Sony Alpha SLT-A99 In-Depth Review
The Sony SLT-A99 is the Japanese camera maker's flagship model, aimed squarely at DSLR enthusiasts who will settle for nothing less than a full frame sensor in a rugged body with a plethora of external and customizable controls. It arrives almost four years after its predecessor, the A900, the company's first full frame DSLR. You'd certainly expect significant new features given such a long gap between products and Sony has lost no opportunity to equip the A99 with every bit of electronic expertise they've incorporated into their NEX and SLT models in the interim. Whereas the A900 was a defiantly conventional SLR that would have been immediately familiar to Konica Minolta film-camera users, the A99 is something of a technological tour-de-force.
Start with a dual chip AF system, live view focus peaking, tiltable rear LCD, built-in GPS and 1080p60 movie recording plus the ability to output uncompressed video, and the contrast to the stills-only A900 couldn't be more stark aside from the A99's identical 24MP resolution. And then of course, there's the fact that with the A99 Sony has opted for an electronic, versus optical viewfinder. From a features standpoint, it's clear that Sony was out to rethink its approach to the enthusiast market and attempt to lure would-be DSLR shooters with a surfeit of technology while broadening its appeal to videographers.
Like its predecessor, the SLT-A99 enters a full frame DSLR playing field still dominated by the 'big two', so the camera's success will depend not just on its advances over the A900, but how well it competes against the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D800. Sony may have chosen not to challenge the 36MP Nikon D800 for pixel count - somewhat of a surprise given that the D800 houses a Sony-made sensor - but has opted instead for a unique dual sensor AF system that promises more precise subject tracking along with a 6fps continuous AF burst rate.
Sony has gone to great lengths to stress the work that has gone into improving the camera's image quality. The latest 24MP sensor has been designed so that more of each photosite is light-sensitive. The electronics in front of this light sensitive region have been slimmed-down to increase the angle from which each site can receive light. These changes, combined with a design that provides a short and high-capacity path between the sensor output and the image processor, and the addition of 14-bit Raw output, should mean improved still image quality.
The rapid adoption of DSLRs by video professionals has made HD recording with manual exposure control a stock feature in even mid-range models. With the A99 though, Sony leverages its considerable video expertise by combining 1080p60 video capture with SLT-enabled phase-detection AF along with the ability to output uncompressed video over HDMI (a feature we first saw in the Nikon D800). Another well-implemented nod to the needs of run-and-gun videographers can be found in the inclusion of a 'silent controller' that allows for adjustments to made while recording without the attendant button clicks.
Sony SLT-A99 key specifications:
- 24MP full-frame CMOS Sensor with on-chip phase detection AF
- Fixed-mirror design SLT
- 2.4M dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- 14-bit Raw output
- ISO 100-25,600
- Up to 6 frame-per-second continuous shooting with AF
- ISO-compatible flash hotshoe with 'multi interface' expansion connector
- Pull-out three-hinge tilt/swivel 1.23m dot RGBW LCD screen
- Top panel LCD
- Microphone and headphone sockets
- Built-in GPS
- AF Micro Adjust
The A99 is based around Sony's SLT design - a variant on the DSLR concept that uses an electronic viewfinder (EVF), rather than an optical one. Instead of having a mirror that has to flip out of the way to to take a photo, it uses a fixed semi-transparent mirror that redirects light (with negligible luminance loss) to a DSLR-style phase-detection autofocus sensor. This means live view and autofocus are always active and that the A99 can offer a consistent shooting experience whether you use the flip-out screen or the EVF. It also means the conventional 19-point phase detection focus sensor is always illuminated, along with the 109-point on-sensor array. This puts the A99 in the unique position of having dual phase-detection focus systems available at all times - an unusual feature that Sony has developed several features to exploit, including 'AF-D', its depth-map assist continuous AF feature.
The decision to build a full-frame SLT camera will certainly be controversial among enthusiasts who equate a 'serious' camera with an optical, rather than electronic viewfinder. It's worth pointing out though that the A99 sports the same 2.4M dot resolution OLED 'Tru-Finder' EVF whose performance we found so impressive in our NEX-7 review. And the benefits that an EVF provides, including exposure and white balance preview, focus peaking and a customizable information overlay, all without removing the camera from an eye-level shooting position, may be enough to sway those who spends even a little time actually using it.
This video, shot at the Photokina trade show earlier this year is taken from our previously published preview of the Sony SLT-A99.
The new compression standard is set to reduce video file sizes by half to save space and speed-up transmission, paving the way for more portable 8K footage.
