Sony Alpha A33 Digital Camera Review$649.99
Lens & Sensor
The Alpha A33 has a 14.6-megapixel APS HD CMOS image sensor that measures 23.4 × 15.6mm. This is a slightly smaller sensor than the APS CMOS featured on the SLT-A55 from Sony, but not by much. The effective pixel count of the sensor is around 14.2 megapixels.
Like the A55, the A33 uses Sony’s translucent mirror technology. The sensor rests behind a fixed, translucent mirror, which contrasts greatly with the movable-mirror design of conventional DSLRs. Since the mirror on the A33 is translucent, the camera does not require the mirror to be moved when taking a photo. This gives you a particular advantage when shooting video, as the camera can automatically focus and record video at the same time.
Comparing to the graphic above, the Sony A55 has an APS-C sensor, although the camera’s official crop factor is 1.52x instead of 1.6x.
The A33 is equipped with a 0.46-inch electronic viewfinder that has a 1.44 megapixel resolution. Because the viewfinder is electronic, you are seeing the image being captured by the A33’s sensor. You are not seeing the image as it appears through the camera’s lens, which is the case with an optical viewfinder. Despite this, the viewfinder still has a 100% field of view, and a diopter adjustment dial on its side.
Before we get to the specs of the LCD on the Sony A33, let’s talk about the screen’s most “pivotal” feature—the fact that it can rotate into a variety of positions. Simply put, we love having this flexibility with the LCD, particularly when shooting video or when the camera is attached to a tripod. You can swing the LCD down so you don’t have to crouch, or you can rotate it so the back is flush with the side of the camera (just like a stationary LCD would look). We also like the protective aspect that rotating the screen and tucking it into the camera offers you (this way the front of the screen isn’t exposed to scratches when you toss it in a bag).
The rotation feature could be better, of course, as we have seen LCDs that swing outward (like what is customary on a camcorder). This does give you more flexibility and better angles with which you can rotate the screen, but it’s not a huge improvement over what the A33 offers. Either way, the A33’s LCD is much better than a simple, stationary screen.
As for the specs of the LCD: the screen is 3-inches diagonally and has a resolution of 921,600 pixels. Like the viewfinder, the screen offers 100% coverage. It also has auto or manual brightness control (adjustable in the menu system).
The Sony SLT-A33, for all intents and purposes, has an identical flash to the one featured on the A55. It is a pop-up flash that sits in front of the accessory shoe and just above the “Sony” logo on the front of the camera. You can have the flash pop-up manually by pressing a small flash button on the left side of the camera, or you can set the flash to pop up when necessary in certain shooting modes (like auto mode).
The synch speed of the flash is 1/160 of a second, which makes it good for capturing motion or action shots. Sony also lists the flash illumination range at 3 – 15 feet (1 – 5 meters), but we felt like the flash range was most effective up to around 12 feet from the camera.
The built-in flash has plenty of different modes, including a fill-in flash, slow synch (for slower shutter speeds), rear synch, wireless (for external flash), auto, and off. The rear synch flash will fire the flash at the moment right before an exposure adjustment is completed. This sounds like a cool effect, and Sony says this will produce a "path of light behind a moving object" when used.
Other than the battery compartment and memory card slot, both of which are on the bottom of the camera, all of the A33’s terminals and jacks are located behind various port covers on the right side of the camera. A larger cover that runs vertically down the side of the camcorder houses the HDMI and USB ports, while two smaller covers near the base of the camera cover the 3.5mm external mic jack and wired remote port. The A33 also has a universal-fit accessory shoe on the top of the camera that will fit most accessories. The shoe is powered, but only Sony-approved accessories will work with this feature.
The Alpha A33 uses the same battery as the Sony Alpha A55 camera, and that’s the NP-FW50 rechargeable battery pack. The pack is a 1080mAh battery and it fits snugly into a compartment on the bottom of the camera. It also comes with a medium-sized charger that plugs directly into a wall outlet to recharge the battery.
According to Sony, there may be a difference in battery life between the A55 and A33 cameras (despite the fact that they use the same batteries). Sony lists the A33 as being able to take 270 images with the viewfinder or 340 images using the LCD. Sony claimed the A55 could take 60 – 110 more photos per charge. Even so, you can probably throw all these numbers out the window. We found the A33 could usually handle a day or so of solid photography before it needed to be recharged. You’ll need to charge often, or buy an extra battery if you like to shoot frequently (or record lots of video).
The A33, like most new Sony cameras and camcorders, has a dual-format memory card slot that works with both SD and Sony-proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. In addition to regular SD cards, the A33’s slot is compatible with higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards as well.