No longer restricted to optical viewfinders or the mechanisms required for film transportation, camera manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board to see how digital technology can evolve camera design. Sony has made a bold choice by using a fixed mirror and an EVF, which may alienate some purists. However, the system works well, and it can only get better in future cameras as the technology is further refined.
There will be fears about the loss of around 30% of the light hitting the sensor, but the metering and processing take this into account and it doesn’t have a negative effect on image quality. As a result, the usable sensitivity range of ISO 100-1600 is on a par with the Alpha 33’s competitors.
Although the Alpha 33 may seem a little pricey at £649 with an 18-55mm lens, it is crammed full of features, many of which aren’t found it its competitors, such as the 3D sweep panorama and the HDR shooting mode. However, it is obviously the high frame rate and phase-detection AF in Live View and video that steal the show.
While the image quality may be better from the Canon EOS 550D, for those who want to photograph moving subjects, such as sports or wildlife, the Alpha 33 is an excellent camera. In fact, it can’t be bettered for its price.
Sony Alpha 33 – Key features
Like other Sony Alpha cameras, the Alpha 33 uses Sony’s proprietary flash mount. This is the same hotshoe that was used on Konica Minolta SLR cameras.
For the first time in an Alpha-series camera, the screen folds down and can be rotated through 270° below the camera.
Like the NEX series of cameras, the Alpha 33 has sweep panorama mode, including the 3D option. A panoramic image is created by moving the camera in a sweeping motion while taking a series of images. When using the 3D option, a 3D image is created that can be played back on a 3D television.
Face detection and smile shutter are features we have previously seen in the Alpha 500 and 550, and they make a return in the Alpha 33. Not only does the face detection prioritise faces when exposing and focusing images, but the smile shutter mode also forces the camera to take an image when it detects a smiling face.
When shooting JPEG images, it is possible to create HDR images in-camera. A single press of the shutter takes three images. The first of these is the standard exposure, with the other two images being up to 3EV either side of this. The Alpha 33 then aligns and merges these images together to create an HDR image.
Although the mirror is fixed in position when shooting, there is an option in the custom menu to unlock and raise the mirror to allow access to the sensor for cleaning. The mirror is also far enough away from the sensor that Sony states it will not cause any issues with dust being visible in images.
Video capture is an important feature of the Alpha 33, and recording can be started and stopped by using the dedicated movie record button.
This sensor detects when you hold the viewfinder to your eye and switches the viewfinder on and the screen off, and vice versa.