•World’s first digital camera with fixed translucent mirror
•Full HD video with full-time phase detect AF and AF tracking
• World’s first ‘DSLR’ type camera with electronic viewfinder
•10fps (a55) or 7fps (a33) burst shooting
•16.2MP (a55) and 14.2MP (a33) CMOS sensor
•3inch free-angle LCD screen
•3D Sweep Panorama
Sony has just launched the first two in its next generation of Alpha cameras, the a55 and a33. The cameras are Sony’s first DSLRs to feature HD video, as well as features such as 10 frames per second burst shooting and, for the first time in its DSLR range, Sony’s ground-breaking Sweep Panorama technology.
In fact the new cameras are not strictly DSLRs because they have electronic rather than optical viewfinders. The key feature of the a55 and a33 is the fixed translucent mirror (known as Translucent Mirror Technology), added for the first time to a digital camera (a similar technology featured in the Canon EOS RT 35mm SLR back in 1989) which enables continuous LiveView, with full phase detection AF, without closing off the viewfinder. This means that the full AVCHD 1080i HD video offers full phase-detection based auto focus technology in movie mode, including AF tracking of moving subjects. It also means that users can use the viewfinder as well as the LCD screen to shoot video. The fixed mirror also enables the a55 to shoot at a class leading 10 frames per second (and the a33 at 7fps).
Sony may be one of the last manufacturers to introduce HD video to its DSLR range but the company claims that its technology takes DSLR video to the next level. Paul Genge, Sony UK’s Technical Field Sales manager for Alpha said, ‘People have been asking when Sony would get around to adding video modes to its DSLRs and we said that we’d introduce it when we could do it better than anyone else. That time is now.’ He added, ‘These new Alpha DSLRs vastly exceed anything currently on the market’
The a55 features an all new 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, while the a33 features the same 14.2 MP CMOS sensor used in the recently launched NEX3 and NEX5 compact system cameras. Both of the new Alphas feature Bionz processors.
For viewing, both cameras boast a 3inch widescreen XtraFine free-angle LCD screen with TruBlack technology and 921k pixel resolution, in addition to the electronic ‘Tru-Finder’ which offer 1.44 million pixel resolution with 100% coverage. Both cameras accept both Memory Stick and Secure Digital (SD) media cards.
The cameras boast superior ISO performance to previous Alpha models, topping out at 12,800, or 25,600 using the new Multi-Frame NR function. Sony claims a two stop improvement in noise levels over the previous a500/a550 series. Focusing is achieved via a new 15-point system featuring 3 cross hair sensors, and is claimed to be 20% more sensitive in low light than its predecessor, while in single focus point focus mode the focus point can be manually moved around the scene during movie recording, for ‘pull focus’ effects. A new 1200 zone evaluative metering also features, along with usual spot and centre-weighted options.
The new Alphas bring together technology from Sony’s Alpha and Cybershot cameras including the award-winning Sweep Panorama (which in the Alphas is capable of 3D) Twilight Mode, Face Detection, Smile Shutter and eight scene modes. The Auto HDR mode has been improved, and a new Auto+ mode added which is based on scene recognition. Other new features include a Digital Level Gauge, which can indicate both pitch and yaw and, the a55 additionally incorporates integrated GPS, for automatic geo-tagging of images and video.
Sony have also announced the release of two further models, the a580 and a560, that will sit below the a55 and a33 in their range. The main distinction between the two sets is the use of a more traditional optical viewfinder in the a580 and a560 models, due to the lack of translucent mirror and therefore ability to use the viewfinder for video capture.
Both a55 and a33 cameras will be available from next month. At this time the a580 and a560 will shipping exclusively to the US, with UK to follow at a later date, and no plans to release them in Japan.
Sony do not give precise RRPs for their cameras but have provided approximate guide price ranges for the new Alphas, with the standard 18-55mm kit lens, as follows:
Watch our video preview:
Next generation Sony a55 and a33 Alpha cameras debut with world firsts – more pictures
Sony Alpha a580 a560
Sony Alpha a55 and a33 Specifications
Key features of the new cameras
Sony’s announcement in full
Camera speed redefined: Sony introduces first Translucent Mirror Technology digital cameras
Light and compact α55 and α33: up to 10fps shooting with high-speed AF tracking and Full HD movie
- α55 (SLT-A55V) 16.2 megapixels and α33 (SLT-A33) 14.2 megapixels
- Ultra-quick shooting up to 10fps with fast, precision phase detection AF
- First ever Quick AF HD Movie with smooth, continuous autofocus during video shooting
- Enhanced Quick AF Live View and 7.5 cm (3″) free-angle LCD, plus Tru-Finder (Electronic Viewfinder) with 100% coverage
- Advanced imaging functions including 3D Sweep Panorama, Auto HDR and multi-frame noise reduction
The α (pronounced Alpha) family of interchangeable lens cameras from Sony grows with the addition of two new, compact, ultra-responsive models, the α55 and α33 models.
