Sony DSC-W330 Review
|Dimensions:||3.8 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
(96 x 57 x 17 mm)
|Weight:||4.5 oz (128 g)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330 Overview
by David Elrich and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 05/20/2010
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330 digital camera is a simple pocket camera with a 14.1-megapixel sensor, a 4x optical zoom lens, and a large 3-inch LCD. The Sony W330's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a generous 26mm wide-angle to a moderate 105mm telephoto. The lens has a two-step aperture with a built-in neutral density (ND) filter, which offers either f/2.7 or f/8.0 at wide-angle; at telephoto the maximum aperture is f/5.7, and the minimum aperture isn't stated. Autofocusing is possible to a minimum of just four centimeters at wide-angle, or 60 centimeters at telephoto. The camera can capture 4:3 aspect ratio images at up to 4,320 x 3,240 pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio images at up to 4,320 x 2,432 pixels, or 30 frames-per-second video at VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution or below with monaural audio.
On the rear panel of the Sony Cyber-shot W330 is a 3-inch TFT Clear Photo LCD panel with 100% coverage, and a resolution of 230,400 dots. This serves as the only method of framing and reviewing images, given that the Sony W330 doesn't feature an optical viewfinder. The Sony W330 has a 9-point autofocus system, and does include a face detection system, capable of detecting up to eight faces in a scene. This capability is used to provide a Smile Shutter function that automatically triggers the shutter when your subject is smiling. There's no blink detection feature in the Sony W330, however. The Sony W330 offers three methods for determining exposures: multi-pattern, center-weighted, or spot metering. Shutter speeds from 1 to 1/1,600 second are possible under automatic control, and sensitivities ranging from ISO 80 to 3,200 equivalents are on offer, with ISO 80 to 800 available under automatic control. 2.0EV of exposure compensation is available, in 1/3 EV steps. The W330 has Sony's SteadyShot digital image stabilization, not optical, to help eliminate blur.
Ten white balance settings are available, including auto and nine presets, two of which are for underwater shooting, but there's no manual white balance setting in the Sony W330. As well as Intelligent Auto and Program modes, the Sony W330 offers a selection of eleven scene modes - High Sensitivity, Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Soft Snap, Landscape, Beach, Snow, Underwater, Gourmet, and Pet. There's also an intelligent scene mode which can automatically select from a subset of seven scene modes: twilight, twilight portrait, backlight, backlight portrait, landscape, macro and portrait. The Sony W330 includes a four-mode flash strobe with red-eye reduction capability. Flash range is stated as 0.3 to 3.5 meters at wide-angle, or 0.6 to 1.8 meters at telephoto, when using automatic ISO sensitivity. A two- or ten-second self timer allows the photographer to get in the picture themselves, or to avoid camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button when shooting on a tripod.
Images and movies can be recorded on Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo, PRO Duo, PRO Duo High Speed, or PRO-HG Duo cards, as well as the more common Secure Digital and Secure Digital High Capacity cards. 28MB of internal memory is also available, enough to capture a few of the most important photos should you forget to bring a flash card along. The Sony W330 includes NTSC / PAL standard definition video output connectivity, as well as USB 2.0 High Speed data connectivity. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NP-BN1 lithium-ion battery pack.
The Sony W330 digital camera is available from January 2010, priced at around US$170.
Sony W330 User Report
by David Elrich
Sony's Cyber-shot W330 is another silver-bodied point-and-shoot under $200 that's about the size of an Altoids tin (actually it's a shade thinner, and also available in blue, red, and black). Yet this digicam has some things going for it as well as some drawbacks --- just like the curiously strong mints. This 2010 edition has a 14.1-megapixel sensor, which on paper should deliver solid 8x10s (hint: it does even better) as well as a wide-angle 4x zoom and a quality 3-inch LCD monitor.
Look and Feel. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330 dimensions are 3.87 x 2.25 x .6 inches (95.9 x 56.8 x 17.3mm). It weighs 4 ounces without battery, 4.5 with (112g/128g). It's just a bit larger than the Sony W350 I reviewed recently. Given the still compact size, definitely attach the supplied wrist strap which will make it a lot easier to take out of your bag or pocket, and of course, reduce the likelihood of a dropped and broken camera.
Available in four colors (silver, black, pink, blue), the Sony W330 is simple, but not unattractive, with an embossed Sony logo on the front. Also on the front are the flash, a combo self-timer/Smile Shutter lamp and a 2-pinhole mono microphone. Unlike the slightly more expensive W350, the Sony W330 does not have a focus assist lamp.
