• Related content

Sony recently reduced the price of the SLT-A55V by $100 bucks down to $649 with its 18-55mm kit lens, or $549 body only. We must warn, however, that the model has been discontinued in Japan as of a few weeks ago. As of now, the camera is still available in the US and you can still purchase it from Sony's website online.

Front Tour Image
Back Tour Image
Sides Tour Image
Bottom Tour Image
Top Tour Image

Box Photo

The Sony Alpha SLT-A33 comes with:

• neck strap

• rechargeable battery pack (with wall charger)

• instruction manual and software CD

• USB cable

If purchased as a kit, the camera comes with the 18-55mm f/3.5 lens shown in the photo above.

The Sony SLT-A33 didn't put up the best numbers in our color accuracy test, which, quite frankly, surprised us. The Sony A55 did a very good job in this test last year, so we expected the A33's color accuracy to be similar. At best, the A33 managed a color error of 3.43 and a saturation level of 113.1%.

Click here for more on how we test color

Since the A33 has multiple color modes, we tested them all to determine which had the most accurate performance. For the A33, this color mode was the Portrait setting, although the Standard mode wasn't very far behind in terms of accuracy.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Like the Sony A55, the Alpha A33 has 6 color modes: Landscape, Portrait, Standard, Sunset, Vivid, and Black & White. As we said before, the Portrait mode produced the most accurate results in our testing, although Standard mode was not far behind by any means. At first, you may not notice much of a difference between color modes, but if you look closely at our examples below you should start to see areas (and specific color patches) where the modes differ. Saturation level is key here, as certain color modes, like Sunset for example, boost saturation quite a bit (up to 125% or so).

Related content

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

We tested the long exposure performance on the A33 using 5 different shutter speeds ranging from 1 - 30 seconds. Long exposures like these are usually required when shooting in dark environments without a flash. Of course, we do this testing with the camera on a tripod, so image stabilization and blur is not an issue.

Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

In our long exposure test, the results weren't as simple as saying color error got worse as the exposures got longer. The A33 showed us its most accurate colors when we used 10 and 15-second shutter speeds, while its worst color accuracy came during use of the 5-second and 30-second shutter speeds. The Sony A33 is equipped with a long exposure noise reduction feature, which we switched on for half of our long exposure testing. Using this noise reduction feature, we saw no difference in overall color error (the averages we're nearly identical).

Surprisingly, we also found the A33's long exposure noise reduction setting did nothing to reduce noise in our testing. In fact, the overall noise numbers were a tad higher when we used the long exposure noise reduction feature, but not by much (they were basically the same with the feature on and off).

The A33's overall noise results in this test were actually better than the competition by a slight margin. In our various tests, the camera ranged from a low noise level of 0.89% to a highest level of 1.06%. Interestingly, the lowest noise from the camera came when we used a 30-second shutter speed—the longest shutter speed we use in this test! The most noise came from when we used a 10-second shutter speed. The other shutter speeds we tested fell somewhere in the middle.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A33 has two noise reduction modes: auto and weak. There's no setting for simply turning noise reduction "off", and we found little difference between the noise levels when using the two modes.

Click here for more on how we test noise.

The auto and weak noise reduction modes showed no difference in noise levels until we shot at ISO 400. At that ISO level, the auto noise reduction kicked in a bit more than the weak reduction and lowered the noise levels a bit. This trend continued fairly steadily throughout the rest of the A33's ISO options (up to ISO 12800), although the auto noise reduction showed its superiority mostly in the ISO 400 to 3200 range.

Even though it has no advanced noise reduction modes (just "auto" and "weak), the Sony A33 did a respectable job in this test. Its numbers were on par with the other DSLRs and interchangeable lens cameras we compared it to, and the camera never showed noise levels that were obscenely high.

The Sony A33 has an extensive ISO range, with the camera capable of taking full-resolution photos all the way up to ISO 12800. Most comparable models, other than the Sony A55, top out at ISO 6400 for full-resolution images. The lowest ISO setting on the A33 is ISO 100. Check out the images below to see the difference in noise level and image quality at each ISO level.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

We did our testing with the Sony A33 using its 18 - 55mm f/3.5 kit lens. The lens did a decent job at producing sharp images, but we did notice quite a bit of lens distortion in photos taken at the widest angles. Since the A33 uses an interchangeable lens systems (like all DSLR-type cameras), you should remember that different lenses may produce different results than the ones we obtained in our various tests that follow.

Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

Like we said, the A33 showed a lot of barrel distortion when shooting at the widest angle (18mm). The average barrel distortion when using an 18mm focal length was 3.0%. This distortion did not occur in the other focal lengths we tested—35mm (mid) and 55mm (tele). With those focal lengths, the A33's images produced little, if any, lens distortion. What this tells us is that using a wider lens with the A33 is likely to result in even more distortion, so beware of that fact when you shop for extra lenses.

Chromatic Aberration ()

Just like we saw in our distortion test, chromatic aberration was a much bigger problem when we shot at wide angles with the A33 than when we tested using zoom. The best way to understand what we're talking about is to simply look at the images and crops below. Shooting with an 18mm focal length, the widest angle offered on the A33's kit lens, you'll notice a lot of blue streaking and blur on the crops from our test chart. It almost looks as if the gray boxes have a blue halo around their edges, and this is particularly noticeable on the crops taken from the sides of our test chart (the middle doesn't look nearly as bad).

