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Home > Hardware Reviews > Digital Cameras

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Sony CyberShot DSC-T33

3. Design

DESIGN

The CyberShot DSC – T33 is a minimalist wonder. Slick, smooth lines, nicely finished metallic surfaces and the ergonomic control positioning give an excellent first impression as to its construction quality. After holding this camera in your hand for a few seconds, you will find its construction more than sturdy. Aluminum sheet is used to form the front and back main body surfaces of the camera, while many chromed details complete the scene. After using the camera for a while though, you would wish the chrome plastic parts used on the camera were metallic. It seems hard to keep them spotless and any rubbing against my jean pocket was enough to peel off some of the paint from the edges. I imagine that after a while of using and carrying the camera around, the situation would be further exacerbated spoiling the overall impression. .


Side by side

Here you can see the DSC - T33 next to a packet of cigarettes– for size comparison only! It's obvious that the camera designed to fit easily in your pocket. Measuring 99.4 x 60.9 x 20.7, it is about 1cm wider, 4mm taller and 1 mm thinner than the average 20 cigs package. That's a nice trade.

In your hand

Slim design is nice when you think about carrying your camera around all the time but without a defined handgrip, holding the camera is another story! In most cases, single-handed operation is easy, but I found myself needing to hold the camera with both hands to feel sure as the exposure duration increased. The control buttons layout is straightforward and combined with the “fool-proof”, highly automated in-camera selection menu, makes adjusting this camera a breeze for average daily usage. Surely one of the easiest cameras to use – leaves very few questions for the manual to answer, unless you haven't had any experience in digital photography. .

Body Elements

LCD Monitor

The impressively large 2.5” TFT screen dominates at the back of the camera. Using a generous 960x240 pixels resolution, totalling no less than 230.400K pixels surely seems up to the task compared to the competition. Sony uses a transmissive/reflective Hybrid design in this screen, claimed to increase its view-ability under direct sunlight, something we can confirm as it did well fighting the Greek sun.

Given the absence of an optical viewfinder, this was particularly appreciated. What we ought to state though is that the large pixel count, the fancy technologies like “Clear Photo LCD”, didn't help with the real-life quality. Yes, the display is able to produce vibrant colours and nice contrast, but it's also heavily pixelated. Perhaps the dot-pitch is just too big for our taste and compared to smaller in diagonal digital camera or cell phone colour screens, this unit has no real resolution advantage.

Nevertheless, large and easy to view menus will be loved by middle-aged people bored to reach for their prescription glasses (like my father for instance) and showing your in-camera photo collection to your friends is much more rewarding.

Lens

The lens design is impressive, utilising a “highly transmissive” optical grade prism, the lens is housed entirely inside the camera body, and does not need to extend for use, a feature first seen on Minolta's Ultra Compacts a few years ago. The lens is designed by Carl Zeiss and uses 11 Elements in 8 Groups (including 3 Aspheric elements, 1 prism) – amazing numbers when thinking how small and thin the body concealing this unit is.

Zooming is fast and quiet, while the 3x range (38 – 114mm equivalent in 35mm) is up to the category standards. Aperture ranges from f3.5 – f5.6 and f4.4 – f10.0 (wide and tele end respectively). This might seem a bit slow compared with the ultra wide apertures seen lately on many digital cameras, but is totally acceptable when thinking of the design restrictions and surely will satisfy on all but the darkest of occasions. If we had to complain about something, it wouldn't be about the wide aperture: the exposure software Sony implements, simply won't try stop down the lens at more than F5.6, even on the brightest of days. Of course this is a foolproof way to minimize the chance of a ruined photo due to camera shake, but shooting at F8 and 1/500 sec shutter speed can't be much worse than F5.6 and 1/1000 sec. This cannot be changed even by setting the camera to “Landscape” mode. The camera simply prefers to keep the shutter speed as high as possible.

Memory and Battery Compartment
The memory and the battery share the same compartment, accessible through a chrome plastic door located on the bottom right of the camera. The plastic spring loaded hinges are big and seam sturdy and the slide-lock operation is positive. Reliability should not be a problem unless you really abuse the hatch door mechanism.
Flash and AF assist lamp

The built in flash has a given range of 0.1 to 1.6 meters at Auto ISO. As you might have guessed already, this flash unit is inadequate to illuminate anything but a portrait. The AF assist lamp works well on the other hand, helping the AF system to lock-on rather fast. We would prefer the laser pattern illumination featured on more expensive prosumer Sony models, but low light AF works well as is anyway.

Tripod Mount

The designers thought that the camera had no room for a tripod mount, so they moved it to the included Cyber-Shot Station instead. They even designed a camera holder that snaps in place to keep the camera safely on the station when trying to shoot at weird angles. My opinion is that this is totally impractical and I believe that fitting a tripod mount to the camera's base surely wouldn't be that more difficult than this “invention” – it isn't that thin after all and if they could fit that bulky charger/station multi connector, they could also fit a 1/4” standard collar. The opted solution is bulky to carry around when shooting, but it's better than nothing, I guess…

Connections

The included Cyber-Shot Station is used whenever we want to charge the camera or connect it to a TV set or a computer, as the camera itself lacks any connection save that for the battery charger. The Cyber-Shot Station is also equipped with a USB 2.0 compatible port, as well as a 3.5mm jack connector for connecting the camera to a TV set via Video and Audio RCA plugs.

Battery, Charger and AC Adapter

Sony opted for using a slim Li-Ion battery for powering the DSC-T33, rated at 680mAh. Battery duration isn't exceptional, but the at least the handy Info-lithium system will accurately inform you on expected battery life. The included charger can be plugged directly on the camera or connected to the Cyber-Shot docking station, while it doubles as an external power supply. The estimated time needed for charging the battery once it is fully discharged is around 150 minutes.

Box contents
  • DSC-T33 Digital Camera
  • Lithium-ion Battery
  • Memory Stick DUO 32MB Memory Card
  • AC power adapter
  • AV Cable
  • USB Cable
  • Cybershot Station and holder
  • MS-Duo to MS adapter
  • User's manual & Warranty cards
  • Software CD-ROM




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