The Sony W330's rear has very legible markings, so finding the right control is simple. The low-cost camera is fairly easy to use, and you'll find sufficient space for your thumb between the Zoom toggle and Playback button. Some might find the buttons a little small, especially the four-way navigator, but a little finesse makes it easier. The 3-inch LCD really dominates the back.
Lens. We're big fans of wide-angle lenses and so it's with pleasure we report that the Sony W330's 4x Carl Zeiss lens starts out at 26mm, and reaches 105mm at telephoto. Impressive for a camera that sells for less than $170. The lens features six elements in five groups (including three aspheric elements). Apertures range from f/2.7 to f/8.0 in iAuto or Program mode. There are no individual aperture adjustments other than those made by the camera via specific scene modes, so if you're looking for that level of control, search elsewhere.
The Sony W330 has 9-point autofocus so there was very little grabbing during our tests. Like many new digicams, the Sony W330 has Smile Shutter and iAuto (Intelligent Auto). iAuto is the default when you take stills. Here the camera scientifically "guesses" the subject in front of it and adjusts to the appropriate scene modes. The camera recognizes Twilight, Twilight Portrait, Backlight, Backlight Portrait, Landscape, Macro, or Portrait and displays the corresponding icon on the LCD screen when the scene is recognized. This worked well for the most part, other than Macro. Smile Shutter is not one of my favorite features since it automatically snaps an image when it detects a smiley face (the sensitivity can be adjusted; i.e. the number of teeth showing). Since the Sony W330 is targeted to casual photographers, it makes sense for them. It also has Face Detection which can be set to off or Auto. Face Detection is a real plus since everyone wants properly exposed and focused snapshots of friends and family. The Sony W330 handled this task well.
Controls. The power and shutter buttons on top are flush-mounted, just like the W350. Initially this caused some fumbling, but after shooting both cameras over time this became less of an issue. A green light appears on the power button when you engage it.
Since this a compact digicam there are just a few dedicated controls on the rear; all other adjustments are made using the onscreen menu system and four-way controller with center set button. On the rear top right is the wide-tele toggle switch. I prefer a zoom control surrounding the shutter button but Sony opted for this system on the W330. Again this was not an issue during use. On the right edge is a basic mode slider switch. Here you move between Camera and Movie settings.
You'll also find Playback, Menu and Delete buttons around the four-way controller. The points of the compass let you access options for Flash, Self-timer, Smile Shutter, and Display in order to increase brightness of the 3-inch LCD screen if you need it (which you will).
Modes. The Sony W330 has a sliding mode switch for Camera and Movie settings. When in Camera there are options for iAuto, P (Program Auto), SCN (Scene) and SteadyShot image stabilization. Intelligent Auto is the aim-and-forget option and the camera will choose the appropriate scene mode for the subject in front of it. Program Auto offers just a few more options but don't even think about aperture and shutter speed. SCN gives direct access to nine distinct scene modes: High Sensitivity, Soft Snap, Landscape, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Gourmet, Pet, Beach, Snow, and Underwater (with optional housing). It's a fairly limited number but most people who purchase this camera will rarely move out of iAuto. There is no dedicated macro option because the Sony W330 automatically switches to Macro mode when a near subject is detected.
Unlike the more expensive W350, the Sony W330 has digital image stabilization -- not optical. The results are not nearly as good and it introduces more noise in low-light images, something this camera does not need. The Sony W330's image stabilization is also unusual. In most other cameras, stabilization is engaged and works with iAuto, Program, and Scene modes, but the Sony W330's Steady Shot is a separate setting. Therefore if you're shooting in iAuto, you cannot use image stabilization. It's a specific menu option outside of the others. When enabled you're in a different type of Auto mode for focus and exposure but not the more sophisticated iAuto or Program. It turns out that because the camera is actually doing extra processing on the digital image to reduce the effects of motion blur, it takes longer between shots. Sony figured that it would slow down the camera too much to make it a default setting.
The maximum Movie quality for the Cyber-shot DSC-W330 is VGA (640 x 480 at 30 frames per second), a figure that's becoming dated in this high-definition era. It also records QVGA. In both instances, sound is mono and there's a 3-pinhole speaker on bottom bezel to hear if you've recorded audio for your movie.
There's one positive about the camera's lack of HD recording -- if you can call it that -- you don't have to read another of my rants about Sony's proprietary Multi Connector cable or the extra tariff the company charges for a special HD-out cable. The camera is supplied with USB and A/V cables for direct connection to a computer or television.
