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Sony a99II 42.4MP Digital SLR Camera with 3" LCD, Black (ILCA99M2)
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- Up to 12fps at 42.4MP continuous shooting with AE/AF tracking, World’s first 79 hybrid AF cross-point array for unmatched AF tracking
- 42.4MP full-frame sensor w/ no low-pass filter up to ISO 102,4004, 4K movie recording w/full pixel readout in full-frame or super 35, 5-axis in-body image stabilization optimized for full-frame sensor
- High bitrate XAVC S5 , S-log, slow/quick frame rates6, 4:2:2 HDMI out, 4D Focus hybrid phase AF w/ 79-point sensor plus 399-point on imager. Viewfinder Type : 1.3 cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder, XGA OLED
- Wi-Fi/NFC code for easy file transfer and remote control, Dust/moisture resistant magnesium alloy body w/ 300k+ cycle shutter, , Ultra-fast OLED w/EVF benefits and optical viewfinder immediacy
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From the manufacturer
α99 II Full Frame Translucent Mirror A-mount Camera
Unprecedented resolution and unmatched speed. Capture 42.4MP at up to 12fps continuous shooting with AE/AF tracking and stunning 4K video. Stay focused with the world’s first 79 hybrid AF cross-point array for unmatched AF tracking and 4D Focus hybrid phase AF system that combines dedicated 79-point AF sensor and wide 399-point focal plane phase detection on the cameras imaging sensor.
42.4MP Full-frame back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor
The35mm full-frame back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor produces high resolution 42.4-megapixel images and stunning 4K video. The back-illuminated structure allows for fast readout of large volume of data while the copper wiring layer (instead of aluminum) allows for faster transmission speed. No low-pass filter results in maximum resolution from the sensor and combined with the gapless on-chip lens design and AR (anti-reflective) coating on the surface of the sensor's glass seal - dramatically improving light collection efficiency - even though the pixels are smaller than lower resolution full-frame sensors. 16-bit processing with both compressed or uncompressed 14-bit RAW files are readily available based on user preferences. The results are truly remarkable – with incredibly detailed stills and video, high dynamic range, high sensitivity and low noise across an ISO range of 100-25600, expandable to ISO 50 – 102,400.
World’s first 79 hybrid AF cross-point array3 for unmatched AF tracking
The α99 II features the world’s first 79 hybrid AF cross-point array3 for unmatched AF tracking. Incorporating both a dedicated high speed, high-density phase detection AF sensor with 79 AF-points (15 cross points) with both vertical and horizontal detection and a 399-point focal plane AF sensor with vertical detection over a wide area of the frame. The 79 superimposed points operate as fully selectable hybrid cross points which allows for fast and precise focusing with just about any type of subject.
Up to 12fps1 at 42.4MP with AE/AF tracking2
The α99 II has been designed to allow for high resolution, continuous shooting at high frame rates. The camera features a new front-end LSI that works with the image sensor, BIONZ X image processing engine and a newly designed shutter unit to enable continuous shooting at impressive speeds up to 12fps1 with continuous AF/AE tracking2 at full 42.4MP resolution. Thanks to a large buffer, these shots can be viewed immediately after shooting, even when in high-speed continuous shooting mode.
Super 35mm or full-frame 4K video4
Choose Super 35mm or full-frame 4K4 to best suit the video capture your artistic vision requires. Full pixel readout with no pixel binning10 in Super 35mm format generates approximately 1.8 times the data required for 3840 x 2160 4K movies. That data is then oversampled to produce beautiful 4K imagery with spectacular resolution and minimal moiré effect. The α99 II is also capable of recording 4K across the full width of the full frame sensor, with the exceptional control of plane of focus that only full-frame format provides.
5-axis in-body image stabilization optimized for 42.4MP full-frame
The 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system is fine-tuned for high-resolution image sensors. It accurately compensates for blur caused by camera shake – for up to 4.5 stops13 - from five different directions: vertical, horizontal, pitch, yaw and roll. This means that any lens attached to the α99 II will benefit from images stabilization, regardless of whether the lens has its own image stabilization. Compensation across 5-axis of movement excels during video recording and even helps fight blur caused by the photographer walking or running. It’s a true marvel of engineering. You can even monitor the stabilizing effects of camera shake compensation in the viewfinder or LCD screen while shooting by pressing the shutter button halfway or magnifying the image, and while shooting movies by entering movie mode.