Shooting at 35mm and 55mm focal lengths we saw little in the way of chromatic aberration, and you can look for yourself in the crops further down on this page. There is some noticeable yellowing in certain crops at 35mm, but it isn't nearly as bad as the blue streaking we saw in the A33's 18mm shots.

Sharpness ()

Our tests confirmed that the A33 produced its sharpest image in the middle of the frame. This shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone who is familiar with lens construction. We also noticed the image getting sharper the more we zoomed in with the kit lens, although this only was the case with the center of the frame. When using more zoom, the sides of the A33's images still looked quite blurry. Check out the crops and photos below to see what we're talking about.

At wide angle, the A33 produced a generally even image in terms of sharpness across our tested aperture range. The smallest aperture we tested, f/22 showed more blur in our blown-up images, although there was also a large amount of blur on the F/3.5 image. The f/9 aperture offered the sharpest results across our test chart (left side, right side, and center of the chart).

Using a 35mm focal length with the A33's kit lens, the camera produced sharp images in all of our tests except when using a very slow aperture. The slowest aperture tested, f/32, produced a very blurred image, which you can see in the crops above. Photos taken at f/5 and f/13 look quite crisp, even on the sides of the image (where we saw blur in our 18mm photograph).

The full telephoto setting on the A33's kit lens is obtained using a 55mm focal length. This setting, again, produced blurred imagery with the slowest aperture setting (f/36). The middle aperture, f/14, managed the sharpest images of the three apertures we tested at a 55mm focal length. The f/5.6 aperture showed some blur, but not nearly as much as we saw from the f/36 image.

The A33 isn't loaded with size options, but it has the basics. You get two aspect ratios to choose from (3:2 or 16:9) and there are large, medium, and small photo options for each aspect ratio. If you count the camera's panorama image settings, then the A33 has more size options to choose from. There's a standard or wide panorama, both of which can be captured going longways horizontally or vertically (see the table below for exact resolution specs). In addition, the camera has a 3D panorama sweep option with three different sizes to choose from.

With our dynamic range test we attempt to illustrate how well a camera captures detail in shadowy and highlighted areas within a single image. The A33's results in our dynamic range test were definitely good, but its numbers weren't any better than the other models we compared it to.

Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

Generally, the A33 did quite well with dynamic range when we shot at low ISO levels (ISO 100, 200, and 400. In each of those low ISO levels, the A33 was able to capture at least seven stops, and at ISO 100 the camera pushed close to a range of 8 stops.

In the mid-range ISO levels, the A33 showed a significant drop. At ISO 1600, the A33 had a range of just 4.93 stops and at ISO 6400 the range fell to 3.74 stops. This is the same trend we saw on the Sony A55 camera, and it is the trend that nearly all cameras follow to some extent. The difference with the A33 and the A55, however, is that the A55 managed a better range in the high ISO settings. The A33, on the other hand, kept a slight edge in the low ISO spectrum.

The Alpha A33 uses Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization system inside the camera itself (not as part of the lens). This system differs from many cameras, most of which include the stabilization feature as part of the lens. Either way, we were fairly satisfied with the A33's stabilization overall. It wasn't quite as good as the Sony A55, but it did a reasonable job in our testing (and a good deal better than the Canon T2i and Panasonic G2). Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

In our testing, we shake the camera at two speeds (low and high) and look to see if the image stabilization system (IS) improves sharpness on photos taken at a variety of shutter speeds. In our low shake test, we found the image stabilization system was most effective at higher shutter speeds. When shooting at 1/500 of a second, the A33's stabilization was able to improve sharpness by 17%. At the lower shutter speeds, however, the IS didn't do very much in this test.

In our high shake test the A33 handled things a bit differently. There was a 20% improvement in sharpness when we shot at a 1/125 of a second shutter speed, and there was some decent improvement at lower shutter speeds as well. The faster shutter speeds of 1/500 and 1/250 showed no sharpness increase when we turned the stabilization on in our high shake test.


Image Stabilization
/r:render

On average, the IS improved the sharpness of the image on the A33 by 10% in our low shake test and 8% in our high shake test. This can make a difference when you do hand held shooting, and, like we said, it is a better performance than what we saw from the Canon and Panasonic models we compared the A33 to in this test.

NOTE: As of May 2010 we have revised our image stabilization testing procedure to consider only horizontal stabilization. The scores shown here are up to date.

White balance performance on the Sony A33 was similar to the other cameras in this test group, but each model has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to particular white balance settings and options.

Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance ()

Much like we saw from the Sony A55 last year, the A33 had trouble getting the color temperature right under an incandescent light source. Cameras, even very good ones, commonly struggle with white balance under incandescent light, however, so we can't complain too loudly here. Besides, the camera's auto white balance did very well under fluorescent and daylight testing conditions.

For the number junkies: the average error for the incandescent test was 2602.5 degrees Kelvin, while the daylight and fluorescent tests registered errors of 118.17 and 109.5 degrees Kelvin respectively. This means incandescent was the only type of light that really threw the A33's auto white balance for a loop. Things got better in our custom white balance test, though.

