Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sony Alpha A99 Preview (Updated Additional Commentary)

Sony Alpha A99 Preview
September 2012, Carl Garrard

Sony Alpha A99 Preview: Today Sony announces the long awaited (and rumored) A900 replacement, the Alpha A99 SLT. The A99 comes in with the same 24mp of resolution as the camera it replaces, but in a completely different form factor, improved weather sealing, a raft of video features, and of course the SLT mirror design. This is Sony's new flagship still image camera for the interim and shows Sony's full commitment to the SLT design with its full lineup now complete with SLT cameras and no traditional DSLR design on the marketplace.

Sony A99 Best Price Check

Quick Headline Features- The A99 comes with a new type of hotshoe mount, new dual phase detection AF system w/11 sensitive cross points, OLED viewfinder, weather sealing, high speed frame rates (although the highest realized in aps-c crop mode only @10fps), and much much more.

When comparing side by side to the SLT A77 however, you'll find the A99 is a bit reserved with some specifications including buffer capacity, top ISO sensitivity, max frame rates in full resolution mode w/full aperture control (only 6fps with full control of the camera, 8fps in program AE mode), but favors well against its competition such as the D800 and Canon 5D MK III cameras at least on specifications alone.

Sony has definitely defined themselves apart from the competition with a full SLT lineup of cameras, and now that the last hand in this lineup (or is it the last hand.... hmmmm) has been played, its time to see how well this lineup can sustain itself on the marketplace for the long run. Alpha fans have waited a good four years for an A900 replacement, and now here it is. Enjoy!

Back when the A77 was announced I was dropped some hints about the upcoming A99, and how competitive it would be by the time it hit the market. By first inspection this camera is much more impressive in hand than you might think and should put a lot more pressure on other makers than the A900 did at its time of release. I dare say Sony is catching up, the A99 is a pretty substantial leap forward in design.

Dual slots for two different kinds of cards if you please (both slots are the same dual type)

There are  a lot of new features in the A99, too many to get into one by one, and too many to test out to see how well they hold up to Sony's claims, but one thing is for certain- you can be sure that Sony got this camera right. There are no bugs to work out now that the firmware has been worked on so extensively for all of the SLT lineup. This camera is as serious as the picture below.

Check out the programmable multi-controller on the front left of the camera, just under the lens mount release button. Its not just a dial, its a button too.

Huge list of pros on this camera that really should make A-Mount users happy that really stood out for me on this release. Improvements to the A900 are vast, but a few that are particularly noteworthy to me are as follows:

  • Customizable Dual Card Slots (write customizable raw on one jpeg on other etc etc)
  • Return of Quick Navi Interface (and yet even more improved)
  • Sensible Resolution for a Full Frame Sensor
  • Highly Updated AF System (dual phase detection, look out!)
  • Improved Weather Sealing (practically waterproof this time)
  • Best of SLT's strong points included 
  • Customizable buttons and dials galore, along with a thorough menu system and modifiable
  • Addition of the new Multi-Controller (where AF type switch was on A900)
Hard not to be excited about the A99 even though it doesn't live up to initial rumors on frame rate or buffer capacity. I think the buffer capacity will be one area users will demand gets improved with a firmware update. Doesn't bother me personally, but I know the DSLR crowd well enough to know that if you are going to have a mid-level Pro camera like the A99 as your flagship, they'll want a better buffer for the high frame rate and fast AF system.

More on the A99 soon, please keep in touch. For now, read the full press release below.



Sony Introduces New Full-Frame α99 Camera with Translucent Mirror Technology and Dual AF System

Flagship α A-mount camera delivers new levels of image quality, focus capabilities and video performance

SAN DIEGO, Sept 12, 2012 – Sony’s long awaited α99 digital camera sets a new performance standard for professional-class DSLRs, combining all of the benefits of full-frame imaging with the responsiveness and speed of Translucent Mirror Technology.
The successor to Sony’s flagship α900 DSLR, the α99 camera features a brand new 24.3 MP full-frame image sensor, a unique dual phase-detect AF system and a host of other innovative technologies that work together to deliver the best image and full HD video quality in the history of Sony’s acclaimed line of α  cameras.
“The new α99 camera is the ultimate combination of Sony’s expertise and rich history of image sensor production coupled with our truly innovative approach to camera design” said Mike Kahn, director of the alpha interchangeable lens camera division at Sony.  “It redefines what can be accomplished with a full frame DSLR camera.” 

New Levels of Imaging Performance and Response
The flagship α99 model combines its new 24.3 effective megapixel Exmor® CMOS sensor with a highly advanced BIONZ image processing engine, delivering unprecedented levels of performance in both still and video shooting. 
The full frame sensor is enhanced by a newly-developed separate multi-segment optional low-pass filter, increasing its resolving power.  Assisted by an all-new front-end LSI, the BIONZ engine can process massive amounts of image signal data from the sensor at very high speeds. Together with a powerful new area-specific noise reduction (NR) algorithm, it allows to the camera to achieve 14-bit RAW output, rich gradation and low noise.

