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Gear & Apps

Extensive Hands-On Field Review of the Sony A99

By fotosiamo on October 15th 2012

The Sony Press Excursion Experience

This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Sony’s annual Press Excursion. Set in the lovely city of San Francisco and the beautiful countryside of Carmel, Monterey, and Big Sur, a handful of the top photography journalists and I got a chance to shoot with the Sony A99, RX-1, NEX-6, and the VG900. It was a terrific experience filled with skyline studio shoots on the top of the Fairmont Hotel, exotic car racing, helicopter rides, vineyards, hikes, and even a “bee experience” where we wore bee suits to shoot beehives up close.

Fashion Studio Shoot with Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | Fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Studio Fashion Shoot with the Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | for SLR Lounge

The Sony team was an amazing host to say the least. Not only did they want us to shoot the heck out of their cameras, but they encouraged us to be honest and open with our feedback and criticism. Sony is looking to establish a strong equivalent to the Canon Professional Service, and if they can have the kind of care and attention to detail as they did this weekend, I am very optimistic about their prospect.

Now, out of all the cameras available to us, I just could not pull myself away from the Sony A99. That was my choice of camera for the majority of the excursion. It’s not hard to fall in love with its sexy curves and performance. Yes, it is a real looker in real life. Don’t let the photos fool you. In a way, the A99 reminds me of an Infiniti car – great looking in real life and packed with a lot of performance and features that are either not available in its competitors or are only available as an optional extra.

Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

This review is meant to reflect my extensive hands-on experience with the A99 and not a spec-heavy analysis report. I am happy to say the pros for this camera far outweigh the cons, and that I can definitely recommend this camera.

(Many of image samples will link to the full-size resolution jpegs on my Flickr page)

The Sony A99

If you have read my previous first impression on the Sony A99, you know that I am pretty ecstatic about this full-frame DSLT. At the time of the announcement prior to Photokina, I thought that the A99 has just about every feature that I would want from a pro-spec full-frame stills and video camera. Now that I had almost a week’s worth of putting the A99 through its paces, I believe that this camera is going to be a strong competitor to the Nikon D600, the Nikon D800, the Canon 6D, and the Canon 5D mkIII.

What I Like about the A99

Light Weight

Holding in my hand, the 812 grams (1.79lb) A99 is pretty light for a full-frame camera, even with the Sony VGC99AM battery grip attached. I have had the 760g (1.68lb) Nikon D600 for a day prior to my trip, and I can say that the A99 feels just as light. A lot of this has to do with the absence of the traditional mirror-box and pentaprism found in DSLRs. Instead, the Sony A99 utilizes a fixed semi-translucent mirror that allows most light to hit the sensor and reflects a little bit of the light to a Phase-Detect AF sensor. There is also an electronic view finder (EVF) instead of the traditional optical view finder (OVF).

And considering that I primarily shoot with the smaller Panasonic GH2, I’m surprised how comfortable it was for me to carry the A99 all week with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA zoom lens and the battery grip. I also had the Sony 50mm f/1.8, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA, and the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro in my backpack, but the A99 with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 Z and the Sony VGC99AM battery grip was my go-to combination.

Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Superb Build Quality & Ergonomic

Unlike the D600, the A99 boasts a full magnesium body and really feels like it’s built like a tank. Sony really did not cut any corners when it comes to the build quality of the A99. Even the flaps covering connectors like the HDMI port feel more secure than those found on the D800 and 5D mkIII. Everything just feels solid. The body is, of course, weather-resistant.
The grip is very comfortable to hold and the buttons feel great to push. There are 7 reprogrammable buttons on the body alone, so customizability and direct access are not a problem. In fact, once I got my settings and customization dialed in, I rarely have to go back into the Menu Settings.

Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

The buttons also vary in feel so that you can differentiate which button you are pressing. Some are concave instead of convex, and some are placed higher off the body then others. The only button that I think is hard to find is the depth-of-field preview button on the 7 o’clock position of the lens mount. That button is a little too small and flush to find quickly. The Nikon buttons in the same position are far easier to find by touch. Luckily, all the lenses that I tried have a large function button that you can program as either a focus hold button or a depth-of-field preview button.

I also like the locking mechanism of the Mode Dial that prevents the Shooting Mode from changing accidentally. I really appreciate this kind of feature and it’s something that I’d like to see more often on other cameras.

The Silent Control wheel also feels great to the touch and is silky smooth. You can change its function on the fly, and is especially useful when you want to change metering mode, ISO, or other functions. If anything, it can be a little bit bigger to make it easier to find, but of course I have the battery grip on so it the wheel is a little farther away from the bottom of the camera.

Sony A99 Silent Wheel Control by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Finally, the screen tilts up and down, and rotates left and right on the A99. I still don’t understand why Canon and Nikon have yet to introduce a full-frame DSLR that has this, especially considering their increased focus in video. Even for stills, having the ability to tilt the screen really helps when you have to shoot down low or up high.

Sony A99 Tilt Screen by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Image quality

The A99’s sensor is superb. Enough said.

Ok, so this is the more than likely the same sensor that is in the Nikon D600, and the quality really shines in both cameras. The colors are life-like and are accurate to about ISO8000. If you are shooting people, you won’t be disappointed with the skin-tone rendition. The 2nd day of our excursion, we shot two models and the resulting images are competitive to those of the professional Canon and Nikon offerings, especially when coupled with my favorite lens, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA, which has a lovely bokeh and sharp focus.

Fashion Studio Shoot with Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Fashion Studio Shoot with Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Another really sharp lens for shooting people is one of Matthew Jordan Smith’s favorite lenses, the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro. This lens is even sharper at wide open aperture than the 85mm. I can see why this lens works great for Matthew’s beauty shots. It shows so much detail in the skin and hair!

100mm Macro on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

When it comes to landscape, there are a lot to like about the Sony A99, as well. The camera just loves the color green and does a really good job in recording any lush scenery. We ran into some rain during our visit to a vineyard in Carmel, CA, and that provided a terrific opportunity for some nature photography. The vineyard simply looked gorgeous after the rain with all the vegetation glistening with raindrops! The A99 and the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA lens, with its beautiful bokeh and color rendering, delivered some of my favorite images from the whole trip. One of them even won the Best Landscape category for our Sony contest.

Carmel Vineyard on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Carmel Vineyard on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Carmel Vineyards shot with Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 on A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

What helps make the color pop is also the accurate white balance, especially with the Auto WB. There are quite a few times that I just forgot to change my white balance simply because the A99 was doing a great job at handling whatever lighting situation that I was in.

The shots that I took by the rocky cliffs of 17 Mile Drive were equally amazing. The cool, cloudy cover muted the colors a bit, and the Cloudy WB preset added just enough warmth to the rocks without completely changing the mood of the scene. The texture details of the rock are maintained despite the medium-strength AA filter on the A99. It won’t get you the kind of landscape detail as a Nikon D800/800E or medium format cameras, but for most people, the detail available should suffice.

Lonely Cypress on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Seascape on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Did I mention that colors look great on the A99? I must have. Well, here’s another example of the vivid, true to life colors that you can get with the A99.

Chinatown on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Nice High ISO with Good Noise Characteristic

Another benefit of going up to a full-frame sensor is the improved noise performance. Many people are worried about noise penalty that can occur from using a semi-translucent mirror. The Sony A77 may have had issues with noise when it comes to low light and high ISO situations, but I can happily say that the A99 performed well in those situations. Noise grain is a little bit noticeable starting at ISO400, but it looks natural and it is well-controlled into ISO6400. The noise that is around between ISO1600 and ISO6400 are fine tightly-grained noise that does not really detract from the image quality.

ISO3200 in Church on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

I really think that wedding and event photographers who regularly shoot in high ISO will come to appreciate this camera’s low light performance.

