Cyber-shot DSC-T33 ($450) is the follow-up to
the Cyber-shot DSC-T1, which was one of the most
popular cameras of 2004. (Okay, there was a DSC-T3
too, but it was never sold here in the U.S.) The
T33 doesn't change very much from the T1, aside from
its refined body design and new "hybrid" LCD.
The features from the old T1 that have carried over
to the T33 include a 3X optical zoom lens, 5.1 Megapixel
CCD, 2.5" LCD, and point-and-shoot operation.
How does the ultra-thin DSC-T33 perform
in our tests? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DSC-T33 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.1 effective Megapixel Cyber-shot
- 32MB Memory Stick Duo card w/adapter
- NP-FT1 rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery charger / AC adapter
- Cyber-shot Station camera dock
- Tripod adapter
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Sony Picture Package
software, ImageMixer VCD2, USB drivers, and Cyber-shot
- 140 page camera manual (printed)
Sony includes a 32MB Memory Stick
Duo card with the DSC-T33. This is a decent starter
size, but you'll want a larger card right away if you
plan on taking more than a handful of images or movies.
I'd recommend 256MB as a good place to start (cards
as large as 2GB are now available). Memory Stick Duo
cards are smaller than regular Memory Sticks, but don't
worry, there's an adapter included that will let you
use the Duo cards in a regular Memory Stick slot. Do
note that Memory Stick's tend to be more expensive
that other memory card formats such as SD or CompactFlash.
The DSC-T33 uses the same NP-FT1 battery
as its predecessor. This compact battery packs just
2.4 Wh of energy, which is pretty much as low as you'll
find on a digital camera. Despite that, the T33 is
able to take 180 shots per charge (measured using the
CIPA standard), which isn't bad at all for a camera
in this class (better than the Canon SD300 or the Panasonic
The usual caveats about proprietary
batteries apply here. They're expensive ($50 a pop)
and you can't use "regular batteries" to
get you throw the day in an emergency. One thing I
do like about the InfoLithium battery used by the T33
is that it tells you exactly how many minutes you have
left before you run out of juice.
Front view of the
Cyber-shot Station and DSC-T33
Here's the back
view, with the A/V, USB, and DC-in ports visible
There are two ways to charge the T33's
battery. You can plug the AC adapter directly into
the bottom of the camera, or you can use the included
Cyber-Shot Station camera dock (shown above).
While the dock is optional for battery
charging, you must use it if you're planning on connecting
to a TV or your PC. The USB port here supports the
USB 2.0 High Speed protocol. Don't worry, though, it'll
work on your old computer too!
The dock has another other important
function that you'll find out about later in the review.
The best news about the T33's new
design: no more sliding door on the front of the camera!
Now there's a small cover over the lens which opens
and closing automatically when you press the power
button. As you can hopefully see here, this is one
There aren't too many accessories
available for the DSC-T33. The most exciting is probably
the MPK-THB underwater case (around $150), which lets
you take your T33 up to 40 meters underwater. Other
accessories include a portable battery charger ($60),
car battery charger kit ($70), and a few camera cases
($27 and up).
viewer (Windows only)
Sony includes Picture Package for
Windows as the main image viewing application. And "viewing" is
about all it does -- you can print and rotate your
images, but that's it. The software can also create
slideshows with music or burn your photos to a CD-R
Mac users don't get to use PicturePackage
(you can use the camera with iPhoto just fine). Instead,
they get ImageMixer VCD2 and the Image Data Converter.
ImageMixer is used to create a Video CD from your images.
VideoCDs are kind of like a poor man's DVD -- not as
good, but usable.
The best part of the software package
is the Cyber-shot Life tutorial, which is Windows only.
Here, a girl and her dog show you how to use your camera.
While it's a little cheesy, the tutorial is far more
useful for learning the ins and outs of your camera
than the manual. Do note that it's not camera-specific,
but that shouldn't matter since Sony's cameras have
a lot in common with each other.
I don't think I've ever read a Sony
manual that I thought was good, whether on a $300 camera
or $3000 television. The one included with the T33
is complete, but cluttered, complex, and poorly-organized.
