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Lessons learned from an Alpha (A33, to be exact...)

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One cool perk of working in a camera store is the ability to be among the first to try out new cameras and test drive them, so we can be better acquainted with their features and to help you with any questions you may have. Such was the case last Sunday when I got the opportunity to shoot a benefit concert for a great charity ( Healing The Children, headquartered in New Milford, CT) headlined by none other than Kevin & Michael Bacon and their band, The Bacon Bros! There were many cameras I could've choosed from, but I wanted to travel light and was very curious with the features touted by this camera, so I selected a Sony Alpha 33 to try out. What I'm sharing hereforth are 3 positive impressions I got from using the camera, using a somewhat educated yet highly unscientific basis of what I liked, letting you judge if these impressions will spark your curiosity for the camera. I'll test drive some other cameras in the weeks/months to come and hope that this can be helpful in selecting a new camera. As the beer commercial says, here we go... The great appeal of the new breed of DSLR's is their compactness and weight. The A33 was light & easy to operate, even with a older Minolta stovepipe AF  70-200mm F4 lens from their Maxxum days attached to it (Sony bought Minolta's patents when it went out of the camerea business, and as a result, older Minolta Maxxum AF  lenses can be used on Sony Alpha cameras). I was also impressed with their new features, which add an element of fun and practical usefulness to the shooting experience. Picture 1 is a shot of the marquee of the Bardovan Opera House in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Using the A33's auto HDR feature, it allowed for a shot that illuminated the highlights of the marquee, as well as the shadow features of the detailed tiles underneath. Shots taken without HDR didn't show any tile detail at all. Cool! I also took advantage of using the fast 7 frames a second rate on a few occasions (It's big brother The A55 does 10 frames a second, which I felt was unnecessary for this shoot), and while concert photography may not completely lend itself to burst shot photography, it did allow for an ability to capture every move and nuanced expression (Side note: Get yourself a big enough card if you shoot continuously. I filled up an 8GB card in no time!) An expanded ISO range to ISO 3200 definitely helped in the tricky low light photography that concert shots involve. Much can also be said for cameras that have built in image stabilization. Shot #2 of the Bacon Brothers in action was taken using the beforementioned Minolta zoom lens, made long before image stabilization existed. Great quality but long & heavy by current standards, it's performance greatly improved simply by becoming image stabilized when used on the A33 body. Shot using the burst mode, spot metering, ISO 3200 and IS, I was able to get a number of great shots of Kevin, Michael and the band. I got good results using a number of different shooting modes (Auto, Sports and Portrait in this case). The ergonomics of the camera allowed for shooting with ease, and the option of using the viewfinder(which is a small video screen instead of a standard viewfinder due to the translucent mirror the A33 & 55 uses) or an articulating live view screen was useful when shooting in a difficult angle, like above a crowd. Image 3  is a shot of the auditorium during an after-concert awards ceremony. While I would've loved that the audience was better lit, it gives you an idea of how well the in-camera sweep panorama feature works and what a dramatically different image you can easily get with this camera. The panoramic shot is achevied by the camera taking dozens of individual images while you hold down the shutter button and "sweeping" the camera from side to side or up and down. The Bionz image-processing engine examines all these images, takes portions from each, applies geometric and tonal corrections to each portion, and then stitches them together into a single panoramic image. The results are as you see, fun! Conclusion: The Alpha A 33 is an quick, light feature-laden DSLR that is lots of fun and easily adaptable for many different shooting situations. Come in and we'll be happy to show you the A33 and A55, named Pop Photo's 2010 Camera of the Year. FYI-For more info on the good work that Healing The Children does throughout the world, please check out their website: http://www.htcne.org/  (Photos by Fred Bonilla)

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