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Pentax Optio 33WR Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
3/30/04
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Good prints to 8x10
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$349.95


 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion


The Optio 33WR is one of the latest offerings from Pentax, a camera maker with a long tradition in the film-based world, but one of the newer entrants to the digital arena. They initially co-developed several cameras with Hewlett Packard, a relationship that has since ended. For their current lineup which spans the gamut from entry level right up to the *ist D digital SLR, the company offers a wide range of digicams entirely of their own design. Compact, well-designed cameras have become something of a specialty for them, as seen in their "Optio" lineup. The current Optio line consists of a wide range of models, with 3x or 5x optical zoom lenses and three-, four- and five-megapixel sensors. Popular models include the highly capable Optio 555, the amazingly small Optio S4 and S40, and the entry-level Optio 30 and 33L. Building on the strengths of this well-received line, the Optio 33WR offers many of the same great capabilities, but in a compact, water-resistant package.

Camera Overview
Able to withstand an accidental dunk in the pool or an impromptu rain shower, the Pentax Optio 33WR is a new addition to the Optio line, and has a water resistant rating equivalent to JIS Class 5 and 7. What this spec-speak means is that, although the camera is not intended for underwater use, it can survive being splashed, dropped into shallow water (but quickly retrieved), and washed lightly in a sink. Best of all, it means you don't have to worry about ruining the camera if you get stuck in the rain. (It's important to note that the camera is not waterproof, and if submersed, it should be removed fairly quickly.) The camera's square format fits into most average-sized pockets and purses, though it's too large for smaller shirt pockets. A neck strap does accompany the camera though. Rubbery shock guards on each corner of the body reduce impact if the camera is dropped, and provide a rubbery grip when picking the camera up with wet fingers, provided you grab the rubbery parts directly. The 33WR features a similar point-and-shoot style to the rest of the Optio line, and has a 3.2-megapixel CCD for capturing high-resolution images. It sports a 2.8x optical zoom lens, plus a handful of exposure options that offer just a little more control if you want it.

The Optio 33WR has a 2.8x, 5.7-16mm lens, equivalent to a 37-104mm lens on a 35mm camera. A clear, plastic shield protects the lens at all times, so you don't have to worry about losing the lens cap. Unlike most digicams with optical zoom lenses, the 33WR's lens does not telescope out from the main body when the camera is powered on. Thus, the camera's front remains flat at all times. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/3.9, depending on the zoom position. The lens focuses over a range of 0.98 feet (30 centimeters) to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro option covering from 0.4 inches to 1.6 feet (1 to 50 centimeters). The Optio 33WR offers both manual and automatic focus (AF) control, with Spot and Multiple AF modes. Spot AF mode bases focus on the very center of the frame, while Multiple AF mode judges focus based on a larger area around the center of the frame. There's also an Infinity / Landscape fixed focus setting that locks focus at infinity for taking photographs of distant objects. In addition to the optical zoom, the Optio 33WR offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom, (although I always remind readers that using digital zoom decreases image quality, since it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image). For composing shots, the 33WR has a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.6-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, complete with an optional histogram display in both record and playback modes.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the Optio 33WR, although the camera offers a range of preset shooting modes for tricky situations. An On/Off button on top of the camera controls the power, and a Mode menu (accessed via the Down arrow key) lets you select between Program, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Portrait, Surf and Snow, Flower, Sunset, Fireworks, Snap, Movie, and Panorama Assist modes. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. That said, you can control focus mode (auto, macro, landscape, or manual), the self-timer, drive mode, exposure compensation, and the flash mode externally. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to four seconds, and are reported on the LCD display when the Shutter button is halfway pressed (as is the aperture). In Program exposure mode, all of the camera's exposure options are available through the Record menu or the camera's external controls. Exposure Compensation is adjustable via the right and left arrow keys, and increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. The 33WR's default metering mode is Multi-Segment, which examines points throughout the entire image area to determine exposure. Spot and Center-Weighted metering modes are also available, for those times when you need to base exposure on the central subject alone. The camera's White Balance setting features an Auto mode for most average lighting conditions, but also offers Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual options. A sensitivity setting offers an Auto option, as well as 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalent settings. The 33WR's built-in flash operates in Auto, Off, On, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, and On with Red-Eye Reduction modes.

