Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCA-A99 II
Resolution: 42.40 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 24.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 50 - 102,400
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 seconds
Dimensions: 5.6 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.
(143 x 104 x 76 mm)
Weight: 29.9 oz (849 g)
Availability: 11/2016
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony A99 II specifications
42.40
Megapixels
Sony Alpha (Minolta A) 35mm
size sensor
image of Sony Alpha ILCA-A99 II
Front side of Sony A99 II digital camera Front side of Sony A99 II digital camera Front side of Sony A99 II digital camera Front side of Sony A99 II digital camera Front side of Sony A99 II digital camera

Sony A99II Review -- Now Shooting!

by
Preview posted: 09/19/2016

Updates:
11/16/2016: Gallery Images posted!
12/08/2016: First Shots posted!
: Field Test Part I posted!

Sony's surprise announcement at this year's Photokina tradeshow caused a big sigh of relief to all the A-mount fans, who have been waiting with bated breath for an updated, high-end A-mount camera. Following up four long years later after the original SLT-A99, the new Sony A99 Mark II, at least on paper, offers up some thoroughly impressive specs that should satisfy the demanding professional photographer in need of not only image resolution but also speed and performance.

Jeremy Gray, spending some quality time with the A99 II and a bevy of new Sony glass, recently returned, thawed out and shared his initial thoughts on the camera's image quality and ergonomics after shooting with the A99 II in frosty Acadia National Park in Maine. In Part I of his Field Test, Jeremy details the camera's design and build quality and then dives into its image quality capabilities. He has a lot more in store for this camera, but for a first-part look at how this camera handles out in the field, scroll on to Part I of our Sony A99 II Field Test.

For those looking for our detailed overview of the Sony A99 II's features and specs, please click here.

 

Sony A99 II Field Test Part I

The A-mount camera Sony shooters have been waiting for

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 12/29/2016

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 30mm, f/11, 5s, ISO 50.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.
Introduction

The Sony A99 Mark II came as something of a surprise. Sony's seemingly steadfast focus on their mirrorless and premium fixed-lens cameras has only recently been interrupted by the A68 this past spring. Otherwise, while 2016 marks the tenth anniversary of the Alpha camera line, new A-mount cameras have been few and far between.

Following up on the original A99 four years later, the A99 II is poised to deliver high-end professional performance and overall top-notch image quality for A-mount users. If anyone thought that the Sony A-mount was dead, the A99 II is Sony's clear and decisive response to those fears. Now the question becomes, is the Sony A99 II simply a statement that the A-mount is still alive, or does it stand on its own as an excellent camera? Read on to find out.

Key Features and Info
  • Professional DSLR camera body
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Assignable front-facing Multi Controller
  • 42.4-megapixel BSI CMOS full frame sensor
  • ISO 100-25600 native ISO range
  • Hybrid phase detection autofocus system with nearly 400 autofocus points
  • Up to 12 frames per second continuous shooting
  • In-body 5-axis image stabilization
  • 4K UHD video recording
  • US $3,200 price
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 35mm, f/8.0, 30s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Sony A99 II is a comfortable, well-designed camera body

The Sony A99 Mark II is eight percent smaller than its predecessor, but it retains a professional-quality construction and a wide array of controls. The camera includes a redesigned grip, which I found to be very comfortable to hold, even when using the A99 II with the rather heavy Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II lens. It has dimensions of 5.6 x 4.1 x 3.0 inches (143 x 104 x 76 millimeters) and weighs 29.9 ounces (849 grams). Relative to its mirrorless siblings, the A99 II is large, but compared to other professional SLR cameras, it is reasonably sized.

