The A330 delivers a fairly average noise-suppression profile for its class. Sharpness starts to degrade at about ISO 400 and color noise begins to seep in at ISO 800; you really don't want to use ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200, where images are both soft and noisy.
Caption byLori Grunin
/ Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
You can see how pervasive the noise becomes at ISO 800, though the image is still usable if not blown up to 100 percent. The overly warm automatic white balance exacerbates the problem a bit. (1/80 sec, f2.0, ISO 800, spot metering, 50mm f1.8 lens)
None of the Sony lenses I tried--the kit 18-55mm and 55-200mm or prime 50mm f1.8--generally delivered extremely sharp shots. This was one of the better ones, but as you can see the lens also displays fringing around the highlights. (1/60 sec, f2.8, ISO 100, spot metering, 50mm f1.8 lens)
The 18-55mm kit lens displays the typical barrel distortion at its widest that we frequently see on consumer-grade lenses. However, you can also see some inexplicable vignetting (darkness) on the left side which comes from the blue channel (18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens).
While the camera's colors aren't particularly accurate, they're very saturated and pleasing. Part of the problem is the default Creative Style setting, which bumps up the contrast, saturation and sharpness without telling you (it displays those settings for all the styles as 0,0,0). As a result, I first thought the white balance was simply bad. But if you dial them all down to -2,-2,-2, which is as close to "off" as I think you can get, the results are much more natural.
One nice aspect of the camera is the distinctly different results you get from each of the metering schemes; frequently, in a shot like this (metered off the face), spot and center-weighted deliver exposures that are too similar to be useful. Keep in mind, however, that by default Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer is turned on and may be exaggerating the differences slightly.