A host of pro video features for 4K4 and Full HD
The α99 II has the ability to record 4K video internally with full pixel readout and no pixel binning through usage of the professional and friendly XAVC S format4. The camera is capable of recording high quality footage at 100Mbps for 4K and up to 100Mbps at 120 fps for Full HD4. It also offers a new ‘Slow and Quick’ mode (S&Q) that supports both slow motion and quick motion from 1 fps to 120 fps in 8 steps. A host of other features for professional movie production workflow are also included, such as zebra for easier exposure adjustment, peaking for easy manual focusing, time code, clean 4:2:2 HDMI output as well as picture profiles, S-Log3/S-Log2, S-Gamut and gamma display assist for real time S-Log monitoring.
Flicker from fluorescent and other artificial lighting can affect an image exposure and color anomalies at the top and bottom of an image, especially high shutter speeds14. When capturing still images, the camera can automatically detect flicker and time the shutter accordingly to minimize its effect. This maintains consistency of exposure and color from shot to shot in resulting images.
Professional rugged body and durable shutter mechanism
The compact α99 II is a high-quality, high-precision shooting tool built for professionals in the real world with a rugged magnesium alloy body that combines high strength with light weight. Sealing around the main buttons, dials, ports and doors are dust and moisture resistant9 with a double-layered structure that enhances sealing effectiveness at all camera body openings including the media compartment and terminal area. The highly durable and reliable shutter unit has been proven to endure approximately 300,000 shutter releases which ensure long-lasting shooting performance that takes into consideration the high-speed continuous shooting capabilities up to 12fps and the large number of photos shot by professionals.
Advanced autofocus features
With Expand Flexible Spot, the α99 II automatically uses AF points surrounding the selected point to support precise focus if the selected AF point is not positioned on your subject directly. While Eye AF automatically detects and tracks an eye of even a moving subject (in AF-C mode), for more focusing accuracy. Continuously track a moving subject once with lock-on AF.
Notes and Legal
1 Continuous shooting mode set to ‘Hi+’
2 The supported focus area will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. Furthermore, when “Continuous Shooting: Hi+” is selected, focus will be fixed at the first frame shot when Hybrid Phase Detection AF is active at aperture settings of F9 or higher, or when Hybrid Phase Detection AF is not active at aperture settings of F4 or higher.
3 The number of usable AF points may depend on the lens and shooting mode. Up to 323 focus points are selectable. Not available for movie recording.
4 ISO range of 100-25600, expandable to ISO 50 – 102,400. Expanded ISO. Still images only.
5 Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required for XAVC S format movie recording. UHS-I (U3) SDHC/SDXC card required for 100Mbps recording.
6 Sound cannot be recorded during S&Q. SDHC/SDXC memory card of Class 10 or higher is required. Full HD up to 50 Mbps; 60x quick motion/5x slow in NTSC and 50x quick motion/4x slow in PAL.
7 The number of usable AF points may depend on the lens and shooting mode.
8 Requires pairing with compatible Anroid or iOS mobile devices running the free PlayMemories Mobile app. For GPS pairing, Android 5.0 or later and compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 or later. iPhone/iPad: iPhone 4S or later/iPad 3rd generation or later is required.
9 Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof.
10 Full pixel readout in both full-frame and super 35mm. No pixel binning in Super 35mm recording.
11 Among digital cameras with a full-frame sensor. As of press release date, based upon Sony research.
12 Central focus point.
13 CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw shake only. SAL135F18Z lens. Long exposure NR off.
14 When Anti-flicker Shoot is On. Flicker detection at 100 Hz or 120 Hz only. Continuous shooting speed may decrease. Does not function during bulb exposure or movie recording.
2016 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony is not responsible for typographical and photographic errors. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice.