Durability is a focus with the A99 II as well. The body is constructed from magnesium alloy and features various weather-sealing measures, particularly around buttons and controls. With that said, Sony won't go so far as to say that the camera is weather-sealed, only that it is dust- and moisture-resistant. Further, the A99 II features a revised shutter design, which compared to its predecessor, is rated for 50% more shutter actuations, offering reliable performance of at least 300,000 shutter actuations.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

A positive aspect of its relatively large body is that the A99 II has a lot of space for physical controls. The top deck of the camera is particularly nice and well-suited for serious photography. Within easy reach of your shutter finger are dedicated buttons for ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and drive mode. You can also turn on a backlight for the large top display. There is also a Finder/Monitor button (aka EVF/rear display toggle) -- which I had to make regular use of, but more on that later -- yet I am unable to reach it easily with my index finger; users with longer fingers might find it easier to press. On the other side of the fairly short top of the camera (it has a low profile because it doesn't need the space for the components of an optical viewfinder found in traditional SLRs) is a locking mode dial that includes three custom mode slots.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

Despite being an SLR-style camera, the A99 II is not a traditional "SLR" in that it uses a translucent mirror. Like other "SLT" models before it, this allows for interesting autofocus technology, but it also means that an optical viewfinder is not an option for the A99 II. Instead, the camera uses an electronic viewfinder. The EVF utilizes a 0.5-inch (1.3-centimeter) OLED display, which has 2.4 million dots of resolution. The viewfinder is the same size and resolution as the one found in the A99, but the A99 II's viewfinder has 0.78x magnification versus 0.71x found in the original A99. The EVF offers 100% coverage and works well in the field. I will discuss using the EVF in more detail in part II of my Field Test.

What is less impressive is the rear LCD display. The 3-inch display does have tilting capabilities, which worked well, even functioning as a selfie screen. However, despite a robust tilt/swivel mechanism and sharp display, the A99 II ultimately disappoints because like most other Sony cameras, it does not have touchscreen functionality.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

Another interesting aspect of the back of the camera is its multi-selector. Rather than a traditional directional pad, the A99 II utilizes a joystick. At first I didn't care for it, but it grew on me with time. I still absolutely prefer a more standard directional pad with a center button, but the A99 II's joystick works well enough. Plus, it takes up very little space, so that leaves a good amount of room for the thumb grip. There is not much to say about the buttons on the camera, they all feel fine, but it is worth pointing out that some of them are concave and others are convex, which lets you differentiate buttons just by touch once you get used to the camera. This is a very nice touch.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Product Image

Speaking of nice touches, the multi-controller on the front of the camera is very useful. By default, pressing it brings up AF drive mode. But if you hold down the button, you can cycle through a variety of settings, including focus area, shutter speed (if the shooting mode allows), aperture (if the shooting mode allows), exposure compensation, ISO, metering mode, white balance, creative style and picture effect. Further, you can change between the rotating dial clicking or offering smooth rotation by moving a switch around the dial. It's an awesome, functional button to have on the front of the camera.

In general, the A99 II is very customizable, and you can assign up to 65 different functions to the AEL, ISO, AF/MF, custom key and preview buttons.

Overall, the Sony A99 II is a very good camera body. The redesigned grip feels excellent, and the camera has ample physical controls that offer fast, customizable access to critical camera settings. The lack of a touchscreen is a disappointment, but other than that, I can't ask for much more in terms of design and ergonomics.

Sony A99 II's 42.4MP sensor excels across many situations

Using the same full-frame 42-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor as the A7R II, the Sony A99 Mark II produces superbly sharp, highly detailed images. Another reason for this excellent resolving capability is the lack of an optical low-pass filter (OLPF). While this does increase the risk of moiré artifacts, it also allows the camera to capture finer details. Further, the camera employs a BIONZ X image processing engine and a new front-end LSI, which allows for improved diffraction reduction, area-specific noise reduction and has been tuned specifically for the 42-megapixel sensor. The result is very sharp images at low ISOs and surprisingly pleasing images at high ISO settings, especially when downsampled.