The two Monterey Bay Aquarium images below are shot in very, very dim lighting. You can take a look at the full-size resolution to see how the A99 did in this candlelight lighting condition.

Monterey Bay Aquarium on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Monterey Bay Aquarium on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Even at ISO6400, the noise performance is still really good. The colors are still look pretty accurate to me, as well. Moreover, there is almost no evidence of the dreaded chroma noise that plague other cameras at this high of ISO. I think you can get away with ISO8000 before any serious image degradation. Even at that point, web and small prints should still look fine.

ISO6400  on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Really Good Dynamic Range

Just like the Nikon D800 and the Nikon D600, the A99’s Exmor sensor does a terrific job in not only attaining a wider dynamic range, but also in not breaking apart and introducing chroma noise when you pull up the shadows. The first day that I got the camera, I had some free time to roam around the streets of San Francisco. Given that there are a lot of tall buildings in the area, I knew that it should be pretty easy to test out the dynamic range capabilities of the A99. These two shots were taken at the Grace Cathedral around 3pm. In both cases, the sky and buildings exposed to the sunlight were not blown out, and the shaded area maintained a lot of detail.

Dynamic Range Grace Cathedral on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Dynamic Range on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

As mentioned before, the A99 RAW files are pretty forgiving when it comes to pulling shadows from a shot. It should be pretty close to the D600’s capability and not that far from the D800. The Fairmont Hotel penthouse where Sony held their studio shoot offered us an amazing view of the San Francisco skyline. In the morning, the sun is backlighting the buildings in this shot, and when I meter for the sky, the buildings are all in the shadows. In Lightroom 4, I was able to add +75 on Contrast, +85 on the Shadows, and +90 on the Blacks to brighten the shaded areas of the city without adding bad artifacts.

Original Dynamic Range on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Expanded Dynamic Range on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Electronic View Finder (EVF)

Since I shoot primarily with the Panasonic GH2, which is a Micro Four Thirds camera with a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), I am very comfortable with using the A99’s wonderful EVF. Am I one of those unabashed optical viewfinder (OVF) hater? Of course not! I also shoot with the Canon 5D mkII, mkIII, and the Nikon D800 from time to time. A full-frame and medium format OVF, especially on the D800, D600, and the Pentax 645D are bright and crisp. What you see through those OVFs is exactly what you would see with your own eyes without the camera.
But here is the real question: do you want to see what your eyes sees or what your camera sees? That is the real advantage of a high-performing EVF like the A99’s, the fact that you can see in real time what the camera is going to record into its sensor. This means that the exposure, color rendition, real-time WB, and picture effects that the camera sees will be shown to you in real time. There is no tearing, no false colors, and no perceptible lag.

Additionally, when you’re using the depth-of-field preview, the EVF will not get dark and unusable like it does with OVFs. This means that you can also compose and set focus while viewing the true depth-of-field at any given aperture.

And here is something else that I do frequently on an EVF that is impossible to do on an OVF – review your images and videos through the viewfinder when it is bright and sunny outside. The LCD screens on the back of most enthusiasts and pro cameras are great until you have to view the images outside in broad daylight. With an EVF, you can review your images all day long.

Simply put, this is one of the best EVFs out there.

Direct Manual Focus (DMF), AF-D Mode, and Focus Peaking

Although practically every DSLR have AF-S (Single Shot AF) and AF-C (Continuous AF), the A99 has two additional AF modes that prove to be highly useful. The Direct Manual Focus (DMF) works like AF-S with manual override, but with the added benefit of allowing you to use focus peaking. Focus peaking is a way to visually verify what part of the image is in focus by adding colored outlines to those areas in focus. This is a great way to focus check, especially when manual focusing in both still and video. It is available in both DMF Mode and regular Manual Focus Mode.

As you can see from the image below, I have the background picture frames in focus and highlighted by focus peaking.

