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Announcing The Sony A99, The First Full-Frame SLT Camera

by Peter Walkowiak on 09/12/2012

The long awaited successor to the A900 is here,the Sony A99. Full-frame cameras have a long life cycle and this camera has been in development for four years. This incorporates the latest and best technology from Sony and is the first full-frame camera to offer articulating display, EVF, 60p as well as SLT.

Sony’s first priority for the A99 was to achieve exceptional image quality and with this in mind they developed brand new 24.3 mp sensor. The pixel count may remain the same as the A900 but everything has changed about this sensor all the down to the silicon is different. The sensor isn’t the only thing new about this camera, there are many new features coming to the A99 including a dual AF system, display, video features and more.

Sony claims, which is going to be an obvious one, that this new camera has the best image quality out of any existing Alpha models in the past. The image sensor has a standard sensitivity of ISO 100-25,600 with expansion down to ISO 50. This is a brand new sensor that has been designed and developed by Sony. Sony states that the sensor has twice the lowlight sensitivity of their previous full-frame camera as well as improved dynamic range.

The Bionz image engine (Sony isn’t into naming the versions of its sensor) is also brand new and is also much improved. The A99 now offers 14-bit RAW images which it hasn’t been able to do with previous cameras. The new processor can offload  images quite quickly off the sensor at 6fps or 10fps in high speed mode. The camera can also reduce noise in specific areas, this means that the camera can detect the texture area, continuous color and edge area. The camera can apply the correct level and correct type of noise reduction for these areas intelligently, Sony says that seeing the results is believing.

You may have read somewhere that the A99 will come with a ridiculous amount of focus points, this is true and that number is 102 AF points. These phase detection points are a part of a first of many to come (5R and NEX-6) dual AF systems with two phase detection sensors. First you have the 19 point (with 11 cross points) traditional phase detection AF sensor. The second is a 102 point focal plane phase detection AF system which is built directly onto the sensor. The A99 features a new AF-D mode which all 121 AF points which combines both sensors to understand a scene and to distinguish the difference between the subject and its background. This allows the camera to map out the scene and understand the difference before the foreground and the background. This mode will be for sport and bird shooters. The second new mode is AF Range Control, this is the mode that made me stop…. pause and pay attention. The AF can be adjusted to operate within a certain range of distance, making it easier to focus on subjects without interference from background and foreground objects. Essentially this allows you to set your fancy A99 to only focus within “.4 – 1meter” and the camera will ignore objects not in this view, you will see on screen your current subjects distance and how it falls within your set range. With a typical DSLR camera you lose the use of the main AF sensor when the mirror is locked up taking the photo, SLT allows for consistent AF without disruption. The A99 is also compatible with APS-C optimized lenses, the camera will automatically crop to fit the lens.

As now expected with Sony cameras there is a really nice EVF XGA OLED Tru-Finder. This offers 2359k dot which is the same as the A77 and the NEX7. The EVF is nice because you see the actual DOF and the result of your current exposure settings. The viewfinder in the A99 also allows color tone adjustment which is new with this camera.

The camera is the lightest in its class at 733 grams for the body only. The camera still offers a magnesium allow body but because there are so many unnecessary parts that become unnecessary in a traditional DSLR, the camera is lighter because it is SLT. The camera comes with Quick Navi Pro which adds a function button combined with the dials on the camera allow easier changing of settings, these customizable buttons are appreciated and go a long way. The body also is made more durable with dust / moisture seals along with a 200k cycle shutter life. The A99 is the first full-frame camera to use a 3-way tilt-able 921k dot lcd screen featuring their new WhiteMagic tech.

The camera now comes with dual card slots, one is SD only and the other offers the option of MS or SD. Similar to Nikons with dual slots the A99 will allow you to shoot to one and back up to the other, images on one and video on the other or folder copying between media.

Video used to be just another feature on a camera but now the feature is considered as important as the image quality by many. This is Sony’s first full-frame camera that shoots video and they didn’t hold back. The camera features full hd 1080 60p which is lacking from other cameras and full time continuous AF. The AF unlike other full-frame cameras doesnt use contrast detection but instead can focus quick and smooth live without the jerky hunting of other cameras. The movie mode is also offered in full manual and P, S and A modes.

There has also been a leap ahead in audio offering audio levels on display with a 32 step audio input level. The camera also features a headphone jack which can match the audio level of the video playing back. The headphone jack also has 20 steps for output. The camera also has a balanced input which in combination with the new intelligent hot shoe the user can add an XLR adaptor kit.

Sony has also improved the operability of their video mode by adding a programable Silent Multi-Controller which offers a dial and a button to control the camera without the “click click” traditional buttons. Companies usually shy away from offering features that will cannibalize their higher models but Sony has added the ability to record clean HDMI out onto an external recorder. It is said that the feed is uncompressed but that is all of the information provided about this feature.

Now onto the usual not fancy features of the camera, they include: 1/8000 shutter speed, SteadyShot, Anti-dust coating, 1200-zone metering, GPS, object tracking, Auto HDR, usual auto modes, creative styles, picture effects, and my favorite Sweep Panorama. All this great tech but the camera still comes with USB 2.0.

The camera will be in stores the second week of October and will be available for the price of $2,799. The price of the XLR adapter kit is $799.

Sony 300mm F2.8 G SSM II

This lens was originally developed by Minolta but since its original release new technology has come out including new coatings. The new version of the lens will have improved optical performance that achieves a high-level balance between contrast and background blur. The lens will also feature Nano coating as well as better AF performance to keep up with modern high speed cameras. With the new AF performance it will now be able to track objects better with its distance meter and faster with its new SSM motor.

This lens will be available in October for $7,499.

Sony HVL-F60M Flash

The newest flash from Sony is its most powerful yet. It is a dual purpose flash that works with both still and video shooting by adding led lights to help illuminate the scene. The guide power is No. 60 and the led light offers a max of 1200 lux. The casing is also made to protect from dust and moisture. This is the first flash that will support Sony’s new multi interface hot shoe. The user interface is similar to the quick navi system that the A99 has.

The Flash will retail for $549. There will also be a new ring light being offered for $349.

Vertical Grip for the Sony A99

The awesome trick with this camera grip is that it allows you to retain the battery inside of the camera and adds the ability to add two batteries inside the grip, for a total of three batteries. The grip is also made to battle dust and moisture like the rest of the camera.

The grip will be available for $379.

 

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