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Movie mode

Sony has included impressive video specs and performance in its recent NEX and SLT models and with the A99, it continues that trend. While 1080 output has become the norm for even entry-level SLRs, few cameras of any class offer a 60p framerate, as the A99 does. Video enthusiasts will also appreciate stereo mic and headphone inputs and adjustable audio levels as well as full manual exposure control with settings that can be adjusted while recording via a customizeable 'silent controller'. And in what is quickly becoming a standard feature in full frame models, the A99 offers uncompressed video output via HDMI for use either with an external recorder or for monitor playback.

As with stills, you use the DISP button to cycle through video display options. You can select a graphic shutter speed/aperture view.. ...or have shooting data displayed along the sides of the frame.
You can choose an image-only view. Here we've also opted to display audio levels, a separately enabled option. A dual-axis level can be displayed. Unfortunately, and unlike in stills shooting mode, a histogram view is not available.

Video quality options

The A99 can shoot 1080p movies at 60 or 24 frames per second at bit rates up to 28Mbps. Focus peaking is available in MF mode and in low light scenarios you can record video up to ISO 6400. The camera has built-in stereo microphones and Sony also offers an optional XLR-K1M adapter kit which allows for the connection of two XLR microphones (one of which is included with the kit), with individual audio controls for each channel.

Sizes • Frame size/frame rate/bit rate
1920 × 1080; 60p/50p; 28Mbps
1920 × 1080; 60i/50i; 24Mbps
1920 × 1080; 60i/50i; 17Mbps
1920 × 1080; 24p/25p; 24Mbps
1920 × 1080; 24p/25p; 17Mbps
1440 x 1080; 30p; 12Mbps*
640 x 480; 30p; 3Mbps*
Audio Stereo internal mics, Dolby Digital
Format AVCHD, MOV* (1440 x 1080 and VGA resolution only)
Recordable time 29 min. 59 sec.

Movie capabilities

While the ability to shoot uncompressed video at 60 fps may grab more attention, the full-time phase-detection AF of the A99 clearly sets it apart from its peers, producing the most effective AF system we've seen in a DSLR-style camera. And while video professionals are likely to opt for manual focus, enjoying Sony's focus peaking capability, there's little doubt that a fast, accurate AF holds appeal for still photographers wanting to get the most out of their video clips without having to re-train as a video focus puller.

Sony's optional XLR-K1M improves significantly on the A99's native audio capabilities by offering dual XLR inputs with two channel audio settings. The device connects via the camera's multi-accessory port hot shoe and the kit comes with one stereo microphone, shown here.
Uncompressed HD video footage can be sent out of the camera, straight to an external drive via the built-in HDMI port, shown here sitting above the USB 2.0 port.

The A99 has two 3.5mm ports for stereo mic input (red) and headphone output (green) for audio monitoring. You can enable a timing delay in audio output to prevent sound from being out of sync with the video image in situations where echo is noticeably present.

Handling in Video mode

Sony has achieved the laudable goal of making video capture dead simple for those who want to occasionally grab casual clips on the go, while simultaneously providing advanced capabilities for video enthusiasts. A dedicated movie record button sits within thumb's reach on the rear of the camera. While it is well positioned to avoid accidental operation, you do have the option of disabling the record button when the camera is set to a stills shooting mode.

The A99, like previous Sony NEX and SLT models offers PASM modes when shooting video. To use any mode other than Program Auto, however, requires you to first set the camera to manual focus.

Unlike its DSLR peers, switching between stills and video capture on the A99 can be a single button affair, since the camera always operates in live view. For more direct video control, however, you'll benefit from first setting the mode dial to movie mode. Doing so switches the live view preview to the 16:9 video crop so you can accurately preview composition. Just as importantly though, it is only by setting the shooting dial to movie mode that you can select among Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes.

With 'Focus Peaking' enabled, the outlines of the in-focus regions are highlighted. In this case in red but you can also select white or yellow. Focus peaking is equally available when shooting still images.

This screen shot is taken from the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 but the functionality remains the same on the A99.

As on recent Alpha models, focus peaking is available as a manual focus aid. You can even temporarily engage it in AF mode to confirm focus. Those who seek more precise focus confirmation will be disappointed, however, that magnified live view is not available in video mode.

You can adjust exposure settings while recording, and do so without audible button clicks by using the customizeable 'silent controller'. This control dial has a central confirmation button and can be programmed to adjust audio levels, focus mode, AF area, exposure compensation, metering mode, ISO, shutter speed or aperture. Best of all, re-defining the controller's function is as simple as holding the button for a couple of seconds and rotating the wheel to select among available parameters.

