Sony's A33 uses new translucent mirror technology in a digital camera for the first time. Is this the beginning of the end for DSLR cameras as we know them? That What Digital Camera Sony Alpha A33 review...
Sony Alpha A33 Review
Sony’s latest SLT-A33 model with its Single Lens Translucent technology epitomises just how far camera technology has progressed. Near-identical to a DSLR in use, the compromise (as some may see it) is using the A33’s Electronic Viewfinder but the new technology’s resulting benefits mean that full-time phase-detection live view and ultra-fast 7fps continuous focus burst mode are available. Impressive stats indeed, but will the new ‘SLT’ category be the true undoing of DSLR cameras? The What Digital Camera Sony Alpha A33 review…
Sony Alpha SLT-A33 review – Features
The Alpha A33 is the first of Sony’s new DSLT cameras, released alongside the higher-spec A55 camera. With a 14.2 megapixel APS HD CMOS sensor at its core and Sony’s sensor-based SteadyShot Inside image stabilisation system the A33 can record high-resolution images from ISO 100 right up to ISO 12,800.
It’s with the introduction of the translucent mirror technology that the SLT-A33 really picks up the pace however (see ‘How Single Lens Translucent Works’ on page 70 for a full explanation). Although not a ‘new’ technology as such (Canon’s EOS RT produced from 1989-92 being a case in point) it’s the first time a translucent mirror has been implemented in a digital system. As light can pass through the mirror it removes the necessity for it to move out of the way when taking a shot, meaning light bouncing from the mirror permanently feeds a newly developed 15-point (three cross-type) autofocus system, thus opening a whole new opportunity for super-fast shooting with full-time continuous autofocus. The A33 tops out at an impressive seven frames per second, though the ‘bigger brother’ A55 can amass 10fps and the forthcoming ‘A77′ (working title) is likely to be higher still.
The AVCHD 1080i high-definition movie mode takes particular benefit from this new full-time focus with a fully automated movie mode that can glides in and out of focus.
Sony Alpha SLT-A33 review sample image – click for full size gallery
With no optical viewfinder, the Sony Alpha A33 instead uses a built-in 1.15 million-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with a 100% field of view. The 920k-dot, 3in LCD camera on the rear is a 16:9 wideangle ratio and has a tilt-angle bracket meaning shots from over-head or waist-level points of view are possible, as is safe stowing with the screen-side facing into the camera for protection.
As well as fully manual modes, an Auto+ setting is capable of auto analysing a scene and selecting the best settings accordingly. There are plenty of other creative modes available too, including: D-Range Optimiser, Handheld Twilight, Sweep Panorama, an enhanced HDR Auto mode, plus the usual array of Creative Styles found across the current Alpha range.