Sony Alpha99 preview

A while ago I was asked to test drive the soon to be released Sony Alpha99.
Seeing the fact that I use a lot of different cameras ranging from the incredibly Fuji cameras to the Canon DSLRs and Leaf/Mamiya/Phase One Medium Format cameras, I was hoping to be surprised by this interesting new camera.

Now as you know, if you’re reading this blog for a while, I’m not the kind of reviewer that talks a lot about the technical stuff, I really don’t care if a camera has half a stop more or less noise in the final image, I find it much more interesting if the noise is easily removed if necessary or if the noise “looks good”, and some noise just looks good, and some don’t.  So today a very quick look at the new Sony Alpha 99.

Let’s first do the boring stuff.
The Sony Alpha has the following specs :
Sony Exmor sensor with 24.3 MP
6 frames per second
10 frames per second with tele zoom modus
new low noise design algorithm
Translucent mirror design
100% Oled viewfinder with 2.360.000 dots (auto enlarge with crop lenses)
3″ XtraFine LCD screen with 1.229.00 pixels and WhiteMagic technology that “moves”
Dual AF system with 19 focus points plus extra 102 AF points on the sensor
Continues AF during video
Video in a lot of different formats including 1080P60 (yeah baby yeah)
Clean HDMI output for video (rocking)
Special button to operate settings during video
Lightest DSLR ever


As you can see a lot of Magic this, Xtrafine that etc. But in reality those kind of remarks you also find in the brochure of a camera you can buy at the local drugstore for 100.00 euro. So how does it translate into real live shooting. Well as promised this is my PERSONAL opinion, take it as it is, don’t flame me for it, and certainly don’t buy the camera blindly because I said so.

Sony delivered the camera to me with two lenses, the 24-70 f2.8 and the 85 1.4.
I have to admit those are some kick ass lenses, I’m in love with the image quality of them, from the first minute I shot the camera the image I saw on the…. well let’s rewind and start at the beginning.

The images you see during this “review” are all shot during the WorldWidePhotoWalk I hosted in Amsterdam this weekend, due the enormous amount of rain I can already start this review by saying that the Sony Alpha 99 is without any doubt weatherproof, if not there must have been water pouring out of the memory slots without any doubt. This was also in fact the first real test I did with this camera so there was a lot to get used to, let me start out buy posting something that I think will be the part that most photographers like me will have “problems” with “at first”.


I LOVE a good viewfinder, I’m in love with my Mamiya RZ67ProII, the big bright viewfinder (I use a brightscreen mat glass) is just awesome, the moment something clicks into focus is just amazing, I also very much like the viewfinder in my Canon 5DMKIII, they are all traditional viewfinders like you have seen for many many years (and probably also many years to come), the Sony uses a so called EVF (Electronic View Finder) this means that the image you see is actually NOT through the lens as we are used to it but it’s a “projection” of the sensor (I hope this makes sense), or in short it’s the same you see in for example the Fuji X-pro 1 and X-E2, so I’m used to that. However somehow I never really had to get used to it on the Fuji cameras, it was a new system and there was a lot to get used to and you just take it as it is, the weird thing is that with the Sony my first impression was “HECK NO!!!!, NO WAY”, I have to be honest that the first very quick test I did was in the studio and I’m still convinced that for that kind of work the EVF just is not perfect, the brightness changes constantly (not that it’s annoying but it’s just weird) and there is a lot of noise in the image, strangely enough the display is not “jerky” during pans as I expected.

This all changed however when I went outside with the Sony Alpha 99, things got A LOT more interesting.
Let’s put it this way.
When you are shooting with a DSLR you are always seeing something through the viewfinder and when you press the shutter you can’t really know what will happen EXACTLY, of course experience will tell you what will happen, but it’s not perfect. Enter the EVF, let’s start of by saying that it does take a lot of time to get used to before it becomes second nature but it’s kinda cool that you can see if you nail the exposure yes or no, it will not be 100% perfect (you will need a light meter for that :D) but it’s a very useful tool to be honest and I have started to love it for outside shoots, a lot less chimping involved.

As mentioned at the start of the review the quality of the glass is awesome, I would LOVE to add those lenses to my 5DMKIII and keep the image stabilization, AF and look, oh well…. another thing the Sony Alpha99 has is on board stabilization, in other words it’s not build in the lenses but in the body itself, in the past there were some people that claimed that this could never be as good as build in the lenses, but I have to be honest that it works pretty good to say the least.