Looking at a JPEG image straight from the camera, the camera produces very sharp images at default settings. Fortunately, the A99 II does not excessively sharpen JPEG images, resulting in clean files without nasty artifacts, even around high-contrast fine details.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 17mm, f/8.0, 1.6s, ISO 50.
This image is a focus stacked composite. Click for the full-size image. Additionally, click on the links to view the foreground and background images used in the composite.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100% crop of the above image.

However, I don't care for the A99 II's in-camera JPEG processing regarding other aspects of image quality. For starters, with Picture Style set to 'Standard,' the camera has slightly too much contrast for my tastes (this is certainly a personal preference, however). That's okay, but what is not is how the camera attempts to recover highlights in JPEG images. In the image below, you can see how the camera introduced false color in the highlights. The bright blobs of cyan are very distracting and this was a somewhat regular occurrence with JPEG files.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 35mm, f/13, 1.6s, ISO 50.
Click for full-size image.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100% crop of the above image.

As good as the JPEG images look, the A99 II really shines when you process its RAW files. With precise, fine-tuned sharpening, you can bring out an incredible amount of detail in RAW files from the A99 II. Not only are the images very sharp, but with 42 megapixels of data to work with, it is a breeze to print large, detailed prints. If you want the sharpest Sony A-mount camera, you need not look further than the A99 Mark II.

As frustrating as default JPEGs can be in challenging situations -- and it is worth noting that in many situations, the A99 II produces excellent JPEG images -- the camera's sensor still captures a lot of detail, and its dynamic range is superb. I could process the RAW files of many images that had produced unsatisfactory JPEG images, into very pleasing final images, including nice highlight and shadow recovery. This is absolutely a camera which, while capable of capturing very nice JPEG files, is meant to be shot in RAW.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 17mm, f/8.0, 4s, ISO 50.
Re-sized JPEG straight from the camera with Picture Style set to Default. Click for full-size image.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Modified RAW image, converted to black and white. Notice how much better the highlights look. Click for full-size image.

An interesting feature of the Sony A99 II is that its sensor is said to have a special coating to prevent dust and dirt from settling on the image sensor's surface. Further, the camera has built-in sensor cleaning that gives the A99 II one of the more violent shakes I've ever felt in a camera. Nonetheless, my experience with the special surface and built-in cleaning was not very good. After having changed the lens only a couple of times, the sensor was somehow very dirty -- which you can see on some of the earlier images in the gallery, including this one for example -- and I had to clean it manually. Interestingly, there's no way to lock the translucent mirror in the camera's settings, instead there is a physical switch on the mirror that you press to make the mirror flip up. The sensor is quite hard to reach, and it is not easy to clean. Obviously other users' experiences with the sensor may be different from mine, but I thought it was worth mentioning that the special sensor coating doesn't seem to be effective.

Excellent high ISO performance from the Sony A99 II

Excellent imaging performance continues even when increasing the ISO. When considering JPEG images with default settings and default noise reduction, the camera does an excellent job of balancing sharpness with noise reduction. Even up through ISO 1600, images are very sharp when viewed at full-size. Noise is well-suppressed, although there are some issues with artifacts around finer details. At ISO 3200, JPEG images become a fair bit noisier, but are still very good. ISO 6400 is what I consider to be the limit for using the files at their full size, but downsampling them -- and there are plenty of pixels to work with -- makes a big difference. The same can be said at ISO 12800, albeit to a lesser degree. At ISO 25600 -- the A99 Mark II's highest native ISO setting -- and beyond, images are too soft for me to recommend using them.

Sony A99 II ISO Comparison (JPEG)
100% center crops from JPEG images captured using default settings and 'Standard' Picture Style
(Click for full-size images)
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 100 Full Scene
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 50 (extended)
ISO 100
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 200
ISO 400
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 800
ISO 1600
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 12800
ISO 25600
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 51200 (extended)
ISO 102400 (extended)

The situation remains excellent with RAW images, perhaps more so because of the ample flexibility of the RAW files. You can produce a clean file through ISO 6400 with relatively minimal noise reduction effort. With a precise approach, I could achieve acceptable results at ISO 12800 as well. At ISO 25600, it will take quite a bit more work to make a nice image because the files are so noisy and there's a significant loss of detail, contrast and saturation to contend with too.