Sony’s first-ever digital cameras to employ Translucent Mirror Technology these new models showcase an innovative optical system that opens up dramatic new shooting possibilities. In contrast with conventional DSLR cameras, Translucent Mirror Technology uses a fixed, translucent mirror that ‘splits’ the optical pathway between the main image sensor and a separate phase-detection autofocus sensor.
High-resolution live image preview with rapid, accurate phase detection autofocus is available at all times – either via the angle-adjustable 7.5cm (3″) LCD or precision Tru-Finder (electronic viewfinder). This also ensures that even moving objects stay in sharp focus at all times, whether you’re shooting Full HD video or stills.
Translucent Mirror Technology overcomes other traditional limitations of DSLR models, with its simplified mechanical design shrinking camera size and complexity. Making the α55 and α33 a compelling choice for casual photographers who want to capture spontaneous family moments and travel scenes with less to carry.
Full-resolution shooting at up to 10fps with precise AF tracking
Ground-breaking Translucent Mirror Technology allows high-speed shooting with the α55 at up to 10fps and the α33 up to 7fps in Continuous Priority AE mode. This represents the world’s fastest burst continuous AF shooting performance of any interchangeable lens camera with an APS-C size sensor.
A newly developed 15-point phase-detection autofocus system assures rapid, accurate AF tracking, keeping even moving subjects in sharp focus during continuous shooting. This enables the α55 and α33 to capture split-second action or fleeting nuances of expression with portrait subjects.
World’s first Quick AF Full HD movie shooting 1
The large sensor size ExmorTM APS HD CMOS Sensor inside both cameras lets photographers capture stunning, cinematic HD video footage with beautiful background defocus (bokeh) effects.
Theα55 and α33 also mark the debut of Quick AF Full HD movie shooting. Translucent Mirror Technology enables AVCHD 1080i video shooting with smooth, precise phase detection AF tracking of moving subjects. Real-time video image preview is now possible via the viewfinder – in contrast with DSLR cameras where the raised mirror prevents light from reaching the optical viewfinder during video shooting.
Effortless composition and image viewing
Theα55 and α33 enable exciting new possibilities for framing and viewing highest-quality video and still images. Already prized by step-up DSLR users and enthusiasts alike, Sony’s Quick AF Live View system is now more effective than ever. High-resolution live image preview is teamed with uncompromised phase detection AF performance – even with rapidly-moving subjects.
Tilting and swivelling freely to a maximum of 270 degrees for comfortable framing at any shooting angle, the bright 7.5 cm (3.0″) 16:9 Xtra Fine LCD offers superb detail and contrast.
There’s also a precision electronic viewfinder with 1.15 million dot resolution that delivers a clear, bright image with 100% frame coverage. Adjustments to exposure, depth of field and colour can be previewed instantly, either in the viewfinder or on the LCD. Effortless composition is aided further by switchable grid line in the finder and LCD screen, plus a new digital levelling gauge.
Enriched creative possibilities
Theα55 and α33 are compatible with the full range of over 30 A-mount interchangeable lenses already available and offer SteadyShot INSIDE. This in-body image stabilisation system provides up to 4 exposure steps of anti-shake correction when shooting handheld.
Both cameras also feature 3D Sweep Panorama, allowing photographers to capture detail-packed extra-wide panoramas with a huge field of view. 3D panoramas can be enjoyed on any compatible 3D HD television. The SLT-A55 is also the first α camera by Sony with integrated GPS, allowing automatic geo-tagging of images and video clips.
The new-generation ExmorTM APS HD CMOS Sensor inside both cameras supports a sophisticated range of digital image compositing and processing functions. This gives even greater artistic possibilities to beginners and photo enthusiasts alike.
Auto HDR is now refined further compared with previous-generation α models. Data from a burst of three frames at bracketed exposure values is automatically combined, creating a single image with extended highlight and shadow detail Multi-frame Noise Reduction ‘stacks’ a high-speed burst of six frames, creating a single low-noise exposure that boosts effective sensitivity as high as ISO 25600.
The new cameras accept both Memory Stick PRO DuoTM (including Memory Stick PRO-HG DuoTM) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media (all sold separately). Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX 30MB per second transfer rate offers the best performance during cameras’ continuous shooting mode or when transferring the data to another media.
The new α55 and α33 Single Lens Translucent mirror cameras from Sony will be available from September 2010.
*1 among consumer oriented interchangeable lens digital cameras as of 24.Aug