|Auto Focus Technology||hybrid|
|Display Fixture Type||tilting|
|Display Resolution Maximum||3840 X 2160|
|Display Size||3 inches|
|Effective Still Resolution||40 MP|
|External Memory Included||No|
|Flash Memory Type||SDXC;SDXC;SDXC;SDXC|
|Image Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Included Components||Battery, charger, shoulder strap, body cap, accessory shoe cap, eyepiece cup, micro USB cable|
|Item Dimensions||3 x 4.13 x 5.63 inches|
|Item Weight||1.7 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||11.5 Watt Hours|
|Manufacturer Warranty Description||1 year|
|Minimum Shutter Speed||30 seconds|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||42.4 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Shipping Weight||3.15 pounds|
|Supported Battery Types||Sony NP-FM500H|
|Video Capture Format||4K, HD|
|Video Capture Resolution||other|
|Viewfinder Type||electronic viewfinder|
Compare to similar items
|Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping|
|Screen Size||3 in||3 in||2.7 in||3.2 in||3.2 in||3.2 in|
|Focus Type||—||Includes Manual Focus||Includes Manual Focus||manual-and-auto||Includes Manual Focus||Includes Manual Focus|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Sensor-shift||Optical||Image Stabilization||None||None|
|ISO Range||—||Auto (ISO 100-51200), Manual (ISO 100-25600)||100-25600||—||Auto, 100-6400 (expandable to 50-12800)||Auto, 64-12800|
|Item Dimensions||4.13 x 5.63 x 3 in||3.19 x 5.63 x 4.09 in||6.77 x 7.64 x 6.22 in||3.36 x 5.37 x 4.33 in||2.99 x 5.98 x 4.57 in||3.23 x 5.75 x 4.84 in|
|Item Weight||1.7 lbs||1.43 lbs||3.77 lbs||2.22 lbs||2.05 lbs||2.16 lbs|
|Megapixels||42.4 megapixels||24.3 megapixels||24.2 megapixels||36.4 megapixels||50.6 megapixels||36.3 megapixels|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||42.4 megapixels||24.3 megapixels||1 megapixels||36.4 megapixels||—||36.3 megapixels|
|Photo Sensor Size||Full Frame||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)||aps-c||Full Frame||Full frame (36 x 24 mm)||CMOS (35.9 x 24.0mm)|
|Style Name||—||Base||Base||—||Body Only||Body Only|
|Video Capture Resolution||other||1080p_hd||1080p||1080p||1920 x 1080 (30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p), 640 x 480 (30p, 25p)||1080p_hd|
|Viewfinder||electronic viewfinder||LCD||LCD||optical viewfinder||Optical (pentaprism)||Eye-level Pentaprism Single-Lens Reflex|
|Wireless Technology||Wi-Finfc||Yes||—||Wi-Fi||None||Optional, via WT-5A or Eye-Fi|
Up to 12fps at 42.4MP continuous shooting with AE/AF tracking, World’s first 79 hybrid AF cross-point array for unmatched AF tracking
42.4MP full-frame sensor w/ no low-pass filter up to ISO 102,4004, 4K movie recording w/full pixel readout in full-frame or super 35, 5-axis in-body image stabilization optimized for full-frame sensor
Top customer reviews
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In this context, without any advance notice (as is their normal and secretive corporate practice), Sony announced the most advanced camera they’ve ever created in the Sony A99ii, to a stunned Photokina crowd this past September. The release generated not just a collective sigh of relief but also a large “WOW” from the A-Mount community (and a few ‘wows’ from other parts of the digital photography universe as well). There may never have been a Sony product release that was more eagerly anticipated (or more anxiously feared as not coming) as the Sony A99II.
Just how advanced is the camera? And how does it differ from a traditional DSLR with its flipping mirror and optical viewfinder? It combines a diverse array of technologies not seen in any other DSLRs: 1) SLT technology (a fixed semi-transparent mirror replacing the traditional flipping mirror, allowing full time PDAF in both stills and video and a highly responsive full-time live view, easily besting any other mirrored camera), 2) a new improved 5 axis in-body image stabilization system, with ~ 4.5 stops of stabilization (on paper anyway), 3) a backside illuminated (BSI) full frame sensor combining high resolution with good low light ability (debuting in the very successful A7RII and the top-rated sensor in DxO in that body) and not available outside of the A99ii/A7Rii (not sold to Nikon as previous gen chips were), 4) a new LSI (large scale integration) chip allowing extremely high data processing speeds; 5) an unprecedented integration of on-sensor phase detection (OSPDAF) with a more traditional dedicated separate PDAF array – supported by the SLT mirror – to create a ‘hybrid autofocus system’ (more on that later).