Now how does the camera perform?
Well I did not take it on a walk through the park as you can see, the weather was terrible, it was dark and there were a lot of lights and dark spots in the scenes, plus you had to shoot fast (or run very very fast), the Sony Alpha99 performed actually pretty flawless during the evening, actually I started the walk with some reservations towards the camera, not that I was making jokes about it (actually I did but that was just for fun) but I did had some ideas about the EVF and that it would probably fail me during the dark parts of the night…. and all things have to be said so let’s be frank…. it did not.

The autofocus was incredibly snappy and quick (also probably due to the not so cheap glass) but the EVF was actually a delight to work with, seeing what you get especially at night is a luxe that is not hard getting used to, although I have to be honest I would LOVE to be able to switch between the normal kind of viewfinder and the EVF because the EVF does have some major drawbacks that costs me some (not a lot) shots. With my Canon DSLR I’m used to just leaving the camera on during a day of shooting, the batteries are lasting you a LONG time and even with a lot of LCD use I still am not able to empty them even during a heavy shooting day (not filming). The Alpha 99 is a different story… and I have to make a note here. Sony forgot to send me a battery and charger so I had to borrow a battery and charger from someone and I really don’t know the state of that battery pack so maybe I’m talking rubbish here but during the Photowalk I almost emptied the battery while also switching between the Canon and the Sony, so I would probably not advise to go out for a full day and evening shooting without at LEAST 2 extra batteries.

Now the shot you see here I actually got because I just shot something else, these ladies did not do this for a long time and the biggest problem I now have with the Alpha 99 is start up time, the Canon 5DMKIII I put to my eye, press the shutter and the image is there, with the Alpha 99 it’s a matter of putting it to your eye, a SLIGHT delay for the EVF to pop on, a SLIGHT delay to nail the focus and there is the shot, in total it’s not that much longer than with a normal DSLR but sometimes it just felt like way too long, those are the moments where you need a VERY quick startup time and the Alpha 99 doesn’t score good in that department, again it’s not like 21,22,23,24 ah there it is, but it’s just that fraction of time difference that sometimes in street shooting makes a huge difference.

As you can see in these images the lens quality is amazing, I loved both lenses a lot and I just felt like a kid in the candystore while shooting with them.
Which brings us to the next part…. noise.
As you can see a lot of the images shot were done at night, so there wasn’t a lot of light available, and I have to admit I’m a kind of high-iso junky, it’s not that I will destroy a camera because it’s 1/3rd stop less “sensitive” than the other but I will loose interest pretty fast in a camera that does not perform well at higher ISOs. This is also one of the reasons I hardly use my medium format cameras at ISOs above 400, it just doesn’t look right, and why I love the 5DMKIII it looks pretty amazing at ISO6400 and even up (after some DxO cleaning).

So how did I like the noise of the Sony?
Let’s put it this way, I was not running back for my 5DMKIII, actually I think they are about equal, do remember I did not do a side by side test and I could be 100% wrong, but I just like the way the noise looks on the Sony Alpha 99, it’s not that bad actually and it cleans up nicely with NIK Dfine if needed or even lightroom. Highest ISOs are usable if you convert to B&W and make it nice and gritty, but ISOs that are in the 16000 range are pretty nice, and even some 12800 shots were very impressive. I know I promised to not show 100% crops but with noise I think that tells a bit more than just talking/writing about it. The following is a 100% crop without noise reduction (even got some slight sharpening) shot on ISO6400.

As you can see it’s a fine grainy quality and there is still plenty of sharpness in the image, although some sharpness is lost of course, remember this is a 100% crop, on print this will look perfectly fine.

 So let’s go to the part that I found pretty cool, dynamic range.
However you turn it, that’s something that’s important, you can have the best camera in the world but if the dynamic range is not good, well the images will give you some problems during post. The Exmor sensors are highly praised for their shadow recovery and I have to say I was almost blown away, the Alpha 99 has some pretty amazing dynamic range hidden in the files. When importing them into Lightroom it already looks very nice, but some playing with sliders gives you a look that even my beloved Canon 5DMKIII can never reach, this is especially at high-ISOs a dream of a sensor.

