As a relative newcomer to the digital SLR market, having launched its first model only three years ago, Sony has made a surprisingly large impact, with the latest report that I've seen placing them third in worldwide DSLR sales after Nikon and market leaders Canon, outselling established brands such as Pentax, Olympus and Fujifilm. The key to this success has been a well-structured range of good quality cameras at relatively affordable prices, ranging from the entry-level 10.2MP A200, available for under £300 including lens, the mid-range 14.2MP A350 at just under £400, the excellent (but due for an update) A700 at around £675, all the way up to the 24.6MP full-frame A900, currently selling for around £1,900 body only.
Sony has recently launched the first three examples of its third generation of DLSR cameras, including the new entry-level 10.2MP A230, the mid-range 14.2MP A380, and today's review camera the A330, which is sold in the UK exclusively through Jessops.
The new models all share very similar all-new body designs, finally shedding the last traces of the Minolta Dynax design elements that Sony inherited along with Konica-Minolta's DSLR technology back in 2006. The A330 shares the same body and features as the more powerful A380, including a 2.7-inch fold-out monitor screen with live view.
The new body shape looks a lot more contemporary than previous models, with sharper edges and broader curves, but it won't be to everyone's taste. The big comfortable handgrip of the A200 and A350 has been replaced with a smaller thinner half-height grip, with the shutter button and adjustment wheel placed on the camera body rather than on the top front of the grip. Personally I found this to be a rather awkward arrangement, with the adjustment wheel particularly hard to reach when holding the camera for shooting.
Although the A330 is a relatively small camera the body is a lot thicker than other similar models, and despite the textured rubber coating over the lower half of the body, and the sculpted thumbgrip on the back, I found the camera to be awkwardly balanced and slightly uncomfortable to hold.