The evolved BIONZ processor also gives the α99 model a maximum sensitivity range (in expanded sensitivity mode) as wide as ISO50 – 25600 – a range of nine stops.  Its unprecedented processing power enables the camera to shoot a burst of images at up to six frames per second at full resolution or up to 10 fps in Tele-zoom high speed shooting mode.
The new α99 digital camera features a unique dual AF system, a world’s first for digital cameras.  This camera’s main focusing system – a 19-point AF system with 11 cross sensors - is complemented by a 102-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor overlaying the main image sensor.  Harnessing the power of Translucent Mirror Technology, light is passed to both phase-detection AF sensors simultaneously and continually, measuring subject distance and position more completely than other cameras.  This unique Dual AF System permits ultra-fast, accurate autofocusing that maintains tracking focus even if a subject temporarily leaves the frame.
The AF-D (depth) continuous autofocus mode* utilizes the Dual AF system for wider and more dense coverage of the frame, significantly improving AF performance with fast or erratically moving subjects against complex backgrounds.  Additionally, during movie shooting, AF Duration control provides reliable depth focusing information and ensures that the camera maintains proper focus on its subject when objects or people cross the focal plane.     
A new AF range control allows photographers to manually select foreground and background distance to which the AF system will not respond, especially useful for shooting fast moving sports or animals through a nearby wire mesh or in front of a complex background that commonly distracts camera AF systems.

Crafted for Videographers and Movie-makers
The new α99 camera’s video capabilities build on Sony’s expertise in developing professional motion picture cameras, combining the unmatched resolving power and sensitivity of the full-frame sensor with several advanced features optimized for professional video production.
The flagship α99 model is the first full-frame DSLR to offer Full HD 60p/24p progressive video recording to meet AVCHD™ Version 2.0 specifications and Full-time Continuous AF Movie mode, allowing smooth, non-stop tracking of moving subjects. Other enhancements include real-time Full HD video output via HDMI®, and uninterrupted ‘dual-card’ recording using both of the camera’s media slots.
For added convenience while shooting video, a new silent, programmable multi-control dial on the front of the camera body allows silent adjustment of common settings during shooting including exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, aperture and much more.
The camera’s audio features are designed to meet the demanding needs of serious videographers. An audio level display and adjustable audio record levels are joined by a headphone jack for accurate in-the-field monitoring.   Additionally, the multi-interface shoe provides balance audio input for the optional XLR-K1M adaptor kit, which adds a high-quality mono shotgun microphone and pro-standard XLR connections for dependable audio acquisition.

Uncompromised Handing for Advanced Photographers
The camera’s XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage on the viewfinder screen with exceptional brightness, contrast, clarity and resolution, ensuring a detail-packed view of the desired scene and subject.  The unique electronic viewfinder will also maintain a 100% field of view with DT lenses that are optimized for APS-C sensor cameras, converting the angle of view automatically for image recording and display. 
Complementing the Tru-Finder EVF is a three-way tiltable 1229k-dot (VGA equivalent) XtraFine LCD™ display with WhiteMagic™ technology to boost overall screen brightness.  It’s especially useful for framing and shooting with the LCD in outdoor, sunny conditions.
Despite its impressive pro-class credentials, the α99 camera is the world’s lightest 35 mm full-frame interchangeable-lens digital camera. Constructed of high-rigidity magnesium alloy panels, it weighs in at just 733g (without lens and battery).  Translucent Mirror Technology, which eliminates the need for a full-frame moving mirror mechanism and heavy glass pentaprism, also contributes to the extremely light design. 
Additionally, the camera is weather-sealed and all buttons and controls have been ruggedized.  A redesigned shutter block, tested to approximately 200,000 releases, further ensures the camera’s stamina and reliability.
The camera’s enhanced ergonomics include a re-designed grip and differentiated designs of several switches and buttons that allow for intuitive fingertip operation. A new exposure mode dial lock prevents accidental rotation, and a newly-developed Quick Navi Pro interface gives quick, intuitive one-handed access to common shooting parameters and controls.
The new model can also be operated via remote PC connection. Supported functions include switching between still and video shooting plus automatic transfer of still images from camera to PC for an improved studio workflow.

