The Sony A33 is a neat entry level DSLR, with its compact body down to Sony translucent mirror technology. Sony was pretty proud of this: when it launched the Alpha A33 and its sister sister camera, the Sony A55, the Japanese gadget giant proclaimed it had “vastly exceeded anything available on the market”. Has it? Read on for our full Sony A33 review, and our verdict of whether Sony has come through on its promise.
The key selling points of this camera are its size and weight, and the number of frames per second it can push. The Sony A33 can push 7fps, for which it has a dedicated setting on the main dial. Flick through to this setting, hold down the shutter button, and it’ll just fire off shot after shot after shot. The more you shoot, the slower the processing will be when you lift your finger from the shutter, but this shouldn’t cause problems in all but the most extreme circumstances. It probably is worth investing in an SD card with plenty of space though if you’re planning on using this function.
The A33 and its sister camera, the A55, are the first Sony cameras to use Sony translucent mirror technology, which simplifies the mechanical movement of the mirror being shifted out of the way so the light gets to the sensor, which is what happens in a standard DSLR. Because this lifting of the mirror is simplified to not need such chunky mechanics, the body of the Sony A33 can be much smaller. Technically, this means it isn’t so much a DSLR, as a DSLT. Despite being compact though, there’s still a satisfying mechanical clunk when the shutter is activated.
The downside of the translucent mirror means that the sensor on the Sony A33 receives 30 per cent less light, but Sony has accounted for this, and the sensor increases the ISO by one third to account for the difference. It doesn’t show either, and in low light it performs very well, and comes out with very little noise, even in the gloomiest yellow lighting.
The Sony A33 has an inbuilt flash, but also a hot shoe if you want to step it up. The viewfinder is covered in rubber, and it has a sensor just below the viewfinder, which detects when you put your face up to the viewfinder, and automatically flicks the image from the screen into the viewfinder. Even niftier, in the viewfinder you’ll see a flight-simulator type balance indicator, which acts like a photography spirit level – when you’re level, it’ll lock in to green. If you’re wonky, the sights will be in the red.
If portability is key, then a bridge might end up a better option, because although the Sony A33 is compact, and is one of the neatest of its kind, you’ll still end up lugging around a kitbag full of heavy lenses if you’re shooting lots of different scenarios. However, if you’re looking for something a step up from a bridge, and want more versatility with settings like aperture, and especially if you’re looking to shoot moving objects then the Sony is ideal. Its auto settings are bright and even-toned, and it’s easy to fiddle around with settings like shutter speed and exposure.
The one thing it lacks slightly is scene settings. The ones included cover a rather limited set of scenarios. We’ve also seen reports that the cameras can overheat when shooting video, but we didn’t have any problems, and didn’t notice any extra heat.
The HD video will shoot in AVCHD or MP4 on the Sony A33. It has a dedicated button to the right of the viewfinder, and will shoot for a maximum of 29 minutes. If you want to get out of video and shoot frames though, you have to skip out using the mode dial.
The Sony Alpha A33 video is sharp, and will continually autofocus as you move around, and can track objects moving as fast as 50km/h. The one problem we found though, which you can hear in the video below, is that if you’re filming a quiet scene, the mic picks up the sound of the autofocus. Watch the short demo video below, and listen to the whirr of the autofocus kick in as we make some tea in 1080p…
The functions on the Sony A33 can be pushed hard, into display settings and shooting settings, which can for example, be manipulated to control the 15 point autofocus points your subject is in, and the image info display will show colour charts and all settings used for a snap. The best part is, you don’t have to. You can point and shoot without thinking, or work your magic making the camera do exactly what you want.
Overall, the Sony A33 is a neat, compact entry-level DSLR, that performs above and beyond what you’d expect of an entry level in some crucial areas – speed, autofocus, video and low light, and sometimes all of these at once. What it really excels at is shooting moving targets. The HD video continually refocuses on your subject, to leave the video bright and sharp, and being able to push 7fps means you’re unlikely to miss what you’re trying to capture.