Sony DSC-T33 Review

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T33



Steve's Conclusion

The CyberShot DSC-T33 is one of a trio of diminutive 5-megapixel digicams SONY has introduced in 2005, the other two being the DSC-T5 and the DSC-T7. Weighing just over 5 ounces including battery, media and wrist strap, the T33 just fails to achieve 1-megapixel per ounce. Despite its small size, it packs a 3x optical zoom lens and a large 2.5-inch LCD into its stylish metal body. Its Automatic exposure mode will appeal to beginners needing the ease of use of a point-n-shoot, while its Program and Scene modes provide features desired by intermediate photographers.

The most distinguishing feature of the T33 is its packaging. The light weight, durable metal body's height and width are barely larger than a credit card, and its depth is only 7/8-inch; the DSC-T33 can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. It is stylish enough that some users might choose to show it off as a fashion accessory attached to the included silver wrist strap. Its small size was facilitated by 3 components:

  • Memory Stick PRO Duo™ Media, 1/3 smaller than Memory Sticks,
  • Small proprietary InfoLITHIUM battery, and
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 38 - 114mm optical zoom lens, which focuses and zooms internally within the camera body

Despite its small size, the T33's controls are well-placed on the body and have a positive feel. And although it seems contradictory, the T33 has one of the largest LCD viewfinders among consumer digicams, despite the camera itself being one of the smallest. The LCD is not only large, but very usable as well. It has a control for backlight brightness, but outdoors in bright sun you'll find that it is unnecessary; ambient light from the sun is used to intensify the LCD's image, allowing you to view it while saving battery power. The LCD's wide field of view makes it visible from other than head on, allowing you and your friends to easily review captured images. Because there's no optical viewfinder on this camera, SONY wisely provided this top-notch LCD; you'll enjoy using it. Battery life was surprisingly good considering its small size; after capturing 150 images, including a lot of time reviewing images and navigating the cameras menu system, it had about 1/2 of its capacity remaining. The NP-FT1 InfoLITHIUM battery is proprietary and charged out of the camera in the included BC-CS3 charger; as usual, I recommend that you obtain a spare to avoid the inevitable disappointment a dead battery can cause. The Memory Stick PRO Duo and battery are accessed behind the same door; there is a latching mechanism to prevent the battery from slipping out when the door is opened.

The only issue I found with the camera's design was the placement of its lens near the top left corner of the body. It is recessed and less easily smudged than its T5 and T7 counterparts, but my left forefinger sometimes became an unwelcome addition to the images I captured.

The T33 is a robust performer. From touching the power button till the first shot was captured measured an impressive 1.4 seconds; you will not miss many unposed spontaneous photo opportunities. Shutter lag, the time between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured 1/10 second when pre-focused, and lag including autofocus was an equally impressive 3/10 second; both of these times include about 1/10 second of delay in the live image on the LCD viewfinder. In single shot mode, images could be captured at a rate of 1 per second. Using flash, shot-to-shot time ranged between 1.2 and 5 seconds depending on subject distance.

The T33 has 3 modes of continuous image capture: Burst, Speed Burst and Multi Burst. In Burst mode, I was able to capture 9 images at 8/10 second intervals; during the capture sequence the viewfinder briefly displayed the last captured image, helping you to follow a moving subject. It took 6 seconds to flush the buffer full of 5-megapixel Fine images onto the Memory Stick PRO Duo media. Speed Burst improves the capture rate to 4/10 second intervals, although to a depth of only 4 5M Fine images. Multi burst records 16 images at a user-specified interval of 1/30, 1/15, or 1/7.5 second into a single 1-megapixel frame. It is most useful in recording an athletic movement, such as a golf swing or tennis stroke, for later evaluation; when reviewed in-camera, the images can be viewed frame-by-frame or as a continuous sequence. The above times were measured using a SanDisk ULTRA II 1GB Memory Stick PRO Duo memory card, recording 2592 x 1944 5-megapixel JPG images in fine quality with flash off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture; they are numbers you can reproduce in real-world shooting conditions. SONY did not compromise the T33's shooting performance to achieve its small size.

I was pleased with the T33's outdoor shooting results. The lens produced sharp results throughout its 38 - 114mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom range, with a moderate amounts of barrel distortion at extreme wide-angle and pin cushioning at full telephoto. It zooms smoothly and nearly continuously throughout its 3X range; I counted more than 20 steps between full wide angle and full telephoto. Our outdoor test images were both well exposed and richly saturated, and had very little chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high contrast areas. The T33's outdoor images were noticeably warmer than its T5 & T7 siblings.

Because of the limited flash range (5 feet) and 38mm wide angle focal length, you'll realize the best indoor results when shooting portraits of individuals and couples. Capturing a well-exposed flash image of even a moderately-sized room is beyond the T33's capability. The T33's red-eye reduction flash mode was not as effective as its T5 and T7 proved siblings, and it adds the same 1/2 second to shutter lag. The T33 is equipped with a focus-assist lamp which it uses automatically when needed; its low light autofocus performance is exceptional as a result. Closeup macro shots with the flash were excellent as the camera "throttles down" the flash for nearly perfect exposures every time; the T33 would be a good choice for shooting close-up images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings. The T33 also has a "Magnifying Glass" close focusing mode that will focus as close as 1 centimeter, completely filling the frame with an object as small as a dime; I found this feature impractical to use because of the very small working distance to the subject. The T33 is not equipped with a tripod mount, limiting its usefulness for macrophotography.

The T33 has a versatile movie mode, able to capture moving 640x480 images at 30 frames per second with sound. Be warned, however, that movies captured at this quality will consume a over 1-megabyte per second; make sure that you purchase a large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo card if you intend to record movies in the cameras highest-quality mode. The T33 does have an in-camera movie editing function that can be used to trim your movies to a more memory-efficient size. The camera's zoom lens can be used to compose the movie before shooting, but the focal length can not be changed during recording.

If you're in need of a super-compact digicam that captures high resolution images, the SONY CyberShot T33 or its T5 and T7 siblings could be just the ticket. With 5-megapixel imagers, terrific image quality, small size, light weight and good-looks, Sony produced a trio of high-quality go anywhere cameras for recording your vacation travels and outdoor activities. They are less successful at capturing indoor family events because of their limited flash range. Because they so equal in quality, performance and features, it seems that Sony is conducting market research with real products, an expensive proposition for them and somewhat of a dilemma for you; how do you choose?

Start by comparing our Sample Photos, where you will find a link to comparable images of some of our standard subjects taken with each of the three under identical conditions. There are differences between the three:

  • The T5 is the only one equipped with a tripod mount
  • The T7 has a slightly more powerful flash
  • The T33 is the only one with Speed Burst continuous capture
  • The T7 is the lightest and smallest (by fractions of an ounce or inch)
  • The T7's rear controls are left-oriented
  • The T5 and T7 are more susceptible to lens smudging
  • The T33's red eye reduction is less effective
  • The T33 produces warmer results
  • The T33's LCD viewfinder provides less "gain-up" of the live image in dim lighting
At an MSRP of $349, the T33 and T5 are a better value than the $499 T7, but you can't go wrong with any of these three marvels of miniaturization from Sony.



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