Especially with the images you see above this text I was very happy, they are shot while it was very dark outside and when you see the recovery in the highlights of the very bright billboards and the reflections in the dark stones and railtracks you can imagine this put a big fat smile on my face.

 For the coming weeks I will be playing a bit more with the Sony Alpha 99, shooting some studio work with it and some more outside material and I will try to put some action into the mix although I don’t have a long lens with it, so I will keep you updated on the blog about the camera. Also this week you will see some natural light shots I took with Esther and Manon outside during the photowalk with the Alpha 99.

I have to be 100% honest, I think it’s a pretty expensive camera, if I buy it with the lenses I have now it’s an awesome kit but it will set me back more cash than I’m willing to spend on a camera system seeing the fact that I also use a 5DMKIII and already have a nice collection of Canon glass, also I miss the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 for the Sony mount as I can see now and that lens I LOVE.
However when the 24-70, 85 and 70-200 are your ranges and you still have a lot of glass that will fit the Sony I really think that the Alpha 99 will be an awesome upgrade from whatever you’re using now.

As mentioned before I would love to see a bit more speed with starting up the cameras EVF, but the dynamic range, the glass and the handling of the camera MORE than makes up for it.


As you can imaging I did not have time (and will not have the time) to really test the filming capabilities of the Sony which I highly regret because I think this is an area where the camera will excel, having a clean HDMI output is very important for people using external recorders (although I always shoot on the card to be honest and I use a SmallHD monitor connected to the 5DMKIII output (which I like a lot more than the 5DMKII’s output)) and AF during filming is a nice feature for the quick video snaps. Add to this the many options for resolutions and framerates and the Sony seems like an incredibly video camera also.







76 replies
    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      Frank my wife uses Canon and she has a quite a bit of kit. I have a bunch of Nikon D700, D7000 and some glass. I bought a Sony A77 (mainly for wildlife action 10-12 FPS). All I can say is the A77 is a joke. It makes really bad photo’s acceptable, it makes really good shots great. I have subsequently turfed all my kit and just kept the A77 with an A99 on it’s way. It is like having the Ferrari of point and shoots. In fact once you have set it up I think you actually have to deliberately mess it up to take a bad shot.

      I take much of the technical reviews with a pinch of salt. Pixel peeping is like dope too some people. The ONLY thing that counts is what the print or display looks like. I am afraid to say the a77 is just miles better than the Canon 60d 7d 550d Nikon d7000 D700 that I had in REAL LIFE. like you said would I advise someone to switch, no I would not, as you correctly say the next bunch from Canon and Nikon will be better and so on and so on.

      Nice practical review and some good examples.

  1. Klaus Binder
    Klaus Binder says:

    Frank great review, thanks for your honest view.

    A few comments since I use the small brother the A77.
    EVF you can actually turn off the preview and it will show you a wide open image like a regular DSLR (this is buried in the menu and many stores don’t know about it )
    There is also another option where you can actually enhance the brightness of what you see in the EVF very handy when shooting in low lighting with flash or strobes.

    EVF startup this can be a real pain and shooting European and American Football I know my fair share. There is an option to turn the auto EVF off. This means the EVF is always on. It seems to save the batter also since it does not activate the LCD.

    I own the 24-70 and have to agree it is an amazing lens. I got the 135 instead of the 85 and it is lovely lens too.
    the 70-700 lens is pretty good too.
    There is actually a Sigma 120-300 version for sony. It was introduced at 1,200€ and I did not buy it. big regret every time I see the new price tag.

    Looking forward to buy this camerea

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I will check for the Sigma, I now own the 120-300 f2.8 OS by the way which I love.
      The switch I would not make by the way, also invested in the awesome new Canon flash system, but it’s a very very interesting camera.

  2. Terry Thornton
    Terry Thornton says:

    Uh….can I get the Canon with Sony lenses…please? Seriously, the market here adds the Zeiss lenses and are you satisfied with them as the top of the line options?

    • Jeff Revell
      Jeff Revell says:

      Do you have a link for that? I have contacted Sigma on a couple of occasions to pester them about why the 120-300 wasn’t available for the Sony (version 1 was originally annoounced in the Sony mount but dropped before the lens went into production). The last email I received from them said that the new lens was just announced and that it might be available in Sony mount. I think it was just some guy from the PR department but I really want this lens. I am going to be testing the a99 soon but I really want it for the a77. Then I would have a 180-450mm f/2.8 lens that can be handheld if needed. Throw in some 10 – 12 frame per second shooting on the a77 and you have a pretty wicked sports photography combo.

