A99 #2 vs Nex5n video test + mini A99 hybrid shooter review

Started Jan 4, 2013 | Discussions thread
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photo chris
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A99 #2 vs Nex5n video test + mini A99 hybrid shooter review
Jan 4, 2013

I went out and shot a few random scenes around the St. Petersburg FL pier and boat harbor with my A99, Nex5n/LAEA1 and the Zeiss 24-70/2.8. Both cameras shot at ISO 100, 24p, f8 for the A99 and f7.1 for the Nex5n to roughly match the DOF. Shutter speeds varied a bit as some scenes were quite a bit brighter than others in mid-day sun, I matched them at every shot to keep exposure constant between both cameras. It was windy so there's a little camera shake, but it seemed to impact the Nex more than the heftier A99.

The 5n was set to standard profile (0, 0, 0) which isn't ideal for the 5n as a flatter profile gets more DR and I can pull more detail with post sharpening compared to in-camera, but I wanted an undoctored shot to compare with a A99 shot that has been processed to squeeze as much detail as possible out of the video. I used focus magnify on both cameras to get critical focus before shooting any footage. With some tweaks to the settings and some PP work, I could have pulled an image out of the 5n that would look noticeably better side-by-side. There's room for improvement from the 5n. Crazy that's a $300 body, eh?

The A99 was shot with standard profile contrast/saturation at -2 and sharpness at 0. I tested it with a broadcast engineer friend at a local TV station and we tinkered with the settings on the standard and neutral profiles until we found what looked to be the best image on a number of different broadcast reference monitors. Colors were brought back a bit in post and some light sharpening applied to clean it up before artifacts start creeping into the video in places such as the water and grass - which look absolutely horrible on the A99. There's not a lot of room in the codec for heavy post work so I've been very light handed. There's a flash frame toward the end of the video, sorry about that, not going to waste time re-exporting for one bad frame.

Nex5n vs A99 video test

Some untouched frames exported directly from the CS5 timeline.

Aliasing and moire bad on both, A99 softer

No detail in the A99 video

People are just blobs in the A99, yuk



A99 almost looks OK, but falls short of Nex 5n

A99 foreground looks ok, but much less detail in the houses

This is about as good as it gets for the A99. Without the comparison shot it looks ok viewed on a monitor or TV, but with the split screen it looks bad - and its noticeably softer than its amigo pequeno - the amazing 5n. They both exhibit a lot of aliasing and moire, but the softness just kills the A99 I could be more selective with focus to try and minimize aliasing and moire, but the 5n is still a much more pleasing image overall as its superior video IQ makes anything in focus much more vibrant since there's more detail. The results mirror what I got when shot along side my EM5 as posted here:

A99 vs. EM5 video test

The last two months have been a love+hate relationship with the A99, the build, controls, tilt LCD, steadyshot and so on are really what drew me to switch to the A99. The chance to shoot 60p with a FF camera that also offered stabilization - on any lens with a chipped adapter - and its awesome DR on the stills side made it a perfect fit. I love the way it feels in hand, once I got used to hitting the Fn button and adjusting settings with the joystick, it became so easy to make quick adjustments almost instantly between shots - its very user friendly.

I shot an indoor event without a flash a few weeks ago and was very pleased with the latitude the A99's raw files have, its easy to pull details out of shadows and tame blown highlights. Here are a few sample images that have nothing but a quick highlight and shadow recovery by hitting the sliders in LR4:

A99 shoots holiday party

The Zeiss 24-70 is my new favorite lens, its fast to focus, sharp and renders a beautiful image with very pleasing OOF highlights IMO. With steadyshot and the 70-400g I was able to get a useable image out of every 3-4 shot burst from across a banquet room with some extremely uneven lighting. After processing the images, the client and others in attendance were so happy with the results that I was able to book 4 more jobs in the coming weeks. After just those jobs, my A99 and lenses will have paid for themselves by the end of February, nice.

But alas, its just not meant to be. The upcoming shoots will all include video and this is where the A99 continues to fall flat on its face. The combination of softness/aliasing/moire is unacceptable to me in a pro level camera. I've sent lots of footage to Sony and forwarded some other stuff that a few A99/VG900 owners have PM'd to me after reading the ridiculous amount of B.S. I received from posting my last video. I've yet to hear anything beyond "thanks, we'll get back to you" from Sony tech and my return window closed at the end of December. I called Sony and asked to extend my return window pending the service report outcome - as was suggested by another member here - but after two separate tries and two rejections I went ahead and got a RA#. Sadly A99 #2 is on its way back to Sony as I type this.

I love the stills and really wanted to keep the camera, but I'm a one-man-band on almost everything that's not going to be broadcast - so for me there's too much money invested in the Alpha mount to only cover 50% of my workflow. I sold my FS100 for the same reason. I'm going to rent a 5d3 and D800, shoot the same stuff, compare the results and then decide what's next. Since both of them can be had for hundreds less than the A99, one of those will probably be my next camera.  If the 1dc was $5000 less it would be a no brainer...

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS-1D Nikon D800 Sony Alpha NEX-5N Sony SLT-A99
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