Look and Feel
The DSC-T33 is a sleeker version of
the old DSC-T1, with the biggest changes found on the
front of the camera. As I said, the best news it that
the dumb sliding door on the front of the camera is
gone! What hasn't changed: the camera is still all-metal,
very thin, and it can go anywhere you do. Most of the
controls are well-placed and easy to reach, save for
the power button.
Now let's see how the T33 compares
in terms of size, volume, and weight when compared
to the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.1 x 0.8 in.
x 2.2 x 1.3 in.
x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
Minolta DiMAGE G600
x 2.2 x 1.2 in.
Minolta DiMAGE X50
x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
x 2.5 x 0.6 in.
x 2.4 x 1.4 in.
x 2.2 x 1.2 in.
Stylus Verve S
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.0 x 1.0 in.
x 2.0 x 0.8 in.
x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
Yes, the DSC-T33 is actually larger
yet lighter than its predecessor. Believe it or not
it's actually one of the larger cameras in this class
-- sure doesn't feel like it!
With that out of the way, let's begin
our tour of the camera now, beginning, as always, with
The DSC-T33 has the same "folding
lens design" as the DSC-T1. What that means is
that the light comes through the front of the lens,
is reflected downward by a prism, and goes down the
body through the rest of the lens elements and then
onto the CCD. This allows for the ultra-thin body that
makes the T-series cameras what they are. This same
design has been used on other cameras from Konica Minolta
for many years.
The lens used here (and on the earlier
T-series models) is an F3.5-4.4, 3X zoom Carl Zeiss
Vario-Tessar model. As you can see by the maximum aperture,
this is a pretty "slow" lens, which means
that it doesn't let in as much light as a "faster" lens.
This becomes an issue when you want to keep the shutter
speed as fast as possible. The focal length of the
lens is 6.7 - 20.1 mm, which is equivalent to 38 -
114 mm. You cannot attach a conversion lens to the
To the left of the lens is the T33's
built-in flash. One of the weak points of the DSC-T1
was its flash, and well, things aren't any better on
the DSC-T33. The flash range is 0.1 - 1.6 m at wide-angle
and 0.5 - 1.5 m at telephoto. Compare that with 0.5
- 3.5 m (W) and 0.5 - 2.5 m (T) on the Canon SD400
(the SD500 is even better), 0.2 – 3.2 m (W) and
0.1 – 1.8 m (T) on the Minolta X50, and 0.3 -
3.0 m (W) and 0.6 - 2.3m (T) on the new Fuji Z1 and
you'll see what I mean. I did a head-to-head comparison
with the Canon SD300 and the DSC-T33 and the formers'
flash photos were vastly superior. As you'd expect
on an ultra-compact model like this one, you cannot
attach an external flash to the camera.
Just below the flash is the AF-assist
lamp, which doubles as the self-timer lamp. The AF-assist
lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations.
There's one other thing I need to
mention about the DSC-T33: watch your hands. It's very
easy to block the lens or flash with your fingers,
so you need to keep an eye on them!
Probably the biggest feature on the
DSC-T33 is its 2.5" LCD display (pun intended).
The screen has changed quite a bit since the DSC-T1,
and for the better. For one, the resolution has increased
a bit, now up to 230,400 pixels (from 211,000). Even
with the high resolution, I never though that the T33's
screen was as sharp as others than I've used. Anyhow,
the other nice new feature is the "hybrid" technology
used on the screen. This gives the LCD outdoor visibility
that is second to none. You can even turn off the LCD
backlight when you're outdoors, which increases battery
life by about 17%. In low light situations, I found
the screen to be very dark, bordering on unusable.
Just like on the T1 and other ultra-thin
cameras like this, there's no optical viewfinder to
be found on the back of the camera. Whether this is
a problem really comes down to your personal preferences.
I like having an optical viewfinder, while others may
not care. Apparently studies have shown that most people
only shoot using the LCD, and I do most of the time
myself. However, there are times when I need the optical
viewfinder, like in low light conditions, or if I can't
see the LCD outdoors, or if I just want to get a firmer
grip on the camera, so that's why I like to have one.
Enough editorializing, let's continue
the tour. At the top-right of the photo you'll find
the zoom controller. This moves the lens silently from
wide-angle to telephoto in 2.1 seconds. By quickly
pressing on the controller you can make very precise
adjustments to the focal length.
