Sony Alpha 99 review

December 15, 2012

Overall Rating:


Sony Alpha 99

  • Metering:
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  • LCD viewfinder:
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Price as Reviewed:


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...


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.

  • External mic: Yes
  • Video: AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 pixels (at 50fps or 25fps PAL); MP4: 1440 x 1080 pixels (25fps pal); VGA: 640 x 480 pixels (at 25fps)
  • White Balance: Auto, 9 presets, Kelvin, plus three custom settings
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Dioptre Adjustment: -4 to +3 dioptre
  • Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane shutter
  • Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC or Memory Stick Pro Duo
  • Viewfinder Type: 2.359-million-dot XGA OLED EVF
  • Field of View: Approx 100%
  • LCD: 3in LCD with 1,228,800 dots, tilted and articulated
  • Output Size: 6000 x 4000 pixels
  • White Balance Bracket: Yes, 3 images over 2 steps
  • AF Points: Dual phase detection: 19-point with 11 cross types and a 102-point focal-point sensor
  • Sensor: Full-frame, 24.3-million-effective-pixel, CMOS sensor
  • Focal Length Mag: 1.5x
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/250sec
  • Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion NP-FM500H battery
  • Weight: 812g approx including battery and card/s
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, PASM, 3 custom, tele-zoom burst, scene modes, sweep panorama
  • File Format: Raw, JPEG, raw + JPEG simultaneously
  • Drive Mode: 6fps continuous high, single, timer, remote, bracketing
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/8000sec in 1⁄3EV steps plus bulb
  • Exposure Comp: ±5EV in 1⁄3EV or 1/2EV steps
  • Compression: 2-stage JPEG
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • RRP: £2,299 body only
  • Lens Mount: Sony Alpha mount
  • ISO: ISO 100-25,600 (extended to ISO 50)
  • DoF Preview: Yes
  • Focusing Modes: Manual, single-shot AF, automatic AF, continuous AF, depth map, face detection
  • Dimensions: 147 x 111.2 x 78.4mm
  • Metering System: 1,200-zone evaluative metering, centreweighted and fixed centre spot
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, HMDI, separate 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack
  • Tested as: Enthusiast SLT

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