In addition to still shooting, the 33WR offers a Movie exposure mode, for capturing moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available space. The amount of recording time appears in the LCD monitor, and movies are recorded at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels. Fast Forward Movie mode captures movie files without sound at a delayed frame rate (either half or one fifth of the regular rate), which makes playback appear to be sped up (either double or five times normal speed). The optical zoom and focus position are locked at the start of movie recording, and only the digital zoom functions whilst the movie is being recorded. The 33WR also features an audio recording mode, access by pressing the Voice Record Mode button on the rear panel. Recording time is limited only by memory card capacity. (You can also record sound captions for still images in Playback mode, the length of the audio clips being limited only by available flash card space.) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between pressing the Shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots, or avoid camera shake on tripod-supported long exposures. For shooting fast action subjects, the 33WR's Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images for as long as you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. The space available on the memory card determines the maximum number of images the camera will capture in the series, and details like resolution, shutter speed, and the state of the camera's "buffer" memory determine the shooting interval. A Multi-Continuous Shooting mode captures four frames at a time, and saves them as one full-resolution image. (The four images are arrayed in index style within the full frame.)

The 33WR's Panorama Assist mode lets you capture panoramic images, oriented in any direction. A translucent reproduction of the edge of the previous image remains on the LCD display to help you line up subsequent shots, and the included ACDSee software "stitches" images together into one panoramic frame. There's also an Interval shooting mode, which captures a series of images (as many as 99 in the series), at preset intervals from 10 seconds to 99 minutes. The final effect is similar to time-lapse photography. Image contrast, saturation, and sharpness settings provide further creative options, and a Color mode (full color, black and white, and sepia tones) is available in Movie mode only. The 33WR also offers Pentax's versatile Color Filter option, though the effect is applied post-capture through the Playback menu rather than before. The Color Filter offers eight color filter settings (black and white, sepia, red, pink, violet, blue, green, and yellow), a Soft filter, and a Brightness filter adjustment.

The Optio 33WR stores images on SD/MMC memory cards, and comes with a 16-megabyte starter card. This is handy, but really doesn't give you enough space to take many photos at the camera's best quality setting. Plan on buying at least a 32- or 64-megabyte card at the same time as the camera. The camera uses either a single CR-V3 battery pack or two AA batteries for power (either alkaline, NiMH, or lithium - the bundled batteries being AA alkalines). As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, as well as for shooting in Interval mode, but for most usage, a couple of sets of rechargeable NiMH cells and a good charger are all you'll need. The 33WR connects to a computer via a USB interface, and comes with the necessary cable, as well as a software CD loaded with ACDSee interface software and a QuickTime viewer. Also included is an A/V cable, for viewing images on a television screen.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD for image sizes as large as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
  • 1.6-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • 2.8x, 5.7-16mm lens, equivalent to a 37-104mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 4x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control, plus nine preset Scene modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to four seconds.
  • Maximum aperture range from f/2.8 to f/3.9, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • SD/MMC card storage (16-megabyte card included).
  • Power supplied by one CR-V3 lithium battery pack, two AA-type batteries, or optional AC adapter.
  • ACDSee software, QuickTime, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie and Fast Forward Movie recording modes (with sound).
  • Voice recording mode.
  • Continuous and Multi-Continuous Shooting modes.
  • Panoramic Assist and Interval capture modes.
  • Night Scene photography mode.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Three color modes for movie files.
  • Digital Filter setting for adjusting color tone, brightness and sharpness post-capture.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six modes, including a manual adjustment.
  • Image Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustments.
  • Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with four ISO equivalents (50, 100, 200, and 400) and an Auto setting.
  • Multiple or Spot AF areas.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
The Optio 33WR offers good picture quality in a compact, well-designed package, with a nice complement of features. The camera's water resistant nature should make family vacation photography a little more relaxed, as the camera can easily withstand being splashed in the surf or even briefly dunked in a shallow pool. Full automatic exposure control will set novices at ease, but there are enough creative features and exposure options to keep more savvy users entertained. A full range of preset scene modes and a host of color options make the camera a flexible choice for any experience level.