Below that you'll find the Display
and Menu buttons and the speaker. The Display button
is used to turn the LCD backlight on and off, and also
chooses what information is shown on the screen. To
the right of those is a switch which moves the camera
between movie, still recording, and playback mode.
Continuing downward we find the four-way
controller, which is used for menu navigation and also
- Up - Flash setting (Auto, flash
on, slow synchro, flash off) - redeye reduction is
turned on in the setup menu
- Down - Self-timer (on/off)
- Left - Quick Review (shows the
last photo taken so you can review or delete it)
- Right - Macro (on/off)
The last things of note on the back
of the camera are the Image Quality / Delete Photo
button and a reset "hole".
On top of the camera you'll find the
microphone, shutter release button, and the power button.
Two things to mention here: for one, watch your fingers
(again), as the microphone is easy to block accidentally.
Secondly, I don't care for the positioning of the power
button -- you could possibly turn the camera off instead
of taking a picture!
Nothing to see here. As you can see,
the lens never protrudes from the body.
Nothing to see here, either.
On the bottom of the T33 you'll find
the battery / memory card compartment and the dock
connector. The plastic door covering the battery and
memory card slots is very flimsy, so watch out. The
dock connector can also accept the AC adapter cable,
so you don't need the dock for charging the battery.
For USB or video output, you must use the dock.
I bet you're wondering where the tripod
mount is. Well, there isn't one. To use a tripod you
must put the camera in the dock, attach a special plastic "camera
holder" (which didn't come in the box with my
review unit for some reason) and then mount the dock
on your tripod. I'm not thrilled with the idea of having
to carry along the dock with me if I'm going to be
using a tripod, but I don't see a whole lot of room
on the camera for a traditional tripod mount.
Using the Sony Cyber-shot
The DSC-T33 starts up even faster
than its predecessor, taking just 1.1 seconds to "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures. Awesome!
A histogram is
shown on the LCD in record mode
Focus speeds are excellent, with the
camera typically taking anywhere from 0.2 - 0.5 seconds
to lock focus. In low light the camera can take upwards
of a second to focus, but it will lock (thanks no doubt
to the AF-assist lamp).
Shutter lag was very low, even at
slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent,
with a delay of a little over a second before you can
take another shot (assuming the post-shot review feature
is turned off).
You cannot delete a photo right after
it's taken -- you must use the Quick Review feature
Now, here's a look at the image size/quality
choices on the T33:
||# images on 32MB card
3072 x 2304
3072 x 2048
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
The DSC-T33 does not support the RAW
or TIFF image formats.
The file numbering system used by
Sony is quite simple. Files are named DSC0####.JPG,
where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained
as you erase and swap Memory Sticks.
The T33 uses the same menu system
as other recent Sony cameras. The menu is overlay-style
-- meaning that its shown on top of the image you're
preparing to shoot -- and it's pretty easy-to-use.
Here are the menu options on the T33:
- Camera (Auto, program, magnifying
glass, twilight, twilight portrait, landscape, snow,
beach, high-speed shutter, fireworks, candle) - see
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Focus (Multi AF, center AF, spot
AF, 0.5 m, 1.0 m, 3.0 m, 7.0 m, infinity) - see below
- Metering mode (Multi, spot)
- White balance (Auto, sunlight,
cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten, flash) - no custom
option to be found
- ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
- Photo Quality (Fine, standard)
- Rec Mode
- Normal - regular shooting
- Burst - takes 9 shots in
a row at about 1.2 frames/second at the highest
JPEG quality (based on my tests using a MS
Pro Duo card)
- Speed burst - takes 4 shots
in a row at 3 frames/second
- Exposure bracketing - camera
takes three shots in a row, each with a different
exposure value; choose the interval between
shots in the record menu (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV,
- Multi burst - takes 16 shots
in a row (at interval selected in menu) and
compiles them into one 1 Megapixel image (like
- Bracket step (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV)
- for the exposure bracketing feature described above
- Multi-burst interval (1/30, 1/15,
1/7.5 sec) - for the multi-burst feature described
- Flash Level (Low, normal, high)
- Photo Effects (Off, black & white,
- Saturation (Low, normal, high)
- Contrast (Low, normal, high)
- Sharpness (Low, normal, high)
The DSC-T33 is very much a point-and-shoot
camera. The only pseudo-manual control is for focus,
and that's pretty limited (but handy nonetheless).
