While Sony’s 24.3-million-pixel, full-frame Alpha 99 has a glittering specification on paper, the true test is how the camera handles a number of demanding situations in the field. Read the Sony Alpha 99 review...

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Sony Alpha 99

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Sony Alpha 99 review


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Sony Alpha 99 at a glance:

  • 24.3-million-pixel, full-frame, Exmor CMOS sensor
  • Fixed translucent mirror design (SLT)
  • ISO 100-25,600 (extended to ISO 50)
  • 2.359-million-dot XGA OLED EVF
  • 3in, 1.228-million-dot dual articulated LCD screen
  • Dual AF system with 19-point phase detection and 102-focal-point sensor
  • 10fps high-speed burst shooting
  • Weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body
  • Street price £2,299 body only

Sony Alpha 99 review – Introduction

A lot has changed during the four years between the launch of Sony’s original flagship full-frame DSLR, the Alpha 900, and the arrival of its replacement, the Alpha 99. While both use the same lens mount and a full-frame sensor with an approximate 24-million-pixel resolution, there are few other similarities. The launch of the Alpha 99 means that Sony’s current Alpha range is made up entirely of SLT (single lens translucent) models rather than DSLRs. So, from the entry-level Alpha 37 through to the Sony Alpha 99, all the cameras use a fixed translucent mirror rather than the moving mirror set-up of a traditional DSLR.

When SLT technology was introduced two years ago in the Alpha 33 and Alpha 55, we went into detail about the impact this set-up has on the handling and image quality of the cameras (AP 9 October 2010), and the same information applies to the Sony Alpha 99. A fixed translucent mirror set-up works by allowing approximately 70% of the light through to the imaging sensor, and redirects the remaining 30% to an AF sensor.

Benefits of the SLT system over the direct competition include full-time live view and phase-detection AF, and fast frame rates because the mirror is fixed and does not need to move between frames. However, there is a concern about the impact that a 1/3EV reduction of light reaching the sensor has on image quality, particularly in low-light performance. Also, as only 30% of light would be directed to the viewfinder, an optical type would be too dark so an electronic viewfinder (EVF) is used instead.

Recently, Sony has been one of the leading innovators in new camera technology, and this in turn provides unique selling points for its cameras. These will be crucial as the company tries to include the Alpha 99 into a professional market long dominated by competitor brands. The Sony Alpha 99 is up against the likes of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D800, so it will have to offer something that its rivals don’t.

To this end, the company has been working hard, particularly on the Alpha 99’s autofocus, and on paper everything looks very good. However, the true test is when the camera is in the hand. I am therefore keen to see how the Alpha 99 performs in the sorts of situations a professional would use it, and whether Sony’s SLT technology is appropriate for this market.

  1. 1. Sony Alpha 99 at a glance:
  2. 2. Sony Alpha 99 review - Features
  3. 3. Sony Alpha 99 review - High speed shooting
  4. 4. Sony Alpha 99 review - Build and handling
  5. 5. Sony Alpha 99 review - White balance and colour
  6. 6. Sony Alpha 99 review - Metering
  7. 7. Sony Alpha 99 review - Noise, resolution and sensitivity
  8. 8. Sony Alpha 99 review - Autofocus
  9. 9. LCD, viewfinder and video
  10. 10. Dynamic range
  11. 11. The competition
  12. 12. Our verdict
Page 1 of 12 - Show Full List
  • F bom

    The handeling is not very comfortabel. The knobs are very small. The flash has no separatisme knob. Will work only when choosen with the Weel

  • Steve Hoskins

    3 out of 10
    I purchased this camera very recently and returned due to its very poor image quality. Like one of your other reviewers I am a professional photographer and thought after reading some reviews this was a great pocket camera. However after taking quite a few images over a couple of days I found that the files were only sharp in the centre with a dramatic fall of towards the edges.
    After reading the other reviews here I am not sure if it was faulty or I am just used to Canon and Phase files but in my experience this camera is not as good as the claims made.

  • Thorkil Brodersen

    Please make a review of the new and very very strong and exiting Sigma DP2 Merrill, which I do think will be the aim for professionals and enthusiasts.
    Best regards
    Thorkil Brodersen

  • SaEd

    Yes I am, you didn’t try hard enough if you would have strtead by dialling 1 and then moved on to 2 then kept going until you reached 001447949830516 you would have reached me.

  • Lea

    jumadia rom:The ability to ioaslte a single colour in your photographs is one of the best examples of how digital photography can offer techniques and effects that are difficult to create with film. While the effect is certainly possible in a chemical darkroom, it’s a time-consuming process. Follow this tutorial and you’ll be able to knock up a finished example on your PC in less than 10 minutes. The best reason to create an image with a strong ioaslted colour – or a bold area of ioaslted colours – is to add impact to an element that otherwise gets lost in the composition. It can add poignant impact to a small but crucial detail, and can be a way of tugging on people’s heartstrings. Examples in photography abound – visit any tourist art market and you’re bound to see a few. London telephone boxes and double-decker buses are typical examples. The fact that the technique is so popular tells you all you need to know – it gets the message across, and can turn a dull photograph onto one with an

  • Pedrin

    I have had mine for 2 weeks now , and I love it ! It does everything that it should do. The control ring on the lens is brilliant once you get used to it. So far I haven’t missed the optical viewfinder and the image quality is superb. I was worried that they had crammed too many pixels onto the sensor , but it is perfect !