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First Impressions: Sony A99

by Chris Gampat on 09/12/2012

The very long awaited successor to the Sony A900 is finally here. After rumors circulated the web for a while, we all had lots of different ideas about what the camera could feature. But of any item I’ve seen announced today, the Sony A99 is the most dear to me. Keeping true with Sony’s new business move to go along with SLT cameras that give an electronic viewfinder, the Sony A99 is a camera that screams out to you with its modern ergonomics and functionality.

Oh right, and before we go on, I should mention that Sony now uses a standard hot shoe. Don’t believe us? Hit the jump, and behold for hell has frozen over and the devil is giving free sleigh rides.

 

Isn’t it beautiful? It makes you want to shed a little tear. Okay, back to the seriousness.

Tech Specs

- 24.3 MP sensor CMOS Full Frame

- New BIONZ image processor

- 14 bit RAW output

- 1080p 60p 24p (Sony says that it is 8-bit out)

- 2359K Dot Viewfinder (approximately)

- 733 gram weight without the lens

- Object tracking AF (will continuously track an object as it moves through the frame providing that the lens can keep up)

- 1/8000th fastest shutter

- GPS Support

- ISO goes up to 25,600

- Selective noise reduction

- Magnesium Alloy Body

- Headphone jack

- Supports the XLR adapter kit

- Dual SD card slot

- 921K Dot LCD screen (3 inch)

- Peaking focus assist

- 1200 zone metering pattern

- $2,799 in October

Ergonomics

If there is one thing that must be said about the Sony A99, it is that it feels extremely beefy. The first time I picked up the Sony A900, I was pleasantly surprised by the camera and also very pleased with how it was put together. It was extremely simple to use as well. The A99 is leaps and bounds more complicated with a ton more features in the camera, but it isn’t really intimidating either.

The top of the camera reminds me a lot of both the Canon 1D X and a Nikon D800. It is characterized by a giant LCD screen on top with buttons right by there. These buttons control the drive modes, exposure compensation, ISO settings, white balance and whether or not you’ll use the Viewfinder or LCD screen. Plus, the on/off switch is around the shutter release.

Then there is the new hot shoe, which is standard now vs the old minolta shoe. Stereo speaker microphones are in front of that. To the left is the mode dial. To be honest, I don;t know why they bothered to put automatic modes on this camera.

The LCD screen displays critical information. The pre-production unit that I was handling wasn’t working totally perfectly though.

The back of the camera is far, far more complex. The screen will tilt just like the A77′s. Above that is the viewfinder. To the left is the menu button. And to the right is a smorgasboard of randomness. You’ve got a direct movie record button, AF/MF switch, Auto Exposure Lock, directional joystick, Custom Function, displat change, playback, AF control, and more.

Now, you would probably never shoot this way, but it goes to show just how flexible the LCD screen is.

And as stated earlier, it can do this thing too.

It is also smaller than the Nikon D800. Here are a couple more comparison photos:

Ease of Use

Here are some photos showing off the menus from the camera. For the most part it seems complicated but if you give it enough time, you’ll get the hang of it. Sony’s new menu system has to be the toughest to use; and it makes me miss their old menus from the A900: which were some of the best I’ve ever used.

 

Autofocus

The camera has a ton of focusing points, but with them all around the center.

There are 102 AF points to be exact, but as I stated, they are all in the center. The good thing is that the camera has 2 Phase Detection sensors. And if you want to position your portrait subject outside of these points, you don’t need to focus and recompose. It features Face Detection, so you’ll have no problems doing so.

For a studio portrait guy like me, that really excites me.

Image Quality

Though I couldn’t put a card in the camera, the image quality from the prints was really, really nice. The high ISO results also looked very nice.

Accessories and Modularity

The new A99 can surely be used with a ton of new accessories for videography and photography

Just imagine shooting video with this.

New accessory grip. This grip is special though: it is a Sony grip that allows the user to have three batteries instead of two. Two batteries go into the grip and one stays in the camera.

First Impressions

So far, I honestly think that I’m in love. The D800 didn’t really hit home for me and the 5D Mk III was nice but didn’t give me everything I really wanted. But the A99 seems like such a promising camera and the addition of the new hot shoe means that I can use my PocketWizard Plus III units with ease.

Stay tuned, we’ll have the full review coming eventually.

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