The difference between the Auto and Program shooting
modes is that the menus are locked down while in Auto
I should mention that there's a noticeable "blackout" on
the LCD while shooting in burst mode. It's not as much
of a problem in speed burst mode, though in regular
burst mode you may find it difficult to follow a moving
There's also a setup menu (accessible
from the record or playback menu), which has the following
- Camera 1
- AF mode (Single, monitor) - see below
- Digital zoom (Off, smart, precision) - see
- Date/Time (Off, date, day & time) - whether
date/time is printed on your photos
- Redeye reduction (on/off)
- AF illuminator (on/off) - turns the AF-assist
lamp on and off
- Auto Review (on/off) - shows images on LCD
after it is taken
- Camera 2
- Enlarged icon (on/off) - a visual aid for
changing camera settings
- Memory Stick Tool
- Card format
- Change/create rec folder - manage folders
on the memory card
- Setup 1
- LCD backlight (Bright, normal)
- Beep (Shutter only, on, off)
- Language (English, Japanese, Spanish, French,
- Setup 2
- File number (Series, reset)
- USB connect (PictBridge, PTP, normal) - you
may need to change this depending on the operating
system on your computer
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Clock set
Single AF is just like you're used
to: press the shutter release halfway and the camera
locks focus. Monitor AF lets the camera focus constantly,
even without the shutter release pressed. This helps
reduce the time required to take a picture.
The camera has two types of digital
zoom. Precision digital zoom is the same old "enlarge
the center" system that you should avoid. Smart
Zoom lets you enlarge the image without a loss in quality,
with the catch being that you can't use much of it
unless you're at a low resolution. The lower the resolution,
the more smart zoom you can use.
Let's move on to our photo tests now,
Though it's not terribly sharp, the
T33 did a pretty good job with our macro test. Colors
are nice and saturated, and accurate too.
There are two macro modes on the DSC-T33.
The normal one lets you get as close to your subject
as 8 cm at wide-angle and 25 cm at telephoto -- pretty
average. But if you want to get really close, turn
on the "magnifying glass mode", which reduces
the minimum distance to just 1 cm -- perfect for super
close-ups. Do note that the lens is locked at the wide-angle
position in this mode.
The T33 did a good job with the night
shot as well. Again, it's on the soft side, but the
camera took in plenty of light and there's very little
purple fringing to be found. Noise levels are average
for a 5 Megapixel camera. Since you can't manually
select the shutter speed on the T33, you'll need to
use the twilight mode for long exposures.
Remember that you'll need a tripod
AND the camera dock in order to take long exposure
shots like this!
There's moderate barrel distortion
at the wide end of the T33's lens. There's a bit of
blurriness in the corners as well, and I did see this
in my real world images as well, but it was barely
The DSC-T1 was a redeye fiend and
the DSC-T33 isn't much better. While your results may
vary, you can almost count on dealing with this in
your flash photos.
Overall image quality on the DSC-T33
is very good. Probably the biggest issue is something
I've seen on other "folding lens" cameras
(the DSC-T1 included), and that's softness. Images
have this soft, almost "fuzzy" quality that
reminds me of something a camcorder would take. Now
that won't bother most people, but when you've reviewed
literally hundreds of cameras like I have, you tend
to notice these things. Color and exposure were accurate
most of the time (though the camera might "blow
out the highlights" more than some cameras), and
purple fringing was not a major problem.
Don't just take my word for all this,
though. Have a look at our photo
gallery and decide if the photo quality meets your
expectations. I also encourage you to print the photos,
just like you would if they were your own.
The DSC-T33 has the same, top-notch
movie mode as Sony's other digital cameras. The MPEG
Movie VX Fine mode takes VGA resolution video (that's
640 x 480) at 30 frames/sec until the memory card is
full, with sound. The competition is catching up, though,
as more and more cameras can also do this.
