My brief hands-on impression of A99

Started Sep 16, 2012 | Discussions
Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
My brief hands-on impression of A99

Sony had product demo event at my favorite camera store (Broadway Camera), and thanks to forum member Alpha604's tip, I went there spent over 2 hours playing with a pre-production demo unit (also the new 300/2.8 G II mounted on tripod). I brought my own set of CZ24-70 and 70-200G lenses to try on A99 as well as my own A900. Here is my quick impression:

1) A99 has a much better metering system than A900, highlight and shadow have much better exposure, maybe there is DRO or HDR setting in the play (jpeg), that might be the reason alone worth the upgrade.

2) A99 can produce solid, in-focus image, just like A900 does. I don't see any sharpness penalty from SLT mirror.

3) Auto focus is pretty much like A77, and all the AF points are clustered in the middle area. I didn't see any meaningful difference between regular AF-C and the new AF-D (even on the supported lenses) in performance. For those on-sensor AF points, you can not select any one of them. Rather, they can be distractive to your framing (always shown on viewfinder) and in some cases override your locked AF point and pick up other area with stronger contrast. Maybe I don't know the whole AF-D or maybe this is pre-production firmware, I just hope AF-D could be more useful. Anyways my impression is that A99 uses exact the same module from A77 which is not enough to cover larger FF frame.

4) As I imaged, AF-range is indeed very handy. It effectively enable all the lens with focus limiter, and does that in a flexible way. For example, instead of typical 6m-oo limiter on lens setting, you can set focus range in 6m-8m and dramatically reduce lens hunt. This is a brilliant idea I truly hope Sony will bring that feature to every other model.

5) Let's talk about EVF. It uses the same EVF from A77 which is not bad. I specifically tested EVF lag issue. At 6FPS burst rate, indoor (low light) there is still noticeable lag (slide show) but not as painful as A77, so I can deal with it, just barely! I guess Sony obviously know this problem and couldn't improve the refreshment rate this time, so they lowered frame rate from 10/12 to 6, in an attempt to mitigate the situation. Also the buffer room seem to be very small too. I used 30MB/sec class-10 card, after only a few shots camera hit the wall and thing were slowing down. So obviously A99 is not the right machine for me to shoot bird or pro sports.

6) Low light high ISO: I saw many good examples of clean images at ISO 3200 or higher posted online. When I looked my test jpeg images on my computer, I can see there are lots of noise (colour noise too), the good thing is that details are pretty good in general, so that provide a good starting point for further NR treatment. Overall based on what I saw today I would say the difference between A99 and A900 is about one stop.

7) Pricing. In Canada A99 is listred at $2999 so it has the same price point as D800 ($500 cheaper than 5D3). Aside from video feature, it is arguably the weakest of the three for still image shooter. I know $2999 is just MSRP, once 5D3 drop their price (widely expected since it's not selling well at all, D800 pretty much killed it), A99 will responde to market in holiday season. I was told this Christmas could be a good time for camera shopper, we can see some real price cutting. Personally I feel A99 should be priced at $2400-2500 to make its case.

Last but not least, Sony has some regular, real photographer on staff to promote and support all the Alpha related inquiry. Courtney Hamm was very easy to talk to, and just as enthusiastic as us. I can feel Sony is trying to catch up other leaders in still image camera, and they will listen to our feedback (i.e. auto ISO in Manual mode).

Here are some of my test pictures. They are all jpeg & heavily cropped (to better show image details). First picture was using CZ 24-70, second one from Sony 70-200G, last 5 pictures were shot with the new Sony 300/2.8 G II (mounted on tripod):

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D800 Sony Alpha a99 Sony SLT-A77
If you believe there are incorrect tags, please send us this post using our feedback form.
robert614 Senior Member • Posts: 1,720
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Thanks for your impressions.I have one on order to replace my A77.I am generally happy with my A77 except for the ISO performance at higher ISO.I have the lenses on the AF-D list with the rest of my lenses on the firmware update path so I think I'll be happy with the A99.