Focus Peaking on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

The AF Depth Map (AF-D) mode uses the secondary Phase-Detect AF on the imaging sensor itself to assist the primary Phase-Detect AF. There are 102 points available and once you lock on to the target, it does a very good job in keeping track of a moving object in 3-dimensional space. While out hiking at a seaside cliff trail, I spotted a hawk flying overhead, and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to test out the AF-D. Out of over a dozen shots that I took of the hawk, only one photo was slightly out of focus. This kind of continuous AF performance should really help sports photographers and wildlife photographers keep track of their subjects.

AF-D AF Mode on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

AF Range Limit

The AF Range Limit control gives you the ability to limit the range in which your lens will search for focus. This works on all Alpha mount lenses old and new because this is controlled within the body. All you do is press the AF Range Limit button located at the bottom right corner of the back of the A99. The AF Range slider appears at the bottom the screen and you use the rear dial to limit the focus on the near side and the front dial to limit the focus on the far side. It’s easy to access and to use.

AF Range Limit on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

I used the AF Range Limit feature while shooting kite surfers on the beach, as well as while shooting macro photos of honey bees. Both the Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G and the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses do have focus-limiters, and the A99’s AF Range Limit works just as well as those lenses’ focus limiters.

400mm f/2.8 on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

100mm Macro f/2.8 on honey bees on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

What I Don’t Like about the A99

By now, you may think that the A99 just crushes the competition. Well, it is still not the perfect camera, of course. As I mentioned before, part of this whole trip is for us journalists to be open and honest with Sony. So here are several things about the Sony A99 that I did not like.

Battery drain

There is one clear drawback with using an EVF versus an OVF, and that is the increased battery drain. Unlike the Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs, which can shoot for over 800 images before exhausting their batteries, I found that the A99’s battery only lasted between 300-400 shots when I use the EVF extensively. I have the battery grip which holds two additional batteries for a total of three batteries and I typically end up using 1 ½ to almost 2 batteries each day. If you are in the market for the A99, extra batteries are essential.

Buttons on Battery Grip Doesn’t Match the Body’s Buttons

Because I use the EVF extensively, I rely on touch to operate the buttons on the A99. As I mentioned before, the layout and variations on the body makes it relatively easy for me to change settings on the fly without looking at the buttons, but with the battery grip, the spatial arrangement of the buttons is different. This is especially noticeable between the thumb dial, the AEL, and the AF/MF button. On the grip, the +/- EV and the AF/MF button arrangement mimics the AEL and AF/MF button arrangement on the body, so I found myself accidentally pressing the +/- EV button on the grip, thinking it was the AF/MF button. Furthermore, the buttons on the grip are all concave and are all set on the same level on the body. I suppose that I can get used to it the more I use the grip alongside the body, but until then, I have caught myself pulling away from the EVF to double check what button I’m pressing on the grip.
What can help here is if the A99 allows separate customization of the battery grip’s buttons.

Battery Grip on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

RAW Preview on LCD Screen Shows the Mushy Noise Reduction
For some reason, the RAW preview thumbnails on the LCD and EVF shows the mushy noise reduction typical to that of Jpeg noise reduction. What this means is that if you are shooting in higher ISO and you need to check the image on the screen for critical detail, you may just end up seeing smeary textures at 100% magnification. On Lightroom, however, the noise reduction is not transferred over and the textures are retained. I mentioned this to one of the Sony reps and I hope that this is something that can be fixed in a firmware update.

Weather-Resistance on G and Carl Zeiss Lenses Unknown

Looking at the website for Sony Digital Imaging, one specification that is not mentioned for any of the Sony and Carl Zeiss lenses is weather sealing. This is one question that I forgot to ask during the excursion, so after a little bit of Googling, I found out that only the Sony 300mm f/2.8 G mkII (SAL300F28GII), 500mm f/4 G SSM, and the APS-C only DT 16-50mm f/2.8 are officially weather-sealed. Does it mean that the other lenses can’t be used in the rain or dusty environment? I’m not sure, actually. So if you, our reader, can chime in, let us know.