Custom White Balance ()

Our custom white balance test revealed something interesting about the A33. Color temperature levels improved dramatically for incandescent light—with the color error dropping all the way to 173 degrees Kelvin—but under fluorescent and incandescent light there was little improvement. In fact, the A33 actually did better with auto white balance under fluorescent light than it did with custom white balance.

We should also note that the A33 produced slightly cooler (bluer) tones under incandescent and fluorescent light when we used a custom white balance. With auto white balance, and when shooting under daylight with a custom white balance, the camera produced colors that were warmer (redder).

In addition to its auto and custom white balance options, the A33 has six white balance presets: Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Flash. Each of the color presets can be adjusted on a -3 to +3 scale where each step represents 10 Mired. You can also specifically set the color temperature on a Kelvin scale, but that only helps if you know the specific color temperature of the lights you're shooting under. The color filter option, which is a sub-option from the Kelvin white balance selection allows you to tilt the color temperature more towards green or magenta. Complex stuff, for sure. The majority of users will probably be fine with using the regular custom white balance most of the time.

In playback mode, images can be arranged in thumbnail view or they can be set to take up the entirety of the LCD. You can also set how much information is overlayed on each photo when you are in single-photo view. You can put up a basic display, which shows things like shutter speed and aperture settings for the viewed photo, or you can show more advanced shooting info like RGB histograms.

The A33 comes with a CD that contains three different image programs: Picture Motion Browser (PMB) 5.3.01, Image Data Converter SR 3.2, and Image Data Lightbox SR 2.2. PMB is Sony's basic photo and video organizing tool that also allows you to perform minor edits to your media. PMB lets you upload photos and video directly to sites like Flickr and you can import images to your computer using the software. Picture Motion browser works with PC operating systems only.

The Image Data Converter package allows you to convert .ARW raw image files and process them in various ways. This software works with both Mac and PC operating systems and it is a good tool if you like to shoot in the higher-quality RAW format.

Image Data Lightbox is the simplest of the three editing programs, as it is essentially a computerized lightbox. You can view up to 4 images side by side for comparison, and you can also zoom in and out to get a closer look. There's no editing involved with this program and no conversion options either—it is simply a tool for viewing and comparing your photos.

The camera supports DPOF direct to print options, which enable you to connect the camera to a printer without the aid of a computer.

The Alpha A33 has a 14.6-megapixel APS HD CMOS image sensor that measures 23.4 x 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.

Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

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.

Being a Sony Alpha camera, the A33 is compatible with Sony's A-mount lenses. This lens mount system has been around for a while, so there's a good amount of lenses for you to pick and choose from for the A33. There are even other manufacturers, like Sigma and Tamron, that are making lenses compatible with Sony's A-mount system. To avoid confusion, we should be clear that the A33 is not compatible with the E-mount lens system used on Sony's new NEX compact interchangeable lens cameras.

Anyone who has taken off a lens on a DSLR or DSLR-like camera before should be able to figure out how to do so on the A33 without any problems. You simply line up the orange dot on the lens with the spot on the lens mount (upper right on the metal portion of the mount). Then you give the lens a slight clockwise twist until it clicks into place. To remove the lens, you press the large button on the right side of the lens mount and twist the lens counterclockwise until it releases.

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.

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 mode dial on the A33 isn't loaded with options, which is the trend you see on certain DSLRs, but it still has 10 different settings. The icons and labels on the dial shouldn't be a challenge to understand, especially if you've used a DSLR camera before.

"Live View" is a popular term being thrown around on DSLR cameras these days. What it means is the camera's ability to preview the image (on a viewfinder or LCD) that is being captured by the sensor. For DSLRs with traditional mirror systems, Live View mode is only reserved for the LCD. For the Sony A33 and its translucent mirror system, however, Live View mode is used with both the viewfinder and the LCD. The A33 has one of the better Live View systems because of this—it works quicker than most and it has a very organized and functional Live View display. On other cameras it is common to see sluggish performance in Live View mode, depending on how often the camera communicates with the sensor and refreshes the displayed image.

On the A33 you can adjust the display options on the LCD or viewfinder for Live View mode. All options give you basic shooting information like shutter speed, aperture, and an exposure scale. Other options allow for an electronic level display, a grid display, and a visual aperture and shutter speed display.

The A33 has 8 different scene modes, all of which are selectable when you turn the mode dial to SCN (it stands for "scene"). Read about the various scene modes in the table below.

The A33 has a set of controls Sony calls "Creative Styles", which are basic picture effects and adjustments. You can select from one of six style presets, or you can customize each style individually by adjusting contrast, saturation, and sharpness.

The translucent mirror technology on the A33 does a good job making the camera's autofocus system both faster and more efficient than that of a traditional DSLR. Because of the translucent mirror, the A33 can both focus and shoot at the same time (the mirror doesn't have to move out of the way). In actual use, we found the focus system to work quickly and accurately as well.

The camera uses a 15-point autofocus system that can be setup in a number of different ways. You can tell the camera to use all 15 focus points, a center grouping of 7 points (spot focus), or a local focus setting where you choose an individual focus point. The only time we had trouble with the A33's focus system was in low light, where the camera seemed to have trouble finding things to use as focus points. We also weren't crazy about the manual focus ring on the kit lens—it is simply too small and has no grip whatsoever—but this is a problem with the lens itself, and not the A33.

There is basic exposure adjustment on the A33 that allows you to bump exposure up or down on a -2 to +2 scale (in 1/3 EV steps). You can also turn on auto exposure bracketing, which is an alternate shooting mode on the camera. This allows you to take three separate shots with one click—with all three shots at different exposure levels. You can choose between 0.3 or 0.7 stop distances between each shot in auto exposure bracket mode. There's an additional bracketing feature that lets you set white balance settings to either hi or low.

Shot to Shot ()

The Sony A33 is a quick shooter from shot to shot, although it is not quite as fast as the Sony A55. In our testing, we found the camera repeatedly capable of capturing around 6.6 shots per second using the dedicated high-speed shooting mode on the mode dial. This is just under the 7fps that Sony advertises for this setting, but not by much. We should also note that this 6.6fps speed only lasts for about a dozen shots or so, then the camera slows down drastically to about 2 shots per second. The A33's high-speed shooting mode, which is separate from the speed priority mode on the mode dial, got around 6 shots per second in this test.

If you want a speedier camera, you should definitely look at the Sony A55. It could do 10 shots per second in this same test, and it was able to handle more photos in a sequence before it started to slow down. Still, the A33's performance in this test is nothing to sneeze at—it is still one heck of a gunslinger compared to your average DSLR.

Drive/Burst Mode ()

There are many continuous shooting modes available on the A33, which can make things a bit more confusing than they should be. For starters, you have the dedicated speed-priority mode right on the mode dial (it is labeled well with the number "7" and an icon of stacked photos). This mode is simple to use and its capabilities are accurately described in the section above (for abridged readers: it could do about 6.6 photos per second in a burst of 12 or so).

What's confusing is the camera's high-speed continuous shooting mode is nearly identical to this speed-priority setting. It goes a tiny bit slower, topping out at around 6fps, but it too has a limitation on the amount of photos you can take in a row at that speed. In our tests, the high-speed continual mode could do 6fps at around 15 photos in a row. There's a low-speed drive mode that takes close to 3 photos per second, and we found it to keep up that speed continuously. With all these burst and drive mode settings, you should use class 6 or higher memory cards for the best performance possible.

During regular shooting, the A33 will not show a depth of field preview unless you press the preview button on the front of the camera. Holding down this button will set the aperture to whatever f-stop is currently selected, thus enabling you to see a depth of field preview.

Sony claims the A33 uses 1200 different sensors in its automatic exposure metering system. We're not sure if you need this many sensors, but the number is impressive nonetheless. We did notice the camera would often use wildly different settings when we shot identical scenes in program mode. We saw this occur in our drive mode testing, as even photos taken less than half a second apart had different aperture, shutter speed, or ISO controls set by the camera. Perhaps the vast amount of exposure sensors offer up too many variables that force the camera to recalculate exposure levels very differently from shot to shot (even if light levels haven't changed).

Of course, if any of this bothers you, you can always switch to manual mode and set the exposure without any assistance from the camera. Or you could use the Center Weighted or Spot exposure options, which don't use all 1200 of the exposure sensors to do the metering.

Shutter speed can be selected manually in shutter-priority or manual mode. The range of shutter speed options go from 1/4000 of a second to 30 seconds. There's also a bulb setting, which allows the shutter to remain open for as long as you hold down the shutter button, but this option is only available in manual mode.

A self-timer is one of those features a lot of people love having—and that's why it's found on most cameras these days (from cheap point-and-shoots, to high-end DSLRs). The A33 has two basic options here: a 2-second and a 10-second self-timer. There are also options for wired or wireless remotes that can be used to take photos without having to physically touch the camera.

In addition, there's a Smile Shutter feature that will snap a photo when it detects a smile within the frame. When this mode is activated, a small bar appears on the LCD (or viewfinder) that shows the level of smile that is being detected. You can then also set the smile detection level to slight, normal, or big. You get the picture: with smile detection set to "big" only large, wide-mouth smiles will set off the shutter. Setting detection to "slight" does the opposite, as even little smirks will activate the camera.

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) - This mode uses processing to alter the image and provide the look of a wider dynamic range. Sometimes this feature produces excellent results, but since it is just using the processing power of the camera it doesn't always do a great job (it isn't actually widening the dynamic range the sensor is able of capturing). DRO can be set to five different levels, so you do have some control over how much dynamic range processing the A33 performs.

Auto HDR - A more complex feature than DRO, but it offers similar results. With Auto HDR, the camera takes three separate images at varying exposure levels and then combines them into one complete image in an effort to provide enhanced dynamic range. You can set the exposure stop values between the image to auto, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 EV stops (just like you can with the auto exposure bracketing feature).

Panorama - An intuitive feature that can be fun to use, panorama allows you to capture wide or tall shots by panning the A33 while holding the shutter button. With this feature activated, the camera is actually taking a number of shots as you pan. Then, after the pan is complete, the A33 stitches together the various shots automatically into one wide or tall panoramic image. As we said, the feature can be fun, but the panorama images do take up a lot of space. Also, this kind of thing can easily be done using photo editing software if you'd like to create a panorama image yourself.

3D Panorama - Yup, the A33 lets you take 3D panorama images as well. The system works the same as a regular panorama, but as you pan the camera is capturing two separate images in order to create a 3D effect in the end. Results were disappointing and the interface was very awkward—a lot more difficult to get right than the regular panorama setting. The real kicker: you need a 3D HDTV to view your finalized panorama image in 3D. Raise your hand if you've got one of those sitting in your living room.

Sony was able to save space on the A33 due to the camera's translucent mirror technology. Thus, the A33 is smaller than most traditional DSLR cameras, but it is larger than the Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras you see from Panasonic and Olympus (like the Panasonic GF2, for example). This puts the A33 in a size range that is likely to please a lot of users. It is large enough to look professional and be treated like a traditional DSLR, but it isn't quite as heavy or as bulky as your average DSLR camera.

SONY_A33_Handling_Front.jpg

We like the size of the A33 quite a bit. The right side grip is large enough to wrap your hand around it with ease, and the camera is light enough that you can control it with one hand if you must. The textured grip on the right side of the camera is useful and it contours to the shape of your palm. There is also a good, ridged pad on the back of the camera where the thumb on your right hand can rest when it isn't being used to adjust controls.

SONY_A33_Handling_Back.jpg

At 3 inches, the LCD is of generous size and the fact that it does not use touchscreen technology means you don't have to worry about touch-buttons getting in the way of your ability to frame the shot. There's also the wonderful design feature that enables the LCD to rotate out from the camera vertically and rotate 270 degrees. This isn't as good as having an LCD that swings out to the side (like you see on most camcorders), but the rotation offered on the A33's screen is a great advantage when you have the camera mounted to a tripod or when you are recording video. If all DSLRs had a screen with this much flexibility, we'd be much happier.

Nearly all of the A33's controls aree located on the right side of the camera, scattered on the back and top of the body. Your thumb should be able to reach most of them with ease, although the two buttons near the base of the camera (playback and delete) can be difficult to reach with your hand in an upright, traditional shooting position. Thankfully, those two buttons aren't really important unless you're in playback mode on the A33.

SONY_A33_ManualControls.jpg

On the top of the camera, buttons are easily accessible with your right index finger on the right side of the A33. The left-side controls, which include the menu button and mode dial, you're probably best off using your left hand to make adjustments. All of the buttons feel quite good, although we'd like it if the d-pad on the back of the A33 were a bit larger. Sometimes we tried to press one direction and accidentally bumped a different direction on the d-pad instead.

SONY_A33_Buttons1.jpg

The main menu on the A33 is both stylish and functional. it is easy to read with its bright white text and black background, and it is simple to navigate with the directional pad on the right side of the camera. You can sift through menu options by pressing the d-pad up and down, or you can jump to a new page by pressing the d-pad to the left or right.

The function menu is a quick-access menu that is meant to be used to adjust controls on the fly. It can be more complicated to use than the main menu because it is full of confusing icons and abbreviations that require some previous knowledge to fully comprehend. Using the function menu does not bring you to an alternate screen like the main menu does. You select and adjust options while the camera is in use, which means the background of the menu is comprised of whatever the lens is pointing at at the moment.

We found the manual for the A33 to be extensive and well written. It covered everything we looked for, although it occasionally glossed over subjects (like stabilization) that we wanted to get more information about. In addition to the manual, the camera does have an in-menu help system that should answer any basic questions you have about settings and menu options. To activate this help mode, just highlight a menu selection, but wait a second before selecting it. An info screen will pop up after a moment and provide you with some helpful text.

The SLT-A33 from Sony showed us good color accuracy in our bright light video testing, although its numbers weren't that of a top-notch camcorder. In all, the A33 measured a color error of 3.82 and a saturation level of 94.84%, both of which are very similar to the numbers put up by the Sony A55 in this test.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.

The camera has six color modes that can be used for recording video, although we did all of our video testing with the Standard color option. Some modes will raise or lower the saturation level, others will tweak certain colors in the spectrum, and the Black & White mode should be self-explanatory.

Check out the video color comparisons below for a better look at the colors captured by each model in their respective video modes. The two Sony cams did the best in terms of color accuracy, while the Pentax and Canon models were slightly below average when compared to how high-end camcorders usually perform in this test.

Because of their large sensors, video-capable DSLRs usually perform very well in our noise testing, often putting up better numbers than high-end camcorders. The Sony A33 averaged 0.45% noise in this test, and we consider anything under 0.5% to be a very low amount of noise. The A33's performance was equaled by last year's Sony A55 and the Pentax K-x, while the Canon T2i measured slightly more noise (but still kept the levels fairly low).

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.

The Sony SLT-A33 records Full HD video (that's a 1920 x 1080 resolution) using a 60i frame rate. There's also an option for recording video at a 1440 x 1080 resolution using an alternate compression system (MP4) and a 30p frame rate. We liked what we saw from the A33's 60i recording, however, and it is pleasing to see this kind of frame rate offered on a DSLR. Most only have 30p or 24p recording options, so having a 60i setting is somewhat refreshing. Of course, we would have appreciated a 24p record mode as well.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.