Hold on there chief – what about the downsides of the SLT? Good question . . . Purists have always regarded the SLT/EVF concept with suspicion, and until recently, OVF has clearly been superior in relationship to action and sports photography, due to the EVF blackout and delayed ‘slideshow ‘effect in many EVFs, because of EVF lag. However, the EVF in the A99II is highly responsive, and with minimal display lag, and if you shoot at eight frames per seconnd, it gives you a comparable experience to what you would see on a traditional DSLR with OVF. It can also go to 12 frames per second, with full aperture and autofocus control (but now with a modest lag in EVF view). And to boot, with the new LSI chip and high speed data processing, you can immediately view any image right after shooting. In low light conditions, EVF is clearly superior, given the gain supplied by the display system (which allows you to see clearly in quite low light). You also get to see what your final image might look like as you manipulate any number of exposure and image parameters, and additionally, the EVF can readily embed other shooting and composition tools such as ‘zebra’ (visualizing areas of potential overexposure) and ‘focus peaking’ (highlighting areas of decent focus) that are simply not available on optical viewfinders. Although a preference for OVF or EVF may seem largely determined by what you’re used to, once many people have seen the benefits of a properly executed and rapidly refreshing EVF, with enough brightness to deal with sunny conditions, they cannot go back to a traditional optical viewfinder. There is the - widely trumpeted - downside of about one half stop light loss, which again disturbing to the OVF purists, but this increase in noise and decrease in DR cannot be seen, in even large prints, from typical viewing distances (but see CONS for further discussion). But it’s all tradeoffs . . . like all technology design considerations. You can’t optimize everything, as all design parameters are tradeoffs of one virtue against another. While I believe that the SLT advantages outweigh the downside of losing slightly less than ½ stop of light, this approach may not please everyone. As always, “your mileage may vary”. Mirrorless OSPDAF still hasn’t quite caught up with dedicated PDAF arrays . . but it’s getting closer. But it may be an asymptote, rather than an eventual intersection, given the physical advantages of dedicated off-sensor arrays, with their much bigger pixel elements.
So much for the history behind this release . . . and its variation from traditional DSLRs. How does it actually feel in your hands? It’s a solid pro-build type body with good ‘heft’, a deep and comfortable grip, but still smaller and more compact than any comparable FF camera body – just about the same size as the A77ii. The transition from other SLTs to this feels seamless and easily bridged. In fact, it feels like you are just working with an A77ii but with much more low light ability plus 4k. It’s also highly capable, excelling in three technologically ‘disparate’ applications: 1) 4K video; 2) portraiture and landscapes (where medium format and other higher resolution FF cameras such as the Nikon 810 and Canon 5DS/DSR excel), 3) sports and action shooting (where lower resolution FF models costing $6k+ such as the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX Mark II excel). In other words, this camera is able to compete with best-in-class, more specialized full frame models across these three types of shooting. And unlike other competing full frame models from CanNikon that do offer 4K video ability, there is no limiting heavy crop (1.4 to 1.8x) that virtually eliminates wide-angle views, and, the 4k is derived from oversampling in Super 35 mode, so it’s a bit sharper than the competition 4k (if you can live with a 1.5 crop – if not, you can shoot from the full sensor view). Thus, the camera is both exceptionally versatile, and relatively compact in size and weight compared to the competition.
From the standpoint of its specifications, despite its relatively svelte dimensions, it’s a heavy hitter:
• Up to 12fps at 42.4MP continuous shooting with AE/AF tracking, 8fps without ‘slide show’ effect or EVF blackout.
• Hybrid PDAF combining 79 cross-point from dedicated off sensor array fed by SLT plus 399 on-sensor phase detection for enhanced AF accuracy, speed and tracking.
• 42.4MP full-frame sensor w/no low-pass filter for medium format level detail and resolution.
• Up to ISO 102,400 for low noise stills and video.
• 4K AND 1080p movie recording via full pixel readout, in full-frame or super 35 (cropped) from 6k oversampling.
• High bitrate codec in XAVC S, with S-log2/3, and 4:2:2 HDMI out.
• 5-axis in-body image stabilization, optimized for full-frame sensor.
• Both slow and quick frame rate video for time lapse or slow motion effects without extra software or hardware
• Wi-Fi/NFC code for easy file transfer and remote control.
• Dust/moisture resistant magnesium alloy body w/ 300k+ cycle shutter.
• Ultra-fast OLED w/EVF benefits and virtually OVF immediacy.
So, how does this thing really work and shoot? Overall, exceptionally well. I’ve had six weeks with it now, and it’s just a gem to operate and shoot with. But again, I’m used to the basic template of the SLT operating system, while those coming from a CanNikon background may find the transition a bit steeper in terms of the learning curve.
1) FF sensor that is Sony’s (and industry’s) best. Combines high resolution and high speed FPS, 4k, and variable frame rate video (allowing either time lapse or slow motion effects). Very good high ISO and excellent detail. Amazing functional ability and versatility in a single package. Not available in any other FF camera and Sony isn’t selling this sensor to anyone else, unlike previous 36MP FF sensor.