Slow AF on Non-SSM lenses

The Sony reps assured me that there is a plan in place to update more of their top lenses with SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) AF. This is a good thing, because the non-SSM lenses like the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA and the 100mm f/2.8 takes considerably longer to focus compared to the SSM lenses like the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA. On top of that, the non-SSM lenses utilize a screw drive that physically attaches to the body, which mean that you can’t just use the manual focus ring without first disengaging the screw drive. To do this, you’d have to be in Manual Focus Mode. You can also decouple the screw drive in DMF Mode, but only after you autofocus with your AF or shutter button. If you try to turn the focus ring before engaging autofocus, you will encounter stiff resistance that feels like there is a lot of sand under the focus ring.

Only 6 Lenses are Compatible with AF-D and the On-Sensor Phase Detect AF at Time of Launch

I mentioned earlier about the benefits of the AF-D Mode to accurately keep track of moving objects. The caveat to this AF Mode is that only 6 lenses at the time of this review are able to use AF-D and the On-Sensor PD-AF. Future firmware updates for other lenses should help alleviate this problem. In the meantime, here are the six lenses:

Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*24-70mm f/2.8 ZA SSM (SAL2470Z)
Sony 28-75mm f/2.8 SAM (SAL2875)
Sony 50mm f/1.4 (SAL50F14)
Sony 300mm f/2.8 G mkII (SAL300F28GII)
Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM (SAL70400G)
Sony 500mm f/4 G (SAL50050F4G)


Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

I like forward-thinking companies, and in the camera world, Sony is the company that is clearly on the offensive with its high-end camera offerings. The A99 is not only superb, but I can consider it to be avant-garde and full of technology. The sensor itself can go pound-for-pound against Canon’s and Nikon’s full-frame sensors in regards to dynamic range, color rendition, and resolving power. But what really set the A99 apart are all of the other features like the EVF, focus peaking, 1080p 60p movie mode, Dual Phase-Detect AF, tiltable screen, and so on.
Lens selection does favor Canon and Nikon, but this is where you have to ask yourself, what lenses do you really need? Just because Canon and Nikon have 3-5x more lens choices, doesn’t mean that you will be purchasing 3-5x more lenses compared to the Sony Alpha system. For me, the Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 Z” title=”Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA” target=”_blank”>Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA, Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G, Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA, Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 ZA, and the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro pretty much cover all the lenses that I need. I would probably rent the Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA if I ever need to shoot wide angle.
In encourage you to visit Sony Digital Imaging Lenses Page to see if Sony has the right lens offering for the kind of photography that you shoot.
I have high hopes with the A99 and after using it for almost a week I can honestly say that despite some of its drawbacks, the Sony A99 is a true winner in my book. For someone like me who is looking to move from a smaller format camera system to a full-frame system, the A99 is a very strong competitor to the other full-frame DSLRs. People may complain that the price is not $2100 like the Nikon D600 and the Canon 6D, but it shouldn’t be. Those are what I consider a basic full-frame camera, stripped of many (but not all) of the advanced features that are found in the A99 and the more expensive Canon and Nikon models.

The A99 deserves 5-stars in my review. Whether you are an enthusiast or a professional photographer, if you are looking for a full-frame camera and system, I highly recommend that you give a serious consideration to the A99.

Here are some more photos samples that I took from my trip. They are all available in full-resolution on my Flickr page. Hope you enjoy all my photos!

Fashion Studio Shoot on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Deer on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Carmel Vineyard on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Carmel Vineyard on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

San Francisco Night Skyline on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

These are two panoramas that I stitched from individual A99 shots and treated with the HDR Light Preset from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System.

Seascape Panorama 1 on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

Seascape Panorama 2 on Sony A99 by Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo for SLR Lounge

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Joe is a fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ed Rhodes

    nice shots from a good looking camera

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  2. The Sony a7 & a7R Field Review: History in the Making?

