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|Product:||Sony Alpha A99|
Sony Alpha A99 DSLR Review - The Sony Alpha A99 is the premium full frame digital SLR from Sony with Sony's translucent mirror technology offering high speed auto focus and shooting. Find out how it performs in our review.
The Sony Alpha A99 is Sony's premium full frame Digital SLR and the long awaited update to the Sony Alpha A900 and A850, introducing the SLT (Sony Translucent) technology to full frame, and could very well mark the end of optical viewfinders in Sony Digital SLRs. The Sony Alpha A99 features a 24.3 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, 6fps continuous shooting, full HD video with continuous AF, and an impressive 2.359million dot OLED electronic viewfinder.
The Sony Alpha A99 features a new 24.3 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, with new optical low-pass filter, and a shutter rated for 200,000 shots. The sensor has been designed for improved noise performance thanks to better sensitivity to light at the pixel level.
The camera offers 6fps continuous shooting at full resolution as well as a 10fps continuous shooting mode at a cropped resolution. The body is weathersealed and has a magnesium alloy structure internally. The optional battery grip also features the same level of weather sealing.
Movie recording has been developed with Sony's broadcasting team, and provides full HD 60p recording, with full time continuous AF. P/A/S/M manual movie modes have been upgraded. Sound can be recorded by the camera, or using the microphone socket. Audio level display and rec level control is provided, as well as a silent multi controller on the front of the camera. Full HD movie output via HDMI, with shooting info on/off, (simultaneous full HD to screen and other screen), as well as a headphone socket is provided.
The camera has built in GPS, a high resolution OLED Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) with 2.359 million dots, and the screen on the back is a high resolution VGA equivalent 3 inch tilting and swivelling screen to let you take photos and videos from awkward angles.
- 24.3 megapixel Full frame CMOS sensor
- Sony A / Alpha lens mount
- Built in SteadyShot Image Sensor
- 3 inch 1,228,800 dots (VGA equivalent, WhiteMagic)
- OLED EVF: 2,359,296 dots
- 6fps continuous shooting, 10fps in telezoom mode
- 19-point AF with 11 cross sensors, with 102-point focal plane phase detection AF sensor
- Weatherproof magnesium alloy body
- Full HD video recording, mic, headphone sockets
- Dual memory card slots, slot 1: MS/SD, slot 2: SD
- ISO: 50 - 25600
- GPS built in
Handling - The A99 has a deep hand grip and may be more suited to someone with larger hands - it also features a rubber grip that goes the whole way around the camera from the back thumb grip to the front. With the optional vertical hand grip the camera becomes much larger again and thanks to the magnesium alloy weather sealed body, it feels very well made and very strong. The Sony Alpha A99 without the grip feels extremely comfortable to hold even with one hand, although not recommended, it is a sign that the design and ergonomics are well thought out. The mode dial is released with a middle button, and features 3 custom memory recall positions.
A new flash hot-shoe has been added to the Sony A99, along with the Sony NEX-6 and Sony RX1, which makes it much easier to add standard ISO accessories to the camera. The tilting, swivelling screen is extremely versatile letting you point it forwards either above the camera or below, as well as giving better viewing when holding the camera above or below you. The front focus control button can be used to set different options, and the scroll wheel around the button makes switching between the options quick and easy.
|Sony A99 Rear Display||Sony A99 Setting AF Range|
Another new feature of the Sony Alpha A99 is the ability to set the AF range for the lens, for example if there isn't a focus limiting switch on the lens, or you want to be more precise about where you want the camera to focus, so the lens doesn't hunt for focus and therefore focus can be even quicker.
Menus – The menu system is well laid out with the menus starting with photo options and then spread over a number of pages are the playback, setup and more advanced options. With the A99 having a number of external controls and buttons you rarely need to access the menus, as the option is displayed on the LCD while changing it. Using the function button it's also possible to get access to most controls on the rear screen.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 410 shots according to Sony / CIPA test results, we were able to take 400 shots with 42% battery life remaining. As the camera uses an Info-Lithium battery, the remaining battery life is shown on the camera as a percentage.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
|Sony Alpha A99||Sony RX100|
|Wide - Focus / Shutter Response||0.15*||0.3|
|Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response||N/A||0.3|
|Switch on Time to Taking a Photo||1.0||2.2|
|Shot to Shot without Flash||0.7||0.9|
|Shot to Shot with Flash||N/A||2.1|
(shots before slow down)
|6fps (11 shots)||7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)|
|Continuous Shooting - Flash||N/A||1.6s|
|Continuous Shooting - RAW||6fps (11 shots)||4fps (13 shots)|
Shutter response is excellent, and the camera has quick shot to shot times. 10fps shooting mode is cropped from the centre and at a reduced resolution of 4.6 megapixels, and takes 16 shots before slowing down. * Focus was very quick, except when the 100mm macro lens was hunting for focus, and using the AF range setting it was possible to set the focus range to the correct distance and avoid the macro lens from hunting, giving excellent focus speeds.
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Sony Alpha A99 Sample Photos
Drive | 1/125 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Fountain | 1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Hall | 1/500 sec | f/8.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Leaves | 1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Water | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Sample Photos - Images shot with the camera come out with bright saturated colour, and levels of detail are good, with particularly saturated reds and blues. Our studio portrait was shot using manual white balance.