It looks like about a 2 stop improvement over the A77.Do you know what NR setting it was on?

Thanks again for taking the time to post.Any further thoughts would be appreciated.
Robert

OldschoolRu Forum Member • Posts: 95
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

I used 30MB/sec class-10 card, after only a few shots camera hit the wall and thing were slowing down. So obviously A99 is not the right machine for me to shoot bird or pro sports.

These photos came from "pro" user?

 OldschoolRu's gear list:OldschoolRu's gear list
Nikon D600
robert614 Senior Member • Posts: 1,720
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Also,do you think you could post the non cropped versions,so I could get an idea of how much I could crop before noise becomes a factor.Thanks again.
Robert

seilerbird666
seilerbird666 Senior Member • Posts: 1,101
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

They must have been having an ugly contest somewhere.
--
My photos:
picasaweb.google.com/seilerbird

OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Hi Robert, from what I remembered, the setting was extra fine jpeg, the NR was set as "off", everything else was set as default (i.e. standard creative "0", "0", "0", auto WB, etc.). Also, the operation response was somewhat slow, I am sure the shipping production version should be quicker.

Here are two un-cropped images:

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

First of all I am not a pro, I only SD card in my RX100 P&S. My other DSLRs take CF cards only. I am sure faster cards like 95mb/sec SD is a lot faster to clear out, but I can tell you this, even shooting with moderate 6FPS, the buffer is not deep enough to handle more than 1-2 seconds of burst.

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
Kappels Contributing Member • Posts: 796
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99
 Kappels's gear list:Kappels's gear list
Canon PowerShot G10 Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Sony Alpha NEX-5 Sony SLT-A77 Sony Alpha a99 +21 more
OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Sorry my bad. I should wait for more good looking shoppers in the mall!

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
robert614 Senior Member • Posts: 1,720
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Thanks a lot for posting these.If these are with NR off,I think I can definitely use up to 6400 ISO with the proper noise reduction in post.Noise quality also looks better than my A77.It looks more uniform and less splotchy.Thanks again.
Robert

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

OldschoolRu wrote:

I used 30MB/sec class-10 card, after only a few shots camera hit the wall and thing were slowing down. So obviously A99 is not the right machine for me to shoot bird or pro sports.

How many shots are you talking about?

I read somewhere that the camera did 15 RAW at 6FPS and I was thinking it would do at least twice that in JPG.

OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

I guess your question was directed to me. I think after 11-12 shots the camera hit the wall, so roughly 2 seconds, based on extra fine jpeg.

johnbee wrote:

OldschoolRu wrote:

I used 30MB/sec class-10 card, after only a few shots camera hit the wall and thing were slowing down. So obviously A99 is not the right machine for me to shoot bird or pro sports.

How many shots are you talking about?

I read somewhere that the camera did 15 RAW at 6FPS and I was thinking it would do at least twice that in JPG.

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
OldschoolRu Forum Member • Posts: 95
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Amateur Sony Shooter wrote:

Sorry my bad. I should wait for more good looking shoppers in the mall!

Sorry, that's not about "good looking shoppers".
These shoots looks to me like point shoot camera review.
They not sharp, not colorful and just dont fit in my profile.

They not RAW 14 bit ether , If I had a chance to test A99 then.... I would do 100% out of it and share with you guys.
That's just me..

P.S. If you still have A99 , please take pictures: morning "sun rise" , moving objects, late PM shoots, some portraits, local street birds, 1080P 60P video with changing focus.
Not JPEGs, we want to see RAW in 14bit
Just do basic full test, thank you in advance!

 OldschoolRu's gear list:OldschoolRu's gear list
Nikon D600
OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Thanks for these shooting suggestions. Unfortunately I didn't have the luxury to take A99 outside of mall. It was setup at the entrance of camera store which is deep inside the mall. However, there might be a chance I can go out with a Sony Alpha rep, to shoot something different (landscape, fashion, etc.). We'll see.