  3. Chris Upton
    Chris Upton says:

    I don’t know the menu on the A99, but I turn off ‘Live View Display’ on my A77 when using flash indoors. Much brighter!

  4. danny
    danny says:

    Thx for the review. I know you from where you give classes, nice to hear you talk about Sony camera’s.
    For in the studio and strobes you can change the EVF to ‘Setting Effect Off’, so you get a similar view as an OVF.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I know, but it will still fluctuate, difficult to explain, on a normal DSLR the image quality is constant, with the Sony it changes when you move the camera, sometimes this is better because you can see what you’re doing with high contrast lighting (dark setups) but it’s just a weird thing when you’re not used to it.

  5. mc Laurie
    mc Laurie says:

    Thank you, Frank for the great review. You gives me faith on the new camera indeed (i ordered it before seeing this text.. you know, there are lots of review criticizing the camera like being too expensive, features not attractive enough, D600/6D outperforms A99, etc)

    Maybe you tell us, after further testing on A99, what you feel about the continuous AF speed and accuracy, and burst shooting =)

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I will keep giving stuff like that, the speed is nice by the way, 6fps is enough for most applications and AF as mentioned is VERY snappy, but this can also be the lenses of course.

      Overall pricing should be considered, and I agree it’s on the high side, on the other hand it’s a very nice camera, and especially with people that also do a lot of video.

  6. shakypete
    shakypete says:


    If I had it all to do over, I would have gone with Nikon back when. All in all, I don’t think it matters what system people use. The reality is, it is a tool, and the best one for the job is what I aspire to use. I’m not a pro. If I was, I would let requirements drive the purchasing decision, not brand. Though when people ask me what to buy, because they think I have an opinion, I will be honest, I don’t recommend they buy Sony, but I do say any one of Sony, Nikon, or Canon will be a good start.

    I like that Sony is pushing Nikon and Canon at their own game with features and capabilities. Nikon and Canon seem to be in a dead heat for features at every price/value. Sony steps out of their shadow while attempting to close the gap. Sometimes they cost more, but eventually the price normalizes. They have come up with some interesting things in the past few years.

    I was in the Minolta camp five years before they were sold to Sony. I know I can always switch, but using some of their early EVF SLT Cameras really made me reconsider and wait it out for their next offering in Full-Frame. Their HVL-58 flash helped too. It made me think they may have a few more tricks up their sleeve.

    I’m still anxiously waiting my A99.

    The Dynamic range feedback you gave was very reassuring that I made a good call. It makes me feel much better compared to all the other reviews I’ve seen. I don’t care how many pixels, as long as they are good pixels. I think the photo with the cars all backed up answers that question perfectly. The detail in the dark areas is very impressive compared to everything I have used up to this point.

    One question, was the DRO feature “On” or “Off” during the shots above. Because it does a nice job of stretching things ever further, from what I have observed with other SLT cameras.

    Thanks for being “Open” in your review.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I agree, in the end it’s all just tools.
      But it’s fun to compare tools and interesting and let’s be honest the better the tools the better.

      But I would not spend over 2000.00 just to change system, Canon will one day beat that quality, or Nikon, or maybe Sony… in the long run in about 2-3 years all brands will be better than this.

      So I will probably stick with what I use, but it’s a VERY interesting camera/sensor.

  7. fem2008
    fem2008 says:

    Thank you for a great review. As others mentioned, for studio work, turn off the “Live View Display” “Setting Effect” to off. This in the camera configuration menu (the one with the gear icon).

    Using it’s sibling the A77, I have learned to tap the shutter button while brinigng teh camera to my eye, to help speed things up.

    Don’t forget to try manual focus peaking! Also try it with the camera set to B&W mode. Killer!