    […] quality images. The Sony a7 has the 24MP full-frame sensor that has done very well in the Sony A99 (See our review) and the Nikon D600 (See our review), and it has been updated with an on-sensor Phase detect AF […]

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  3. A Night Out in Nashville: Sony a7R Low Light Performance

    […] a7 shares a similar resolution count with a handful of full-frame cameras including the Sony A99 [REWIND: SLR Lounge's Sony a99 Field Review] and the Canon 5D Mark III. Just like those two cameras, the a7 has a very good low-light […]

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  25. Bloodngutz

    When trying to use the a99 with studio lighting I find that I can longer see through the viewfinder or LCD screen is this normal? Do I have my setting correct or is it broken?

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    • Joe Gunawan

      When you use studio lighting, you do have to turn off the real time exposure feature on the viewfinder. I forget where it is exactly in the menu settings. Basically, this is what shows you what the camera sees in ambient lighting, Unfortunately, it doesn’t work w/ strobe lighting because it has no idea what power the strobe lights will be.

      A better function would be like my Panasonic GH2 and GH3, which turns off the real-time exposure when it sense a flash or a trigger is inserted into the hot-shoe.

      – Joe Fotosiamo

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  26. Stevennorquist

    Are their adapters made to allow other bands of full frame lenses to be used on the Sony A99?
    I have Leica M glass that I would like to use and a Zeiss C/Y lens.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      The flange distance for Leica M lenses would be too short for the a99, unfortunately.

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  27. Dale

    Thanks very much for the review.  Good info.  Did you do much video with it and if so how was it.

    I just bought the ony rx-100 and was very impressed with it but not Sony.  They have never really been into customer service and post sale support.  For example, the manuals are very basic and it has been difficult to realise what all the icons are on the view finder are.  Also on the rx100 there is not an external charger, so the camera has to be hooked up with the battery in it to charge…how stupid is that in a $650 camera.

    It’s little stuff like this that makes me stay away from Sony, they make good products but lousy support.  When I want to start spending medium to big buck for equip, I always end up back at “Canikon” (really like that)

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    • Joe Gunawan

      I did do some video, but I wouldn’t say that I did a great job with it to warrant too much weight for or against it.

      – Joe

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  28. David Mark Photography

    I just received my Sony A99 on Wednesday from Adorama and I couldn’t be happier. I pre purchased some of the older Minolta lenses like the touted 28-135mm secret hand shake as well as a Tokina 28-70 and 80-200. The pictures with the Minolta lens are really awesome. I work for a surgeon, so my first images were of some of our surgeons demonstrating surgical techniques to a large group of nurses and insurance adjustors. Needless to say, harsh lighting and muted colors, but the pictures turned out great. This camera is one serious piece of equipment. If you get one and your on a bit of a budget like me, I would recommend some of the older Minolta lenses, they really are a great value and built like tanks. The only real downfall of the older lenses is that if your using them for video and want to use the auto focus function, they are a bit loud. 

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  29. Ron

    Thanks for the review. I tested it over the past three days with the Carl Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 in the studio and in the city. My take on the A99: Too expensive for what you get. The same specs, albeit a fully weather resistant body, are available on the D600, which is far cheaper. The only innovation is the in-body EVF coupled with a full frame sensor, so I can’t see why the A99 would become a success.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      The specs are not the same actually. I have no idea why people still think that the two cameras are comparable other than the 24MP sensor. Here is what the Sony has over the D600: 1/8000 shutter instead of 1/4000. 1/250th x-sync instead of 1/125, in-body stabilization which means all lenses are stabilized, faster AF with more AF points, Dual-phase AF, PC sync port, can use aperture while in Live View while the D600 locks the aperture in Live View, built-in GPS, Zeiss lenses that have AF, Silent Control Wheel which great in still and video, EVF that shows you in real-time how your photo will look in the camera, and weather-resistant full-magnesium body instead of half plastic-half magnesium. There are plenty of reasons why the A99 is worth the extra money compared to the D600.
      – Joe

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    • Ron

      All true, Joe, but for most of what needs to be achieved one doesn’t need more than the D600 or the new, stripped, EOS 6D. If the sensor is good and there is a wide range of lenses, then all the other bells and whistles are extra’s, but not necessities.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Well, that depends on the photographer. What is a luxury for one photographer may be highly useful to another photographer. Sensor is important, but it’s not everything. Otherwise, we’d all be shooting Leicas.

