Build and handling
Although the translucent mirror is designed primarily to solve the problem of using phase-detection AF during Live View and video capture, it also proves significant in terms of the build and handling of the Alpha 33. By having an electronic viewfinder, the Alpha 33 has no need for an optical prism, which makes the camera very small. Its size is comparable to a small entry-level DSLR such as the Pentax K-r, Canon EOS 1000D or Nikon D3100.
The small plastic body also makes the Alpha 33 feel like an entry-level camera, which sometimes seems at odds with the reasonably high specification and price of the camera. It also lacks the more advanced weather-proofing found on cameras such as the Pentax K-7 and Nikon D300S. That said, the body is well built, with no gaps, creaks or other signs of poor construction. Using the camera is straightforward, and anyone who has used a DSLR camera should instinctively be able to use the Alpha 33.
All the regularly used features such as EV compensation, AF, shooting rate, WB and ISO have their own shortcut buttons. Particularly useful is the direct movie record button, which starts and stops video capture, while the D-Range button allows the dynamic range optimisation and HDR features to be accessed quickly. The menu system and design are the same as that used on other Sony Alpha cameras, with the white-and-orange-on-black design clearly arranged and simple to navigate.
One thing to watch out for is the LCD screen, which rotates through 270°, but only in one direction. Although the pivoting hinge seems strong and secure, it may be vulnerable if accidentally rotated in the wrong direction.
Image: The new fold-out, rotatable screen on the Alpha 33 makes it far easier to take low-angle images than the simple tilting screens found on other Sony Alpha cameras.
Both first-time DSLR users and more experienced photographers will find the Alpha 33 simple and straightforward to use, and there is certainly a lot crammed into its small, lightweight body. While it may not be the most rugged and robust camera, it should cope with the demands an enthusiast photographer will place on it.