2) Excellent 5 axis IBIS worth (on paper – but see discussion) 4+ stops that is functionally invisible (i.e., does not adversely impact IQ), and available on all A Mount lenses. Advertised to be ~2 stops better than previous IBIS system (in A77ii). Decent IS in video as well, in both 1080p and 4k (but see discussion).
3) Ability to use the full range of A-mount glass, with full IS benefits (but see Con #1 and discussion). This gives many options: modern (and expensive) Zeiss and Sony G glass but also high-value legacy Minolta glass options, depending on budget and priorities.
4) 4k is nicely detailed, and competes with best in class (A7RII/A7SII/A6500/GH5), with excellent low light ability. Exceptionally versatile video specs and codecs (but see major Con #2).
5) Compact form factor body, very slightly smaller than A77ii (but feeling like the same camera) and with excellent ergonomics and customizable controls – making this the most compact FF body out there, outside of the A7x series (but without the ergonomic limitations of the A7x group).
6) Hybrid AF system combining 399 on-sensor PD elements, combined with 79 focus points from dedicated PDAF array, fed by SLT mirror (but again see Con #1 and discussion).
7) Much better organized operating system and menu structure, with major degree of potential customization of control architecture to suit end-user preference and style. Additionally, the ‘Fx’ button gives instant access to 12 selectable camera functions of the user’s choice to streamline menu access. Proper configuring of Fx choices obviates most menu diving.
8) Ability for Wi-Fi and NFC to send images to your smartphone.
9) Dramatically improved Wi-Fi remote control app over the A77II – which was appallingly bad. This version of smart phone remote control appears as capable the apps for RX10/100 models, and for E-mount.
10) Multiple point MFA, wide and telephoto ends for zooms, plus separate settings for the four corners and center for lenses that do hybrid AF (but seen con #7)
11) A reasonably deep buffer, with ability to review images immediately, enhancing usability in sports and action photography – 9 seconds roughly of 8 FPS with my card if shooting full sized JPEGs or RAW. Enormous flexibility too – if shooting RAW or JPEG, at 8 FPS, and utilizing crop sensor mode (18MP files), the buffer is almost unlimited (~153 RAW images using my card Samsung Pro SDXC I card - but see Con #8).
12) Best JPEG engine in the DP world, shared with the Sony A7Rii. If you have any questions about this, see the DPR comparometer, and pull up these two cameras, and the Canon 5D IV and Nikon 810.
13) Real functionality for your crop sensor DT lens library – (so don’t reflexively dump your lens library in other words if your coming up from APS-C). If you want smaller files (18MP) or a lighter lens/camera combo, you get increased buffer depth, extra reach on your telephoto lenses, and still plenty of image information. Works brilliantly with the DT 16-50 2.8 as a default Super 35 video or walk-around lens. A major plus of having a high res 42MP sensor.
1) Only Sony lenses (and not quite all of them) allow access to hybrid AF system, although the dedicated PDAF system (upgraded version of system in A77ii) is still quite competent and flexible all by itself.
2) Sony continues to limit AF in movie modes to Program mode only, with fixed aperture (3.5, or widest if lens doesn’t reach 3.5). Reasons for this are unclear, but perhaps to reduce competition with the more video-friendly E Mount?
3) Modest ½ stop light loss from SLT mirror. Much is made of this, but tests have shown that even at higher ISOs, individuals can’t reliably discriminate ½ stop of extra noise, without pixel peeping A/B displays, and never at typical viewing distances. Tradeoff to achieve better AF performance, as OSPDAF hasn’t caught up to the best dedicated PDAF. But it this is still troubling, SLT mirror can be removed for landscape and any other MF shot, if that last bit of ISO is deemed important (a dicey practice and not for the technically inept as semi-transparent mirror is fragile and almost impossible to clean without damaging it).
4) Speaking of ISO, according to initial DxO testing, ISO scale is almost one full stop optimistic (indicated 200 is ~ 110) – and a slightly less than one stop ‘boost’ to indicated ISO continues on up the ISO scale. Not clear if this is simply unusual sample variation (DxO tested a funky sample) or Sony’s thinly veiled attempt to exaggerate the apparent low light performance of the camera. Some ‘fudging’ on ISO is commonplace - almost universal - but typically it’s ~1/4 to 1/3 a stop, not ~ 1 stop.
5) Menu system is still complex (but not excessively so for pro/FF class of camera).
6) Joystick control is sometimes ‘fiddly’, making selection and scrolling processes somewhat unsure. Could Sony just spring for the premium switchgear in its flagship model, instead of something that feels like it cost $.43 cents from a discount parts bin?
