Sony Alpha A33 review

Full review: User-friendly and ultra quick DSLR with HD movie shooting

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Alpha featuring translucent mirror technology for faster reaction times and live previews

Neither a compact nor a digital SLR in its purest sense, though outwardly resembling the latter, the 14.2 megapixel A33 has not done away with the mirror mechanism like the Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic GF1, but rather established a first by making the mirror translucent.

Thus Sony is referring to it not as a SLR but rather an 'SLT' (Single Lens Translucent mirror) camera. The benefits are: faster autofocus, a 7fps burst mode and improved response times across the board. In practice power up is nigh instantaneous and you can be taking the first shot within a second. Not a great deal larger than a superzoom camera, at 433g, the A33 also feels lighter than we'd expect a DSLR to be.

Check our Sony Alpha A33 pictures

Sony Alpha A33: Controls

With an 18-55mm zoom lens offered in kit form, you also get a high-resolution live preview, so there's no delay while the mirror flips up out of the way and Live View kicks – as you get on competing DSLRs. Thus in practice photographers can hit the one touch record button on the A33 and be recording Full HD video clips straight away – in fact this is the first time a movie mode has appeared on a DSLR-styled Alpha.

Sony's AF system automatically adjusts as filming takes place so there's no manual lens adjustment required as on the Olympus Pen series.

One thing to note re: video. You'll need a bang up to date computer for to recognise the AVCHD compression format the Sony shoots in, but if you haven't got one of those select the widely recognised MPEG4.

Sony Alpha A33: Features

Handling wise the A33 probably comes closest to Panasonic's G10 (which it resembles up to a point) for DSLR-like design and control layout. Menu systems are easy to navigate and overall these are less convoluted than the Sony NEX-5 series compact/DSLR hybrids, which this is also competing with.

Yes , it's a little plastic-y but feels solid when held via a decent-sized hand moulded grip, which is an improvement on those found on entry level Alpha DSLRs.

The A33 also comes with an adjustable widescreen format 3-inch LCD for more creative framing when for low to the ground or high over the heads of a crowd shots it isn't always possible to get an eye up to the viewfinder. Visibility is knife sharp thanks to a whopping 921k-dot resolution and it can be flipped through 270° and screen-in to the body for added protection when inactive.

Sony Alpha A33: Picture quality

Pictures are both sharp and colourful. As we'd expect to see from Sony with its expertise in the visual medium, colours are warm and well saturated as a default. The supplied zoom and senor combination delivers crisp detail in the main and the only time you'll need to take charge and switch to manual focus is when the A33's lightning fast AF is wont to focus on subjects nearest to it, when faced with busy scenes, rather than necessarily the subject you actually wanted.

Other than that the A33 simplifies the art of taking pictures and features some of the most up to date spec you could hope to find on a consumer camera.

Sony Alpha A33 price: Approx £570 with lens
Sony Alpha A33 release date: Out now, find out more from

Sony Alpha A33 Specifications

  • Sensor: 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Lens: 18-55mm kit lens via Sony A mount
  • Screen: 3-inch, 921,600 dots
  • Viewfinder: Electroinc
  • Stabilisation: SteadyShot Inside (sensor shift)
  • Video: 1920x1080 50i
  • Storage: MS PRO Duo, SD, SDHC, SDHXd
  • Battery: Up to 340 images in Live View mode
  • Connections: USB, HDMI mini
  • Dimensions/Weight: 433g, 124x92x85mm
Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.