AF vs. exposure controls

The A99 uses the same AF system (minus AF-D mode) when filming video as when shooting stills, for a seamless transition between the two formats, with one very significant exception. The camera's AF system can only be used in Program mode, where - if you've also selected Auto ISO - your exposure control is limited to exposure compensation of +/-2 EV. You can only take direct manual exposure control with the A99 set to manual focus mode. While it may seem arbitrary, this limitation reflects the fact that the AF system will stop working properly if the aperture is set smaller than f/5.6. In Program mode then, the camera will not select an aperture smaller than the lens's maximum (or f/3.5, in lenses with a maximum aperture of greater than f/4).

Video quality

The image quality of the A99's video output is very good, though as with any DSLR you'll need to keep an eye out for subjects that induce aliasing artifacts like moiré patterning. Colors are rendered in a natural-looking manner with auto exposure and white balance settings producing pleasing output overall. High ISO low-light video looks very good as well. Noise and artifacts are visible upon close inspection but the results are still quite usable for documentary style projects. Audio from the built-in stereo mics is clear and crisp, though the mics are fairly sensitive to wind noise and sounds emanating from behind the camera. Video enthusiasts will, of course take advantage of the camera's external mic inputs, for more professional audio results.

Video Samples

Dpreview is partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Video 1

This video sample demonstrates the audio recording capabilities of the A99's built-in stereo microphones. With audio settings at their defaults, the mics do a good job of balancing the low brass of the pep band with the sharp handclaps of the cheering squad. The 'boomy' nature of the audio actually reflects the sound inside the sparsely populated arena fairly well. At its default shooting settings, the A99 handles these tough, relatively low-light indoor conditions well, producing very usable video at a moderately high ISO sensitivity. This clip was shot handheld and the A99's in-body stabilization produces video without overly distracting camera movement.

1920x1080 60p, MTS, 27 sec, 94 MB Click here to download original file

Video 2

This low light video sample was shot using the Sony 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* at F/2.8. The camera's Auto WB setting was used, and while the scene does have a slightly warm cast, the result is not bad at all, considering the variety of light sources. Viewed at full resolution, noise artifacts and aliasing are visible, but this is very good high ISO performance. The lens was set to manual focus and at the end of the clip the lens is purposely set to the minimum focus distance to demonstrate bokeh rendition at its widest aperture.

1920x1080 60p, MTS, 31 sec, 100 MB Click here to download original file

Video 3

This video was shot on a tripod and shows a long pan across a field of tall grass in a high contrast daylight scene. At the very start of this clip, you can see a demonstration of manual exposure compensation control in Program AE mode initiated via the A99's silent multi-controller. The exposure changes are impressively smooth and exhibit little noticeable lag between the rotation of the dial and the change in exposure. The multi-controller obviously eliminates the risk of audible button presses in your video. You can also hear just how sensitive the camera's built-in mics are at their default audio levels. Wind noise is audible before the low rumbling of the plane passing overhead. Yet you can still distinguish the higher-pitched chirping of birds throughout the video.

1920x1080 60p, MTS, 46 sec, 187 MB Click here to download original file

Video 4

This very short video clip demonstrates the A99's AE exposure adjustment as the camera pans across a backlit scene. The change in brightness is pleasingly gradual and is most obvious in the foreground grass.

Note that this clip was trimmed and converted from the original MTS file. It is intended to illustrate the camera's AE adjustment only, not video quality.

1920x1080 60p, MOV, 7 sec, 10 MB Click here to download original file

Video 5

This handheld clip shot indoors in MF mode highlights the image stabilization capabilities of the A99. The advantage the A99 offers over its competition is that stabilization is handled in-camera and thus will work with any lens you put on the camera. In this scene, the portions when I attempted to hold the camera steady are rendered without overly distracting movement, easily suitable for all but professional uses. Ambient sounds emanating from behind the camera in this busy, low-ceilinged hall are quite prominent, easily drowning out the electric hum of the trains.

1920x1080 60p, MTS, 27 sec, 87 MB Click here to download original file
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Comments

Total comments: 15
Miki Nemeth

"magnified live view is not available in video mode." This is a terribly brilliant feature I got used to on A7. It would be great if Sony included it as a firmware update.

0 upvotes
fotokram

I just don't understand the point, that the A99 empties its buffer twice as fast as Canon's EOS 5D III at Continuous Hi? Both cameras allow 6 fps, but the 5D III can shoot JPEG Large/Fine until the card is full while the Sony stops after 20 frames. When shooting RAW the 5D III can take 17 frames (like the Sony), before the frame rate switches to 2.7 fps (A99: "only" 1.7 fps). The 5D III then needs 4 seconds to empty the buffer, while the A99 needs 7.5 seconds. From my point of view, the 5D III is the faster camera. Or did I get something wrong?

