Sony A99 II Review
|Full model name:||Sony Alpha ILCA-A99 II|
(35.9mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 102,400|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 seconds|
5.6 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.
(143 x 104 x 76 mm)
|Weight:||29.9 oz (849 g)|
|Full specs:||Sony A99 II specifications|
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A99 II Summary
At long last, Sony's new flagship A-mount SLT camera is here. The Sony A99 Mark II can capture high-quality 42.4-megapixel RAW images at a very impressive burst rate. It has an excellent hybrid phase-detect autofocus system to back up the fast capture speeds. On paper, the A99 II is an excellent SLT camera. Fortunately, its positives translated well to real-world shooting, although not without a few negatives. Ultimately, this very good flagship A-mount camera is rugged, durable and fast. If you have been waiting for an excellent full-frame A-mount camera, your wait is over.Pros
Superb image quality at low, moderate ISOs; Improved high ISO performance; Fast continuous shooting speeds; Very impressive hybrid autofocus; High-quality 4K UHD video; Rugged camera body.Cons
Multi-selector joystick can be awkward to use; No EVF live view at fastest burst rate; Buffer clearing is slow with no UHS-II support; 4K UHD video isn't as full-featured as E-mount counterparts.Price and availability
Available since November 2016, the Sony A99 II, sold body-only, can be found for just under US$3,200, although its list price is $3,600.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Sony A99II Review
11/16/2016: Gallery Images posted
12/08/2016: First Shots posted
12/29/2016: Field Test Part I posted
01/24/2017: Field Test Part II posted
02/07/2017: Performance test results added
03/15/2017: APS-C crop mode burst timing added
03/23/2017: Image Quality Comparison, Print Quality Analysis, and Review Conclusion added
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's 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.
The sensor's 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 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. Sony has finally addressed some of the 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.
Card write performance has been improved over prior models as well, but the A99 II still doesn't take advantage of faster UHS-II cards, which unfortunately means buffer clearing can still be rather slow. See our Performance page for details.
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.
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 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. (As mentioned previously, it's a little surprising that faster UHS-II cards are still not supported, 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.
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 is rated to work down to an impressively dark -4 EV.
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.
The Sony A99 II's three-inch, VGA (640 x 480 pixel) LCD monitor is not touch sensitive and retains the A99's three-way articulation mechanism that allows viewing from a wide variety of angles including in front of the camera. It's still a WhiteMagic-branded RGBW display with a dot count of 1,228,800. The extra white dot allows either greater brightness, or lower power consumption.
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 300,000-cycle lifetime for its shutter mechanism.
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.
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.
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.
In addition to Bluetooth 4.1 support, the Sony A99 II also gets built-in Wi-Fi with NFC, both of which the A99 didn't have, and it retains the A99's infrared remote sensor. Wired connectivity options are similar, however the HDMI port now uses a smaller Micro Type-D connector instead of a Mini Type-C connector, and the USB 2.0 port also shrinks down to a Micro-B type connector from a Mini-B. The Sony A99 II continues to include a Multi Interface Hot Shoe, a DC input jack, a wired remote jack, a PC sync terminal, a 3.5mm external mic jack and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Battery life is CIPA-rated at 490 shots per charge when using the LCD monitor or 390 shots when using the EVF using the same NP-FM500H lithium-ion battery pack as the A99. That's down just slightly from 500 and 410 shots respectively which is actually pretty amazing considering the massive increase in resolution and performance. That's significantly lower than most DSLRs, though, so you should definitely consider getting the optional VG-C77AM Vertical Battery Grip and a second battery to double battery life.
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.
The Sony A99 II began shipping in the US market from November 2016 and is sold body only. List price is set at around US$3,200 in the US market, and around CA$4,000 in the Canadian market.
Sony A99 II Field Test Part I
The A-mount camera Sony shooters have been waiting for
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.
Sony A99 II Field Test Part II
A99 II continues to impress thanks to excellent autofocus
In Part I, I discussed the Sony A99 Mark II's body design and image sensor's performance. In this second part of my Sony A99 II Field Test, I will be discussing more about the camera's performance, including metering, autofocus and video performance. I will also be discussing how the camera handles high-speed shooting in the context of wildlife photography.
Sony A99 II offers fast, accurate & dependable performance
I have used many Sony cameras, and a sore point for me has always been the camera's menu system. While the A99 II does not feature perfect menus -- if such a thing exists -- its menus are better than previous Sony cameras I've worked with. They have improved organization, which results in slightly faster menu navigation. Further, the camera uses a new font designed for improved legibility.
Sony A99 II Image Quality Comparison
See how the Sony A99 II's image quality compares to rivals
Here we present 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 Print Quality Analysis
Find out how large you can print as ISO rises!
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
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.
Sony A99 II Conclusion
Full-frame A-mount camera delivers great images, impressive speed
It took four years for Sony to release a new flagship A-mount camera, but the calls were answered with the Sony A99 Mark II. The A99 II, like its predecessor and other past A-mount cameras, comes equipped with a translucent mirror, making it more of a pseudo-DSLR than a traditional DSLR, but it is an A-mount camera through and through.
The camera packs a 42.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor that utilizes Sony's Exmor R backside-illumination technology. The end result is a camera that produces excellent image quality for its resolution across a wide range of ISO speeds. While the high-resolution sensor impressed us, what makes the A99 II unique in the market is its combination of resolution and speed. Equipped with a Bionz X image processor and new front-end LSI, the Sony A99 II can capture full-resolution images at nearly 12 frames per second, although our lab results showed the camera coming up just a bit short of spec -- still, very impressive.
Is the Sony A99 Mark II the camera that Sony A-mount shooters have been waiting for? Read on for our final word.
In the Box
The Sony A99 II retail box (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Sony Alpha A99 II Body (ILCA-99M2)
- NP-FM500H InfoLithium Battery (7.2V, 1650mAh)
- BC-VM10A Battery Charger
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- Accessory shoe cap
- Eyepiece cup
- Micro USB cable
- Warranty card
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory cards. 32GB UHS-I should be a minimum.
- Extra battery pack NP-FM500H (~US$48)
- Sony Vertical Battery Grip (~US$298)
- Sony external flash (~US$150-US$550)
- Large DSLR bag
- An assortment of A-mount lenses if you don't already have some
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