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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£2,299.00
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Sony Alpha 99 review – Autofocus

This diagram shows the 19-point phase-detection AF sensor array and the 102-point focal-point array. Sony claims the latter covers 30% of the frame

Sony has introduced some interesting changes to the autofocus set-up of the Alpha 99. It uses a dual phase-detection autofocus system. Like the Alpha 77, the phase-detection AF sensor is made up of 19 points, 11 of which are the more sensitive cross type. These 19 points are grouped together in a small central portion of the frame. For quick and successful focusing across a number of situations and light conditions, it is key for the subject to be covered by the cross-type points. There is a further focal-point sensor with 102 points that is built into the imaging sensor and has an approximate 30% coverage of the frame, which is impressive.

To complement the new dual AF set-up, an AF-D mode has been introduced, which uses both systems. This mode works well with object tracking for fast-moving subjects such as football players, but also for landscapes or subjects that are off-centre as the AF point coverage is wide. It should be noted that the dual AF is only available with six current lenses, including the Carl Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens used in this test, although Sony promises firmware upgrades for more lenses.

A handy feature is the new AF range control, which offers manual control of the minimum and maximum focus distance. There are a couple of benefits to limiting the focus range – subjects nearer to or further away from these distances do not confuse the AF system, and there is less distance for the camera to scan for a focus point, which means quicker focus in low-contrast light.

For subjects in the centre of the frame, the Alpha 99 performs excellently. I do, however, find the limited coverage of the 19 points to the centre portion of the frame more restrictive for spot focusing.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

  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
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