Sony Alpha A99 Lens test images
Clock | 1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Trees | 1/125 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Gate - Towards Sun | 1/200 sec | f/5.6 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Macro | 1/100 sec | f/4.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 4000
Lens Performance - Dynamic range is excellent with reliable exposure in a variety of shooting situations. Some purple fringing is visible in the shot of the trees, although this was not a concern in other shots. Focusing was very reliable and the 100mm Macro lens gives excellent macro performance, as would be expected.
Sony Alpha A99 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is excellent at ISO50, ISO100, ISO200 and ISO400 with very good detail. Noise appears slightly at ISO800 when viewing images at full size, although it's not very easily noticed until ISO1600. At ISO3200 noise increases again and this grain is easier to see, with a slight loss of detail. At ISO6400 noise increases again and detail drops slightly. At ISO12800 there is a loss of colour saturation as noise increases again, and the camera appears to apply strong chroma noise reduction. At ISO25600 noise it at it's worst and image quality suffers, although it's worth noting that these images could still provide useful when resized. ISO Noise reduction settings: Long Exposure NR (On), High ISO NR (Low, options: Off, Low, Normal).
Sony Alpha A99 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten lighting, giving a slightly warm result, with the tungsten preset giving a more accurate result. AWB performs very well under fluorescent lighting, with each fluorescent preset giving a different colour cast.
1/125 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100 - Panoramic mode automatically stitches the photos together as you pan the camera from one side to another.
Sony Alpha A99 Digital filters
Normal | 1/125 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR Painting Mid | 1/160 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
High Contrast Mono | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Miniature | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Part Green | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Pop | 1/160 sec | f/4.5 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Posterisation | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Retro | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Rich Tone Mono | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Soft Focus Mid | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Soft High Key | 1/100 sec | f/4.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 250
Toy Cam | 1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
Digital Filters - Creative effects shown above - unfortunately it's not possible to record RAW original images when using these effects. There are a variety of colour options and creative effects including HDR painting and Rich Tone Monochrome - both of these take 3 photos and merge them together for greater dynamic range. The colour options let you customise contrast, saturation and sharpness.
Video - Video options include P/A/S/M shooting, AVCHD, MP4, Steadyshot On/Off, AF tracking, Wind noise reduction, and creative styles as well as picture effects can be applied. Max ISO for video is ISO6400. Continuous AF during videos is extremely quick as this video shows.
Value For MoneyThe Sony Alpha A99 is available for £2299 body only which makes it reasonable value for money, although since its introduction, the Nikon D600 (23.4mp, 5.5fps, £1379) and Canon EOS 6D (20.2mp, GPS, Wi-Fi, 4.5fps, £1799) offer similar levels of performance for noticeably less, and of the following cameras, the Canon EOS 6D and Canon EOS 5D Mark III (22.3mp, 6fps, £2299) can be used at higher ISO settings, although the 6D is the only one of these that doesn't feature a headphone socket. Alternatively the Nikon D800/D800E, offers the highest resolution at 36.3mp, 4fps, and is available for £1849.
|Nikon D600||Nikon D800||Canon 5D Mark III|
You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
The camera provides good handling, with rapid speed and a relatively easy to use menu system and controls. A large number of external buttons and dials aid quick setting changes, and the introduction of a more standard flash socket is an improvement over the previous Sony flash hot-shoe. With a Sony Info-lithium battery you get excellent information about how long you have left to shoot as well.
Image quality is particularly pleasing with excellent noise performance and focus performance is excellent thanks to the cameras SLT technology, allowing fast focusing for continuous shooting as well as video recording. Another unique feature is AF range control which could be particularly useful for sports or wildlife photographers where the subject is a set distance. Colour, detail, and dynamic range are all excellent with the camera producing great photos straight from the camera.
The Sony Alpha A99 has a number of unique features that help it stand out amongst other full frame Digital SLRs, and importantly delivers some impressive benefits thanks to Sony's use of "Translucent Mirror" technology, namely quicker focus performance for photos and video, as well as high speed live view performance, and a high resolution OLED electronic viewfinder. For stills photography you may want to save some money and look at some of the other full frame cameras, but if you take high speed photography or are interested in video recording then the Sony Alpha A99 certainly stands out - it also takes some excellent photos.
|The Sony Alpha A99 offers excellent image quality and impressive speed.|
Sony Alpha A99 ProsExcellent noise performance
Great image quality and excellent colour
AF range control
Lens AF fine tuning
More standard ISO Flash than previous models
Built in GPS
OLED viewfinder looks excellent
Continuous AF in videos
Sony Alpha A99 ConsDoesn't automatically switch between memory card slots
Price compared to competition
Loud shutter sound
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Sony Alpha A99 Specifications
|CCD pixels||24.3Mp (Megapixels)|
|Sensor Type||Exmor CMOS|
|Sensor Size (width)||35.8mm|
|Sensor Size (height)||23.9mm|
|Screen resolution||1,228,800 dots|
|Shutter speeds shortest||1/8000sec|
|Shutter speeds longest||30sec|
|ISO sensitivity||50 - 25600|
|Optical Zoom with Video||Yes|
|Battery Type||Rechargeable battery pack NP-FM500H|
|Box Contents||No Data|