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Sony gives its full-frame A99 a makeover with new sensor, smaller body

Create: 09/19/2016 - 21:52
Sony A99 II

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 42.4-MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • Body is 8% lighter than predecessor
  • Can be tethered to a computer for studio shoots

Sony’s E-mount cameras seem to have gotten most of the attention this year, with its A-mount family standing on the sidelines.

Unknown to most, Sony was working behind the scenes and has announced the full-frame A99 II.

Priced at US$3,199, the A99 II ups the resolution with a 42.4-MP backside-illuminated full-frame CMOS sensor – a big increase in resolution from the 24.3-MP CMOS sensor of the original model. The A99 II omits the low-pass filter.

The A99 II has an ISO range of 100-25,600, which can be expanded to 50-102,400. The native aspect ratio is 3:2, which can be changed to 16:9, if desired.

This is a high-speed shooter, recording up to 12 frames per second, while working in conjunction with a new hybrid autofocus that uses a 79-point phase-detection system. At the highest frame rate (12 fps), focus is locked after the first shot under certain conditions. The A99 II also has eye autofocus, which strives to lock onto the eyes when shooting portraits.

To achieve its high frame rate, the A99 II has a translucent mirror that is fixed in place. That is, it never flips upward. The translucent mirror allows the scene to reach the AF and imaging sensor while also reflecting the image to a secondary AF unit.

The photographer can choose to use either the electronic viewfinder or the 3.0-inch LCD monitor, which tilts and rotates. It also can be stowed so that the screen is facing inward, should the photographer not want to use the LCD monitor at all.

FOR STUDIO USE

The A99 II has an electronically controlled mechanical shutter with a speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8,000, plus B. The flash synchronization speed is 1/250. The camera records still images as RAW (Sony ARW 2.3) and JPG with various image sizes and compression levels. RAW images can be processed in the free Capture One software, which will be available to those who purchase the camera. Capture One also allows the A99 II to be tethered to and controlled by a computer. When tethered, images can be stored simultaneously on the computer and the camera. Other tethered-storage options also are possible.

The camera can record 4K video as well as Full HD and lower resolutions. You can extract 8-MP still images from 4K video or 2-MP stills from Full HD.

The A99 II is fitted with two memory card slots. Slot 1 can accept either SD or Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, while Slot 2 accepts only SD cards. In addition to the built-in stereo microphone, there are separate input jacks for an external microphone and headphones.

Five-axis image stabilization is built into the body, which Sony says provides up to 4.5 stops of compensation.

The battery capacity is 390 shots with the viewfinder and 490 using Live View. It can record 135 minutes of video using either the video or LCD monitor. The VG-C77AM battery grip for the A77/A77 II can be used with the A99 II. It holds two NP-FM500H lithium-ion batteries and has another shutter release, as well as duplicating the camera’s primary controls.

WEATHER SEALING

The body is dust- and moisture-resistant with seals around buttons, dials and doors, and the sensor has a special coating that is designed to prevent dust and moisture from settling on it.

The A99 II is a full-size camera, although Sony says it is 8% smaller than its predecessor. Sony said it also made changes to the grip and other areas in an effort to make the camera more comfortable to hold and easier to use. It is built on a magnesium alloy frame.

The body is 5 5/8 x 4 1/8 x 3 inches (142.6 x 104.2 x 76.1mm) and weighs about 1 pound, 14 ounces (850 grams).

It is expected to be available in November 2016.

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.