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Amateur Sony Shooter wrote:

I guess your question was directed to me. I think after 11-12 shots the camera hit the wall, so roughly 2 seconds, based on extra fine jpeg.

Yes, sorry about that(should have quoted).

That's very interesting. I wonder why you ended-up with such a short buffer. Especially in JPG. I'm thinking the camera should do at least 30+ frames before filling-up. Any ideas if the camera was a pre-production unit?
I just hope Sony didn't skimp on the buffer with a professional camera.

PS. in one of the review video's the reviewer was taking a series of RAW shots of motorbikes in successions. Which really looked like the camera had a generous buffer.

OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Both me and the Sony Alpha rep were surprised to see camera stalled after short burst. Of course we all blamed "per-production" as reason. I just looked at Sony's website for A99 spec, here is what they say about buffer:

w/ SD (UHS-I compliant) memory card: Cont. shooting Hi: Extra FINE 15, FINE 24, STD 29, RAW 15, RAW+JPEG 12 Tele-zoom Cont. Advance Priority AE (8 fps): Extra FINE 20, FINE 28, STD 31, RAW 19, RAW+JPEG 18 Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE (10 fps): Extra FINE 20, FINE 26, STD 28 w/ Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo: Continuous shooting Hi: Extra FINE 14, FINE 18, STD 20, RAW 13, RAW+JPEG 11 Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE (8 fps): Extra FINE 17, FINE 20, STD 24, RAW 17, RAW+JPEG 16 Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE (10 fps): Extra FINE 18, FINE 22, STD 24

So the final shipping unit should do 15 shots before hitting wall. That's a small improvement over 11-12 I got today.

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
asdf photographer Regular Member • Posts: 257
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Amateur Sony Shooter wrote:

Here are un-cropped images:

I think the cropped photos can people the wrong impression, they look a little grainy. But full images look great! Thanks for your input. I would have pre-ordered one, but I'm a sports shooter and the fps settings wouldn't work for me

 asdf photographer's gear list:asdf photographer's gear list
HP Photosmart 320 Ricoh Caplio G3 Samsung Digimax 130 +1 more
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,992
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Amateur Sony Shooter wrote:

So the final shipping unit should do 15 shots before hitting wall. That's a small improvement over 11-12 I got today.

Wow on the JPG front, that is very small for a prosumer camera.

I have to say I am somewhat disappointed on this aspect of the A99. You would have though that Sony would have put more care into making sure the camera was balanced enough to keep up with the frame rate. Anyways, I'm not going to rant about it here, though I do consider this to be a challenge for the A99 for those looking to use it in action type settings.

Having said all that, what are you feelings on the data write times? Is the A99 designed to take full advantage of faster cards? Perhaps the total frame limitations can be offset with faster write times?

OP Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,433
Re: My brief hands-on impression of A99

Unfortunately I only used my own 30mb/s SD card during the test. There is a 95mb/s fast card but I didn't borrow. My overall impression is that A99 is A77 in a larger body with FF sensor, they share many parts and performance. So I would imagine fast card should be a lot less painful to clear out buffer, you might never notice the wait if you only do a few quick burst a time.

johnbee wrote:

Having said all that, what are you feelings on the data write times? Is the A99 designed to take full advantage of faster cards? Perhaps the total frame limitations can be offset with faster write times?

 Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list:Amateur Sony Shooter's gear list
Sony RX100 Sony a77 II Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +6 more
Eleson Senior Member • Posts: 1,197
Not fair to judge based on 30MB/sec card when 80-100 is commonplace

Shooting with a 90 MB card will make a big difference.
Not sayin' that the buffer is big, but still unfair to judge from.
--
Cheers
Erland

 Eleson's gear list:Eleson's gear list
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D Sony SLT-A77 Sony 50mm F1.4 Sony DT 55-300mm F4.5-5.6 SAM Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) +3 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads