•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:

a55: £700-800

a33: £600-700

a580: £650-750

a560: £550-650

Editorial Comment

Watch our video preview:

 Watch in HD

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Next generation Sony a55 and a33 Alpha cameras debut with world firsts - more pictures
  3. 3. Sony Alpha a580 a560
  4. 4. Sony Alpha a55 and a33 Specifications
  5. 5. Sony's announcement in full
Page 1 of 5 - Show Full List
  • Gareth

    Very exciting new cameras, only a shame that there will be no external microphone input to go with the amazing autofocus HD video on the A33 and A55. Loving the fast 7fps and 10fps respectively but you will need good light or a better lens than kit comes with!

  • John Rich.

    Sounds like Sony is finally giving CaNikon some competition. Can anyone tell me if the new Sony models have built-in focus motors ? This will make them a real option for me. Thanks. John R.

  • Rob Ellis

    These cameras seem amazing, already read some fantastic reviews! The one thing I would be concerned about if I were to buy one, is the no live view whilst shooting 10fps, making panning a real bummer haha!

  • Lucien BONNET

    Next generation Sony a55 and a33 Alpha DSLRs debut with world firsts
    Tue, 24 Aug 2010 Nigel Atherton
    Lucien Bonnet (His interest led him to carry out research on Western concepts related to the study of color – by the way of Newton’s Theory of Colors – as follow):

    Newton’s Theory of Colors !

    First of all, what is Newton’s Theory of Colors? Let me remind readers that
    the concept of “color” that stems from scientific experimentation is based
    on the demonstration in 1665 by the well-known scientist Isaac Newton.

    This experiment consists in running a visible light ray called “white light”
    through a prism in a dark room, breaking down that light into a continuous
    spectrum encompassing all the colors.

    Newton thought he had there by proven that white light is broken down by the
    prism into a series of seven refracted rays which produced the colors from
    red to violet on the screen on which they are projected. He therefore
    concluded that white light contains various lights, each one of which is
    darker than the white light itself and each of which is part of the whole.
    And the darkest of all (real blackness), according to Newton, is simply an
    absence of light.

    My point of view, which is shared by many scientists, is that when the dark
    room, which is actually black, is penetrated by the “visible light ray”, it
    turns into an area with a mixture of darkness and white light, so that it is
    no longer a “dark room”. This is the origin of “Newton’s error”, which is
    the result of an incorrect observation.

    In other words, the basic elements of his experiment are not what he thought
    they were: in the course of the experiment, we are actually dealing with a
    quasi-dark or quasi-white room. Consequently, the prism in that quasi-dark
    room reflects the real situation; that is to say, the prism itself is
    already under the influence of this mixture of white light and darkness.
    That fact escaped Newton’s notice.

    In fact, the prism in the dark room where the experiment was carried out
    receives darkness from one angle and a beam of white light from the other.
    The prism thereby puts these two elements into action. The incident light
    ray is transformed, softened under the effect of the surrounding shade.
    Acting as a wave mixer, the prism integrates the white light and the
    darkness. It synthesizes them in vitro based on a given degree in the
    well-known “Gray scale” used in photography and color television. Under the
    effect of the incident ray, which acts like a projector, the refracted, very
    subtle gray ray passes through the prism. The continuous spectrum of all the
    colors is formed in a quasi-dark room on a quasi-white screen, given that
    the spectrum was born of both white light and darkness.

    We therefore find that the continuous color scale, as we know it, is
    constituted by the breaking down, not of white light, but a mixture of white
    light and darkness – that is, of “gray”. As the German scholar Johann
    Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: “This is the proof of the existence of the law
    where by light is nothing else than a mixture of light and darkness, to
    different degrees.” [our translation] Thus, Newton’s theory of colors proves
    to be completely false.

    Nevertheless, the techniques used in industries dealing with photography,
    cinematography and television are still based on that erroneous theory.

    In photography, laboratories are quick to discover in their work that the
    sum of the colors of the spectrum is gray, not white. That is why they are
    compelled to introduce the black color to obtain the white. There you have a
    demonstration in reverse that black is an integral part of light and color
    processes. Remember that this fact completely escaped Newton’s notice.
    Unfortunately, even though, in their use and application of the color scale,
    photo labs notice Newton’s error and correct it in practice, they still do
    not make the error more widely known.

    Why ?

    Some people might say that big industries using color processes – printing,
    photography, movies, television and even microprocessors – keep to that
    erroneous theory for the sake of major financial interests, especially
    concerning patents and trade secrets. In addition, certain anti-Black
    prejudices, deeply rooted in Western culture as well as in the field of
    optics, have to be taken into account at this “phase of rest and almost
    stagnation, rather than theoretical progress”.

    It is then up to the scientific world today – researchers, university
    professors, etc. – to overcome such hindrances and correct Newton’s theory,
    in order to free the way for progress.

    Lucien Bonnet

    Article published in the Montreal daily newspaper Le Devoir on April 15,
    1986. The author of the article, a
    Haitian-born Montrealer, has made a movie entitled
    ”Where are you Headed, Haiti?” and makes mention of that concept.