Sony Cyber-shot T33 digital camera


7 Apr 2005

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Product: digital camera
Price: €500
The fine art of packing more picture power and features into tiny cameras has reached a new benchmark with Sony’s latest addition to its Cyber-shot T-series. A wafer-thin slice of technology (weighing just 150g) that can be held comfortably in the palm of the hand, the T33 has wide-ranging functionality that will appeal to point-and-shoot beginners as well as camera buffs.

Squeezed into its compact silver chassis are serious photographic tools, not least the 5 megapixel CCD sensor and 3x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. Well-rendered, high-resolution pictures are the end point with this camera. Before that, it’s a question of how far you want to go in exploring the creative possibilities.

The 2.5-inch LCD screen that dominates the chassis is the inroad into all controls, aided by a menu button and a circular array of control tabs that adopt different functions depending on the mode you’re in. The mode (video, still and view) is selected by a sliding switch on the side. When you’re shooting still images the control buttons combined with the menu let you dig deeper into creative control of your pictures. At the other extreme, everything can be automated, by holding the shutter button half way down. When autofocus is locked a beep sounds and you take your shot. It couldn’t be simpler.

Navigating through the various presets and overrides that enable you to assume more creative control takes a bit of getting used to and you may find yourself inadvertently switching on features you didn’t necessarily want. Among the presets are scene selections that let you automatically programme the camera controls for specific conditions. Nine subjects range from snow to firework modes, high-speed shutter to candlelight, each preset offering an easy option for the casual snapper who doesn’t want to worry about exposure and shutter speeds.

For the more serious photographer there are manual controls that let you override the fully automated approach. These include two metering modes, exposure and selectable ISO settings that adjust the camera to suit different lighting conditions. A dedicated button even lets you activate an onscreen histogram, a graph that shows the brightness of a subject for you to determine if you need to make any tweaks.

The T33 comes with a 32MB memory card in Sony’s Memory Stick format, which you’ll quickly eat up. You’ll only get 14 pictures, for example, if you’re shooting pictures in the highest image size of the five options available. Be warned that Sony charges more than most for additional memory cards.

In addition to the 3x optical zoom, there’s a 12x Smart Zoom, 6x Precision Digital option while a macro magnifying glass mode let’s you shoot objects as close as 1cm. There’s also a video capture facility for recording MPEG video (480×460, 30 frames per second) with sound from an onboard microphone. It’s fun and easy bolstered by a neat editing facility. Not exactly a camcorder replacement but an enjoyable bonus though recording time will be severely limited by the size of the memory stick.

The range of features for reviewing and tweaking stored pictures is impressive. You can enlarge and crop portions of an image, view in multiple groups or playback as slide shows. It’s pretty comprehensive but still a stopgap before using the USB connection attached to the cameras cradle to copy images over to a computer for more involved manipulation. The T33 comes bundled with Sony’s Picture Package software, but you’ll want more sophisticated software to explore the real creative potential of desktop photography.

This is an extremely versatile, high-performance digital camera that will appeal to all levels of photographer and does just about enough to justify the hefty asking price.

By Ian Campbell