Larmor 5th Generation glass screen protector with Sunshade

We’ve fitted GGS or similar toughened laminated glass screen protectors to our Sony bodies ever since way back in 2011, we were the first Alpha web resource to publish information about NEX screen delamination and how to repair a deteriorated LCD using one of these great products.

Replacing NEX LCD Cover Glass

Of course it wasn’t a cover glass, just a plastic surface layer. But if you fit a GGS, Larmor or similar ultrathin glass protector the moment you get your new Sony Alpha body (whether mirrorless or SLT, compact or bridge) you don’t need to mess with the original, risk your warranty, or risk anything at all. The new Generation 5 Larmor has a silicon adhesive which clings instantly, bubble-free, yet peels off safely using just a fingernail under a corner. It permits all touch screen operations, all screen folding including A99/77 and RX10 series reverse foldaway, and for around £10/$15 is an essential for your new camera.

Now there’s a new version which comes with a magnetic black surround and accepts a folding screen shade which just pops on to this. We paid £15.95 from ukhighland photographic on eBay, post free, VAT receipt given.

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Sony A7RIII review in Cameracraft

Read David Kilpatrick’s review of the Sony A7RIII

Cameracraft January/February started the A7RIII test report, and March/April 2018 continued it. Both are free to read now on ISSUU. In the second issue you’ll also find the review of the 24-105mm f/4 FE G OSS lens. In the first issue, Gary Friedman looks at the RX10 series and one-inch sensor quality as well – and David tests the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.2 Aspherical FE manual focus lens, Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DN DC, and Samyang 35mm f/2.8 AF FE.

Part 1

Part 2

Sony A7RIII pixel shift with a vintage lens

We’ve got one from the first Sony ILCE-A7R3 delivery in the UK, and with a first review of two pages appearing in Cameracraft January/February 2018 from tests in early December, I will be following up with a fuller printed review and more on-line articles here as the camera’s potential unfolds.

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Sony is ready to launch a GPS module

Sony can make GPS work. They pioneered it in the A55, refined it in the A77, A65 and A99 – and abandoned it without a word in all later A-mount cameras and the entire E-mount series. But they prepped the Multi Function Accessory Shoe to be used with a GPS module – and I believe it will be on the market soon.

They have put the rest of the architecture into the new cameras to make a GPS hardware module for the accessory shoe possible, practical, easy to implement and maybe even affordable (especially if third party makers come to the party).

This is a simulation using a retouched Elinchrom Skyport trigger – about the smallest size a GPS could be expected to be. For accuracy, something twice this scale mounted on the hotshoe would be a powerful four-aerial 2xAA cell or lith-ion powered GPS receiver.

Sony have added the I/O part of the data flow which puts geo data into the metadata fields of image files to the processor of the A9, A6500, RX10 MkIV (I think) and now the A7RIII – and in all three, they’ve put a 2.4GHz Bluetooth I/O process which can communicate with smartphones running their own GPS tracking app and grab the data every time you press the shutter. It needs no additional app on the camera.

This is significantly different from the Olympus solution (above), which I have also been testing alongside Sony’s. I have not found the A6500 pairing with iPhone all that reliable or persistent between sessions out of range or turned off. I have not enjoyed the Olympus method either – you synchronise the phone GPS app timecode and the camera time setting once using WiFi and after this you can turn WiFi off on the camera, leave the tracking app running on the phone, and shoot. At the end of the shoot, you connect again to the camera and initiate a transfer of the GPS track to the camera, which then parses it and embeds the co-ordinates closest to the timing of each exposure into the image files.

Sorry if this sounds a bit complex but it’s not. Essentially, Sony maintains a live link to the phone while you are shooting and acquires the GPS data to embed every time you make an exposure. Olympus relies on time synchronisation and an ‘end of day’ in-camera, wireless addition of the GPS data not unlike the process you might use with a separate tracker and a program like HoudahGeo or Photolinker.

That shoe has a GPS data channel – so far, unused. Now the processor has everything needed to make it work.

What’s really, really important is that these new Sony models have the firmware, interface connections and data handling to acquire a real-time or most recent position data packet from a stream, and inject this into your .ARW and .JPG files without needing any time synchronisation. Other models, which can not use the phone/Bluetooth solution, presumably do not have this firmware and the built-in protocols for acquiring, writing and validating. They don’t have the ready-made menu options either.