 

Design
Compact and light weight with its square body design, the Optio 33WR is handy and portable. Water resistant, though not waterproof, the 33WR can withstand being splashed, rained on, or even briefly submerged (be sure to quickly retrieve it, however). (One little design note here is that it might have been nice to design a type of float device on the camera, so that in case it were to be dropped overboard it would float for a bit rather than sink.) The four corners of the camera body have a rubbery texture that lets them serve both as slight shock absorbers and good grips for wet fingers grasping the camera. (Although they only help as finger grips if you grab them directly when picking the camera up. In normal usage, they don't actually contribute to your grip, at least not in any position that I was likely to hold it in.) Because the lens does not telescope out from the camera body, the front panel remains flat while shooting. In fact, most of the camera's panels are fairly flat, making the 33WR quite pocket friendly despite its somewhat thick profile. Measuring 3.2 x 3.0 x 1.2 inches (82 x 76 x 31 millimeters), the Optio 33WR should fit into most average shirt pockets and purses, though it might be a bit of a squeeze for smaller shirt pockets. The Optio 33WR is nice and light as well, weighing just 7.3 ounces (208 grams) including the battery and SD memory card.

The reasonably smooth front panel of the camera features the lens, flash, optical viewfinder window, self-timer lamp, and a tiny microphone. A clear, plastic shield protects the lens at all times, so there's no lens cap to worry about losing. (However, this also means that you can easily smudge the lens front with a finger, so keep that in mind when holding the camera.) The 33WR doesn't have any type of finger grip, so be sure to keep the wrist strap securely fastened when shooting. (The rubbery corners are handy for picking the camera up, but in my view don't aren't much help in keeping it from slipping out of your hand.)

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) holds the eyelet for attaching the neck strap, as well as the SD card and battery compartment. A sliding, plastic door with a rubber seal protects the compartment, and flips up to reveal the slots.

On the opposite side of the camera is the connector compartment, covered by a plastic door with a rubber seal that slides toward the rear panel before opening. Inside the compartment are the USB/Video and DC In jacks.

Like the rest of the camera, the Optio 33WR's top panel is fairly smooth, and features simply the Shutter and Power buttons.

Most of the camera's controls are on the rear panel, along with the 1.6-inch color LCD monitor and optical viewfinder. The viewfinder eyepiece has two LEDs next to it, which report the status of various camera functions, including whether or not the AF system is set or the flash is charging. The camera's speaker is just to the left of the eyepiece, and plays back recorded audio as well as camera sounds. Lining the top of the LCD monitor are the Voice Record, Flash/Protect, and Focus/Erase, buttons. A two-way zoom rocker button is in the top right corner, with the Playback button, Four-Way Arrow pad with central OK button, and Menu button below it.

The bottom panel of the Optio 33WR is distinguished only by the plastic threaded tripod mount. I almost always prefer metal tripod sockets, but the small size and light weight of the 33WR (not to mention the camera's portable nature) mean the plastic socket should hold up fine. The location of the tripod mount so close to the edge of the camera, coupled with the rounded corners of the camera body, could cause problems with stably mounting the camera on a tripod, however. Also note that the tripod mount, while relatively close to it, is not exactly under the center of the lens - which will cause parallax problems when panning on a tripod to create a panorama (this can easily be rectified with a small bracket, however).

Camera Operation
The Optio 33WR's user interface is very straightforward, with only a few external controls and a fairly concise (though multi-page) LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features such as flash, focus mode, and zoom are all adjusted via external controls. The Mode setting of the Four-Way Arrow pad lets you quickly select a capture or scene mode, displaying a virtual dial on the LCD monitor that the arrow keys scroll through. When it is necessary to enter the LCD menu system, you'll find it simple to navigate. The arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad scroll through each selection, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. It shouldn't take much more then a half-hour or so to become familiar with the camera setup, as it's fairly intuitive.

Record-Mode Display
The 33WR's LCD displays basic camera mode information, as well as battery status, the date and time, number of available images, and a set of focus brackets. A half-press of the Shutter button displays the aperture and shutter speed settings, so you have an idea of what the exposure will be, even though you can't control the values directly. Pressing the OK button cycles through three different information displays - "No Info" (just the focus brackets - other settings are shown briefly when you switch to the mode, or after releasing the shutter button), "Normal" (full information), or "Histogram" (a small live / record-mode histogram underneath a display showing image size and quality, white balance, metering and ISO settings). The LCD can be turned off through the setup menu.

Playback-Mode Display
In Playback mode, the 33WR's display shows the file number and date and time of image capture. The camera's zoom rocker button activates an index display mode when pressed toward the wide angle end, and enlarges captured images when pressed toward the telephoto end. Images can be magnified as much as 8x, and once enlarged, the arrow keys let you pan the view. As with Record mode, the Setup menu provides a histogram display, as well as an option to turn off the information display.

 

External Controls


Power Button
: Located unobtrusively on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on and off.


