Sony A99 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony A99 II's image quality to its predecessor's, the A99, as well as to its closest mirrorless sibling's, the A7R II. We've also compared it against the highest-resolution full-frame DSLRs from rivals Canon, Nikon and Pentax, namely the Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810 and Pentax K-1 respectively.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony A99 II, Sony A99, Sony A7R II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810 and Pentax K-1 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony A99 II to any camera we've ever tested!

Sony A99 II vs Sony A99 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A99 II at ISO 100
Sony A99 at ISO 100

The 42-megapixel Sony A99 II's resolution advantage over its 24-megapixel predecessor's is easy to see here, as elements in the A99 II image appear larger as well as much more detailed. We do however see more aliasing artifacts from the A99 II such as the much stronger moiré patterns in the red-leaf swatch and elsewhere, though that's no surprise since unlike the A99, the Mark II doesn't have an optical low-pass filter. Also notice that the A99 Mark II's superior sharpening algorithm produces less visible sharpening halos around high-contrast elements than the older camera. The A99 II's image is also much crisper as well as more detailed.

Sony A99 II vs Sony A7R II at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A99 II at ISO 100
Sony A7R II at ISO 100

The Sony A99 II and A7R II share similar if not identical sensors, so we wanted to see how they compare in terms of image quality. As expected, image quality is very similar between the two siblings, however the A99 II image is a little crisper at base ISO. We used very sharp prime lenses at f/8 for both cameras (the A-mount Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 for the A99 II and the E-mount Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 for the A7R II) which should perform similarly at f/8, yet the A99 II image appears sharper with slightly better contrast. This is mostly due to differences in processing , though, as unsharpened raw files show little difference.

Sony A99 II vs Canon 5DS R at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A99 II at ISO 100
Canon 5DS R at ISO 100

With a resolution of about 50 megapixels, the Canon 5DS R is the only camera in this comparison to best the Sony A99 II in terms of sensor resolution. And as you'd expect, at base sensitivity the Canon DSLR does indeed resolve a bit more detail than the Sony SLT although contrast is higher from the A99 II. In other respects, the pair show only relatively minor differences. (Note that the Canon was shot with its Fine Detail Picture Style enabled which does a better job at sharpening without producing unsightly halos than its default Picture Style.) Canon has slightly more accurate color though, which coupled with its higher resolution gives it the edge at base sensitivity except in our tricky red-leaf fabric where the Sony retains better detail and contrast.

Sony A99 II vs Nikon D810 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64
Sony A99 II at ISO 100
Nikon D810 at ISO 64

Placed head to head against the 36-megapixel Nikon D810, the Sony A99 II once again has a noticeable resolution advantage while producing far less obvious sharpening halos. It also handles the difficult red-leaf fabric swatch a bit better than does the D810, which also shows stronger moiré patterns.

Sony A99 II vs Pentax K-1 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A99 II at ISO 100
Pentax K-1 at ISO 100

The 42-megapixel Sony A99 II is able to capture more detail than the 36-megapixel Pentax K-1 here at base ISO, while at the same time producing fewer sharpening artifacts, lower noise, higher contrast, and more accurate color in the pink fabric. Both show some aliasing artifacts here because of their OLPF-less sensors, but the Pentax has its unique AA-filter Simulator turned off here for maximum sharpness, while the Sony doesn't offer that feature.

Sony A99 II vs Sony A99 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A99 II at ISO 1600
Sony A99 at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600, we continue to see the A99 II our-resolve the A99 while also producing less visible noise, better contrast in most areas, and much crisper detail. The A99 does produce slightly better contrast in our tricky red-leaf swatch, however it appears quite soft and blurry in comparison, while the A99 II still manages to resolve some of the fine thread pattern and generate obvious moiré patterns.

Sony A99 II vs Sony A7R II at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A99 II at ISO 1600
Sony A7R II at ISO 1600

Again, very similar image quality here between the two siblings, however the A99 II does better at preserving fine detail in our troublesome red-leaf swatch. This is due to differences in default noise reduction though, as the A7R II's lowest High ISO Noise Reduction setting shows a rendering that is much closer to the A99 II's in the red-leaf fabric, however, as expected it shows much higher noise than the A99 II in flatter areas.

Sony A99 II vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A99 II at ISO 1600
Canon 5DS R at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the Canon 5DS R still has a slight resolution edge over the Sony A99 II. Its less-aggressive noise reduction doubtless helps out here, but the other side of the coin is that the Canon's image looks noisier with lower contrast while at the same time blurring our red-leaf swatch more than the Sony. Which treatment is better likely depends on your personal tastes and workflow needs, but we're going to give the Sony A99 II the edge here except in terms of color.

Sony A99 II vs Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A99 II at ISO 1600
Nikon D810 at ISO 1600

Moving on to the Nikon, the D810 shows similar noise levels to the higher-res A99 II, but its noise "grain" is more natural-looking and film-like than the Sony's. There's much more detail in the Sony A99 II's crops, though, and it also better holds onto contrast in the difficult red-leaf swatch.

Sony A99 II vs Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A99 II at ISO 1600
Pentax K-1 at ISO 1600

The Sony A99 II continues to capture more detail than the K-1 here at ISO 1600, with lower noise levels, better contrast and better color as well. The Sony also does much better in our tricky red-leaf fabric while the Pentax smears a lot of detail away.

