Sony built a reputation for themselves with the a99, and that was one of forward thinking, perhaps even, ahead of its time. Then they went silent. Those who had it, ached for an update, and those who hadn’t used it simply seemed to forget about it. But now it’s back, and again pushing the parameters of SLR in this rather loaded SLT. The new a99 II, released today at Photokina, is pulling serious attention given its impressive new tech and multitude of video features. Suffice to say, Sony’s flagship has been drawing comparisons to primary bodies from Nikon and Canon, and if you look through objective eyes, it’s not hard to see why.
This a99 II SLT marks the 10th anniversary of the Alpha series, and in a way it seems as though Sony is trolling Canon and Nikon; delivering the goods that (on paper), fill the gaps left by cameras like the 5D IV, or even the Nikon D5. With 5-axis image stabilization and 4K video sans pixel binning, 12fps and 8fps with minimal EVF blackout, and two sensors all for $3,200, it’s making a compelling argument.
And in case you’re curious what is meant by two sensors, essentially just that; the a99 II has a dedicated overlay PDAF sensor with 79 autofocus points that works in tandem with the primary sensor that has 399 AF points. This dual sensor usage builds into what Sony is dubbing Hybrid Cross AF Points, and would appear to allow for extremely good focusing, even down to -4EV. This is Sony’s first full-frame camera to feature their acclaimed 4D Focus system, and the α99 II can also handle continuous live-shooting up to 8 fps with AF/AE tracking. It’s also worth noting that this shutter is rated at 300,000 cycles, which is serious pro territory, and bests the similarly priced systems almost by double.
the α99 II has been designed to allow for high resolution, continuous shooting at high frame rates. The camera features a new front-end LSI that works with the image sensor, BIONZ X® image processing engine and a newly designed shutter unit to enable continuous shooting at impressive speeds of up to 12fps
with AF/AE tracking. Thanks to a large buffer, these shots can be viewed immediately after shooting, even when in high-speed continuous shooting mode. Additionally, if these high-speed shots are being taken indoors under artificial lighting, the camera can automatically detect flicker and time the shutter accordingly to minimize its effect on the resulting images7.
In terms of resolution the a99 II sits with a 42.2MP Exmor R CMOS with ‘gapless-on-chip design’ which should allow for quick readouts of large amounts of data, whilst also giving high light sensitivity and minimal noise across its large range of ISO 100-25600, expandable to ISO 50 – 102,400. Sony has also done away with the optical low pass filter as seems to be becoming common practice these days.
5 Axis Stabilization
The five-axis stabilization system is pulled from the A7 series and essentially an effectively detects movement in all axes including X and Y, pitch and yaw and roll, and rectifies the positioning for a shutter speed benefit of 4.5 steps. It’s been such a massive success in the A7 line it makes sense this would be debuted in the a99 II at this point.
Furthermore there’s an evolved body with better ergonomics, less weight than the last incarnation, dual SD card slots, magnesiums allow body, and moisture resistance. The view finder is also rather unusual (as was the last SLT), but it’s an XGA OLED Tru-finder with a ZEISS® T* Coating with a 0.78x magnification said to give extreme clarity corner to corner. It also has a fluorine coating on the outer lens to prevent fingerprints, dust, water, oil and dirt from sticking. Nice.
While the above would be enough to impress anyone without prejudice, its in video where the Sony has just trounced competition. Making its debut in a Sony A-mount camera, the α99 II boasts,
the ability to record 4K video internally with full pixel readout and no pixel binning through usage of the professional friendly XAVC S format. The camera is capable of recording high quality footage at 100Mbps for 4K recording, and utilizing the full width of the large, full-frame image sensor in doing so. It also offers a new ‘Slow and Quick’ mode (S&Q) that supports both slow motion and quick motion. In this mode, frame rates from 1 fps to 120 fps can be selected in 8 steps for up to 60x quick motion and 5x slow motion recording.
The movie production workflow further includes picture profiles, time code and clean HDMI output, gamma assist for real-time S-Log monitoring, and a Zebra mode for easier exposure adjustment, and with the inclusion of S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma are both included as well.
You can get yours here.