Shutter Button
: Next to the Power button on top of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Zoom Toggle
: Positioned in the top right corner of the back panel, this button controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this button lets you zoom in on captured images, to check focus or precise framing. Pressing the "W" side of the button in Playback mode activates the nine-image thumbnail index display mode.


Voice Record Mode Button
: Directly above the top left corner of the LCD monitor, this button enables voice recording. You can record for as long as the memory card has available space, and the amount of available recording time appears on the LCD display. In Playback mode, pressing this button records an audio clip to accompany the captured image, again limited only by available space.


Flash / Protect Button
: To the right of the Voice Record Mode button, this button controls the camera's flash mode in any Record mode. Flash modes include Auto, On, Off, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, and On with Red-Eye Reduction. In Playback mode, this button lets you mark the currently-displayed image as write-protected, which prevents it from being accidentally erased (except via card formatting). You can also opt to protect all images on the card, or remove protection.


Focus / Erase Button
: On the right side of the Flash/Protect button, this button cycles through the available focus modes: Autofocus (no icon), Macro mode (flower symbol), Infinity / Landscape focus mode (mountain symbol), and Manual Focus mode ("MF"). In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the currently-displayed file, or all unprotected files from the SD/MMC card.


Playback Button
: Below the zoom rocker button and next to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button activates Playback mode when in any Record mode. Pressing the button a second time returns to Record mode.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: Below and to the right of the Playback button, this four-way multi-controller navigates through settings menus.

In Record mode, the up key accesses the camera's drive settings, cycling through Continuous Shooting, Multi-Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer modes. The left and right keys adjust the exposure compensation, from -2 to + 2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. The down arrow accesses the camera's Mode menu, with the following options, the current selection indicated by a rotating "virtual dial" display on the LCD:

  • Program: All exposure options are under user control, with the exception of shutter speed and aperture.
  • Landscape: Sets focus to infinity and increases the depth of field for better detail in landscape scenes.
  • Night-Scene: Optimizes the camera for capturing images in dim lighting, enabling longer exposure times without the flash. (The specs claim up to four seconds, but all my eval unit would do was 2 seconds.)
  • Night-Scene Portrait: Operates in a similar manner to Night-Scene mode, but combines the flash with the longer exposure. Thus, you get a good exposure on the subject without the background fading to black.
  • Portrait: This mode utilizes a larger lens aperture, which decreases the depth of field. The result is a sharply-focused subject in front of a slightly blurred background, which keeps the emphasis on the subject.
  • Surf and Snow: Enhances images captured against very bright backgrounds, like beach and snow scenes.
  • Flower: This mode enhances color and saturation for good-looking photos of flowers and other vegetation.
  • Sunset: Optimizes the exposure for sunset and sunrise scenes, employing slightly longer exposure times to preserve color.
  • Fireworks: Captures fireworks shots with good color.
  • Snap Mode: For taking snapshots, the flash is enabled by default (which you can override) and uses a smaller aperture to increase depth of field.
  • Movie: Captures moving images with sound, for as long as the memory card has available space.
  • Panorama Assist Mode: After the first shot, provides a translucent overlay of the previous image at the edge of the LCD to assist in lining up the next shot, with the sequence of exposures proceeding in any direction (left or right, up or down). Images are "stitched" together on a computer later.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. The up arrow key activates the DPOF settings menu, allowing you to mark individual or all images for printing, as well as establish the number of print copies, crop the image, and activate a time and date stamp. The down arrow key begins playback of movies, or a sound clip attached to an image (if available)

OK Button: Nestled in the center of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button confirms menu selections in any mode.


Menu Button
: Below the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.



Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In Record mode, the camera can capture still images or movie files. The Mode menu, activated by pressing the down arrow key, selects between a range of exposure modes (described above), which provide varying levels of control over the exposure. Pressing the Menu button provides access to all three menus, including Record, Playback, and Setup.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. Here, you also have access to the Digital Filter setting, which lets you adjust the color tone, softness, or overall brightness. A press of the Menu button provides access to all three of the camera's menus.