Sony recently confirmed plans to launch a successor to the video-centric a7S II. We don't even know the name of the camera, but Jordan already has a feature wish list for the new 'a7S III' – and it doesn't include 8K.
The Profot B10 is the first studio flash system that can be used when shooting with an iPhone camera.
The Pixii camera is an interesting little rangefinder camera that features a 12MP APS-C sensor and lacks a rear LCD display, opting instead to pair with your mobile device, which can be used to view and transfer images.
Sirui is launching an Indiegogo campaign for a wide-angle answer to its existing 50mm F1.8 anamorphic lens. The 35mm APS-C lens will come in a Micro Four Thirds mount with adapters for other systems.
Sony has added a 12-24mm F2.8 to its top-shelf 'G Master' series of lenses. It's the widest constant F2.8 zoom currently offered for full-frame, with a hefty price tag to match: it will sell for $3000 when it ships in mid-August.
Take a look at the view from Sony's new ultra-wide F2.8 zoom – we paired it with the a7R IV for some initial shooting.
Canon's EOS-1D X Mark III is one of the best DSLRs ever made. With fast burst speeds, great video quality and impressive autofocus, the 1D X III is equal parts cinema rig and sports shooter. Find out how it fares against steep competition in our full review.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that Nikon will announce successors to its Z6 and Z7 camera systems by the end of the calendar year.
Canon says the event, set to take place at 14:00 CEST in two days on July 9, will be its 'biggest product launch yet.'
The Verge Video Director, Becca Farsace, shows how she built a custom Raspberry Pi camera with effectively zero coding knowledge over the course of just three days.
The EOS R5 has been in the works for some time, and Canon has published a handful of specifications, but there's still plenty we don't know. What are you hoping to see from Canon's forthcoming flagship camera?
Canon's CE-SAT-IB satellite camera was destroyed alongside six other satellites during Rocket Lab's ironically-named 'Pics or It Didn't Happen Mission.'
This sample gallery includes images from our recent review of the Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD zoom lens. Check out these photos to see how it performs, from wide-angle to telephoto and everything in between.
The Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD provides a wide zoom range in compact, weather-sealed design. Find out why it's Chris and Jordan's new favorite travel lens.
Kodak Portra 800 is a wonderful and versatile color film. And any rumors of it being discontinued, we're pleased to report, are simply untrue. That's a good thing, because it's capable of producing lovely results in all sorts of conditions.
Boering has left the World Press Photo without much of an explanation from either him or the organization, but he tells DPReview the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the WPP to change the way it makes money.
The standard-size deck of playing cards features unique photography-oriented artwork and act as cheat sheets for photographers.
The Sony ZV-1 and Panasonic Lumix DC-G100 are the first cameras we've seen that are overtly designed with vlogging in mind – and the changes they represent could have implications for the future of all cameras.
The utility allows the E-M1X, E-M1, E-M1 Mark II, E-M1 Mark III and E-M5 Mark II cameras to be used with video conferencing apps over USB.
Olympus is showing final images of its under-development 150-400mm F4.5, which it says will arrive this winter. An unspecified macro and 8-25mm F4 Pro have also been added to the lens roadmap, and the E-M1X's AF gains bird detection.
The scam, which involves sending fake copyright violation notices, has been circulating on the social media platform since at least June 9.
Fujifilm is one of just two producers of tape media (the other being Sony) and it is hard at work on a breakthrough that will allow single tape storage drives to offer 400TB capacities in the coming years.
The National Parks Service says it's investigating the incident, which took place just two days after the park opened following a shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professional full frame lenses are usually large and have fast apertures. In this episode of DPReview TV, Chris and Jordan argue that there's a need for slow professional lenses – inspired by some of their favorite Micro Four Thirds lenses.
The camera maker joins Olympus, Fujifilm and others is a legal tussle over US digital camera technology patents held by DigiMedia Tech.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) photographs the sun every 0.75 seconds. In its first decade in space, the SDO has captured more than 425 million images of the sun. NASA has compiled these images into an amazing time lapse, come check it out.
The lens is available for Leica M, Sony FE, Nikon Z and L-mount camera systems, and now holds the title as the world's widest rectilinear lens for full-frame camera systems.
Tamron's new 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 is a versatile zoom lens for Sony E-mount. Well-suited for travel photography, it's compact, lightweight, and fast/quiet to focus.
Fujifilm has announced that its GF 30mm F3.5 R WR wide-angle lens for its medium format cameras will ship in late July or early August.