The A33 produced crisp video in our testing, but its sharpness numbers weren't quite that of its higher-end cousin, the Sony A55. In all, the A33 managed a horizontal sharpness of 700 lw/ph, but its vertical sharpness was only 600 lw/ph. While these numbers are good, and are also better than most video-capable DSLRs we've tested, they are still a bit lower than the sharpness scores we are accustomed to seeing from high-end HD camcorders. Perhaps with a better lens the A33 could improve its results on this test.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.

The Sony A33 required 17 lux of light to obtain a video image bright enough to register at 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This score is not great by any means, and it represents a significantly worse score than the Sony A55, but needing 17 lux of light to record a viable image isn't the worst low light performance we've seen. Many mid-range HD camcorders need around this amount of light to hit 50 IRE on our waveform monitor, and we've seen plenty of video-capable DSLRs (like the Pentax K-x) that did even worse than the A33 on this test.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.

One other thing to keep in mind with this test: a lot of what determines low light performance for a camera like the A33 is contingent on what kind of lens you use to shoot. Using a faster lens than the f/3.5 kit lens we tested with the A33 would almost certainly result in improved low light performance, and possibly better performances in other tests (or worse, depending on the test). An f/3.5 lens isn't the best for shooting in low light, so it is important to remember that fact when you check out the A33's video low light scores.

The SLT-A33 had a steep drop in color accuracy during our low light video testing (compared to bright light). In this test, the camera measured a disappointing color error of 6.32, although the saturation level was still a solid 91.26%. This color error is not as good as the Sony A55 and Canon T2i were capable of. The Pentax K-x put up similar numbers to the A33.

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance.

Color accuracy wasn't great from the A33 in low light, but the camera did do well in our low light noise video testing. The A33 measured just over 1.0% noise in this test, which is a solid score—even though it is more noise than last year's Sony A55 showed us in low light. We consider a noise level of around 1% to be good in this test, so the A33's noise numbers here are solid (and they are better than we see from most consumer camcorders).

Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.

The A33 has two compression options for recording video. There's an AVCHD record mode, which should be familiar to anyone who has used an HD camcorder in the past few years, and there's an MPEG-4 recording option. Both modes record using 30p frame rates, but only the AVCHD option allows for recording a 1920 x 1080 image (Full HD). The MPEG-4 mode tops out with a 1440 x 1080 resolution and it also has a standard definition record setting called VGA (640 x 480).

Auto Mode

One of the big downsides to the Sony A33 is the camera's lack of manual control options for video recording. Essentially, the camera is functions entirely in auto mode from the moment you press the record button until you stop the recording by pressing it again. During recording, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are set automatically and all three are impossible to adjust. The one benefit of the A33's entirely-automated video mode is that the camera does have a better autofocus system than most video-capable DSLRs.

Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio

The A33 is an interchangeable lens camera, so the zoom controls and zoom ratio completely depend on what lens you have attached. The 18 - 55mm kit lens that we used has around a 3x optical zoom and the zoom is controlled by rotating the ring on the lens. If you're used to consumer camcorders with their large 10x - 20x zooms, the lack of optical magnification on video-DSLRs may be difficult to get used to.

Focus

As we said above, the autofocus system on the A33 is one thing that sets the camera apart from other video-DSLRs. Because of Sony's translucent mirror technology, the A33 can continually focus automatically (even during recording) without the need to press or hold a button. The focus is quite jarring, though, and it is far different than the smooth, gradual focus transitions that you see on most camcorders these days. The autofocus system on the A33 is also a lot louder and slower than that of a traditional camcorder. If this isn't your thing, you can switch the focus system to manual (where you use the lens ring to adjust), or you can turn off the continual autofocus and only have the camera re-focus when you press a button.

Exposure, Aperture and Shutter Speed

Exposure is the only manual control that can be adjusted freely on the A33 in video mode. You can set exposure during or prior to beginning your video recording, and the range of adjustment is on a -2 to +2 scale with 1/3 EV increments.

Sony makes things confusing by not offering a dedicated video mode on the A33's mod dial. This means you can start recording in manual mode, which makes you think that shutter and aperture are adjustable, but they aren't in reality. You can adjust those settings, but as soon as you hit the record button the A33 switches them over to manual control. Having a simple, dedicated video mode would eliminate a lot of this confusion.

ISO and Other Controls

ISO, like aperture and shutter speed, is also not adjustable in video mode (and it has the same quirky issue that makes you think it's being adjusted). Even if you select a specific ISO prior to recording, the camera will revert to auto ISO when you start recording video.

So what features can be used in video? The creative style picture options can, and they function the same way they do for photos. Also, you can set white balance presets or use a manual white balance for video recording.

The A33 has a built-in stereo microphone, which is more than you can say about most DSLRs that record video. We wouldn't go as far as saying this mic is well-placed, however, as its location on the top of the A33 is right in the middle of a few buttons and controls (i.e. the exact place a finger my accidentally rub up against it).

Thankfully, you can avoid using the built-in mic altogether by connecting an external mic to the 3.5mm mic jack on the side of the camera (a great boon if you're overly concerned about audio quality). Or, if you don't care for audio at all, you can turn off audio recording in the menu system.

There are a few features on the Sony A33 that are helpful tools for video recording. The main thing is the tilting LCD that folds out from the camera and can rotate 270 degrees. We love this screen design, but it isn't quite as good as having an LCD that folds out horizontally (like you see on most camcorders). Still, the fact that the LCD isn't stationary is a big help when shooting video both on a tripod or off. Other handling benefits include a viewfinder that can be used during video recording (this is rare for DSLRs), the A33's continual autofocus system, and the camera's light design that makes it easier to hold during long video shoots.

