Sony A330 Review

3.5
August 14, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10.2 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

During the review, the Sony Alpha DSLR-A330 produced images of very high quality. The shots exhibit a pleasing combination of nice colours and wide dynamic range. Noise is not a real problem up to ISO 800, though it does become rather noticeable at ISO 1600, in the form of blotchy chroma noise that the in-camera noise reduction cannot remove well. Loss of overall saturation is not a problem though, even at the highest setting of ISO 3200. Sharpness, while not bad, is only so-so with the kit lens, meaning you will be wise to save up for better optics. General exposure accuracy with matrix metering is good though not outstanding - I found myself dialing in exposure compensation settings of +0.3...+1.0 surprisingly often. Flash exposure accuracy - and consistency - was, on the other hand, best in class with the pop-up flash; thanks to the Advanced Distance Integration (ADI) system inherited from Minolta. Another Minolta legacy is the sensor-shift anti shake technology, called SteadyShot Inside by Sony, which really helps with shutter speeds that are critically slow for the focal length used.

Noise

The base sensitivity of the Sony A330 is ISO 100, with the other selectable settings being ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. Although you can disable high-ISO noise reduction via the menu, the JPEGs will always exhibit signs of NR being applied above a certain point. This causes progressive loss of sharpness and detail as you move up the sensitivity ladder and leads to a frankly unpleasant look by the time you hit ISO 1600. Switch to RAW, however, and you get back the seemingly lost fine detail, albeit at the expense of more noise, including some blotchy chroma noise as well. The bright side of this is that there is little if any loss of overall saturation, even at the highest settings. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

JPEG

RAW

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the Sony A330 are Fine and Standard for JPEGs, plus you can also opt to shoot RAW. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options.

10M Fine (100% Crop) 10M Standard (100% Crop)
   
10M RAW (100% Crop)  
 

Sharpening

The out-of-camera JPEGs can be slightly soft with the kit lens. Applying some sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop may help, although this is no substitute for sharp optics. Here are two 100% crops - the right-hand image has had some  sharpening applied and then been Saved for Web... Quality 50 in Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

Moire Artifact

During the test, we found a strange, though rare kind of artifact in one of our images, which is shown here at 100%.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM lens showed very little chromatic aberration - purple fringing - when mounted to the Sony A330. An excellent performance from this sensor-lens combination.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

Flash

The pop-up flash on the Sony A330 has a guide number of 10 (in metres) at ISO 100. Depending on shooting mode, the available flash modes may include Off, Auto, Fill, Slow Sync and Rear-curtain Sync. In addition to these, the pop-up flash can also act as a controller for wireless slaves. Another function of the built-in unit is to provide an AF assist light - this solution works, but can be more annoying to your models than the red or white AF assist lamps of some competing models. These shots of a white coloured ceiling were taken at a distance of 1.5m, and demonstrate how much extra vignetting the flash may cause, particularly at the wide end of the 18-55mm SAM lens, where its coverage is not enough to evenly illuminate the scene.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (82.5mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (82.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Red-eye was not a problem in this test. Exposure is dead on, as with every shot we took with the built-in flash.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)
   

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Sony A330 can use shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds, and there is a Bulb mode available as well, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The example below was shot at a shutter speed of 20 seconds, aperture of f/8 at ISO 100, with long-exposure noise reduction (dark frame subtraction) activated. I have included a 100% crop to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Sony A330 features Minolta's CCD-shift anti-shake technology, re-branded 'Super SteadyShot Inside' by Sony. This allows you to take hand-held photos at shutter speeds that are critically slow for the focal length used. The crops below are from two photographs, both taken at 1/10 second at a 35mm EFL of 83mm. As you can see, anti-shake does make a difference at shutter speeds like this. Importantly though, it won't help when even longer exposure times are required - in those cases, switch off IS and use a sturdy mount such as a tripod.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length Anti-Shake Off (100% Crop) Anti-Shake On (100% Crop)
1/4th sec / 70mm

Dynamic Range Optimizer

DRO is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. The selectable settings are Off, Standard [D-R] and Advanced [D-R+]. The examples show the effect of the different settings.

Off

Standard

Advanced

Entry Tags

sony, DSLR, 10 megapixel, tilting, alpha, 2.7inch LCD, dslr-330, a 330, a330, Sony A330 Review

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