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Sony Alpha A330L review

Ben Pitt
30 Dec 2009
Sony Alpha A330L
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT

A solid set of features for the price, but performance and image quality are below average.

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Specifications

23.5x15.7mm 10.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 700g

Sony's A330 is one of the cheapest DSLRs currently available, particularly if you buy one before 30 January 2010 to take advantage of the £60 cashback scheme.

Its headline specifications measure up well against those of its competitors, with a 10-megapixel sensor, 2.7in screen with live view and a nine-point autofocus system. Optical image stabilisation is built into the camera's body so it will work with any lens. It has slots for SDHC and Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, plus an HDMI output for high-definition slideshows on an HD TV. There's no exposure lock button, though, and other important functions can only be accessed through the menu. We're not keen on the shape of the handgrip either, as it makes one-handed shooting very uncomfortable.

What distinguishes this camera from Sony's entry-level A230 is the articulated screen with live view. It tilts up by 90-degrees or down by 45-degrees, allowing you to hold the camera above your head or at waist level. Live view is an impressive inclusion on a DSLR at this price, but its implementation left us with mixed feelings. As with Sony's A380, live view autofocus is extremely quick, but the preview image is extremely slow to update in low light. It can only be magnified digitally by 2x, which isn't enough to help with manual focusing. As such, manual focus must be done with the optical viewfinder, but its relatively small size makes this harder than on most DSLRs at this price.

The A330's performance has its ups and downs, too. We measured an average of 0.6 seconds between shots in normal use, which is respectable if a little slower than most DSLRs. However, the 1.5-second flash recycling time is disappointing, and 1.9fps in continuous mode is the slowest of any DSLR.

Sony is one manufacturer that builds stabilisation into its camera bodies. Its 50mm f/1.8 lens costs £130, minus £20 cashback until 30th January, making a winning combination for low-light photography. You won't have to use high ISO speeds even in subdued artificial light, and we saw improved autofocus performance in low light.

The A330 loses this advantage with its kit lens, though. Heavy-handed noise reduction at ISO 1600 resulted in a significant loss of detail, particularly in subtle textures. It failed to suppress chroma noise, resulting in unsightly multi-coloured blotches, particularly in smooth, dark areas of images. RAW mode produced more competitive results, though. In brighter light and at lower sensitivities, the lens, sensor and image processing produced images that were hard to criticise. They lacked the biting sharpness of the best entry-level models but the difference was hard to spot except in controlled tests.

The A330L kit is attractive if bought with the 50mm f1.8 lens for £528, and even more so for £448 with the cashback offer. Otherwise, it's hard to recommend over Canon's EOS 1000D.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
CCD effective megapixels10.0 megapixels
CCD size23.5x15.7mm
Viewfinderoptical TTL
LCD screen size2.7in
LCD screen resolution230,400 pixels
Optical zoom3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent27-82.5mm
Image stabilisationoptical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution3,872x2,592
Maximum movie resolutionN/A
Movie frame rate at max qualityN/A
File formatsJPEG, RAW

Physical

Memory slotSDHC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Mermory suppliednone
Battery type6.8V 870mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested)510 shots
ConnectivityUSB, mini HDMI, DC in
Body materialplastic
AccessoriesUSB cable, neck strap
Weight700g
Size97x128x71mm

Buying Information

Price£399
Supplierhttp://www.jessops.com
Detailswww.sony.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed30 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.5 to f/22 (wide), f/5.6 to f/36 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution)100 to 3200
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 6 presets, manual
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction, dynamic range, colour space
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus25cm
Auto-focus modes9-point
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket

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