  8. Jeff Revell
    Jeff Revell says:

    Nice review Frank. I think we often get caught up in all of the technical specs of a camera and forget that the most important thing in the end are the images that it produces. I’m a long-time Nikon shooter but also work with Canon SLRs for my books. I was first intrigued by the new alpha cameras when the a57 won Camera of the Year for Popular Photography. I bought one and then sold it when the a77 came out because there are a lot of features that I really like that you just don’t find in other SLRs.
    I think you were right on the head with some of your complaints/issues. my number one issue has been battery life. Sony did not introduce a new battery with the a99 and instread went with their NP-FM500, which is the same cell used in the a77 and several of their video products as well. I also still don’t quite understand how using the EVF uses more power than the very large Live View screen. You would think it would be the other way around. That being said, I agree that using the EVF is a little weird at first but it’s really nice seeing depth of field and white balance as you are shooting. It takes a lot of the shoot and peek out of the process.
    You were also right on the money with the Zeiss lenses. These things are sharp as a razor and stand up against any other SLR lens from any of the major manufacturers. The 24-70 is my favorite lens and I can’t wait to put it on the a99 and shoot it full frame.
    I am looking forward to your continued thoughts as you work with the camera. I will happily be sharing my thoughts when I finally get my hands on one in the next couple of weeks (or whenever Sony starts shipping the cameras).

    • John
      John says:

      Hi Jeff, I am the owner of the A77 as well and also have slight issues with the battery performance although still find for 98% of my shoots a single battery is fine but I always have a spare as I’ve had to change around twice before during a shoot (I could look at the vertical grip which will fix this up I guess).

      The Sony NP-FM500 battery I believe needs a refresh/update, and one of the features I really like with the Sony SLR range is that they HAVE kept the same batteries and my old A350, then A700 and now A77 all use the same battery which is VERY good (Thank you Sony!)…

      Having said that I think instead of releasing a completely new designed battery the same physical batter with increased capacity/newer technology would be better (eg, NP-FM500HC – High Capacity), this was you could use either the standard batteries that are available now OR you could purchase the higher capacity batteries for both new and any older cameras… I really do love the fact of being backwards and forwards compatible as much as possible and makes investing in a system allot more fun and saves you money to spend on the better items like the Zeiss lenses.

      I’m not sure if the above is possible but as the NP-FM500 has been around for so long I’m sure there is higher/better battery densities around now Sony could look at using… (fingers crossed)…

  9. Marc Eliot
    Marc Eliot says:

    Hi Frank! Great review. But actually I have a question which turns in my minds for a while now : are gears so important. I had a d40, a d80, a d90 and a d700. Since we shoot raw, meter the light with a light meter and use cs5, lightroom and nik, don’t you think it is more a marketing thing? i would love to ask you to tell us the objective reasons why you have this gear more than the other. Because at the end of the day we change everything during the post process. Well I am just a guy with a cam and to be honest, when I look at my pictures, I could not name the used camera. What’s your opinion on that topic?

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Nope gear is somewhere in third/fourth place, first place is story telling, followed by light technique etc.

      BUT even in 4-5th place gear quality will be important of course, I only always strongly advise people to first focus on the first parts and then on gear.

  10. Yann
    Yann says:

    Hi Frank,
    You wrote “the image you see is actually NOT through the lens as we are used to it”.
    Actually it is really through the lens, then through the ‘translucent’ mirror and then through the sensor.
    I guess the lag you mention for the EVF and everything to get ready is due to the preproduction firmware. We had the same lag issue with the dial control, start up and turn off duration on the A77 which were really fixed with firmware 1.05.

    That said, thank you for this excellent review with nice photos, the one at the the train station is really outstanding for its dynamic range. A real pleasure to read a review which is not pixel peeper-ish.

    • peterblaise
      peterblaise says:

      Argh, as if SLR TTL mirror, focusing screen, and pentaprism viewfinders were ever a “straight path” — don’t forget that the R in SLR stands for Reflex, that is, reflection, as in mirror, in other words, a bent path.

      The important feature is that, yes, the viewfinder is TTL through the taking lens, so the benefits include … there’s no parallax surprise in preview image versus capture image.

      And, it’s 100%, so there’s no surprise cropping wise in preview versus capture.

      And, as you noted, we can also see REVIEW capture images in the same viewfinder where our eye has just been watching our photographic subject, so we don’t have to readjust our eye’s focus from far (on our subject) to near (on the camera) to review our capture.