Sony A99 II ISO Comparison (RAW)
100% center crops from RAW images processed with Adobe Camera RAW default settings
(Click for full-size images)
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 50 (extended)
ISO 100
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 200
ISO 400
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 800
ISO 1600
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 12800
ISO 25600
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 51200 (extended)
ISO 102400 (extended)

Considering its megapixel count, the A99 II is a very impressive camera at high ISOs. Not only does it perform well when considering images in their full 42-megapixel glory, the high pixel count of the full-frame sensor also means that you can downsample files and achieve excellent results at higher ISOs, granted with smaller image files.

You will have to wait for full lab tests to know how the A99 II stacks up to the competition, but as someone who regularly shoots a similarly high-megapixel full-frame camera, a Nikon D800E, the A99 II stacks up very favorably against my Nikon.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6G II at 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 6400.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Overall: The A99 II offers superb image quality

While the Sony A99 Mark II has many excellent features, one of the biggest is its 42-megapixel full-frame sensor. That is a lot of pixels to pack onto a sensor, and it would not be surprising to find that the resolving power comes with a cost to high ISO performance, but that is not the case with the A99 II. Not only does it excel at low ISOs, offering incredible clarity, color and dynamic range, but it also performs exceedingly well at high ISOs.

Sony A99 Mark II Performance: Fast shooting, slow buffer clearing

It is important to preface the discussion on the Sony A99 II's performance by reminding ourselves that the camera records 42-megapixel images, which is a ton of data. With that said, the camera still manages to capture full-resolution uncompressed RAW images with full autofocus and auto exposure adjustments between images at over 11 frames per second, according to our testing. Yes, the camera is rated for 12 fps, but the fact that a camera can record 42-megapixel RAW images at 11.1 fps is highly impressive.

What is less impressive is the A99 II's time to clear its buffer. The camera does not offer UHS-II support, which is a big disappointment given how long it takes to clear the buffer after a long burst. Per our testing results with one of the fastest UHS-I cards available (a SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/sec UHS-I SDHC card rated for 90MB/s writes), if you capture a Continuous Hi+ burst of "Extra Fine" JPEG images, you can capture up to 61 frames at 10.5 fps, which is certainly impressive, but it takes nearly a minute (56 seconds) to clear the buffer. The situation is slightly different when recording only uncompressed RAW images with the buffer filling after only 25 frames but clearing in 34 seconds while also capturing images slightly faster at 11.1 fps. If you are okay with shooting compressed RAW images, the buffer depth increasea to 59 frames while maintaining a relatively similar buffer clearing time of 40 seconds. You can capture RAW+JPEG at the same high speeds, but it is worth noting that if you want to capture RAW and JPEG images simultaneously, you cannot record Extra Fine JPEG files, being instead are forced to record JPEG images at the second-best quality setting (but this is consistent with other current Sony cameras). I will further discuss my real-world experience with the A99 II and continuous shooting in part II of my Field Test.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 70-200mm f/4-5.6G II at 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1000.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

The A99 II has four continuous shooting modes: Hi+, Hi, Mid and Low. Hi+ offers the fastest continuous burst rate, however, while Hi+ mode doesn't offer any sort of live view through the viewfinder or on the rear display, Hi does. The tradeoff is a four frames per second reduction in continuous shooting speed, but that might be worth it for certain situations, such as when you want to more easily keep a moving subject in frame. Mid and low modes offer shooting speeds of 6 fps and 4 fps, respectively, but offer no distinct advantages.

An improvement compared to some Sony cameras I have used in the past is that while the A99 II buffer is clearing, you can view the most recently-shot image as well as change (some) settings. Not all menus are accessible while the camera is writing to the card. For example, you cannot access the 'Function' menu while the camera is writing images. Considering how large files are and how frequently the A99 II is writing images while shooting, I like that the camera has a very large LED status button on the back to let you know what's going on.