Record Menu

  • Recorded Pixels: Sets the image resolution to 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,024 x 768; or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Good, Better, or Best (three stars being Best and one star being Good).
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Manual. (Manual white balance lets you use a white object to set the camera's color balance to match the scene lighting exactly.)
  • Focusing Area: Designates the area of the frame that the camera determines focus from, either Spot or Multiple. Spot AF bases focus on the very center of the frame, while the Multiple setting judges focus from a larger area in the center of the frame.
  • AE Metering: Chooses how the camera determines exposure, choices are Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Segment.
  • Sensitivity: Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity, options are Auto, or 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Digital Zoom: Turns the 4x digital zoom on and off. When enabled, the digital zoom kicks in after you've zoomed the optical lens all the way to its telephoto position.
  • Interval Shoot: Designates the parameters of interval shooting mode, such as the number of frames, the interval length, and the start time for the series.
  • Movie: Offers the following Movie mode options:
    • Recorded Pixels: Sets the Movie resolution to 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.
    • Color Mode: Records movie files in Full Color, Black and White, or Sepia tones.
    • Fast Forward Movie: Turns Fast Forward Movie mode on or off. If on, the camera captures movies at a slower frame rate, which gives the effect of sped-up motion.
  • Memory: Specifies which Record mode settings are saved when the camera is turned off. Options are Flash, White Balance, EV Compensation, Digital Zoom, AE Metering, Sensitivity, Focus Mode, Zoom Position, Manual Focus, and File Numbering.
  • Sharpness: Adjusts the overall image sharpness in three steps, from high to low.
  • Saturation: Controls the level of color saturation in three steps.
  • Contrast: Adjusts overall image contrast in three steps.

 

Playback Menu

  • Playback Message: Records a short voice message to accompany the captured image.
  • Digital Filter: Applies a digital filter to the image, either Black and White, Sepia, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Soft, or Brightness. (The Brightness filter lets you brighten or darken the overall image.) The existing image can be overwritten, or you can save the changes to a new image.
  • Resize: Changes the image size to a lower resolution or lowers the quality setting. The existing image can be overwritten, or you can save the changes to a new image.
  • Trimming: Crops the selected image to the zoom area shown on the LCD screen. The original image cannot be overwritten, the cropped image is written as a new image.
  • Alarm: Lets you set the camera as you would an alarm clock, specifying a time for a beep alarm to sound.
  • Slideshow: Plays back images in an automatic slide show, with shot-to-shot intervals from three to 20 seconds.

Setup

  • Format: Formats the SD/MMC card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
  • Sound: Sets the volume (three levels, or disabled) and type of sound for camera operations.
  • Date Adjust: Sets the camera's internal date and time, with an option for different display formats.
  • World Time: Allows you to set the time in another city, so that you can display the time in London, for example, on the LCD monitor. A full list of cities is in the manual.
  • Language: Changes the menu descriptions to one of nine languages.
  • Display Mode: Controls the LCD display mode. Options are Normal, Off, No Info, and Histogram.
  • Screen Setting: Designates the LCD startup screen and background color/pattern.
  • Video Out: Sets the video output format to NTSC or PAL.
  • Quick Delete: Enables the Quick Delete feature, which pre-selects the "Delete" or "All Images" options of the delete menu. (If off, the "Cancel" option is automatically pre-selected.)
  • Quick Zoom: If enabled, this function plays back images at the maximum zoom size when the zoom rocker button is pressed only once at the telephoto end.
  • Auto Power Off: Turns this feature off, or sets the camera to shut off after three or five minutes of inactivity.
  • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

 

In the Box
The following items are packaged with the Optio 33WR:

  • Two AA alkaline batteries.
  • USB cable.
  • A/V cable.
  • Neck strap.
  • 16-megabyte SD card.
  • Software CD.
  • Operating manual and registration card.

Recommended Accessories

  • (I'd recommend 32 megabytes as a bare minimum, 64 megabytes would be preferable.)
  • Rechargeable AA batteries and charger.
  • AC adapter.
  • Small camera case.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

About Batteries
I've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that I'm now inserting a standard notice in my reviews of all AA-powered cameras: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. Buy two sets of batteries too, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Check out my Battery Shootout page for the latest in actual, measured performance of various AA batteries. Read. - Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.

 

Specifications
See the specifications sheet for the Optio 33WR here.

 

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

User Reviews

 

Test Images
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my standard test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Optio 33WR's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the Optio 33WR's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the 33WR with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Good color across the board, good handling of incandescent lighting too. Throughout my testing, the Optio 33WR produced good color. There were occasionally slight color casts, and some colors weren't quite a saturated as they might be, but the overall "look" was quite good. On the Indoor Portrait (without flash), both the Manual and Incandescent settings performed well, with very slight and slightly different color casts that made it a matter of taste which you might prefer (I personally liked the very slight warm look produced by the incandescent white balance setting.) The blue flowers of the Outdoor Portrait looked nearly right, and skin tones were pretty good as well, albeit just a little pinkish. Overall, a good performance from a budget-priced camera.