      Event/wedding photographers may require that missing PC Sync Port for the speedlights.
      Portrait photographers who regularly shoot wide open at f/1.8 or faster during daytime would want to have the 1/8000 shutter speed.I shoot with studio strobes in daytime as well for my fashion and commercial work, so having 1/250th sync to kill the ambient is very handy.The enhanced 3D continuous AF courtesy of the Dual-Phase-detect AF and the Focus Range Limiter that’s built into the body (I forgot to mention this) is extremely useful for sports and wildlife photographers.Finally, I love the EVF and the ability to view not what my eyes see, but what the camera is seeing and is going to capture. And I really appreciate having in-body stabilization.– Joe

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  30. Machin Truc

    just a small addition: don’t forget the legacy Minolta glass (e.g. the 100/2.8 Macro is essentially the same lens that Minolta brought out a decade or so ago. same goes for the 16/2.8 fisheye, 20/2.8, 35/1.4, 50/2.8 Macro). there are lots of nice lenses that can be had for reasonable prices on the second hand market.
    oh, and they do not necessarily focus slower than the SSM lenses. my 20+ years old 28-135 beats the 70-300 and the 70-400 hands down when it comes to focus speed.

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  31. kenz sholihin

    I really want to have a camera sony alpha 77 or alpha 99, but in our country it is difficult to get, how to buy? ….Can buy through ebay …

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  32. Hjk_sk8

    This camera is just amazing! look how beautiful the photos are! I’m really impressed, especially about the details. But it’s still too much expensive for me. I’m gonna stick with my Sony APS-C SLT Thank you for your review.

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  35. M. Santeuil

    Great review! Great shots! (pity you don’t mention the Exif)

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    • Joe Gunawan

      If you click on any of the photos to go to the Flickr photo, then click on “Photo/All Sizes”, that will take you to the Flick page for that photo where you can find the Exif

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  38. Panda_

    Did you use any software like lightroom to reduce noise amount in the 6400 ISO shot?

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    • Joe Gunawan

      I can use Lightroom 4 or similar software to reduce the noise, but for the purpose of the review, I left the settings on default when imported into Lightroom.  Adobe’s ACR/RAW setting does eliminate chroma noise, though.

      — Joe

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    • Panda_

      So, basically, this is the noise the camera produced without the chroma noise…. very interesting 

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  39. josh

    Love what I’m seeing so far.  Gotta say though that when blowing up your ISO 3200 shot of the aquarium, it looks NOISY to my eyes at what is about 12×8″ size on the screen.  If you can’t print a 12×8 that is clean and usable, that’s a problem for anyone that makes their living off photography though might not be an issue for the average user.  Given this is a FF camera clearly marketed at pro level, I find the level of noise that I’m observing to be problematic.  I’m interested to see more before a final decision but I hope there is a way to manage this better.  Truthfully, the A77 seems to be producing comparable noise just to my visual estimate; side-by-sides here would be interesting as well.  If the A99 can’t do better than the A77 at noise suppression that will make it hard to justify the cost even if you consider the additional features it offers.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      The aquarium is super, super dark, so that may contribute to the noise more then say the chapel scene here:

      This one is probably a better example of an interior shot and its noise level is very manageable and easy to clean up in Lightroom, I think.
      — Joe

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  40. DanTHEME

    Very nice review, if they just would offer some wider primes!

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Yes, wider Zeiss primes, as well as a Tilt-Shift would be great!