While there are aspects of the A99 II's performance that are very impressive, such as its shooting speeds, other characteristics are disappointing. Powering on the camera to first shot is a somewhat slow 1.2 seconds, which is behind the average DSLR. Further, battery life is less than 400 shots (390) when using the electronic viewfinder and 490 when using the LCD, far behind a typical professional DSLR.

Overall, the biggest issue with the A99 II's performance is its buffer clearing performance. The occasional slowdowns in the field, such as when the camera is writing files, can be frustrating as well. It is puzzling why Sony opted not to include UHS-II support in the A99 II as it would have surely helped accelerate buffer clearing. With all that said, the A99 II still offers very impressive overall performance. Being able to capture 42-megapixel uncompressed RAW images at over 11 fps, while just shy of the advertised burst rate, is excellent. I also appreciate the inclusion of the Hi shooting mode, offering live view in the EVF or monitor and a still speedy 8 fps capture speed.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 35mm, f/8, 1s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.
In the Field: Landscapes in Acadia

I took the Sony A99 II out to Acadia National Park, and it impressed me greatly in the field. It was a frigid morning, and I needed to wear gloves. This is usually an issue when capturing photos, as I'm sure many cold-weather climate readers know, but the A99 II performed well while wearing gloves. Not a single time did I have to remove a glove to change a setting on the camera. This might be a small detail, but it matters a lot if you are regularly shooting in freezing temperatures.

Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 20mm, f/8.0, 0.8s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. This image is focus stacked. Click on the links to see the two images used in the composite: Foreground and background.

A less positive realization when working with the A99 II in the cold, dim morning light was that the eye sensor for the electronic viewfinder can be finicky. I was attempting to compose my images using the rear display, but the shady conditions kept tricking the camera into thinking I was looking through the finder, turning off the rear display. Eventually I had to turn the eye sensor off and manually switch between the EVF and display using the top-deck toggle button.

I will be discussing the A99 II's autofocus performance in detail in part II of my Field Test, but a frustration arose very quickly when shooting in dim conditions or trying to focus on an area of the image in shade. Unless the scene is quite bright or light colored, it is difficult to see the selected AF point on the display (both on the rear monitor and the EVF). When using Flexible Spot AF, which offers up to 323 selectable AF points, there are a lot to cycle through. Unfortunately, the lines surrounding the selected point are only marginally thicker than the lines surrounding non-selected AF points and do not illuminate until you trigger autofocus, making the process of finding and shifting the selected AF point a frustrating process. The AF points are a medium-dark shade of gray, making them blend in with many of the scenes I found myself shooting. Eventually I had to set the A99 II to only utilize 63 AF points so I could cycle through the points quicker and also be able to find the selected point more easily.

Sony A99 II Field Test Part I Summary
The Sony A99 II makes a strong first impression with its excellent image quality

What I like:

  • Redesigned grip
  • Excellent physical controls
  • Fantastic RAW images from the 42.4-megapixel sensor
  • Easy to use while wearing gloves

What I dislike:

  • Joystick is not as reliable of an input method as a directional pad
  • JPEG images don't look great with default settings
  • AF points are difficult to see
  • Buffer clearing is slow
Sony A99 II Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/8.0, 4s, ISO 50.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

The Sony A99 Mark II is a great camera, and it has impressed me thoroughly thus far. Its sensor is fantastic, even at high ISOs, and it offers a ton of dynamic range. It has also proven to be very easy to use, and its ample physical controls make changing critical settings a fast process. It handled the cold weather of the Maine coast very well too, being one of the few cameras I could easily use with gloves on.

In my upcoming Field Test Part II, I will be discussing the camera's metering, autofocus and video performance, among other things. So far so good with the Sony A99 Mark II. This is looking to be the camera A-mount users have been waiting for.

