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Dig just a little into the features of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330 and you'll start to see all the corners cut to get the price down to less than $170. In comparison to Sony's $199.99 W350, the W330 has no optical image stabilization; the movie mode is VGA quality with no use of the optical zoom; there's no Sweep Panorama mode (or any panorama option actually); adult and child priority are removed from face detection options; there's no autofocus illuminator light; there's no manual white balance; no unsharp masking option in Playback; less internal memory; and lower-quality noise reduction. The lack of Sony's Bionz processing engine is partly responsible for the feature deficiencies, too. The W350 just has a lot more going for it and better photo quality for $30 more than the W330. The only perk of the W330 is a slightly larger display. Well, that and it has the same wide-angle lens. However, if you don't think you'll want or need any of the stuff I mentioned, by all means, save the money and get the W330.
|Key specs||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9 x 2.3 x 0.7 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||4x, f2.7-5.7, 26-105mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 230 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No, external charger supplied|
|Storage media||Memory Stick Pro Duo, SD, SDHC|
|Bundled software||Picture Motion Browser 5.0 (Windows), PMB Portable 1.1 (Windows, Mac)|
The W330 is available in silver, black, blue, and red versions; its body is lightweight and compact enough to squeeze in most pants pockets or handbags. The front has a thin brushed metal plate on the otherwise plastic body, but it doesn't feel too cheaply made. Those who have hesitated to purchase Sony cameras because of the reliance on Memory Stick media will be pleased that the 2010 Cyber-shots accept SD and SDHC cards. The slot and battery compartment are protected by a lockable door, which you'll have to open regularly to remove the battery for charging. Though internal memory is limited--just 28MB--it does host a small piece of software for quickly uploading photos and movies to sharing sites when the camera is connected to a Windows or Mac computer.
Controls are straightforward. On top are the power and shutter release buttons. They're flush with the body and, though they're easily pressed, they'll require most users to look to locate them. The remaining controls are on back to the right of the reasonably bright, but not great LCD (off-angle viewing is particularly poor). A zoom rocker that some may find finicky sits above the thumb rest; on the right edge of the body sits a vertical slider for moving from shooting stills to movies. Playback, Menu, Delete, and a circular directional pad handle all other tasks. In addition to navigating menus, the directional pad can change flash and timer functions, change display information, and activate smile detection. Sony's menu systems remain fairly logical and uncomplicated compared with its cameras prior to 2009's interface changes.
|General shooting options||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, and Flash|
|Recording modes||Easy, Intelligent Auto, Program, Scene, SteadyShot, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection AF|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Up to 100 photos|
The W330 is primarily an automatic snapshot camera. That's not to say this Sony doesn't give you some control; the Program Auto lets you adjust ISO, white balance, autofocus points, light metering, and exposure values as well as control the amount of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization used for rescuing shadow detail. The Intelligent Auto scene recognition mode turns out reliable results without any adjustments, but there are still a couple options available to you like adjusting exposure, activating burst shooting, and setting smile detection sensitivity. An Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. There are 10 scene-shooting options including High ISO, Food, Pet, and Underwater for use with an add-on housing. There's a SteadyShot mode, but without optical or mechanical image stabilization this option simply adjusts ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to help counteract camera shake and motion blur. Lastly, the Movie mode records at VGA quality with a mono mic for audio; there's no use of the optical zoom while recording.
For its class, the W330 is a fairly quick camera, though it's still best suited for stationary subjects. The camera turns on and fires its first shot in 1.8 seconds. The wait between shots is 2.6 seconds; add about another second to that if you're using the flash. Switch to continuous shooting and it's able to capture at 1.1 frames per second. Shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is 0.4 second in bright conditions and 0.7 second in dim lighting.
Photos from the W330 are good to very good depending on how critical you are about picture quality from a $170 camera. There's noise/graininess that's visible at all ISO sensitivities when images are viewed at full size (which is very, very large). However, it doesn't have much of an impact below ISO 200. Go to higher ISOs and you start to really lose fine detail and subjects get fuzzy and lack definition. At small sizes photos up to ISO 800 are usable, though. Colors start shifting above that and combined with the noise and noise reduction, the photos aren't good for much; don't count on using ISO 1,600 or 3,200.
Of course, a big downside to all this is that despite having a 14-megapixel resolution, you won't be able to crop in that much if you plan to make large prints. The W330's photos are generally soft and lacking in fine detail when viewed at full size with the exception of those taken in macro. Also, though the camera creates 45x60-inch photos, Sony only recommends prints up to 13x19 inches for the W330.
As for the wide-angle lens, Sony keeps the barrel distortion in check and there's no sign of pincushioning at the long end of the zoom, either. The amount of purple fringing is normal for a camera in its class. Center sharpness is fairly good on the W330, but subjects off to the sides--especially in the corners--are noticeably softer.
Colors are bright and natural and reasonably accurate, though blues seem to be a bit pumped up. The auto white balance appears a little warm as does the Flash setting. Exposure is generally good leaning toward underexposed, but highlights are prone to clipping.
Video quality was OK, suitable for easy Web sharing if nothing else. Again, you do not get use of the optical zoom while recording.
There's a lot of sacrifice for the $30 price difference between the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W330 and the W350. Other than price, its advantage is a slightly larger LCD, and it's not even that good of a display. In the end, the W330 comes across as a great way to upsell consumers to the better W350, which I recommend doing if you can.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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