Sony Alpha SLT-A99 In-Depth Review
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.|
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.
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).
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.
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.
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
Dec 1, 2015
Dec 4, 2015
Nov 30, 2015
Nov 24, 2015
"With only a few hundred of these lenses still in existence, and the inability to get them serviced and repaired if damaged, one can only assume that finding one of these will only become more and more difficult as time goes on..."
Google's Pixel 2 might have the 'world's highest rated smartphone camera', but the phone's display is causing serious headaches for the company. From 'dull' colors to reports of burn-in and blue tint, some troubling reports are haunting the tech giant this week.
The WiBotic PowerPad is a three-foot by three-foot landing pad that, according to its makers, is capable of charging almost any drone wirelessly.
Hear what Adobe director of product management Tom Hogarty and Lightroom product manager Sharad Mangalick have to say about the new Lightroom CC, and the future of Lightroom Classic CC.
Phase One has released a new, 15-preset Film Styles Pack for Capture One users that gives you a total of 45 different analog 'Styles' to choose from—33 in color and 12 in black & white.
"Everyone was wearing essentially the same outfits, doing the same poses, and felt like they needed 37 versions of each pose. As irritated as I was by this, it wasn’t what annoyed me the most."
With features like full-sensor-width 4K recording, Nikon has made its most video-friendly DSLR to date in the D850. That said, there's a difference between offering a feature and implementing it well.
If you're set on investing in a seriously capable compact, no doubt these two cameras will be on your list. Here's how they square up.
Adobe's experimental Project 'Deep Fill' is an incredibly powerful and impressive, AI-powered version of Content Aware Fill. Watch the demo to see this amazing tool in action.
LEE has released a new series of Reverse ND filters that are most opaque in the middle and become progressively clearer towards the top. This makes them ideal for capturing scenes where the sun is close to the horizon.
A former New York Times photographer is suing both the newspaper and its photography director Michele McNally for over $500,000 for age discrimination and unfair classification as a freelancer for nearly a decade.
"CPS Platinum members will now enjoy next-day service, with equipment serviced and shipped the business day after an estimate is approved. For repairs that will take longer, Canon will offer next-day loaner equipment."
Irix is introducing a new filter system called the Irix Edge 100. The ultra-light, ultra-thin system is build specifically for wide angle lenses like Irix's own 15mm F2.4.
After conducting a series of safety tests, the FAA is recommending that all airlines ban cameras and other electronics with Lithium Ion batteries from checked baggage. The agency believe the risk of a catastrophic fire and explosion is too great.
The Pixentu jackets keep you and your gear warm and dry, offering useful features like lens and tripod pockets, in addition to some quirky ones like an extended hood to protect your camera from the rain.
Adobe gave the audience at MAX a sneak peek at some exciting new technology its developing. It's called Adobe Cloak: a highly capable Content Aware Fill-like feature for video editors.
Earlier today, Flickr moved its photo book printing service over to a third party services, and stopped offering any wall art options entirely.
The patent details a flipping rear LCD screen so large, Canon has had to hide the rear dial and several buttons underneath.
We've added a selection of extra images to our Nikon D850 gallery. As part of the process of rounding off the review we made sure a number of us had shot the camera in a variety of situations, we've added those shots to the gallery to give a broad cross section of how the camera performs.
Wiral LITE is an affordable, easy-to-use cable cam system that can do things a portable slider simply can't do, and go places no slider would dare go.
Not happy with the recent demise of Lightroom as a stand-alone, subscription free service? Macphun's got your back... or they will in 2018.
Once connected to a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone, Pholio automatically searches through the device storage and backs up all images and videos—complete with auto-tagging and intelligent search capabilities.
The 360 Round uses eight horizontally positioned camera pairs and one upward-pointing single lens to capture and livestream panoramic 4K 3D content.
Introduced just three years ago, the Samsung NX1 was both a technological tour-de-force and a great camera to use, earning one of the highest scores we've ever awarded and winning our 2015 Innovation Award. But its short-lived run in the photo world leaves us wondering what could have been.
The Fujifilm X-E3 is styled like a classic rangefinder, but features a built-in touchscreen, AF joystick, and electronic viewfinder – truly an old school meets new type of camera. Lay some eyes on our sample gallery to see how it performs in the real world.
Like it or not, Adobe is embracing a cloud-centric, AI-rich future with the introduction of Lightroom CC. And that's a great thing, though you may not see it now, argues Rishi Sanyal.
The announcement of a more cloud-integrated Lightroom product sees the death of the company's standalone version. This need to make payments in perpetuity (whether you choose Lightroom Classic or CC), chips away at the idea that your Lightroom library is a long-term solution, argues Richard Butler.
The XPro-C 2.4GHz wireless flash trigger that Godox released for Canon users last month now has a Nikon equivalent—the aptly named XPro-N. Sony, Fujifilm and MFT versions are in the works.
In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, camera and lens maker Sigma is extending its standard product warranty to cover damage caused by these three natural disasters.
The F4 Plus can can capture 360° stills, videos and broadcast livestream footage at 8K resolution... that's 7680 x 3840 pixels!