      – Joe

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  42. joel richards

    Did any try out M-mount glass on the VG900?

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    • Joe Gunawan

      I didn’t personally. I’m not sure anyone had an M-to-E-mount adapter, although Steve Huff did bring his Monochrome Leica M9 for the trip, haha.

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  43. Peter S.

    If you’re looking to see how weatherproof sony can be:

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  44. T Karlmann

    Thank you for an extremely fine review!

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  45. Blake

    I’m not sure who designs sony’s battery grips… But I think they should be fired.

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  47. GeoMich

    I use a77 for around 1 year and… I absolutely love it. It is a lot of similarities between these two cameras. One of the most important mentioned above features of EVF (the same on both a77 and a99) is an option to review taken pictures. I have to add here that as I wear glasses to review the image in EVF I don’t have to put my glasses on to see the image sharp.
    If you take a few hundred pictures a day and you would like to review your work as it goes on the standard LCD putting your glasses on and off is really a painful experience.
    I am sure that this valuable feature of EVF will be highly appreciated and frequently used by many photographers wearing glasses.
    I also would like to stress that Zeiss lenses are one best (if not the best) in the market. Finally a99 will allow to use these lenses to its full potential matched with top end camera electronics.
    I am seriously considering upgrage from a77 to a99. Well done SONY. 
    Great review. Many thanks.

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  48. Kenneth Hung

    Im a big fan of Sony’s strategy here to innovate rather than try to compete directly with the big two. If I were a more serious photographer I’d definitely consider getting the a99. I do hope Sony does become a serious contender though. Competition and innovation are good for everyone.

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  49. robertsmx

    One of the best reviews I have seen! You covered more, and with passion, than what most others may not even give time to think about.


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    • Joe Gunawan

      Thanks Robertsmx! I really enjoyed the Sony A99 and I honestly believe that it is just as good as the Canikon full-frame offerings. Now just gotta figure out about buying one for myself, haha =)

      — Joe

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  50. Zjuwanun

    “The sensor itself can go pound-for-pound against Canon’s and Nikon’s full-frame sensors in regards to dynamic range, color rendition, and resolving power. ” Do you know that D600 and A99 share the same sensor?

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    • robertsmx

      Not necessarily. They may be very similar but I doubt they are the same. On some websites, I have seen their dimensions differ slightly.

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    • Joe Gunawan

      I did mention that they may share the same sensor. But certain specs may change depending on the rest of Nikon D600’s image processing pipeline. It’s the same reason why the Nikon D7000, Pentax K5, and the Sony A77 share the same sensor but have different image quality output.

      — Joe

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  52. chris gampat

    Nice job, Joe!

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Thanks Chris! Great time with the camera and the press group, haha!

      — Joe

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  53. Geoff McElhattan

    Does anyone know the length of video this thing can shoot?   Can it go longer than a half an hour?

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    • LightBulbIT

      The only camera that can shoot over a half an hour is a camcorder (camera is classified differently if it shoots over 29.9 minutes)

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  54. harryjohn

    Very informative review. Thank you! Just one small clarification: Sony’s 70 to 200 zoom is not a Zeiss lens; it’s a Sony G (their version of Canon’s L). However, if Sony were ever to replace the G with a Zeiss, you’d have a lot of people frothing at the mouth to buy one. Cheers!

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    • Joe Gunawan

      Oh yes, nice catch. I got used to wanting all sorts of Zeiss lenses, lol!

      – Joe

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    • John

      I love to takes pictures for my cat at home. Is the high iso good ? I only shot jepg is that worth to buy the A99 ? I m not using NEX 5n.

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    • John

      Typo… I mean I m now using NEX 5N

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  55. Tomislav Sebek

    Thanks for the field report. I am shooting events and weddings with the a700 and a900 for years and I almost decided to switch to Canikon, this makes me stay a happy camper, as Sony finally addressed the things that were, plain, bad with Sony (crappy hi-iso, propriety hot-shoe, no video etc.)

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