The A33 also has various quirks and problems with its video recording. For starters, the video recording frame is very different than what you see when you frame photos. The only way to see the actual video frame size is to either start recording or to turn on one of the grid settings and look at the small, l-shaped brackets (they represent the corners of the video frame). This issue, as with many of the camera's video problems, could have been solved if Sony had put a dedicated video mode on the A33.

SONY_A33_Handling_Back.jpg

Having a dedicated video mode would also have reduced the confusion around what settings are adjustable for video recordings. Since you can record video in any mode, most users will assume the adjustments to aperture and shutter speed that are set in manual mode will hold true when you start recording video. In actuality, the A33 turns to entirely automated control when you start video recording, and any changes to aperture, shutter speed, or ISO that you made previously are ignored.

Because of the extra pixels on its image sensor, the Sony SLT-A55V was able to put up better numbers in a lot of our image tests than the A33. There were some tests, like noise and dynamic range, where the two models were neck and neck, but the A55V did better as a whole.

Performance:

If you want a slight boost in performance, the Sony A55V will certainly give you that. Its higher-resolution options over the A33 offer sharper images, better video performance, and stronger results overall, but the difference isn't all that huge. The A33 held its own in most of our tests, often performing just slightly beneath the A55V based on our scores. If you can get by with its oh-so-slightly diminished performance, the A33 is definitely the better deal than the A55V (considering its price tag is $150 less).

Components:

We weren't crazy about the 18-55mm kit lens that shipped with the A33, but there are many other lenses you can go with that fit Sony's Alpha (A-mount) system. Sony doesn't have the quality or quantity of lenses that you can get from Canon or Nikon models, but the A-mount series does give you a number of options. Basically, unless you're a huge lens hound, the Sony Alpha system will suit you fine.

Handling:

As we said in the intro to this page, the A33 and A55V have identical body designs. This means they handle in the exact same way for the most part. Both cameras are small enough to wield with one hand to a point, but using to hands is definitely ideal. The only significant difference here may be with the speed priority modes on these models. The A55V has a slight advantage, with its ability to capture 10 photos/sec, although the A33 wasn't far behind with its 7 photos/sec option. Other than that, you shouldn't notice much of a difference as to how these models feel in your hand and react when you use them. If you've used one, you should see little difference from the other.

Controls:

In addition to their identical body designs, the A33 and A55V have a similar set of controls and features as well. We outlined the A55V's advantage with burst shooting above, but its other key feature that is absent on the A33 is GPS. GPS allows you to keep track of your photos by location, as the camera will automatically tag where each photo was taken on a map. It can be very useful, particularly if you're on a long vacation traveling to various locales, but many people will have little interest in this feature. If you have no need for GPS, the advantage of the A55V over the A33 becomes even smaller.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Looking at the score table below, you'll quickly see the A33 bested the Pentax K-x in nearly all of our tests (with the exception of color accuracy). Most striking was the fact that the A33 tore the pants off of the Pentax K-x in our video scores.

Performance:

Better scores in our testing categories usually means better performance overall, and that's clearly the case with the A33 vs. the Pentax K-x. The A33 captured sharper images, produced less noise, and did much better in our shot-to-shot speed tests. For video recording, the A33 beat out the Pentax K-x in low light performance, which was an area where the K-x had serious struggles. The A33 also recorded sharper videos than the Pentax, but that's not surprising. The Pentax K-x tops out with a 720p video mode instead of 1920 x 1080 Full HD recording.

Components:

Everything about the components of the K-x are less impressive than what the Sony A33 offers. Pentax includes a smaller, less-resolute LCD than Sony, the K-x does not include a rechargeable battery pack (it works off AA batteries), and the camera has no HDMI output for viewing your high definition videos on an HDTV. In each of these areas the A33 offers a better option.

Handling:

The K-x and the A33 appear to be of similar build, but when you dig into the specs you'll see that the Pentax is a significantly heavier model. This is likely to do to the fact that the K-x is a true DSLR with a moveable mirror inside, while the A33 has its translucent mirror technology that keeps its weight down. Despite the fact that it is a bit larger and heavier, the K-x is still a small DSLR (compared to most other DSLRs), and its right grip is comfortable and easy to hold. Overall, though, we like the Sony A33 better. It's just a little more compact and its button layout is more organized, although both cameras have good menu designs.

Controls:

The K-x has all the basic modes and features you'd want from a DSLR camera, just like you get on the Sony A33. The A33 does have more impressive drive and burst mode options, as well as a few unique features like dynamic range optimization and auto high dynamic range. But the big difference is that the A33 handles its features better and uses them to turn out stronger performance than the K-x.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Looking at the scores below, you'll see that the Canon Rebel T2i didn't run away with this victory. The A33 put up better numbers in our shot to shot speed tests, as well as in our very important resolution test. The Canon ruled the day in terms of color accuracy and video performance, however.

