
zoom controller, which is wrapped around the shutter release
button, smoothly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto
in under 2 seconds.
last thing to see on the top of the camera is the continuous
shooting button. There are two continuous modes available, high
speed and low speed. High speed will take photos at 4 frames/sec,
while low speed is at 2 frames/sec. You can record up to 5 shots
at the high quality setting, or 8 shots at low quality.
this side of the camera you'll find the I/O ports, which include
USB, A/V out, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The ports
are protected by a fairly flimsy plastic door.
the other side of the LC33, also behind a plastic door, is the
SD/MMC card slot.
the bottom of the LC33, you'll find the battery compartment and
plastic tripod mount. The cover over the battery compartment
is the most sturdy of the three on the camera. The tripod mount
is located in-line with the lens.
the Panasonic DMC-LC33
DMC-LC33 takes under four seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start shooting.
good lighting, the camera focused in under a second, which is
about average. The camera did an okay job of focusing in dim
light, but don't expect miracles. On a side note, cranking up
the ISO is a way to make it easier to compose images on the LCD
in low light.
it comes to shutter lag, the LC33 fares well. The lag is barely
noticeable, even at slower shutter speeds.
speed is excellent, with a one second delay between shots (assuming
the post-shot review feature is off). You cannot delete a shot
as it's being recorded to memory, but you can enter review mode
(by pressing down on the four-way controller) to do so.
aren't many image resolution and quality choices on the LC33
-- Panasonic has chosen to keep it simple. Here they are:
photos on included 16MB SD Memory card
is no TIFF or RAW image format on the LC33.
file numbering system on the LC33 is simple. Files are named
Pxxxyyy.JPG, where x = 001 - 999 and y = 0001 - 9999. The numbering
is maintained as you erase and swap memory cards.
I mentioned before, the LC33 has two menu systems: a regular
one (shown here) and the simple one. The options in the regular
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, manual)
size (see chart)
mode (on/off) - focus and metering measured in the center of
sensitivity (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
recording (on/off) - record a 5 second voice clip with each
zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce photo
effect (Off, cool, warm, black & white)
adjustment (Natural, standard, vivid) - see below
only manual control on the LC33 is white balance. There's no
control over shutter speed, aperture, or focus.
picture adjustment feature is a little confusing. The manual
describes it as a sharpness adjustment, but they're discussing
it in terms of color (whose ever heard of "vivid sharpness"?).
It does adjust the sharpness, and if you choose vivid, the image
is also a setup menu on the LC33, which is another "tab" in
the record and playback mode menus. The setup options are:
brightness (-3 to +3)
review (Off, 1, 3 sec)
save (Off, 2, 5, 10 min)
(on/off) - when on, LCD turns off after 15 secs of inactivity
(Off, low volume, high volume)
number reset (on/off)
out (NTSC, PAL) - item only shown in playback mode
enough about menus. Let's take a look at some photo samples now.
LC33 turned in a sharp, and somewhat noisy night shot taken at
Twin Peaks. The slowest shutter speed available on the camera
is 8 seconds, although you can't select it manually. The night
portrait mode is one way to get the slow shutter speed (be sure
to turn off the flash).
LC33 did an excellent job with the macro test shot, producing
a sharp subject with accurate color. In macro mode, can get as
close as 10 cm at wide-angle, and 50 cm at telephoto.
surprisingly, there's quite a bit of redeye on this compact camera.
It's fairly easy to remove in software.
redeye test shot was taken at Auto ISO (actually 200) and was
distortion just shows very little barrel distortion, and just
a slight hint of vignetting (dark corners). I didn't see any
vignetting in my real world photos.
the LC33's photo quality was right in line with the rest of the
3MP cameras. Exposure was generally good (except in our purple
fringing torture shot), colors were nice, and images were
sharp. Noise levels are higher than I'd like, which is often
the case with high in-camera sharpening. Purple fringing was
just take my word for it though -- have a look at the gallery and
judge for yourself.
DMC-LC33 has an above average movie mode. You can record 320
x 240 video until your memory card is full. In the case of the
included 16MB card, that's about 80 seconds. But move up to a
64MB card and you can record 350 seconds of continuous video.
Sound is recorded as well.
cannot use the zoom during filming, but you can position it wherever
you want before you begin filming.
are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec. The camera
also saves the first frame of the movie as a 320 x 240 JPEG.
an unexciting sample movie for you from Sonoma:
Click to play movie (1.5MB, QuickTime format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
LC33 has a nice playback mode as well. Panasonic covers all the
basic features, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail
mode, image protection, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom 2, 4, 8, or 16 times into
your photo, and then scroll around. This feature is well-implemented,
though I wish you had more zoom choices and that the scrolling
are a few advanced features as well, including image resizing
and trimming (cropping). In both cases, you can choose to save
or delete the original photo.
photos is a snap: just use the button on the back of the camera.
You can delete one, multiple, or all photos.
LC33 shows a decent amount of information about your photos,
as you can see above. There's no histogram, but then again, do
buyers of the LC33 really want one?
camera moves through high res photos in about one second.
Does it Compare
I still think that the Canon PowerShot A70 is the best camera
in this class, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33 holds its own. (The
Canon's full manual controls + support for add-on lenses gives
it the edge). The LC33 has very good photo quality, a nice design,
good performance, and above average movie and playback modes.
It's a total point-and-shoot camera, with white balance being
the only manual control available. The simple mode is a new one
for me, and those who are really beginners may appreciate
it. My only other complaints are the lack of an AF illuminator,
the higher-than-average noise and redeye, and the flimsy plastic
doors over the I/O and memory card compartments. The DMC-LC33
is definitely worth considering, especially with a street price
of well under $300. If you want more pixels, check out the similar DMC-LC43.
good photo quality
movie, playback modes
- Interesting "simple
mode" for beginners
continuous shooting mode for a point-and-shoot
I didn't care for:
manual controls, except for white balance
levels a little high
plastic doors over SD slot, I/O ports
other 3 Megapixel, 3X zoom cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot A70, Casio
Exilim EX-Z3 and QV-R3, Fuji
FinePix A303, HP
Photosmart 735, Kodak
EasyShare DX4330, Kyocera
Finecam L3v, Minolta
DiMAGE Xt, Nikon Coolpix 3100, 3500,
Olympus D-560Z and Stylus
DMC-F1, Pentax Optio 33L and S, Samsung
Digimax V3, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8,
and the Toshiba PDR-3310 and PDR-3320.
It's a long list, so you need to do your homework!
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the DMC-LC33 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample
photos in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out the review of the LC33 at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.