      And finally, we can also see all camera settings through the viewfinder as we set them, including all deep menu and setup choices, something virtually impossible with pentaprism systems, and again, with our eye’s focus set on far, same same as when viewing our photographic subject.

      Cool or what?

      And some of us have been enjoying the benefits of this feature on our cameras systems for 10+ years.

      Great exploration, Frank, welcome aboard the TTL EVF bandwagon! =8^o

      Love and hugs,
      Peter Blaise

    • Jack E. Chan
      Jack E. Chan says:

      If I may be allowed to speak on Frank’s behalf… I think what he means is that the image you see through the EVF is a processed image and not the image directly off the lens and mirror (a pure optical view).

      It’s just semantics and everything else is pros and cons.

  11. Tony Flores
    Tony Flores says:

    Reading this article really just took me back a bit. I remember so many years ago buying the Sony A100 when it was the only dSLR offered by Sony. Back then Sony was a joke, ‘not a real camera company’ is what I heard over and over again. But shooting with stable primes was and continues to be a huge advantage. I sold it got the A700 a few months later when it was released. Over the years as Sony kept making better sensors, and I watched Nikon cruise past Canon in the sensor dept. with the Sony sensors, I wondered why shooters from different systems still weren’t noticing.

    It makes me happy to read an honest article, plenty of pros and cons, and that’s how it should be. Glass will always keep shooters from jumping ship casually, but for new shooters, it’s not a Coke/Pepsi race anymore. The A700 while long in the tooth, will always be an important camera, Sony’s first serious effort. Then the A580, still a record holder at DxOmark. the translucent cameras changed the game, and now Sony opens eyes with the A99 and RX1, cameras I want and have held out for. I can’t wait to see what Sony does next, and I can’t wait to see what Canon and Nikon do to keep up technologically.

  12. John
    John says:

    Interesting review. I think that even though the feedback is extremely positive, the final point is that this is not for me. The real question being, would you switch to Sony for this camera, and the answer being no. There is 2 showstoppers to me: the battery life (that’s important, no battery no photo), the weird feeling of the EVF (it might be good but it’s different enough that I don’t want to switch to it).
    Also I am as much impressed as you are with the dynamic range, but I finally don’t like it. If I want my pictures to look like an HDR I will shoot with bracketing. Here it really looks unnatural.
    I am looking forward to reading your review in studio shot, to see if this tool doesn’t come in the way between you and your model.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      Do remember that I DID do something in Lr with some of the images, raised the shadows and lowered the highlights.

      This is something that most people will do IF they want more dynamic range, it’s nice that with this sensor you can do it like this.

      Nothing says you HAVE to 😀
      You can even limit the DR if you would want that.

  13. Aaron Ashley
    Aaron Ashley says:

    I have seen all of your videos and you rank up there with the world’s top photogs for intelligence and solid theory. Your review was awesome, very unbiased. Agreed with all of it and it was what I expected. I am very excited to work with this sensor. And the sony-oly-hasselblad, zeiss partnership is going to take the photo world by storm. The d800 is scoring basically the top points in the world right now and its on the sony sensor. I think the new leica 24mp sensor will be given a run for its money by this sensor even if the Zeiss glass does not quite compete and I have no experience with the canon (I know they are brilliant cameras) but the DX0mark scores for it place it well below this sensor.

    Those dark shots of the railroad looked like solid HDR. I am so excited for this camera.

    And all lens stabilized? This thing will be a low light hunter for shizzle

  14. James
    James says:

    Thanks for the review Frank. Wonder if you can comment on the shutter sound/noise/loudness and how does it compare to the Canon 5D mkIII Quiet shutter mode.

  15. John Witcraft
    John Witcraft says:

    I have been waiting for this Camera as I use an a850 now. I have been following your blog for a while now and love your work. Your opinion of the camera really helps me make up my mind on the a99.

  16. Scott Kennelly
    Scott Kennelly says:

    What did you think of the fold-out screen Frank? I am surprised you did not mention that, since the Sony A99 has that, while the Canon 5 D Mk III does not. In fact, the Sony is the only camera with a full-frame sensor that has a fold-out screen for composing photos . . . in the World. I think that feature alone is something worth writing about.

    I would also like to know what you think of the high-speed shooting mode. It shoots at 10 fps, right? What are the photos like? How big is the buffer, when shooting at 10 fps? How fast do the photos write off the buffer into those slow SD cards?

