Sony cameras have come a long way over the last few years -- to the point that they're competitive with the twin monoliths of Canon and Nikon. The company has accomplished this feat by making gear that's different from other stuff out there. Until now, that success has been limited to point-and-shoots, like the RX100 and the fabulous NEX cameras. Here's a big, pricey professional flagship to match Sony's successes at lower price points.
What Is It?
A $2999 DSLR body with a 24.3MP full-frame sensor and a smaller body than most cameras in its class.
Who's it For?
Professional photographers who are looking for something a little different.
The A99 has a more evolved body than its competitors. It's compact for a full-frame sensor camera. At 793g, its magnesium allow body is lighter than top DSLRs like the 935g Canon 5D Mark III. The differences don't stop at size: it has a comfy moulded grip and a flip-out LCD screen that bends every which way. Even the buttons are curved and crafted for much better feel than anything you can get from the competition.
The A99 feels different as soon as you pick it up. Its moulded grip is leagues more comfortable than what everyone else has to offer. The compact body makes a big difference when you carry the camera around for long periods of time.
As for shooting performance, the A99's autofocus modes work a little differently than what I'm used to from other cameras, but once I figured them out I didn't have any problems. The electronic viewfinder could have been a major drawback compared to the optical viewfinders on other cameras, but I didn't mind at all. It represents the scene around you with more colour situation than reality, but it's sharp enough and easy enough to focus with that it's not a big issue.
The camera's image quality -- and it's high-ISO performance in particular -- were impressive. This shot at ISO 6400 is relatively nose-free. Remember this is a crop at 100 per cent magnification. Zoom out to usable size and you won't see the noise at all.
The camera's HD video quality is quite good as well. Sony still lags behind Canon on video quality though.
The Best Part
Beautiful full-frame DSLR photography in a smaller body.
While unique and better than its legacy competitors, it might not be different enough to entice you to be different -- especially since the competitors have much more robust lens offerings.
This Is Weird...
Even if the OLED EVF is more than suitable for taking photos, it still makes the camera feel like less than a flagship full-frame.
- I carried this thing around all of CES, and, I gotta say, when you're pounding a trade show floor with a camera on your shoulder all day, half a kilo lighter really makes a big difference.
Should You Buy It?
The Sony A99 is a very nice camera; it's just not nice enough. It doesn't exude excellence in enough areas the way you'd want a $2999 body-only camera to. If you really care about having a lighter full-frame camera, go with the excellent and much cheaper Nikon D600 for photos or Canon 6D for video.
Sensor: 24.3MP, full-frame (35.8mm x 23.9mm) Max ISO: 25,600 Image: up to 6000x3376 pixels Video: 1920x1080 60/24 Screen: 1,228,800 dot, 3-inch TFT LCD Weight: 814g w/battery Price: $2999 RRP in Australia (body only)