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...
On paper the Alpha 99 reads well, and for the best part it is impressive in the hand, too. It is made to a high standard, its LCD screen and viewfinder are easy to use, and there are useful additional accessories available, namely the battery grip that can extend the battery life threefold. Landscape photographers should also appreciate how the fixed mirror reduces camera shake. However, the start-up time can be a hindrance.
When compared to the Alpha 77, the low-light performance of the Alpha 99 has been improved no end, and in most respects this is the best Alpha to date. As for the full-frame competition, the Alpha 99 is one of a kind. It is built to a professional standard, yet offers the same shooting modes and picture effects as the company’s entry-level SLT cameras. Thankfully, though, its image quality stands the test, as does its autofocus system, especially the new AF-D mode. However, when it comes to the high-speed shooting situations, there are other pro cameras that offer more control.
Sony Alpha 99 – Key features
For the first time in a Sony Alpha camera, a standard hotshoe mount is used rather than the company’s own Konica Minolta thread
The Alpha 99 uses twin SD card slots, and Slot 1 also accepts the Memory Stick Pro Duo card type
As with most of the buttons, the teleconverter button can be customised. In this case, it is between teleconverter control (1.4x and 2x) and manual-focus magnification
button accesses the AF range function, where the minimum and maximum focus distances can be manually adjusted to stop objects outside the focus area confusing the autofocus
All images can be tagged with GPS information through the built-in GPS unit. It can be turned on or off, as can the auto time-correct function.
Whereas the Alpha 77 offers a mic input only, the Alpha 99 also has a headphone jack so both devices can be simultaneously attached to the camera. Sound levels can therefore be monitored not just on-screen, but also via headphones.
The electronically controlled focal-plane shutter has a maximum speed of 1/8000sec through to 30secs and bulb, and is tested to 200,000 cycles. The maximum flash sync speed is 1/250sec.
A key accessory is the VG-C99AM vertical grip (£299.99), which duplicates the grip for vertical shooting and can hold an extra two batteries. Not only was the new HVL60M flash unit (£459) announced alongside the Alpha 99, but also an (included) adapter to attach other Sony flash units to the new standard hotshoe mount.