    I wonder if this is the camera to get, or should someone only get it, if they want low noise. Afterall, the A77 is half the price, and it seems to shoot 24 megapixel photos much faster. I am thinking that a smorts and action shooter would not want the A99, but maybe you have a different opinion. What is your experience shooting action with the A99?

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I have not tested the bursts because I did not shoot any action yet with the Sony. I will see what I can do in the coming week.

      SD cards are not THAT slow anymore luckily 😀

      I commented on the moveable screen in the other review and your remark about it there.

    • Scott Kennelly
      Scott Kennelly says:

      Thank you for the quick response Frank! I understand that you don’t have the lens for shooting sports. Hopefully you will find something moving fast, which you can try with the 24-70mm lens. Remember that it crops the photos in high-speed mode (if I read correctly), so it will be like having a longer lens. I think it is a little funny that you added in the other article that you might be willing to pay $200 extra for a fold-out screen, but you think the Sony A99 is too expensive. Maybe I am reading it wrong, but since the Sony A99 is cheaper than the Canon 5 D Mk III, and it has the fold-out screen, (and it shoots faster and with more megapixels and about the same noise at high ISO settings), I would think you might not think it is expensive at all. Would you agree that for a new photographer who is thinking about buying a full-frame camera, the Sony A99 seems like a great buy? (especially considering how much the comparable Canon 5 D Mk III costs) I am pretty sure we will see a new Sony full-frame camera that is $1,995 soon. I believe that Sony will introduce one to compete against the new Nikon D600 and Canon 6 D cameras. I’m guessing it will shoot at 4 fps (8 fps in high-speed mode), be a little bit smaller and maybe not weather sealed, and be called the A97. Hopefully there will be a new 24-135mm f4 lens too!


    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I said it was pricey 😀
      Some reviewers call it too expensive but I said pricey (if I recall correctly of course).

      Well it’s very simple, if you have invested in Canon/Nikon glass I see no reason what so ever to switch systems, the money involved is enormous and the benefits in the END result will be minor.

      If you start out with a whole new system yeah maybe, but as mentioned in the review it will depend on a few things, for example (what I also mentioned in the review) the way the strobes work, both Canon and Nikon have great systems I never worked with the Sony system so I cannot comment on that.

      Available lenses and other accessories etc.

      If you are paying that amount of money for a camera it’s something you commit to, and the A99 is a GREAT camera, don’t get me wrong if it would take Canon lenses and canon strobes I would advise people to seriously look into it.

      Also when looking at pricing I believe the A99 is more expensive than the Canon but I could be wrong.

    • Scott Kennelly
      Scott Kennelly says:

      Frank, here in the U.S. it looks as if the A99 will be hitting the street at about $2,800 compared to the Canon 5 D Mk III at almost $3,500.


      To me, pricey is definitely a relative term. Yes, it is very pricey, compared to the A77! But when you consider the fact that it is cheaper than its primary competition, the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5 D Mk III, it is not. It is the same price as its predecessor, the Sony A900, but it has a fold-out screen and shoots 1 fps faster, has video capabilities, and includes some other interesting new features, which the competition does not have either (like a built-in GPS).

      Sure, for a Canon shooter the A99 is pricey. For a Sony shooter the Canon 5 D Mk III is pricey though! For a Nikon shooter both are pricey! I think that considering the competition though, the A99 is actually NOT pricey at all. In fact, I think it is better value for your money, when comparing the A99 to the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5 D Mk III.

      I do wish Sony had produced a 36 megapixel camera though, since the 24 megapixel sensors have been around for so many years. I am very surprised that Sony did not increase the megapixels at all, when updating from the A900 to the A99.

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      MPs are HIGHLY overrated, I love higher MPs files don’t get me wrong, but 24 is more than enough for almost 99% of the work someone would ever do, and if you REALLY need more rent a MF camera.

      Dynamic range and features is another thing indeed, for me GPS is nice but I already have my iPhone that does a great job (shooting several cameras this is much easier), the screen is cool also but in the end it’s all features.

      NOW don’t get me wrong I LOVE the A99, without any doubt, but in the real world it’s not about those little things, it’s about what can you do with it.