7) MFA can be complex, most esp. for H-AF lenses. Top, bottom, left and right corners, plus center (five points) X2 (wide and tele end for any zoom lens). Better for sure than NOT having multiple points of adjustment, but with these many places to check and calibrate, some form of auto setting might be desirable? Or at least a menu setting that allows you to clone center, corner, upper and lower into a single value for wide and in another single value for telephoto. This means you would only have to enter two values instead of the current 10.
8) Buffer clearing is a bit slow (~30 sec if shooting RAW in 42MP, and running out to full buffer depth of ~60 images), even though this is mitigated by ability to review immediately. Unfathomably, Sony doesn’t support SDXC II cards, with their roughly 3x faster read/write times. You can still use a SDXC II, which will speed workflow from camera to your computer (in USB 3.0), but it won’t help with write times to speed up buffer clearing. Just plain weird that Sony didn’t support SDXC II.
I’ve had this for roughly 15 weeks now, so I have now several clear and strong impressions, these after the gloss has worn off. The camera is nicely substantial, slightly heavier than the A77II, but almost exactly the same size. It’s functionally just like a FF A77ii on low light steroids and with 4k. I’m very pleasantly surprised by the Wi-Fi remote control app, as Internet forum chat had suggested that this would be unchanged from the A77II – but it’s actually vastly better, and appears very similar to the excellent versions running on the RX10/100. This is a real plus on tripod shooting, allowing the user to activate the shutter without even a hint of movement in the camera body. Don’t leave home without it! The camera feels great in normal shooting, smooth and responsive both in terms of shooting as well as reviewing/menu scrolling. 4K footage, particularly Super 35 mode, is often spectacular - maybe among the best I’ve seen or close to the best. The best telephoto primes paired with this body will create absolutely stunning wildlife pictures. In relationship to the many complaints about lack of H-AF support for legacy and 3rd party glass, if you shoot in ‘expand flexible spot’ mode, there seems to be little if any difference between the hybrid autofocus functionality with lenses like the Sony 70-400 G2 and older screw drive Minolta legacy glass. I’m sure that if I was shooting more in ‘wide mode’, and using Eye AF combined face recognition options, this would be a potentially bigger issue. In any case, screw drive legacy glass and Sony G and Zeiss lenses focus quickly, and even in low light, focus is quickly locked (unless you’re trying to focus on monochromatic smooth surfaces without texture, which virtually no AF system will handle). On the other hand, the new 5 axis in-body image stabilization clearly does not seem quite as effective as the ~ 5 stop system in the RX10III (my only other benchmark for a system claiming 4-5 stops), and I have done no formal testing, but it seems more like 3-4 stops.
Overall, what’s the bottom line? The camera is very smooth, and responsive in all its operations, from shooting to reviewing images, while color, contrast, detail and DR are all superb, as one would expect in this class of camera. And it’s just a great gift to be able to configure it in a way that is totally ‘simpatico’ with how and what you shoot – kudos to Sony for making the camera so easy to configure your way. With the Fx menu setup properly, one can avoid menu diving almost completely, gaining rapid access to settings that you tend to modify. It’s just a pleasure to shoot with, and then enjoy the spectacular images and video that it can effortlessly generate. It’s nothing less than a screaming home run for A Mount and Sony. It might be the best ‘all arounder’ FF camera anyone has yet made, if you weigh 4k, sports, and landscape equally. It will, I predict, be back-ordered for all of 2017, as demand for this level of excellence, is completely outstripping supply, and even Sony’s most optimistic sales expectations. If you have A mount glass, and want the best possible images, there is simply no other better option.
Now if Sony would just remove the artificial restriction of forced P mode in video if you want AF, so we can have aperture control . . . . are you listening Sony?
UPDATE DECEMBER 27, 2016
Successful wildlife outing in Venice Florida two weeks ago, with many spectacular shots, and which brought cameras strengths and weaknesses into a little bit clearer focus (pun intended). The biggest problem was that in 4K, both full frame, and in the Super 35 mode in APS-C, the image stabilization was borderline for smooth-enough video with just handholding. You may really need to shoot on a tripod if you’re going to do video and expect even semi-professional looking results. This is a bit of a disappointment, as I had high hopes that the image stabilization would be a little bit better in video. It’s not bad, it’s just not great, and frankly, this is consistent with the IBIS in stills being a bit underperforming relative to its highly touted specs. Perhaps I have just been badly spoiled by the phenomenal image stabilization modes in the RX10III, where if you shoot in 1080p you can have amazing degrees of stabilization (with a progressive crop factor . . . not unexpectedly). Haven’t had a chance to see much beyond a few short clips in Super 35 video (APS-C) – subjectively it looks like it might be just trace sharper than the full frame 4K. Both look great, and both the DR and color are fantastic.
