A couple of days ago my friend messaged me and asked when I think all of the Sony lenses will get an update to be compatible with the new A99. I replied saying what do you mean? They are all compatible! This was the start of a discovery for me that I somehow missed during my press release with Sony, my news writing and Chris missed this with his hands on impressions with the camera.
The news is / or at least my impression at the time of launch was that the 102 AF points would work alongside the 19 point AF to ensure a more precise focus. The truth is that the 102 AF points will only work in the new AF-D mode of the camera which can sense depth and continuously track objects very accurately. The big news to me and the staff was that the camera only currently supports 6 lenses at this point of time.
The lenses that are supported are hidden below a footnote at the bottom of Sony’s A99 feature page. The Sony A99 page reads like this for the new feature:
“New AF-D Mode”
This highly advanced Continuous AF mode uses 19 AF points with reliable depth-direction focusing performance to steadfastly capture subjects and is strongly assisted by the 102-point multi-point focal-plane phase-detection AF sensor. It continues to accurately focus on the subject whether the subject is moving in depth or plane direction.”
The footnote at the bottom of the page reads:
“4. Note that at the time of launch the following lenses support AF-D: SAL2470Z, SAL2875, SAL50F14, SAL300F28GII, SAL70400G, SAL50050F4G.”
So those are the 6 lenses that will be supported at launch, although it is a good collection of lenses it doesnt cover their whole range of pro glass. Sony has said that they will be updating their existing unsupported lenses with a firmware updates soon. No official dates been given but the assumption is that they will start rolling out these updates sometime next year. I emailed our friendly Sony rep and here is the response that he had:
Q: What from the dual AF system exactly works with lenses that are for the time being not supported?
A: The conventional 19 point AF sensor works completely will all A-mount lenses. The element of Dual AF that is not functional with “not supported” lenses is AF-D – the “depth map assist” function. The AF Range Control is available with “not supported lenses”, but the 102 point depth map display is not available to assist in the setting of the range control.
What that means is that it can only use one of the Phase Detection sensors. To recap, there are two sensors, not one.
I still can’t believe how I missed this and it may be because the massive amount of AF points were rumored for so long that when it was announced I didn’t give them much attention or simply because I don’t obsess over spec sheets of companies that I am not invested in. This to me is more now of a brilliant marketing feature which in my opinion only a specific niche group of people will ever use. Well done Sony; the hype of your feature (although I’m sure in use its brilliant) made me overlook its quite obvious shortcomings for those heavily invested in A mount glass.
I was originally turned onto the topic by a forum over on Dyxum where there is an A99 user answering questions for future buyers. Please let me know what you think in the comments! Am I blind and was the last to find out? Or are you as shocked as I am?
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