Performance:

The T2i has a higher-megapixel image sensor than the A33 (18 vs. 14.2), but that still didn't allow the camera to perform better in our resolution tests. Both cameras did well in this field for mid-range DSLRs, but the A33's edging of the T2i is both surprising and impressive. The T2i did better in other testing categories, however, particularly with color accuracy, white balance, and low light video performance.

Components:

The T2i's LCD is completely stationary on the back of the camera, which is a strong disadvantage when compared to the A33's articulated screen. Other than this, the two cameras have very similar components and ports. We do like Canon's selection of lenses available with the Rebel T2i than what is offered for the Sony Alpha A33, however, so if you're big into optics that may be a strong point to consider.

Handling:

The T2i is a full-fledged DSLR, but it comes in weighing just under 40 grams more than the A33. That's really not much in the grand scope of things. Also, the dimensions of the two models aren't too far off. Both have fairly compact designs for cameras of their class, and both are easy to grip and handle. We were impressed by the button layout and menu system on the T2i, but, we must say, the A33 also did a good job in this category. Overall, we'd have to give Canon a slight edge—its menu design and instruction manual for the T2i are top-notch for a DSLR.

Controls:

Not much separates these two models in terms of features and controls. Both have intuitive auto modes and various levels of manual controls that are easy to learn and work with. Canon includes more individual settings on its mode dial, however, which can make it appear cluttered, but does make things easier to adjust on the fly (you don't have to venture into the on-screen menu system as much). We'd say neither of these cameras has a strong advantage over the other in this category.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Despite their difference in weight and design, the Panasonic G2 and Sony A33 actually came out nearly even in our scores. As you can see from the table below, each camera had advantages in different places. The G2 scored higher in color accuracy and resolution, while the A33 did better in long exposure, shot to shot speed, and dynamic range. The two models put up very similar numbers in our noise and white balance tests.

Performance:

Frankly, the G2's excellent resolution scores surprised us during our testing, so that's probably the most important performance aspect of the camera to note. The camera had little in the way of lens distortion and its images were consistently sharp across various focal lengths and aperture settings. Where the G2 failed, however, was in image stabilization. In our testing, the G2's stabilization setting did almost nothing to improve the sharpness of its image while we shook the camera. This was an area where the A33 put up fairly good numbers, although we have seen better performances from other models.

In video performance, these two cameras weren't far apart, but, again, they both had their strengths and weaknesses. The G2 didn't have as sharp of a video image as the A33, but it did better in our color and noise testing.

Components:

The G2 has both an articulated LCD and an electronic viewfinder—just like the Sony A33. Since the Micro Four Thirds lens system used by the G2 is still fairly new, there aren't too many G-series lenses available for the camera. The Sony A33 holds an advantage here for now.

Handling:

Some, particularly those who are used to traditional DSLRs, may find the G2 to be too small or too light, but we really don't mind its size. Of course, the A33 isn't an overly bulky camcorder either, but it still weighs a good 120g more than the G2. So, if you want a lighter camera, the G2 is the better bet. The A33 feels more durable and has a better grip, however.

Controls:

The A33 has more controls and features than the G2, but for the beginner the G2 may be the less daunting model. The G2 seems built for amateur photographers who want to play around with various color styles and auto modes rather than delve into true manual controls.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A33 did not blow us away in any specific area, but the camera did a passable job in all of our tests. If you're overly concerned about image performance, then there are plenty of other cameras that will please you more than the A33 (like the Sony A55V). But, we found the A33 to be a handy shooter with a good set of controls, an intuitive menu system, and some fun features to boot.

Performance

The A33 will not grant you the sharpest images on the planet, nor will it even come close. The camera tops out with a 14.2 megapixel resolution, which is significantly lower than most DSLRs offer these days. We also saw quite a bit of lens distortion in our testing, as well as problems with white balance both in auto and manual modes. Like the Sony A55V before it, the A33 did an excellent job in our speed tests where it was able to shoot full-resolution images at 7 frames per second. This wasn't quite as impressive as the A55V's 10fps performance, but it was close.

Video Performance

The benefits of Sony's translucent mirror design on the A33 really come to the forefront during video recording. The autofocus is both quick and will continue for the duration of your video recording—without the need to press or hold a button. The focus is still quite noisy, however, so we would not consider it to be as good as the focus systems you find on a regular camcorder. Besides the focus system, the A33 also did a good job in our video performance tests. Our only complaint: the camera needs more manual controls in video mode as well as a dedicated movie mode to make the interface less complicated.

Components

Like the Sony A55V, the A33 feels solidly constructed, has a good button layout, and includes a good amount of ports and terminals (the external mic jack is a fun bonus). The articulated LCD is one of our favorite features on the camera, as it makes the A33 much easier to use with a tripod or when shooting video. Some users may not like the fact that the camera has an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical one, but that's something that comes with the turf with Sony's translucent mirror design.

Handling:

We like the mid-range size of the A33. The camera is large enough to look and be professional, but it is small enough to control with one hand if the situation warrants it. The right grip is strong, and its ribbed texture enables you to get a good handle on the A33.

Controls:

The shooting modes and features on the camera are plentiful, although we were occasionally confused by the cameras dual auto modes and lack of a dedicated video mode. Manual users should be satisfied with what the A33 has to offer, although we found some of the special modes, like 3D panorama, to be more gimmicky than anything else.

Meet the tester

Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

Shoot us an email