The remote control from smart phone app is slightly disappointing in that it appears I am not able to elect to shoot movie clips from the interface itself, unless I first throw the camera into movie mode via the mode dial (admittedly a small inconvenience). The remote app still allows excellent remote shooting on a tripod, displaying what mode I’m in, in the lower right corner with either a stills or movie icon, and control over shutter speed, exposure value, and ISO. It’s pretty responsive (not a lot of lag), and does give you a nice remote viewing screen. I suspect with a good-sized android tablet it might really be something, particularly useful in relationship to so-called slow and quick movie settings, where you’re either doing time lapse or slow motion. Such a remote control app running on a tablet facilitates work review on a much more discerning and revealing viewscreen.
I continue to be impressed with the enormous subtlety – if any difference at all – between regular PDAF(for any A-Mount lens, 3rd party and Minolta legacy glass) and the hybrid autofocus (for Sony lenses), particularly if you’re shooting with expand flexible spot. I can’t really tell any difference in AF speed or accuracy, but I have shot no action scenes that might challenge the AF system, and potentially reveal an advantage to the H-AF. While this lack of obvious boost to AF speed in H-AF may be disappointing to some, it suggests that if you shoot with third-party lenses in flexible spot mode (or particularly center point AF mode), you’re not really missing out on much of anything. If you’re going into wide autofocus modes, AF functionality differences become much more visible, because now you’re getting outside the dedicated PDAF array area. But that’s just not how I shoot. Informal testing suggests that the tracking is a bit better than the A77ii, and competitive with the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DXII. That’s impressive company. I have yet to run out of buffer depth, even in FF RAW, and in crop mode (18MP), buffer depth is just ridiculous.
What about Lenses? . . . and you thought you spent a lot of money on the body! Hah!! There has been a lot of focus on the relative neglect of A mount lens ecology by Sony in their single minded focus on E mount lenses – but I still just don’t see the lens library deficit that some are complaining about. While Sony does need to update the A Mount lens ecology (particularly the ultra wide angle primes, their aging 35mm prime and their telephoto primes), don’t believe the talk about how there “aren’t any A-mount lenses good enough for the sensor” – that’s just untrue. The lens ecology may be third behind Canon and Nikon, but it’s hardly impoverished. As great options, there are the CZ 24-70 2.8 I/II, Tamron 24-70 and 70-200 USD, Zeiss (24/50/85/135) and Sigma Art (35/50) primes and the remarkable Sony G2 70-400 and Sigma 24-105 f4, the Minolta legacy tele-primes, and several newer options as well such as the Sigma 500 4.5. All offer good to excellent performance . . . even if CZ lenses aren’t cheap. My two most valuable lenses are 1) the Sigma Art 24-105 f4 and 2) the Sony 70-400 G2 – and they both deliver consistently great images on that sensor. A Sigma 24-105 f4 recently replaced the CZ 24-70 f2.8 as a basic walk-around zoom, due to its extra reach and lighter weight. With just those two lenses, I can cover an enormous range of shooting situations. And I can always generate extra reach, using the ‘smart teleconverter’ function or the APS-C modes, as the 42MP image size gives me a lot of extra room for cropping. In the APS-C crop mode, I still get 18MP images, which is competitive with the sports FF models from Canikon, and a nearly unlimited buffer.
On the other hand I’m really disappointed that Sony decided to delete the multi-frame noise reduction mode, probably because they believed it was not needed with a FF sensor. I’m not sure I agree with that, as it does give an extra stop or two of effective noise reduction if you’re shooting static subjects and you don’t want to process RAW files and mess around with NR in post. Speaking of which, finally, there is Optics Pro 11 support for the RAW files . . .DxO was however once again ‘late to the party’.
So how do I feel about my pricey purchase, 15+ weeks in? Definitely no regrets, and the camera is worth every penny compared to what the competition offers for similar or even more $. The A99ii opens up options that just did not exist in A-Mount, both in terms of low light shooting, high resolution landscapes, 4K video, and for a kind of luminous image quality that you just have to see to believe.
