Sony Alpha SLT-A33 Review / Test Report - Applications
DSLR Reviews - DSLRs

The following section is organized by the variety of photographic scenarios LANDSCAPE, MACRO, NIGHT, PORTRAIT and SPORTS photography.

Nature Photography

The Sony SLT-A33 provides pretty much everything you need for outdoor photography. A compact and lightweight body of around 433g (without lens), a double anti dust system including electromagnetic vibration and a fixed mirror and a small battery - unfortunately! Because the NP-FW50 has a battery life at CIPA conditions of approx. 270 images with viewfinder and approx. 340 images in live view mode and this is slightly above what I have noticed during the field test. So don't forget you spare batteries if your on a multi-day tour without sufficient power supply.
Nevertheless, good news for people who want to preview the depth-of-field. Although these days more and more cameras are offered without a DOF-button the small Sony SLT-A33 can score with this useful feature.
As already mentioned during the body tour, the good electronic viewfinder includes super-imposable grid lines and one of my favourite features - an artificial horizon which is pretty useful for perfectly arranged images.
When talking about available lenses for great landscape shots the Zeiss ZA 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 DT is an obvious choice. The Sony 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 isn't all that great though so you might have a look at third-party options here. The Sony 70-300mm G or Sony 70-400mm G are obvious choices with respect to wildlife photography and for the professionals there's the Sony 300mm f/2.8 SSM G and, soon, a 500mm f/4 SSM G.

Macro Photography

The SLT-A33 is very suitable for macro photography as low level shots are easily possible with its articulating display. Especially the possibility to zoom the viewfinder image in two steps up to 14 times magnification is useful for macro photography. The available ring- (HVL-RLAM) or twin-flashes (HVL-MT24AM) are dedicated units for macro scenarios.
The number of macro lenses is very small in Sony land, however the Sony 100mm f/2.8 macro, albeit a little dated, is able to produce very sharp results combined with a negligible amount of distortions, vignetting and lateral CAs. Sony does also a offer a very affordable 30mm f/2.8 macro and a 50mm f/2.8 macro. For a long tele options you have to use third-party alternatives though.

Night/Low-Light Photography

The Sony Alpha SLT-A33 doesn't offer something special for night photography compared to other competitors. Its high ISO performance is rather typical for an APS-C DSLR and as such not overly impressive beyond ISO 800. The long exposure noise reduction works fine so tripod-based night images are no problem. As usual bulb exposure is available but it's not programmable so the the exposure button has to remain pressed during the whole exposure. Alternatively, you can use the wired remote control RM-L1AM or RM-S1AM, which offer release adjustment for bulb exposure. Furthermore, the electronic viewfinder appeals brighter under low light conditions due to a sort of "low-light amplifier" and gives more control in low light situations, but with a very noisy viewfinder image.

It was mentioned that the translucent mirror can cause a ghosting effect due to the internal reflections in the glass. This is recreatable e.g. when shooting a city night scene where (overexposed) street lights can cause a light shadow. However, we consider this be a secondary issue.

Sony follows with SteadyShot the trend of camera build-in image stabilizers. This sensor-shift mechanism is comparable to Canon and Nikon lenses with built-in image stabilizers and offers - according to the Sony website - compensation of up to 4EV steps. However, this varies according to shooting conditions and lens used. Good high speed prime lenses with Sony/Minolta mount are quite rare at this stage except the Zeiss ZA Planar T* 85mm f/1.4, which is already able to produce exceptionally sharp and contrasty results straight from f/1.4. In the budget league there are the Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT and 35mm f/1.8 DT which are both pretty good actually.

Portrait Photography

Generally, the SLT-A33 provides all camera features required for portrait photography as well as a face recognition system including a smile detection system that can be switched on and fortunately off. A cute gimmick but not really needed for more serious portrait photography. More important is the selection of special portrait lenses with a typical focal length between ~50-135mm. The Zeiss ZA 85mm f/1.4 and ZA 135mm f/1.8 are obvious choices. However, the Sony 135mm f/2.8 STF is also definitely worth a look - it offers the very best bokeh available out there. The new Sony 85mm f/2.8 is an excellent budget option for instance. The min. X-sync of 1/160sec is generally fine for portrait photography and furthermore high-speed sync. is also available with external flash units.

Sports Photography

There are no mirror movements thus no mirror-induced delays ...and this results in up to seven frames per second in "Continuous Advance Priority AE" mode which suggest the Sony is more than geared for fast sport action shots.
However, this is only aspect of the whole scope as the refresh rate of the electronic viewfinder is somewhat slow to track the target and sometimes guessing the target's location is the only workaround in burst mode.
Furthermore, there are limitations during burst shooting as you can choose only between a fixed fully open aperture as well as automatically controlled ISO and fixed shutter in combination with a locked focus. Additionally the size of the memory buffer is disappointingly small because the number of continuous frames is limited to 16 JPEGs or 7 RAWs.
Nevertheless, the electronic viewfinder implementation is for sure already one of the fastest so far and the "Continuous Advance Priority AE" limitations might be acceptable if 7 frames are needed and the action doesn't take longer than 2 seconds.
The AF speed and accuracy is very high with a higher-than-average reliability in this camera class. The maximum shutter speed is 1/4000s - which is nothing special but usually sufficient for most kind of action photography.
Sony's lens portfolio shows some interesting but unfortunately expensive tele lenses, like the very good Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM G, which certainly deserves its "Gold" class designation or the "cheaper" Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G with very good resolution figures across the zoom range. Fast, long primes are missing in the lineup though.

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