Menus. Sony's menu system is straightforward and easy to understand. There are brief descriptions identifying the various options. When you hit the Menu key, icons appear on the left side of the screen. By using the four-way controller you scroll down through them, highlighting the setting you want to adjust by making your selections to the right. Type is legible and the descriptive phrases tell all you need to know. Since this is a point-and-shoot, your menu options aren't the size of an omnibus bill. In Program Auto (which we used most often during our tests) you can change resolution, single or burst mode (up to 1 fps according to Sony), Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV, ISO (Auto, 80-3200), White balance (nine options), Focus type (multi AF, center AF, spot AF), Metering (multi, center, spot), Smile Detection Sensitivity (three options), Face Detection, DRO (off, standard, plus), and Setup. There are fewer options with iAuto and Movie. Remember again that this is a $169 camera.
Storage and Battery. Good news on this front. Not only does the Sony W330 accept Memory Stick Pro Duo cards (and its variants) but the more popular and affordable SD/SDHC cards as well in the same slot. Since prices for SDHC cards are so reasonable, 4GB is a good starting point. The camera has 28MB of internal memory which is good for a few snapshots but that's about it.
The Sony W330 is supplied with a lithium-ion N-type 3.6V battery that the company says will capture 230 images on a charge.
Shooting With the Sony W330
Sony Cyber-shots can be a mixed bag. Models like the TX5 perform well while less expensive compacts have issues with noise and color quality. Now it was time to see where the 14.1-megapixel Sony W330 ranked. Over the course of several weeks I used it in snowstorms, at night in Manhattan, capturing street scenes in New Orleans, and so on. I simply carried it around with me, taking shots as the mood hit, something every photographer should do.
For the most part, I used in Program Auto at top resolution (14.1-megapixel, 4:3 aspect ratio). Video clips were taken at VGA resolution (640x480). I enabled Grid lines and used default settings most often (white balance, ISO, metering, focus) but made limited adjustments, such as changing the Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO) level. I did keep this turned off most of the time. I also shot in burst mode when possible which is a "speedy" one-frame-per-second at best resolution.
The 3-inch LCD screen (230K pixels) worked very well under most circumstances. It did wipe out in direct sunlight but boosting the display on the 4-way controller made it possible to frame shots. It's a good, not great screen, but it used to be the high-resolution standard.
Startup took 1.6 seconds, and shutdown took about 1.5 seconds, according to IR lab tests. Although not the speediest, we didn't find this to be a detriment during use. Our tests also showed shutter lag at 0.59 second at wide-angle and 0.60 second at telephoto. Prefocused lag is 0.094 second. The 9-point AF resulted in very little grabbing, a bugaboo for low-cost point-and-shoots. We also noticed that autofocus time increased significantly when exposure compensation was enabled, from just over half a second to nearly two seconds.
The Sony W330 offers a 4x zoom, while most at this price point stick with a 3x, which is another benefit. The wide-angle of 26mm is also more appealing as you can see with the accompanying photos. Macro magnification is good but it's only sharp in the very center, getting rapidly soft as you leave the center.
In the lab, we found detail a bit mushed up, especially when viewed on the monitor at 100% and greater. Fortunately, it was not noticeable on even 13x19-inch prints from ISO 80 images. Still, noise suppression is very aggressive as ISO rises. Telephoto shots are soft in the upper right corner but not bad in the overall scheme of things. Wide-angle shots are softer in the left two corners.
Overall colors were accurate shooting outdoors and even at night as seen in the photos of the Radio City Hall marquee. I found no problems with blown highlights during my tests. Indoor colors tended to be a bit warm and there was loads of noise in low light. Like many compact digicams, try to go no higher than ISO 400 whenever possible.
In the lab, results were surprisingly magenta in daylight under HMI lights (manual white balance is not supported) but this was not the case outdoors. Shots of New Orleans' streetcars were a bright red and yellow, just as they were in real life on Canal Street.
The flash range exposed well at manufacturer-specified distances of 5.9 feet at wide-angle and 11.5 feet at telephoto. Unfortunately, this raises the ISO up to 800 which leaves noticeable noise artifacts, jumbling detail.
As for movie quality, this is no AVCHD camcorder. On a small computer monitor they were okay and would suffice for YouTube clips but that's about it. Adding to the downer list, the zoom does not function during movie recording.
