Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T33
At a Glance
Sony's 5.1-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-T33 is cleverly designed and compact. This $450 unit, roughly the size of a deck of cards, looks like a fancy silver-plated cigarette box; the front and back are smooth, with no bulky bits sticking out. Its slimness makes it a joy to carry around, as it slides in and out of your shirt pocket nicely. It will stand on its own on a solid surface, for timed shots, say, but its thinness makes standing it on uneven surfaces a little tricky.
The camera's 2.5-inch LCD was a big hit with our testers. We were glued to the screen during testing, and we ended up thinking far less of competing point-and-shoot models with comparatively tiny 1.5-inch displays. Though the LCD takes up much of the camera's back, Sony managed to place the various controls--including buttons for deletion, the general menu, the self-timer, and zoom--into a sensible layout. For example, as you're viewing a series of images on the LCD, the Delete button is slightly to the left of the arrow button that you use to cycle through the images, so it's a tiny move for your thumb--you don't need to change your hand position to zap undesirable shots on the fly. In contrast, the Cyber-shot DSC-T1 has its delete button in a different spot, farther away from the arrow button, so the DSC-T33's layout is an improvement.
If you enjoy taking snaps of candid moments, your friends and family better watch out. Press the power button, and the DSC-T33 fires up lightning-fast. One minor gripe: To press the shutter button, you must reach over the power button, which is a little awkward. Yet it's unlikely that you would accidentally turn your camera off while taking a photo, since you have to press the power button firmly to shut it down. (The DSC-T1's shutter button, on the other hand, is placed closer to the edge of the unit with nothing else in the way--a much more logical position.)
Another small complaint: The microphone is housed right where your thumb would naturally sit when holding the camera. If you habitually record voice-overs with your mini-movies or still images, you'll need to move your thumb out of the way while doing so.
We liked the large on-screen commands (Setup, Image Size, and so on). We also appreciated Sony's decision not to bury the more advanced settings in a labyrinthine menu system. It takes just a few clicks to access, for example, the white-balance settings, the exposure adjustments, and special effects like black-and-white or sepia tones.
In our lab-based image-quality tests, the DSC-T33's photos looked mediocre, yet sufficiently accurate to earn an overall score of Good. They appeared crisp, and strong on detail. In hands-on tests, digital zoom introduced little distortion to images. However, when we took some snaps indoors, the photos looked less vibrant than we expected. For example, the white balance seemed a little off: In one of our printed images, a white background had a greenish tinge.
The DSC-T33 comes with a cradle, which you must use to download images from the camera and to recharge its lithium ion battery; if you're planning to process your photos on the road, you have to remember to bring the extra gear. A Memory Stick Duo card is also part of the DSC-T33's package. (Bonus for owners of some Sony plasma, LCD, and flat-screen CRT TVs: With the Memory Stick slot in these displays, you can view your photo files without having to futz with cables and input jacks.)
Sony's bundled Picture Package software accompanies the DSC-T33, as well as other Cyber-shot models. It provides slide-show options, CD-R burning, and video CD burning along with the image-download tool, but that's about it.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T33 can take pleasing photos, but its most attractive aspects are its big 2.5-inch LCD and ultrathin body.
Aoife M. McEvoy