 

 

Sony A99II Review -- Overview

by
Preview posted: 09/19/2016

Panasonic A99 II Review -- Product Image

It's been a long four years for Sony A-mount fans, but the company is back with a new flagship model for its Alpha SLT-series camera line, and it looks to be a beauty.

The first new Translucent Mirror camera launched since the Sony A68 made its debut almost a year ago, the Sony A99II reinforces the company's commitment to its SLR and SLT customers, including those shooting with older Konica and Minolta optics. And it does so at an important milestone: The tenth anniversary of the Sony Alpha camera line, which made its debut back in mid-2006 with the Sony A100, not long after the company acquired Konica Minolta's SLR camera business.

Sony A99II features a high-res, highly-sensitive 42-megapixel imager

At the heart of the Sony A99II is a high-resolution, full-frame 42.4-megapixel CMOS image sensor using Sony's Exmor R backside-illumination technology. The sensor features a gapless design for maximum light-gathering efficiency, and includes on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels, which we'll come back to in a moment.

Sony is claiming a wide dynamic range and high sensitivity / low noise characteristics for the A99 II's sensor. While it hasn't yet provided any finite information on dynamic range, we do know that the sensitivity range encompasses ISO 100 to 25,600-equivalents by default, and can be expanded to cover everything from ISO 50 to 102,400-equivalents.

Fans of per-pixel sharpness will be pleased to note the absence of an optical low-pass filter in the design.

Sony A99 II Review -- Product Image

Sony A99II offers more performance than you can shake a stick at!

The new sensor, Bionz X image processor and a new front-end LSI together allow extremely swift burst shooting from the A99II. At its fastest, you'll be able to capture as many as 12 frames per second with both autofocus and autoexposure adjustments between frames. And it seems as if Sony may have finally addressed concerns that inadequate write speed in its cameras left customers waiting after a burst of shots, as it noted that even in high-speed continuous shooting mode, the Sony A99 II will allow image review immediately after shooting.

For an even better shooting experience, you may want to dial the burst capture rate back some. Sony notes that the A99 II has minimal display lag at a capture rate of eight frames per second, thanks to a reworked electronic viewfinder algorithm. Even slower burst rates of four or six fps are also available, if your subject doesn't warrant the camera's full performance.

A brand-new, five-axis image stabilization system

With the Sony A99 II, the company debuts a new five-axis, in-body image stabilization system tailored specifically for A-mount cameras. Like that for mirrorless models which made its debut in the A7 II, the Sony A99 Mark II's image stabilization system can correct for X/Y translational motion, as well as for pitch, yaw and roll. And like the A7 II's system, it's said to have a 4.5-stop corrective strength.

Sony A99 II Review -- Product Image

Sony A99II is weather-sealed and smaller than ever

The Sony A99 II's brand-new body is said to be resistant to both dust and moisture, although Sony does note that it isn't guaranteed to be 100% dust or moisture-proof. Crafted from magnesium alloy and featuring a redesigned grip, the Sony A99II is a full 8% smaller than was its predecessor, and indeed is almost as small as the A77 II.

Among the changes to its body, the Sony A99 II has a reworked the front-panel Silent Multi Controller dial. It now offers a user-selectable click detent, and can be used to control the aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, autofocus area and mode, and more besides.

Like the A99 before it, the Sony A99II sports dual SD card slots with UHS-I support, one of which is also compatible with Memory Stick Duo media. (It's a little surprising that UHS-II cards are still not supported according to specifications, especially given the larger files.)

Oh, and Sony notes that as well as having redesigned the A99 II's body, it has also updated the menu design for better navigation.

A new hybrid autofocus system

The Sony A99 II is the company's first full-frame camera to sport its 4D Focus AF system, which pairs a 79 point (all cross-type) dedicated phase-detection autofocus sensor with a total of 399 on-chip phase detection points.

