Just when we most thought the Alpha 7 series was the future for professional full-frame Sony photos and video photography, the company drops a bombshell with the Alpha 99 II. This is a throwback to Sony’s early experiments in SLR alternatives. It’s such as a mirrorless camera… but with a mirror.
In fact, it’s a fixed, translucent mirror, which passes light through to the sensor at the back of the camera, but also feeds a dedicated SLR-style phase-detection autofocus sensor in the base of the pentaprism housing.
Read More: Best Lenses for Sony Alpha a99 II
Sony Alpha a99 II Price & Deals
The A99 II has two key selling points. First, it combines a high resolution with high continuous shooting speeds. It has the second-highest quality of any full-frame camera at 42.4MP, but it can also shoot at this resolution at up to 12 frames per second.
It’s within a whisker of Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X II speeds, nonetheless, it doesn’t have their buffer capacity. It can still capture 54 raw+JPEG images, though. AE/AF tracking in the 12fps H+ mode does require lenses compatible with the new hybrid autofocus system that is the A99 II’s second key selling point
It’s a brand-new 79-point/399-stage hybrid phase-detection program, and one that’s only possible with the Alpha SLT design. The 79 factors are provided by a devoted phase-recognition sensor above the mirror and are arranged in a typical SLR distribution around the center of the framework. The further 399 points are on-sensor phase-detection points organized in a rectangular area over a much larger area of the screen.
These two systems work together, depending on the autofocus mode that’s been decided on. 15 of the 79 AF factors on the dedicated AF sensor are cross-type, but the remaining AF points overlay corresponding AF factors on the main sensor to provide a kind of hybrid cross-type AF. Beyond this 79-point region the on-sensor AF points can pick up subjects moving quickly and erratically around the body.
The 42.4MP sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, and it’s matched up with a Bionz X processor and front-end LSI that delivers widely expanded sensitivity (up to ISO 25,600, or 102,400 in extended mode), extra-low noise, and even diffraction compensation at smaller lens apertures.
Build and handling
Despite the many technical advances, the A99 II is actually 8% smaller than its predecessor. This has been made possible by rejigging the internal layout and reducing the size of the image stabilization system.
The body has a magnesium alloy chassis and top and bottom plates; it’s sealed against dust and wetness; and the shutter mechanism includes a quoted life expectancy of 300,000 shots. The battery life expectancy is less impressive, and a reminder that Sony mirrorless cameras (even those with a mirror!) gobble up power much faster than an SLR. The A99 II’s electric battery is good for just 390 pictures in Live Watch and 490 using the EVF. You’ll need plenty of spares if you go out on an extended shoot, and you’ll need to make sure they’re charged up.
Our real-world checks confirm the benefits we got in the lab: the A99 II’s 42.4MP sensor can deliver extremely sharpened results. However, you have to work that little bit harder to find the best from it, because its resolution shows up the slightest focusing error or camera shake. With a camera like this, it’s very tempting to zoom in on every picture to revel in the details – or worse, to find fault either with your products or your technique.
This means the five-axis stabilization is especially welcome. Even so, if you are capturing hand-held with this camera, you might want to keep the shutter speeds simply a stop or so higher than you would with a lower-resolution model.