Designed for Professionals: New α Lens and Accessories
The full-frame imaging capabilities of the α99 camera make it an ideal partner for the new 300mm F2.8 G SSM II (SAL300F28G2) lens. Designed for demanding sports and wildlife applications, this bright super-telephoto offers a significantly improved optical design and handling compared with its predecessor. The Sony-developed Nano AR Coating assures flawless still images and HD video with reduced flare and ghosting, offering enhanced contrast.  Further, a new LSI drive circuit offers faster, more accurate autofocus with enhanced subject tracking.  The new lens is also dust- and moisture-resistant, making it an ideal candidate for the toughest outdoor shooting assignments.
Additionally, a new wide-aperture Carl Zeiss® A-mount prime lens is now under development. Optimized for superb results with the camera’s new 35mm full frame image sensor, the Planar T* 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM will be available next spring. 
Offered exclusively for the α99 camera, the brand-new VG-C99AM vertical grip can house and manage three batteries in total (including the camera’s own on-board battery). Resistant to dust and moisture, the grip is ideal for lengthy shooting sessions in the studio or outdoors.
The brand new, range-leading HVL-F60M is a powerful flash (GN60, in meters at ISO 100) with built-in LED light that’s ideal for creative applications with still image or movie shooting.  Smart functions include wireless multi-flash ratio control and Sony’s unique Quick Shift Bounce adjustment, while operation can be controlled quickly via the flash’s intuitive Quick Navi system. Also resistant to dust and moisture, the HVL-F60M flash comes supplied with a bounce adaptor for flash and a color conversion filter for use with LED lighting.
Compatible with 49mm and 55mm diameter lenses, the new HVL-RL1 Ring Light offers highly effective LED illumination of small subjects and is ideal for macro shooting**. Its high output level (approx. 700 lx/0.3m) is approximately four times brighter than the previous model, and operation can be switched between full-ring illumination and half-ring illumination.  
The new XLR-K1M XLR Adaptor Kit is designed to meet the most demanding audio needs. It provides two pro-standard XLR terminals for connecting the α99 camera with professional microphones and mixing consoles and offers MIC/LINE input selection and separate adjustment of two channel levels to maximize operating flexibility.  The adaptor kit comes supplied with Sony professional ECM-XM1 monaural shotgun microphone, but may also be used with a wide range of professional microphones. An optional bracket is required when using the XLR-K1M kit with the α99 model.
The RMT-DSLR2 Remote Commander allows wireless shutter release for still images and start/stop control of video shooting. It’s compatible with the new α99 models as well as other α A-mount and E-mount cameras that include a remote control receiver.
Styled to reduce carrying fatigue, the new LCS-BP3 Backpack can hold the α99 camera body, an attached telephoto zoom lens plus the VG-A99AM vertical grip as well as three to four spare lenses, accessories and a laptop up to 15.5”.
The ADP-MAA is a new shoe adaptor that allows Multi Interface Shoe cameras to be used with Auto-lock Accessory Shoe accessories. This adaptor will be supplied with the new HVL-60M flash and HVL-RL1 ring light mentioned above.  Conversely, the ADP-AMA shoe adaptor allows Auto-lock Accessory Shoe cameras to be used with Multi Interface Shoe accessories.
Lastly, the PCK-LM14 Screen Protector Semi Hard Sheet safeguards the camera’s LCD screen against dust, scratches and fingerprints, and is supplied with a separate protector sheet for the top display panel.
Sony’s new SDXC memory UHS-1 memory card, SF-64UX (64 GB) is ideal for burst shooting with the α99.  It’s ultra-high speed interface (UHS-1) compatibility offers high transfer speeds up to 94 MB/s (read) and rapid data rates when transferring large RAW files of video files to  PC.  The new cards are water-resistant and designed to perform under a wide range of operating temperatures.  For additional data integrity, Sony’s File Rescue Software can help recover photos and videos that may have been accidentally deleted.

Pricing and Availability
The α99 full-frame digital system camera will be available this October as body-only for about $2800. 
The SAL300GF28G2 lens will be available this November for about $7500.
The VCG-C99AM vertical grip, HVL-F60M flash and HVL-RL1 ring light will be available this October for about $380, $550 and $350, respectively.  The XLR -K1M XLR adaptor kit and RMT-DSLR2 remote commander will also be available in October for about $800 and $30, respectively.
The LCS-BP3 backpack and PCK-LM14 screen protector will be available in October as well for about $160 and $17, respectively.
The new camera, lenses and all compatible accessories will be sold at Sony retail stores ( and other authorized dealers nationwide.
Please visit for a full video preview of the α99 camera follow #SonyAlpha on twitter for the latest α camera news.


  1. Thanks & congrats on getting the preview out first.

    b shaw

  2. Yes a very thorough and awesum camera. Can't wait to get my hands on one!!:):):)

  3. I'm in awe with the A77 and keep finding new features with it the more I play. I can only imagine that the A99 with full frame and good G lenses will be almost impossible to duplicate from the Nikon/Canon crowd, but I'm sure they'll all say it's not an SLR, so we'll just wait for the negativity to begin.

  4. 8 years later I do a review? Will I?