      For some wedding shooters it will be the best camera ever because they can use the EVF to it’s limit, for studio shooters that shoot tethered they maybe hate the EVF. For people shooting a lot of small flash they will probably go for Canon at the moment thanks to the new radio triggered strobes.

      But in the REAL end, it’s about what you already have, if you already have Sony this will be an awesome update, if you’re shooting Canon/Nikon with a lot of glass and strobes you will not switch, however this IS something that is very interesting to see and hopefully some of it’s features and performance will drip into the other brands.

      If you’re now starting out I would in the past always say get Canon or Nikon now I can seriously also point people towards Sony.

      Sony is doing some great things at the moment with their compact cameras and now the Alpha, it’s for me slowly becoming a third party (in no particular order) and that’s good in a market that was/is dominated by Canon and Nikon.

      Go Sony 😀

  17. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Frank ,

    Nice hands on review, I think I’m going to check one out and purchase it 🙂

    Out of interest when you tested in a Studio you mentioned that the light was strange and did not seem right, did you have a look at the settings on the camera as I know when I was reading up about the A77 there was the following setting in the menue which is used for studio lights:
    ————————– SNIP ————————–
    Display Sets whether or not to display the effect of a function on the screen, such as the effect of the exposure compensation value.

    (Setting Effect ON/Setting Effect OFF)
    Set the effect to OFF to make it work in the studio.
    ————————– SNIP ————————–

    Perhaps the A99 has the same settings and hope it might help in your next round of testes as well as to update the comments on the studio lighting if it does in fact work as I’m thinking it does…

    All the best


    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I tried with different settings, and it’s just how an EVF works. It’s adjusting for the brightness in the screen. With broad lighting everything is stable however with high contrast lighting (dark/light) it will vary but again that’s what an EVF should do.

  18. Alan76
    Alan76 says:

    My A99 is being delivered tomorrow, I will calibrate my 300G 2.8 lens and try to get a kingfisher photo.
    I have a friend who is already in possession of one, and hopefully we will get a kingfisher sitting on it, I did this a year ago with the A77
    The only downside I have found with the A77 has been noise at high ISO, and speed of focusing.
    I know the A99 has solved the noise problem. Over next weekend My friend Malc ( who is a kingfisher in-flight photographer ) will test the focus speed. If the A99 passes the test it will be one of the best cameras in it’s price range.

  19. Mike
    Mike says:

    Great review. I just had a quick play with the A99 with the 24-70 and really liked what I saw. Our Sony rep ( I sell camera gear) said he’d get me some extended time with it. After seeing some of your shots I can’t wait. Up to about a year ago I never took Sony seriously, now they’ve been changing my mind a lot.

  20. Timothy Olivier
    Timothy Olivier says:

    Thanks Frank For the review, for far to long now, I have been looking for a straight honest review.

    My biggest bugbear with Sony is the noise levels, I have struggled for so long with low light photography, and I think you are right in saying they have improved the noise with the A99. this is the first Sony camera that has made me think about getting it since the A700. and the Ziess lenses make all the difference.

    One question I do have is, when shooting studio and you set the camera for the shot you want. does the EVF look completely wrong as it tries to show the settings rather than the scene, for example. I like to shoot people painting light trails with sparklers, so my modeling lights are off for the long exopure, but rear sync for the final result. so is the focusing and composition difficult?

  21. lee
    lee says:

    Hy frank.. I am very interested with sony alpha 99 .. do you think better than nikon d800e and canon 5dm3?
    im confused..hope u help me find the best…thank you

    • Frank Doorhof
      Frank Doorhof says:

      I can only talk for the Canon and yes I think the A99 is a better camera if you’re doing what I’m doing. It’s dynamic range and colors are very nice, high-iso is also very good (canon might be a bit better, but also softer on higher iso).

      The Nikon D800 I never really liked to be honest, it’s a great concept MP wise but I think the rest of the camera is not up to par with the 5DMKIII or Sony A99, but that’s personal.

      And let’s be honest for 99.9% of your work you will have more than enough with 16-20MPs (even less for most).

    • Lee
      Lee says:

      thank you … if you are me .. what do you choose for your first camera?
      please be honest … because I will order in a few days … I do not want to be disappointed hehehe…

    • Lee
      Lee says:

      Thanks u very much frank…now i have one a99 n i think i really like this camera…i have 24-70cz n 70-400ssm2 ..

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