  • Exposure: Generally accurate exposure, average amounts of exposure compensation required. The Optio 33WR exposed most of my test shots pretty well, though the Davebox target came out a bit bright. Still, the camera managed to distinguish the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target there pretty well. The high-key lighting of the Outdoor Portrait resulted in slightly high contrast, but midtone detail was pretty good despite hot highlights. (The camera's default tone curve is a little contrasty, but its low-contrast option helps somewhat, even though I ended up not using it on the Outdoor Portrait shot.) Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation (+1.0 EV on the Indoor Portrait without flash) to get a good exposure. Still, I'd rate exposure accuracy as good overall, since the amounts of adjustment it required with high-key subjects was very much in line with the behavior of most other cameras I've tested.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Resolution on par for its 3-megapixel class. The Optio 33WR performed on par for its three-megapixel class on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600-650 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines, although some might argue for 1,050 lines along the horizontal axis. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,300 lines.

  • Image Noise: Relatively low image noise at ISO 50, rapidly increases at higher ISO levels though. The Optio 33WR showed fairly low image noise at low ISO settings, but as the ISO increased, the noise increased pretty rapidly. (Don't plan on using the camera at ISO 400, I really felt that ISO 200 was the highest that was usable without really objectionable noise levels.)

  • Closeups: Excellent macro performance: A tiny macro area with great detail and good flash operation. The Optio 33WR performed nicely in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.59 x 1.19 inches (40 x 30 millimeters). Resolution was excellent, as the dollar bill had a lot of visible fine detail. Detail was also strong in the coins and brooch, though soft due to the close shooting range. There was a lot of softness in the corners in the closest shots, a common digicam failing in ultra-macro shots. The Optio 33WR's flash throttled down pretty well for the macro area as well. Overall, an excellent macro performance.

  • Night Shots: Somewhat limited low-light performance. Adequate exposures at the lowest light levels, but high image noise. Suitable for typical city scenes at night though. The Optio 33WR operates under automatic exposure control at all times, but does offer an adjustable ISO setting and maximum shutter time of two seconds in normal exposure modes. (The "Fireworks" scene mode goes to 4 seconds, but there's no metering at all in that mode, so I didn't include it in my tests.) In my testing, the camera produced, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level at the ISO 400 setting, but the image noise was very high at that level, and image sharpness was severely compromised by the anti-noise processing. As the sensitivity level decreased, so did the minimum light level, such that the ISO 50, shots were only usable at the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level (about the equivalent of average city street lighting at night). Color balance was rather yellow in these shots, so you can expect some color casts in your night shots. Noise was low at the ISO 50 setting, increasing to a high level at ISO 400.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: Excellent accuracy from the LCD monitor, but the optical viewfinder is very tight. The Optio 33WR's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only 75 percent of the final frame at wide angle, and about 86 percent at telephoto. This is quite a difference depending on the zoom position, making it difficult to accurately judge just what will be in your photos and what won't. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 99 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Optio 33WR's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard, but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Optio 33WR was a little less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared about the same, as I measured a 0.6 percent pincushion distortion. While 0.6 percent is lower than average at the wide angle end, the same amount of pincushion at the telephoto end is higher than average. Chromatic aberration is moderate: While it several pixels of coloration show on either side of the target lines, the coloration is fairly faint. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

  • Battery Life: Pretty good battery life for a 2-cell camera, but very little savings from using the optical viewfinder. With a worst-case run time of 105 minutes on "standard" 1600 mAh NiMH cells, the Optio 33WR doesn't do too badly for a two-cell camera. But note that using the optical viewfinder only saves a little battery power, boosting record-mode run time only to 130 minutes. As always, I strongly recommend purchasing a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH cells and a good charger. Check out my Battery Shootout page for the latest in actual, measured performance of various AA batteries. Read. - Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite


Conclusion
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With its compact, water resistant package, the Optio 33WR extends the portability theme of Pentax's Optio line even further. The camera can be splashed, quickly dunked, or even washed off in a sink, taking away some of the headaches of letting the kids play with the camera, and easing anxiety at the beach or anywhere there's dust, water, or mud. The 3.2-megapixel CCD captures good-quality images, and the camera's flexible scene modes and other options make it versatile enough for most shooting situations. While none of its features or capabilities are in the "knock your socks off" category, its image quality, features, price at retail, and water-resistant construction earned it a place on the "Dave's Picks" list.


 

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