The VX Fine mode requires a Memory
Stick Pro Duo card, so you can't use the included 32MB
card for the fancy video mode. A 1GB Pro Duo card can
hold about 12 minutes of video at the highest quality
If you don't have a Memory Stick Pro
Duo card, don't fret. You can still use the very nice
VX Standard mode, which is still VGA, just at 16 frames/second.
A much lower resolution (160 x 112) option, known as
Video mail, is also available. A 1GB memory card holds
44 minutes in VX Standard mode and nearly 12 hours
in Video mail mode.
As is usually the case, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming. Movies are saved
in MPEG format.
Here's a very exciting sample movie
for you (I'm kidding). It may be short in length, but
it's big in terms of file size.
to play movie (10.4 MB, 640 x 480, VX Fine mode, MPEG
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Cyber-shot DSC-T33 has a pretty
standard (though well-implemented) playback mode. Basic
features include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image
protection, thumbnail mode, and "zoom & scroll".
The camera is PictBridge-enabled, allowing for direct
printing to compatible photo printers.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom up to 5X into your photo, and then
scroll around in it. This is useful for checking the
focus in a photograph. Sony's done a good job at making
this feature nice and snappy.
Some of the more advanced playback
- Resize - change an image's size
- Trim - crop a photo
- Divide - cut sections of movies
By default, the T33 doesn't tell you
much about your photos. But press the Display button
and you'll see a lot more, including a histogram.
The camera moves between images very
quickly in playback mode. If you go one image at a
time, the next one appears instantly, without any low
resolution placeholder. If you really start flipping
through them, you'll see a low res placeholder followed
by the high res image a half second later.
How Does it Compare
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T33, like
its predecessor, is best suited for outdoor photos,
where it does a very good job. Indoor photos will leave
much to be desired, thanks to a weak flash, lots of
redeye, and an LCD which is too dark to see in those
conditions. The T33 is a very stylish, ultra-thin metal
camera that will attract attention wherever it goes.
The design changes since the T1 are for the better:
no more sliding door on the front, and the LCD is now
much more usable outdoors. Like with the T1, you need
to keep an eye on your fingers, as they can easily
block the lens, flash, or microphone.
Photo quality on the T33 is generally
good, though images could definitely be sharper (this
seems to be a common issue with cameras that use this
lens design). Camera performance is excellent. The
T33 starts up quickly, focuses quickly (even in low
light), there's no shutter lag, and shot-to-shot speeds
are superb. The camera is 100% point-and-shoot, with
no real manual controls to be found. Other nice features
include a 1 cm macro mode, a first rate VGA movie mode,
and support for USB 2.0 High Speed.
I already mentioned some of the T33's
negatives in the previous paragraph, and here are a
few more. There's no optical viewfinder on the camera,
which will bother some people and not others. If you
want to connect to a computer or a television, you
must use the included camera dock. Similarly, the only
tripod mount is found on the bottom of the camera dock,
which is pretty awkward. The door covering the battery
and memory card compartment seems very flimsy, as well.
And finally: the DSC-T33 uses expensive Memory Stick
Duo cards, so don't forget to factor that into the
total purchase price.
If you want a "go anywhere" camera
that will be used mostly outdoors, I definitely recommend
the DSC-T33. If you'll be taking a lot of flash or
low light shots, you'll do better with another camera.
What I liked:
- Good photo quality (though see
- Ultra-thin, stylish metal body
- Huge 2.5" LCD is very usable
in bright outdoor light (though see issues below)
- Robust performance
- AF-assist lamp; good low light
- First-rate movie mode
- Live histogram in record mode
- USB 2.0 High Speed supported
What I didn't care for:
- Images are on the soft and fuzzy
- Weak flash
- USB, video out ports, as well as
tripod mount only found on the camera dock
- LCD hard to see in low light
- No optical viewfinder
- Flimsy plastic door over MS/battery
- Watch your fingers, as the lens/flash/mic
are easy to block
- Expensive memory card format
Other ultra-thin cameras worth considering
include the Canon PowerShot SD400 and SD500, Casio
Exilim EX-Z57, Fuji
FinePix Z1, Konica
Minolta DiMAGE X50, Nikon
Coolpix 5900, Olympus Stylus
500 and Stylus
Verve S, Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7, and the Pentax
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the DSC-T33 and its
competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our photo
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
DCRP readers, please visit our forums.