Playback. Press the Playback button and you can review your stills/videos in several ways. The classic method is pressing left/right on the control switch to move forward and back. Press the zoom and you can zoom in on your image up to 8x to check details. There's also an image index to review a series of thumbnails or see the images you shot a specific calendar date.
Ergonomically I had no problems with the Cyber-shot DSC-W330. Yes, there was some initial fumbling with the shutter button and zoom toggle but this quickly faded with use. The zoom moved easily between the wide/tele ranges. During my tests, the battery didn't last nearly as long as stated so a spare is definitely in order.
See the results of our laboratory tests below, and scroll down for the Pro/Con and Conclusion.
Sony W330 Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft upper left
Tele: Sharp in Center
Tele: Softest upper right corner
Sharpness: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330's wide-angle lens setting produced strong blurring in the extreme corners of the frame, though blurring does not extend far in toward center. At telephoto, the right corners of the frame show stronger blurring, but the left corners remain fairly sharp.
Wide: Slight barrel distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: Minimal distortion
Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly little barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.2%), and almost nothing perceptible beyond a pixel of barrel distortion (<0.1%) at telephoto. Definitely some intelligent camera processing at play here.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is only moderate, in terms of pixel count and brightness. Telephoto exhibits even less distortion in this area.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330's Macro mode captures a very sharp image at the center, with softness visible in the corners. Minimum coverage area is 2.05 x 1.54 inches (52 x 39mm). The camera's flash had trouble throttling down, and grossly overexposed this shot with a shadow from the lens in the lower left.
Sony W330 Image Quality
Color: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330's color is quite oversaturated in just about every area except bright greens and true yellows. Oranges, reds, blues and purples are pumped more than average, most likely in an attempt to appeal to those consumers who like color to be vivid and brighter than life. Hue is also off for colors like cyan and blue, and both dark and light skintones are quite off. Dark skintones are strongly pushed toward orange, while lighter tones are reddish.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is already a little soft at ISO 80 and only becomes softer and less well-defined as sensitivity increases. Chroma (color) noise becomes a noticeable factor at ISO 400 and up, as overall color balance shifts from pinkish to cooler tones. By ISO 800, details become so illustrative that the image looks more like a painting. See Printed results below for more on how this affects snapshots and larger prints.
Tele: Fairly bright
Incandescent: Both the Auto and Incandescent white balances produced warm images under our household incandescent lighting, though the Incandescent setting produced the least strong cast. Manual white balance is not supported.
ISO 200 shots also look good at 13x19, though some reds lose a little detail to noise suppression.
ISO 400 files print well at 11x14 inches, with good detail.
ISO 800 shots are usable at 8x10, though some detail starts to look like a watercolor painting thanks to noise suppression. This effect is reduced when printed at 5x7.
ISO 1,600 are usable, but again look like watercolors at 5x7 upon close inspection. 4x6 prints, though, are good, with good color.
For a low-priced pocket digital camera with a 4x zoom, the Sony W330 does pretty well.
Sony W330 Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is about average, at 0.59 second at wide-angle and 0.60 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.094 second, which is quite fast.
Cycle time: Cycle time is also markedly slow, capturing a frame every 2.7 seconds in single-shot mode. Be aware, also, that if you press the shutter button again too soon after your last shot, the camera will not take the shot until you release the shutter button and press it again. Continuous mode is rated by Sony at one frame-per-second.
Flash Recycle: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330's flash recycles in a slightly slower than average 6 seconds after a full-power discharge.
In the BoxThe retail package contains the following items:
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330
- Wrist Strap
- Battery Charger BC-CSN
- Battery Pack NP-BN1
- A/V and USB Cables
- Software CD-ROM
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Protective case
- Large capacity, high-speed SD/SDHC memory card. 4 to 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.
Sony W330 Conclusion
While the Sony W330 doesn't meet up with my camera-enthusiast expectations, when I consider that this is a sub-$170, 14-megapixel pocket camera with a 26mm wide-angle, 4x lens, I have to change my assessment. Like the more expensive Sony W350, the Cyber-shot W330 works best with lots of light, preferably daylight. Under these conditions the camera captures some very good photographs that are worthy of printing at up to 13x19 inches! For people looking for a capable, affordable digicam, the Sony W330 will serve them well, but we can also suggest spending another $25 for the Sony W350 with its optical image stabilization, Sweep Panorama, and HD video, features you don't know you'll appreciate until you try them. Nevertheless, for the money you get a lot of good digital camera in your pocket with the Sony W330, earning it a Dave's Pick in the Budget category.
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