0 upvotes
Gangstar

I have owned previously the a55 a77 and for the last 12 months the A99 I paid £1750 new inc tax the a99 paired with the Zeiss 24-70 it a fantastic combo in fact the sony 28-75 2.8 produced stunning results but I would tell lies if i said it was on parr with the Zeiss which really pops the subject although has softness at corner edges @ 24mm is evident...Low light for my use has been great never has any problems...The flash/system shoe is the only annoyance and slight over exposure easily fixed in light room. what would I change upgrade faster AF..sensor 24mp ff is more than ample.In all I am a very happy with my a99 well done sony engineers...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Lassoni

There's really no way around it. This is hands down sony's best camera to date. They really should revisit this, maybe give it a sensor and/or mount of their A7s , aim to make it better @ low light than Canon 5d3 (much more cleaner than 5d3, almost 1DX spec), and get rid of the translucent mirror maybe. Keep the body as is, make it mirrorless with around 15-18 megapixel and give it FPS of 8-11.

1 upvote
kevin_r

Waiting for 18Mp,
Mirrorless(or at least the ability to lift the mirror.., somehow...) with high speed AF and low light sensitivity AF down to -3EV[currently seems impossible...]
Touch screen with focus select and AF by touch.

Alternatively to 18Mp - make 36mp with BSI, removing the anti-alias filter and allowing the semi-transparent mirror to be moved out of the way - or else simply have magnificent focus with the sensor itself....wihtout the mirror.....sigh!!!!

1 upvote
Scottelly

Something that amazes me about the A99 is the fact that it handles high ISO better than the new Nikon D600 and D610 cameras. I just found this out by looking at the ISO 6400 samples here on DPreveiw in their studio shot comparison tool: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/studio-compare#baseDir=%2Freviews_data&cameraDataSubdir=boxshot&indexFileName=boxshotindex.xml&presetsFileName=boxshotpresets.xml&showDescriptions=false&headerTitle=Studio%20scene&headerSubTitle=Standard%20studio%20scene%20comparison&masterCamera=nikon_d600&masterSample=dsc_4526_03&slotsCount=4&slot0Camera=nikon_d600&slot0Sample=dsc_4526_03&slot0DisableCameraSelection=true&slot0DisableSampleSelection=true&slot0LinkWithMaster=true&slot1Camera=sony_slta99&slot1Sample=dsc00049&x=-0.378464142966364&y=0.34409159041539195

Make sure you look at the playing card, after you pick which cameras you want to compare and set the ISO selection box to ISO 6400 (or whatever ISO you want to compare).

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW

It doesn't handle high ISOs better than the Nikon D600.

Though one way to help with high ISOs is to use good Zeiss lenses and those are more readily available for this Sony.

0 upvotes
J Shen

Continued post: During burst shooting, SLT cameras can see a live image preview or can not see ? Thanks for advice !

0 upvotes
J Shen

About SLT & SLR cameras, If following two comments (from dpreview) are conflicting each other ? During bursts shooting SLT cameras can see the frames or can not see ? maybe I'm misunderstood. Thanks !
1, Unlike ordinary DSLR cameras, SLT cameras by Sony use Translucent Mirror technology that directs light onto the main image sensor as well as a separate autofocus sensor. This means that subjects stay sharply focused at all times as you compose scenes with the tilt-angle LCD or through the high-resolution, high-contrast OLED Tru-Finder. And with no moving mirror to slow you down, you’ll enjoy non-stop live image preview during speedy burst shooting or while you’re recording Full HD video.
2, One distinct disadvantage to current EVF technology is that when shooting bursts at higher frame rates, you are not seeing a live preview, rather the frames you have just captured. This can make camera panning (to follow a fast moving subject) virtually impossible to do with any accuracy.

0 upvotes
Scottelly

Well, my A55 worked just fine for following fast-moving subjects, while shooting at 10 fps, and I believe the A99 is an improvement over the A55. (also can shoot at 10 fps)

0 upvotes
Thomas Karlmann

It may be only the a99 RAW for ISO 25600 that is broken. Thanks.

0 upvotes
Thomas Karlmann

beomagi: Thanks, I overlooked it.

0 upvotes
Thomas Karlmann

DPR Raw Link for a99 Studio Scene appears to be broken. Please fix.

0 upvotes
beomagi

Connectors under flaps here
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-alpha-slt-a99/18

0 upvotes
Thomas Karlmann

This review fails to show the I/O connectors! What is under those flaps? Most importantly where is the PC-sync terminal???? If there isn't one, I'll keep looking for a different camera. Please clarify.

1 upvote
Total comments: 15