Test Review: SLT-A99

November 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm  •  Posted in Review by

 Sony SLT-99 front view

The SLT-A99 is Sony’s first camera that uses the SLT system with a fixed translucent mirror and a full-frame sensor (35 mm film equivalent sensor). It offers 24-MP resolution, a high resolution OLED viewfinder, full HD video capabilities, a lot of individual settings, and a massive and robust body.

Comments on Image Quality

Sony SLT-99 color testing

The image of the standard test box is a little under exposed. The reproduction of fine details is very good, as you can see in the structure of the metal sieve in the upper left, for example (no moiré effects visible).

Colour: The camera showed a very good performance in our color tests. The saturation is nearly perfect and the color errors are on a very low level. Skin tones especially are nearly perfect. Only the automatic white balance system showed a clearly noticeable shift into the green direction when taking images with fluorescent light systems. The differentiation of colour nuances is fine, but not perfect.

Sharpness: Sharpness and resolution test results are only on an average level for a camera with a full-format sensor system. The A99 accomplishes a maximum of 3279 lines of nominal 4000 lines in picture height. This result is based on an intense sharpness filtering, which causes some overshot effects and halos on contour lines.

Sharpness in real life images is really good, but sometimes there were some overshot effects. The 24-MP images show nearly no moiré or aliasing effects, while videos often show these effects in fine details like metal structures or tiled roofs, for example.

Noise: The Sony camera offers clean and noise-free images up to ISO speed settings of 1600. In images taken with higher ISO speed settings (more than ISO 3200) you will notice colour noise artifacts and some anti-noise filtering effects like color clouds in homogeneous coloured areas, but even these effects are on a low level up to ISO 12800. Only at highest ISO setting of 25600 will you notice a high colour noise level and a noticeable reduction of image details due to the anti-noise filtering.

Comments on Handling

Sony SLT-99 top view.

The Sony A99 has a large mode dial on the left-hand side of its top. An illuminated status LCD helps to set up all parameters. The camera doesn’t offer a built-in flash system. For the first time, Sony uses a standard hot shoe instead of its own ADI standard to use external flash systems. The camera is supplied with an adapter, which allows photographers to use older Sony flash systems with the new A99.

The new SLT-A99 is Sony’s first full-frame camera with an electronic viewfinder. While former full-format cameras like the A900 or A850 offered a standard SLR system, the new A99 has an electronic viewfinder with extremely high resolution (2.3 million RGB dots). Due to the SLT system with fixed mirror, which allows the use of a classic AF system based on phase detection, the camera is very fast and can even use the AF system while recording videos.

The A99 has a massive body that indicates that Sony is trying to place the camera on the professional market. The body is easily handled even though it looks a little bit bulky. Nevertheless it is nearly the same size as the Nikon D600; the Sony has a little bit more width, but less height and depth compared to the D600.

Sony SLT-99 rear view and LCD screen

The sophisticated swivel joint allows the flipping and rotation of the large LCD screen (3 inches) in nearly every direction.

The Sony A99 has a very handy swivel LCD. Its very sophisticated swivel joint allows the LCD to be turned to the front or back and permits rotation of the screen in nearly every direction. This helps especially when recording videos. The camera is able to shoot up to 50/60 frames per second in full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and in progressive mode. It records movies in high bit rate AVCHD and offers additional “cinema style” video recording with 24 frames per second.

The Sony A99 is very fast. The AF system was fast and reliable. The Sony A99 is able to shoot up to 10 frames per second in full resolution, but this high speed is only available in a special image mode, which can be selected with the mode dial. In this mode the camera works in full automatic mode—you can use semi-automatic modes like Aperture or Shutter Speed Priority, for example.

The camera offers a lot of individual settings. In addition to the user-defined image modes available on the mode dial, the photographer can change a lot of image parameters and recording options.

The new Sony has an integrated GPS system that allows the tagging of images directly and automatically with the geo data integrated into the EXIF data of each image.

Pros:
+ very handy swivel LCD which can be flipped upwards and downwards and can be rotated to the front
+ massive and robust body
+ high resolution of 24 MP
+ full-format sensor for shallow depth of field photography; automatic switch to Crop mode when using lenses for the APS-C sized cameras
+ Full HD video recording with high frame and bit rates; clean HDMI output

Cons:
– slight soft touch and color moirés/aliasing effects in videos

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Sony A99
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 6000 x 4000
Resolution sensor 24.0
Size of sensor in inches 0/0.00
Size of sensor in mm 35.8 x 23.9
TAKING PICTURES:
Startup time (in sec) 1.70
Shutter delay (in sec) without pre-focusing 0.10
Shutter delay (in sec) with pre-focusing 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 10.0
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 12.0
Fastest shutter speed in sec 1/8000
Long time exposure/shutter speed in sec 30
Self timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings,
Automatic bracketing
Exposure programmes 8
White balance:
Auto yes
White balance settings 6
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 100
ISO max 25600
ISO steps 25
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash Yes
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow-sync, anti-red-eye, rear curtain sync
External Flash:
X-Sync yes
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats: JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG-Compression grades: 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size in inches 3.0
Resolution of LCD in pixels 1228800
Zoom-mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slide show during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available? yes
Max. width 1920
Max. height 1080
Picture frequency 50
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included? yes
Power connector yes
Power supply unit? no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards Memory stick, SD-Card, SDHC-Card, SDXC-Card
PC-CONNECTION:
PC-connection USB, HDMI
TV-out HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions in mm (width x height x depth) 147 x 111 x 78
Weight in g (body without battery and memory card) 733
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no
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