Sony has launched a full-frame sensor camera again after a gap of four years.
The 24.3MP A99 is the first camera from Sony to feature a full-frame 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor. Users can focus and shoot simultaneously, using its Translucent Mirror Technology, at a rate of up to 12 frames per second. The auto focus sensors are constantly active rather than being interrupted when the mirror flips up to capture an image.
The A99 has a dual phase-detection auto focus (AF) system which provides high-precision focus and wider depth. This is good for shooting a scene where people are likely to pass between an object and the camera. The focal points are densely packed in the centre of the frame - I would have prefered them to be more spaced out.
Output from the image sensor is handled by a Sony Bionz image processor, also newly-developed for the A99, which is able to produce 14-bit Raw image data.There are a number of picture effects can be added to images, but these cannot be used in the Raw format.
The camera’s magnesium alloy body is extremely comfortable to hold and is filled with quick access dials and buttons. The dual SD cards design allows photos or movies to be saved on either cards or can record to both simultaneously as an automatic back up.
The A99’s 3-inch VGA rear-panel LCD display retains Sony’s three-way articulation mechanism that allows viewing from in front of the camera - so long as you don’t have a flash strobe mounted. It can comfortably turn in most directions.
The A99’s OLED electronic viewfinder is inherited from the earlier models. Resolution is an extremely high 2.4 million dots, translating into 1,024 x 768 pixel array.
The electronic viewfinder turns on only when you place your eye on it. The LCD display turns off during this time. The slow switching between the LCD and electronic viewfinder can be frustrating. There’s also a detailed backlit top-panel information display that lets you quickly confirm the camera setup.
The A99’s full HD video recording capabilities are superb. The Quick Navi interactive settings screen makes a welcome return as one of the display options for the rear screen. It can be accessed by pressing DISP. Press Fn when quick Navi is on screen and the panel becomes interactive. The downside is that you lose live view on the rear screen.
Shutter speeds vary from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds for still imaging. There’s also a bulb mode for exposures in excess of 30 seconds. Unlike most professional cameras, there are scene modes, in addition to sensor-shift image stabilization, sweep panorama, movie and tele-zoom in 10fps mode - all available with a twist of the dial. Nice stereo microphone grills decorate the top of the A99.
Still images are stored in either JPEG or 14-bit raw format, or both simultaneously. Movies are stored as AVCHD or H.264, depending upon the resolution.
The A99 doesn’t have a built-in flash strobe but has a GPS receiver which allows geotagging of your images, so you can record the location of the picture.
At just 812 grams it is among the most lightest in its class. The camera is designed to protect from dust and moisture. Most buttons and dials are sealed, and gaskets around the LCD and viewfinder prevent water from entering the body. There are the usual mini USB 2.0 and HDMI connections.
It is priced at Dh10,199 for the body only.
• 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor
• Full-time double phase-detection autofocus
• Lighter than competing full-frame SLRs
• Dual micro SD slots
• 6fps continuous burst
• Translucent mirror has some inherent light-gathering disadvantages
• Slightly over priced
• Slow switching between the LCD and electronic viewfinder
• No built-in flash strobe
• Phase detection AF sensor only at the centre of the frame