Mirror-less cameras are getting popular and Sony seems to be one of the brands pushing it. There have been micro four-third format cameras in the market for some time now, but the need for even better quality translates to the need for larger sensors. As we saw with the Sony Alpha A55 we last reviewed, DSLRs with the similar mirror-less designs have entered the market. Now it’s time to see whether the A33 clicks well in the entry-level DSLR segment.

Features
The A-33 is technically not a DSLR as it uses a translucent mirror and thus falls in the SLT (Single Lens Translucent) category of cameras. In terms of looks however, it’s not very different looking than any other entry-level DSLRs. Not only is it similar to the A55, the camera also has a very similar set of controls and settings that you find on other DSLRs.

Sleek for a DSLR

Sleek for a DSLR

Since DSLRs use a mirror to reflect light away from the shutter, they are slightly bulkier and have a tad more complicated setup. The translucent mirror system means that the optical viewfinder is replaced by an electronic viewfinder. One of the nifty features of the A33 is that it allows you to preview a scene without the blur even before shooting it – all by a press of a button located near the lens.  The panaroma shooting feature which we liked with the previous A55 camera is also present on the A33. Apart from the usual shooting modes which include the shutter priority mode and the aperture priority mode present on the camera, there’s also an Auto+ mode that automatically selects one of the scene shooting modes for you.

Sony’s user interface for the camera is not as rigid as say a Nikon or Canon’s DSLR. It’s more colourful and more suited towards newcomers. A similar colour scheme and design can be found on some of Sony’s prosumer point and shoot cameras as well. If you’ve been used to Canon and Nikon’s cameras, you’ll need some time to get the hang of the A33’s interface. An autofocus button placed in between the directional keys helps in quickly focusing on objects.

ports and buttons are placed well

Ports and buttons are placed well

In comparison to the viewfinder, the LCD screen is a lot easier and better to use. In this case, Sony has gone with an electronic viewfinder which, we found was not as good as an optical viewfinder. There’s lag and the quality of the image itself is not very good.

LCD screen is better than the viewfinder

LCD screen is better than the viewfinder

The A33 uses a 14.2 Megapixel sensor and has an ISO sensitivity range that spans from 100 to 12,800. There’s also 1080p video recording support.The camera uses the Minolta-inherited A-mount, however, the availability and the choice might be an issue if compared to the lens of Nikon or Canon cameras. Unfortunately, the same goes for the flash mount as well. Sony bundles an 18-55mm SAM (smooth autofocus motor) lens with the A33.

Design and Build Quality
The lack of the mirror mechanism means that the A33 is marginally smaller than other DSLRs. As compared to Canon’s EOS 1100D, it’s a tad shorter in height and the body itself takes up less space. There’s a very tiny difference in weight, though. Most of the camera is made of plastic and there’s a rubber grip on the right. Since this is somewhat a smaller body, holding it can be a bit of an issue, but only slightly.

The buttons are built well, soft and easy to press and the good thing is most of them are quite easy to reach. There are separate flaps for the remote control port and the microphone port. The flaps also have been built well and can take abuse. There is a built-in LCD screen that swivels but movement of the hinge is a little sluggish. The screen quality itself is pretty good and the two dials on the left and right side are built well and operate quite smoothly.

Macro images come out well

Macro images come out well

The focal ring and zoom ring are also built well, but are a little stubborn when you rotate them. We’ve seen better and smoother controls on other cameras. The zoom ring in particular, gets sluggish about half way through the zoom range.

Performance
The A55 delivered a pretty impressive image quality. The details in the image are good and can be compared to any other entry-level DSLR. Sensor performance isn’t too bad either. At low ISO levels under 400, there’s close to no sensor noise visible in the shots. At ISO 800, sensor noise is visible but only against darker shades. At ISO 3200 and above, the noise is very clear and there’s distortion visible. Unless absolutely required, we wouldn’t recommend using ISO settings beyond 1600.

Outdoor images are okay, but colours go a little awry

Outdoor images are okay, but colours go a little awry

Colours aren’t as natural as we’d like it to be. We noticed blue and cyan to be lighter than expected. This was most evident in outdoor shots where the sky was captured. Most of the other colours turned out fine. The flash is strong but it tends to wash out colours due to its intensity.

Flash works pretty well

Flash works pretty well

We also ran videos from the camera and saw that the video performance was decent. Although shot in Full HD, the level of detail wasn’t good enough as we expected it to be. Colours in the video were dull in comparison to the still images that the A33 clicked.

Level of details are impressive

Level of details are impressive

Verdict
Sony is selling the A33 at an MRP of Rs. 37,990. The A33 is a cheaper version of the A55 and if you have to compare between the two, there are very few things you’ll miss with the A33. It’s also a lot closer to the entry-level DSLRs from brands such as Nikon and Canon. There is a premium charged for the translucent mirror system, which quite honestly just brings down the size of the camera by a little bit. Apart from that, the A33 is quite similar to any other DSLR in the sub Rs. 30,000 range.

A decent Entry Level DSLR camera

A decent Entry Level DSLR camera

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