Sony A99 II vs Sony A99 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A99 II at ISO 3200
Sony A99 at ISO 3200

Once again, the newer Sony A99 II easily out-performs the A99 here at ISO 3200 in term of image quality, with a much crisper, more detailed image, though luminance noise levels appear to be similar if not a bit higher from the newer model.

Sony A99 II vs Sony A7R II at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A99 II at ISO 3200
Sony A7R II at ISO 3200

The A99 II continues to produce a slightly crisper image than the A7R II along with much stronger moiré patterns in the red-leaf fabric, but image quality is otherwise very similar.

Sony A99 II vs Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A99 II at ISO 3200
Canon 5DS R at ISO 3200

The higher-res Canon 5DS R turns in a rather noisier bottle crop than that of the Sony A99 II, but that noise has a more film-like grain that's a bit more natural looking. However, the Canon's resolution advantage has all but vanished here at ISO 3200, and the Sony continues to do better in terms of contrast as well as fine detail in our troublesome red-leaf swatch.

Sony A99 II vs Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A99 II at ISO 3200
Nikon D810 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, these two rivals produce similar noise levels however the Nikon's noise grain continues to be more film-like, but the Sony A99 II's mosaic and fabric swatch crops are crisper with more detail and better contrast than those from the Nikon.

Sony A99 II vs Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A99 II at ISO 3200
Pentax K-1 at ISO 3200

Again, the higher-resolution Sony A99 II continues to capture significantly more detail here at ISO 3200, while producing a crisper image with more accurate colors and lower noise, however noise reduction artifacts are more visible making its noise "grain" look less like film than the K-1's. The Sony does much better in the red-leaf and pink fabrics.

Sony A99 II vs. Sony A99, Sony A7R II, Canon 5DS R, Nikon D810, Pentax K-1

100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 64100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A99 II test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A99 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A7R II test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Canon 5DS R test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Nikon D810 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Pentax K-1 test image taken at ISO 6400
Sony
A99 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A99
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A7R II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
5DS R
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D810
ISO 64
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax
K-1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. The Sony A99 II produces much higher contrast as well as better detail than its predecessor, especially as ISO rises. Unsurprisingly the A99 II and A7R II produce nearly identical result here, however contrast is a bit better from the A99 II. The Canon 5DS R doesn't produce as high contrast as the recent Sonys or Nikon especially as ISO is increased, but it clearly resolves more detail. The Nikon D810 performs well here at all three ISOs, though the higher resolution cameras do capture more detail. The Pentax K-1 performs better than the Sony A99, but otherwise lags the pack here with lower contrast and a lot of false colors.

 

Sony A99 II Print Quality Analysis

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints all the way up to ISO 800; Very good 13 x 19 inch print at ISO 6400; Usable 5 x 7 at ISO 25,600.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 50 through 800 prints are amazing, with the Sony A99 II capable of providing huge prints up to 30 x 40 inches that are crisp, sharp and vibrant at any of these ISOs. ISO 50-200 images look nearly identical, while ISO 400-800 do show just a hint of shadow noise, but not nearly enough to affect print size. 30 x 40 is the largest print size we test, so it really depends on how much you're willing to push the sensor's resolution in creating larger prints. Overall, though, stunning print quality at these lower ISOs!

ISO 1600 images start to show a bit more shadow noise, which softens up some very fine detail. However, there's still an exceptional amount of detail throughout and pleasing colors in these prints, making for a healthy 24 x 36 inch print at this ISO.

ISO 3200 prints top-out at an impressively large 20 x 30 inches. Noise and the effects of default noise reduction are more apparent now in the shadow areas, but there's still a lot of fine, low-contrast detail, such as in our fabric swatches and even visible moiré patterns in one of the bottle labels.

ISO 6400 images show an increase in noise and noise reduction processing, which hurts fine detail for larger print sizes. However, the A99 II is still capable of nice prints at this ISO up to 13 x 19 inches.

ISO 12,800 prints offer an impressive level of detail up to 8 x 10 inches. Noise, especially in shadow areas, is much stronger now and prevents us from accepting larger print sizes.

ISO 25,600 images show pretty strong noise and a lack of fine detail up to any print size larger than 5 x 7 inches.

ISO 51,200 and 102,400 prints, unfortunately, are simply too soft and too noisy for us to consider usable for prints. Perhaps for less critical applications, a 4 x 6 at ISO 51,200 might be usable, but we'd recommend avoiding these two upper ISO settings for prints.

As with previous full-frame 42-megapixel Sony cameras, the A99 Mark II does extremely well in our print quality testing. From expanded low ISO 50 all the way up to ISO 800, you're pretty much free to print as large as you need to. The fine detail and pleasing colors look fantastic up to our maximum 30 x 40 inch print test -- the 42MP sensor really shows off its resolving power. Thanks to the large sensor and good image processing, the A99 II is also capable of excellent, impressively large prints, even as the ISO rises. ISO 3200 nets you up to 20 x 30 inch prints, while even ISO 12,800 works for a solid 8 x 10. For us, we'd recommend stopping at ISO 25,600 for prints, which tops-out at 5 x 7 inches, as the two higher ISOs available produce prints that are too noisy and too soft for our tastes.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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