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Sony A99II Hands On | The A99II AF Could Be In The Same League As The Nikon D5 & Canon 1DX Mark II

By Marlon Richardson on October 26th 2016

At the 2016 PhotoPlus Expo, we got our hands on the new Sony A99II, and as part of this trade show we experienced how well the Sony A99II performed via staged action scenes featuring martial artists and stunt teams. What we did not expect, and frankly surprised us more than any other camera we handled at the show, is the Sony A99II’s autofocus speed and accuracy, as it seems to be in the same league as the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mark II.


In the action scenes like pictured above, the Hybrid Phase Detection AF system, without hesitation, locks on and processes images at the same time from two sensors. All we got was fast, precise autofocus and Nikon D5/Canon 1DX Mark II level subject-tracking that worked reliably at a whopping 12 fps in our brief testing.

According to Sony, the much maligned Translucent Mirror Technology (SLT), has its benefits as it enables Full-time Continuous AF operation and maintains a consistent non-flickering or zero-blackout viewfinder image during shooting, live view, and film recording. Sony believes their AF performance with wide coverage and new motion prediction algorithm that effectively keeps track of a moving subject once locked on, is cutting edge and class-leading even when compared to the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mark II.

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Improved 5-axis stabilization seems to work as well as Sony touted it could. Photos we previewed where sharp and in focus. With the Sony A99II we used live-view while shooting continuously at 8 fps with full AF and AE tracking. Again, display lag was non-existent.

Sony not only hangs with the Nikon and Canon big boys, it does so while enabling many more selectable AF points, wider AF coverage, doubling the resolution, and all within a smaller lighter body that uses comparatively much less expensive standard SD cards. It’s astonishing.

[REWIND: Sony Makes Waves With New A99 II | With 5-Axis OIS, Dual Sensor, & Pro Video]



It’ll be very interesting to find out if the new Sony A99II performance still keeps up in less controlled action environments, but Sony believes the new Sony A99II will exceed expectations. If it does, just like the a7RII, Sony will have yet another actual game changer on it’s hands. Check out more here, and stay tuned for a full review.

[REVIEW: Nikon D5 Review | A Working Review Of A Workhorse]

[RELATED: First Impression of Sigma’s New 85mm Art | PPE 2016]

A big thank you to our sponsors, B&H Photo, for making this trip to Photo Plus Expo 2016 possible!

Marlon is a South Florida-based wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and interactive designer. Involved in photography since the 90’s, his background began with repairing film cameras from a master Vietnam veteran, followed by years of assisting professional photographers then before starting his own business in 2006. Marlon at his heart is a tinkerer that has love for and adept in every medium of photography.

When not working Marlon is all about spending time with his wife, Naomi and two boys, Taze and Brassaï.


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  1. Adam Palmer

    Sony needs to let some pros take this camera outside and use it side by side in all kinds of light. I am already sold on it BTW. Woke up early and preordered it. I’m a portrait photographer. I love all the advantages of an EFV

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    • Philip Loadwick

      Have you got yours yet? They are in stock and shipping in the UK and Europe. What’s it like?

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  2. Holger Foysi

    I think it is a bit early to speculate about D5/1dxii performance, without testing it. The AF system requires the OSPDAF to be combined with the dedicated AF to provide for cross-type AF points in the central region. However, OSPDAF (linearly sensitve only) deteriorates in performance as soon as the light goes dim (my A7rii struggles quite a bit then). Additionally the SLT tech takes away another 1/3-1/2 a stop of light. What does that mean for the tracking performance of approaching/receding subjects in dim light like that usually found in gyms? Will be very interesting to see this. OSPDAF on the A7rii usually has problems when stopping down, too. Beyond f8 the A7x switch to CDAF. Will the A99ii focus wide open or stopped down?

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    • Marlon Richardson

      I make these assumptions primarily because I’ve already tested the D5/1dx Mark II. I am very familiar with their capabilities and limits.

      I wouldn’t worry about the SLT technology, a 1/3 stop light loss is negligible. What matters is the processing power and Sony has two amazing sensors on this camera.

      How do I know?
      1. Shoots 12fps in AF-C
      2. Shoots 8fps in AF-C in Live View
      3. Does this at 42MP’s with no blackout and with buffering rates similar to the D5 and 1dxII.

      When you handle this camera you’ll quickly see that my initial impressions aren’t shocking. The A99II can flat out do the job at least fair to great light. It remains to be seen if it can still do the job at -4ev in actual bad light. We plan on testing all 3 cameras in an action oriented environment.

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    • Holger Foysi

      Of course there is the processing power. But here it is about how the performance of the OSPDAF is contributing to the tracking AF. On sensor PD requires a lot of light to get the data discrimination required for extracting the phase information. In gyms and stopped down the small half-shaded pixels don’t get a lot of light, noise comes into play, reducing tracking performance and the light loss due to the mirror ( measured 1/3 light loss so about 1/2 a stop) adds to this. With MILCs, after acquiring focus, the light from different parts of the lens is within the circle of confusion. There is no phase information available anymore. So the camera needs to let the subject out of focus slightly to regain the information. Here processing power could help in reaching focus faster, in my opinion. The dedicated PD points on the A99ii on the other hand will perform as usual for DSLRs and deliver probably excellent performance. But many shooters I know use something like d9, d21, group AF for erratically moving subjects. To have something similar, the A99ii needs the hybrid approach which depends on the half-shielded pixels. I used the A99ii at Photokina and liked it. So I am looking forward to your comparison.

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    • Black Z Eddie

      Jesus Christ, Holger. Too much parroting. I think I’d rather take the word of someone who actually HAS HANDLED the cameras over someone who READS too much.

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