Ordinarily, the camera will operate using 79 hybrid AF points, pairing information from both the standalone sensor and the main imaging sensor. But of the 399 on-chip points, a total of 323 can be directly addressed as well, so you're not limited to just those points shared between the standalone and imaging sensors. (Presumably, the remaining 76 on-chip points which can't be directly addressed are used as assist points by the AF system.)

The A99II's autofocus system will work to an impressively dark -4 EV.

Sony A99 II Review -- Product Image

An updated viewfinder with more generous magnification

Just as in the A99, the Sony A99 II's electronic viewfinder is based around a 1,024 x 768-pixel XGA Organic LED panel. Magnification has increased from 0.71x to 0.78x, though, so while the resolution is unchanged, the new finder will feel noticeably roomier.

To help keep it clear of fingerprints and smudges, the rearmost lens in the viewfinder has a fluorine coating. Sony has also applied Zeiss' T* coating to the viewfinder elements, helping to reduce glare and improve contrast.

Panasonic A99 II Review -- Product Image

A significantly more durable shutter mechanism

The Sony A99II also sports a much more durable shutter mechanism than in its predecessor. (Not that the A99 was any slouch in the shutter life department, either!)

Where the original A99's shutter was rated for a lifetime of around 200,000 cycles, the Sony A99II now boasts a whopping 300,000-cycle lifetime for its shutter mechanism.

Flicker-detection and correction, built-in

Another tweak since the A99 is the addition of 100 / 120Hz flicker detection. When the camera notes the presence of flicker, it will time the shutter accordingly to ensure your image is captured at the peak brightness.

No in-camera GPS, but the A99II can piggyback off your compatible smartphone

In the past, Sony offered two variants of the original A99 camera. One, the A99, forewent GPS connectivity; the other, the A99V, included a built-in GPS receiver. With Sony's main focus these days being on its mirrorless cameras, it doubtless can't justify having two nearly-identical products that differ only in the availability of GPS, though, and so the Sony A99 II can instead piggyback on your smartphone for geolocation information.

Panasonic A99 II Review -- Product Image

Location data is transferred via Bluetooth, so battery life of the camera hopefully shouldn't be affected too significantly. Of course, you'll be reducing your smartphone's battery life when using the function, as the phone's GPS receiver and Bluetooth radio will need to be active, but if you want geolocation without the need to fuss with external accessories, this is doubtless better than having no GPS access at all.

Sony A99II video: 4K capture in-camera is a first for the Sony A-mount

Perhaps the area in which we've progressed most of all since the original Sony A99 is in the video department. High-def is old hat; ultra high-def capture is where it's at these days. Tipping its hat to this fact, the Sony A99II is the first A-mount camera to feature 4K video capture.

The Sony A99II can record 4K internally with full-pixel readout across the entire sensor width, and no pixel binning, hence quality should be good. Sony's XAVC S compression format is used, and the A99II can record at up to a 100Mbps bitrate.

Nor is 4K capture the only feather in the A99 II's cap. It can also record at anywhere from one to 120 frames per second in its Slow and Quick mode, with a total of eight capture rates offered between the maximum and minimum speeds. This allows anywhere from a 60x fast-motion to a 5x slow-motion effect. And Sony has also included support for clean HDMI output, time code, picture profiles, zebra-striping and S-Log / S-Log 2 / S-Log 3 gamma in the A99II.

Sony A99 II Review -- Product Image

Pricing and availability

The Sony A99 II ships in the US market from November 2016. Pricing is set at around US$3,200 in the US market, and around CA$4,000 in the Canadian market.

 

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$3499.00 (9% more)

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$3632.66 (12% more)

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$14947.50 (79% more)

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$2648.65 (21% less)

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$2746.95 (16% less)

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$6496.95 (51% more)

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$6916.76 (54% more)

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$5999.00 (47% more)

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$1963.62 (63% less)

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$1422.33 (125% less)

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$17472.50 (82% more)

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$831.60 (285% less)

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