Successor to the well-regarded SLT-A99, the Sony A99 II is a 42.4 megapixel full-frame interchangeable-lens camera that can shoot full-resolution stills at 12 frames per second. Aimed at professional sports, action and wildlife photographers, the Sony A99 II also offers 5-axis image stabilisation and 4K video recording.
Having attended the launch event in Cologne, Germany, we now bring you our first hands-on preview of this exciting new product.
Sony's 'SLT' designation, which stands for 'Single-Lens Translucent', has been invented to differentiate their unique camera line from traditional SLRs. These cameras feature a fixed, semitransparent/translucent mirror, a dedicated PDAF sensor and an electronic viewfinder – a peculiar combination not found in any other manufacturer's line-up. The Sony A99 II offers the same Translucent Mirror Technology as its predecessor, the SLT-A99, in an 8% smaller package. The new model sports a redesigned grip and viewfinder housing, which make it look substantially different from its forebear when viewed front on. Additionally, the Silent Multi-Controller now offers optional click-stops, making it easier to set discrete values for aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitvity and so on. The Sony A lens mount is, of course, unchanged.
The top-mounted controls have remained essentially the same and include a shutter release surrounded by an on-off switch, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity buttons, a status LCD with a backlight button, white balance and drive mode buttons, a dedicated button for toggling between the viewfinder and the rear monitor and, on the other side of the viewfinder housing, a conventional mode dial. The only major and immediately noticeable change is that there's no longer a dedicated position for a Tele-Zoom Continuous Advance Priority mode or any Scene modes on the mode dial. The rear controls have also remained the same, apart from a few – mostly cosmetic – changes. As before, there is a Menu button, a one-touch Movie shutter release, an AEL button, an AF/MF toggle, a 4-way controller, an Fn button plus the familiar Display, Smart Teleconverter and Playback buttons. The only non-cosmetic change is that the AF RANGE button has given way to a new, customisable C1 button. The camera still offers two control wheels (front and rear), and a vari-angle LCD screen, still without touchscreen functionality. The menu system has been redesigned to accommodate a variety of new features and to facilitate easier navigation.
Sensor and Autofocus System
The Sony A99 II comes equipped with a 42.4-megapixel, back-illuminated full-frame CMOS sensor with a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 and no optical low-pass filter. There are 399 on-sensor phase-detection AF points, which can work in tandem with the dedicated PDAF sensor that features 79 focus points. The central AF point remains usable in brightness levels as low as -4EV. Sony's Hybrid Cross-Type autofocus system enables users to directly select one of 323 focus points. The AF system's frame coverage is pretty impressive, and initial tests have shown the camera's focus speed and subject tracking performance to be exceptionally good.
The new model's shutter is rated for 300,000 actuations, up from 200,000 in the A99. It also enables faster burst shooting.
Continuous Shooting Mode
The Sony A99 II's 'Continous High+' shooting mode enables users to capture 42-megapixel photos at a speed of 12 frames per second, with autofocus, for a maximum of 54 raw images or 60 JPEGs. There's also a 'Continuous High' mode (without the plus sign), which offers 8fps burst shooting with minimal viewfinder blackout. Thanks to a large buffer and sophisticated data processing, these shots can be viewed immediately after shooting. Burst rates of 6fps and 4fps are also available.
Sony's SteadyShot anti-shake system has been completely reworked and now offers a claimed 4.5-stop advantage over non-stabilised cameras when shooting hand-held at shutter speeds that are critically slow for the focal length of the lens in use. As with the Sony A7 II compact system camera, the in-body image stabilisation system of the Sony A99 II SLT camera is of the 5-axis variety.
The Sony A99 II has an upgraded electronic viewfinder, which now offers a 0.78x magnification (versus 0.71x on the A99). The lens elements inside the viewfinder assembly benefit from Zeiss's T* coating for improved contrast and reduced glare. The OLED panel inside the viewfinder has a resolution of 2,359K dots, just like the one in the original A99. The finder's frame coverage is unchanged at 100%, which is a good thing.
The Sony A99 II is the first A-mount camera to boast 4K video recording capabilities. The camera can shoot in 35mm full-frame and Super 35 Cropped modes, with full-pixel readout and no pixel binning. With the A99 II being a Sony camera, there's support for a host of video-oriented features including time-code, zebras, quick- and slow-motion movie recording and S-Log, S-Log2 and S-Log3 gamma. Clean HDMI output is also supported.
Availability and Pricing
The new Sony A99 II will start shipping in November, priced at approximately €3600 / $3200.