UPDATE JANUARY 25th, 2017
First real problem with the camera emerged 3 weeks ago while on vacation. An apparent hotspot on the sensor – essentially what appeared to be a ‘blown’ pixel emerged out of nowhere and for uncertain reasons. After a discussion with Sony, a warranty claim was generated and the camera was sent into Precision Camera in Enfield Connecticut . . . With fingers crossed and some trepidation, as Precision Camera frankly does not have a great reputation in the Sony community. I was pleasantly surprised that they seemed better organized than many accounts might have suggested. The camera was repaired, with online tracking of where in the assessment/repair/shipping process the camera might be, with accurate tracking information, and sent back in perfect working order in a week or so, with a cryptic technical report referencing “pixel adjustment” – but I frankly had no idea what the heck that might mean. I would have assumed that sensor would have to be placed this report suggests otherwise. It’s also curious that a single blown pixel on the sensor would also appear as a clearly visible hotspot in both the EVF and rear LCD, as one would assume that a single hot pixel would get averaged out (given that the resolution of both those displays is way below the sensor resolution), but that’s clearly not how it appeared – the hot pixel was very hot and seemingly magnified on both displays. Never heard of or seen anything like this, and the technical report was, as I said, ‘cryptic.’ I’ve never heard of a “pixel adjustment.” After some research, and feedback posted on this review, it appears that a reset of the motherboard eliminated the hot pixel, and may even be part of the monthly cycle for the camera. So I now regard this as not a big deal, but still puzzling.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 19th, 2017
The big news is the rather mixed review of the A99ii from DPR, particularly critical of the A99ii for its relatively poor AF and tracking, while begrudgingly admitting it may have a large and perhaps unmatched envelope of abilities. The evidence base for their conclusion seems thin to me, and is at odds with better action and sports shooting performance reported by numerous professionals using this body, and at odds with other professional reviews, and last and probably least, my own testing of the AF system on moving targets (which doesn’t show perfect tack sharp performance on every shot, but better than DPR’s results). The whole back-and-forth debate is available at DPR Sony A-Mount Forum, if you are really a glutton for punishment. I believe that the AF and tracking settings that DPR used were poor selections (for example, shooting in ‘balanced emphasis’ vs. ‘AF priority’ which ensures that AF is always locked before the shutter would fire), and, their data has not been replicated. Time will tell whether they have it right and everyone else has missed the boat in thinking that its AF and tracking in high speed shooting were decent (if behind a Nikon D5), or whether this was an instance of extracting poorer performance using poorer choices. Meantime, if you want near-perfect tracking and AF, and that’s more important than anything else, get a Nikon D5. If you value a real balance of typically disparate, even somewhat conflicting, functional abilities, including 4k without a huge crop factor, landscape and portraiture with high resolution, and ability to shoot action (if with slightly lower hit rates than a D5), this camera is clearly a far better choice. What makes this camera remarkable is that even if it is not ‘best in class’ at any of those typically separate types of shooting, it is close enough. No other FF body achieves this level of ‘decathletic’ performance.
UPDATE MARCH 24th, 2017
The Imaging Resource review just was finished, and, as expected, it is better balanced and I believe more representative of the camera’s real strengths and weaknesses than the DPR review, which still – in between the lines – betrays an anti-SLT bias. I recommend the IR review as the first really comprehensive professional and balanced review of this remarkable Sony FF body.
My prayers were answered. Sony announced the A99ii and I placed a pre-order with Pixel Connection the same day. I mostly buy from Amazon, but they didn't give me carte blanche to shoot an air show for two hours using the latest and greatest technology, so Pixel Connection got my business.
The A99ii is slightly taller than the A77ii but otherwise very similar in feel. It would be easy to mistake the one for the other. Compared to the full-frame Nikon and Canon offerings, it is quite compact.
As a long-time Sony APS-C shooter, I had bought some APS-C lens, such as the Tamron 16-300mm and Sigma 18-35mm. These lens work better on the A99ii than on the A77ii. The cropped image is 18mp compared to 24mp on the A77ii but it is delivered with superior stabilisation and far better low-light capability.
Sony A-mount shooters have access to a huge range of vintage Minolta A-mount lenses from the film era. These are very good full-frame lenses selling for peanuts. Mount them on an A99ii and you will be surprised at the image quality.
If you own a Sony/Minolta A-mount camera, then this beast is Nirvana.
I'm finding the raw files give me a lot of room to push and pull them. I bought a bunch of Minolta lenses the only one that seems to really resolve the sensor is the 80-200 Minolta. The Tamron 15-30 2.8 is extremely good on this camera lot's detail.
Video wise the low light matches my A6300 in 4k