So, in place of your Bluetooth phone GPS, you will hopefully be able to fit a camera-top GPS module similar to those used by Canon and Nikon (who built the GPS data writing ability into their firmware years ago). The connections have been in the MFA shoe since 2010. Now the new camera models complete the jigsaw. All we are waiting for is for Sony to release a GPS module and a minor firmware update (the menu entries are already there). If the GPS module has its own battery, all the better – my tests with iPhone and A6500 ran the batteries on both down so fast the method would be impractical for anything more than day-trips.

I use GPS – at the moment, synchronising a track from an iGotU GT120 tracker carried in my camera kit or in a pocket. The device is not very reliable, has dodgy Windows-legacy management software and basic Mac function via third party programs. But for the travel photography I sell, captions have to be accurate and detailed, so the effort has to be taken. It was all SO much easier with the A55, A77 and A99… not to mention the Nikon D5300, Pentax K-1, or Sony’s non-raw-enabled Cybershot HX400V, HX60V and so on. For a very short time indeed I used the Jobo PhotoGPS, which required connection to a server database to turn its satellite position values into geocoordinates. Someone forgot to renew the licence, the server owners turned off the service, and every single PhotoGPS unit sold became a paperweight.

Nothing really beats having in in-camera or on-camera – and Sony has a good record of providing GPS assistance data files, auto-loaded on to your memory card when needed, which make the few cameras provided with GPS work well.

I had almost decided not to consider the A7RIII, but if my prediction proves right and the GPS module arrives in 2018 I will buy one. I’ve actually sold my A6500 after just three months of use to spend a bit of time using an Olympus E-M1 MkII outfit, including its slightly less battery-intensive GPS kludge. I’ve kept my A7RII as no camera made on the market at present, which is comparable in format, attains an image quality to match it when all other factors are equal.

Disclaimer: this is speculation. But it’s not empty speculation!

  • David Kilpatrick

 

Sony A7RIII – more than a skin deep upgrade

With a body-only price of £3,199/$3,198, the third generation of the A7R came as a surprise to Sony’s own photo studio, who labelled most of the product pictures release on Wednesday as ‘A7RM2’ instead of ‘A7RIII’. We’ve changed the filenames on our system, but countless mediafolk of the future will be confused. They do after all look similar.

In fact the new 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens was released with pictures of it on the A7RIII, above, and also on the A9 below. With the A7RIII having a 10fps 42 megapixel motordrive capability, thanks to an improved LSI and new processing engine reading off much faster from the 42 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, you might have expected economies of scale to have given it the same Dynax 7D-like left hand end drive mode physical dial like the A9, below – especially as the A7RIII has an additional drive-type mode, a four-shot sensor shift to capture 169 megapixels of image data.

This involves shifting by one pixel in four positions, and does not create a 4X size, 2X linear pixel count file. You can only get that by shifting half a pixel as Olympus do. The Pentax sensor shift high-res mode shifts by one pixel, and it does not increase the image dimensions, only the sharpness and colour information for each pixel location (making the image similar to a Sigma dp Quattro file in fine detail resolution). The Sony implementation also appears to need almost half a second between each of the four subframes, requiring a tripod and roughly 2 seconds of capture time. Sony’s proven multishot processing will certainly be able to remove any problems with movement of parts of the subject during this time, but it has to be done in the computer, using the new software suite.

Some commentators have assumed that the 169 megapixel four-shot file means large dimensions, effectively a 169 megapixel resolution full frame, the same way Olympus gets high megapixel files. But the pre-release information clearly indicates it’s a Pentax-type mode – here’s from the wording provided to dealers by Sony:

“You can then stitch the images together to create an image with fewer artifacts and a truer range of colours”.

I tested that on the Pentax K-1 and concluded it was not worth the effort. Regular normal 42 megapixel AA-free shots on a top grade lens are all you need. I’ll repeat that bit about top grade lens.

The A7RIII also has a new shutter mechanism which reduces shock, improving the SteadyShot performance, though still 30s to 1/8,000s as before. The sensor gains a new anti-reflective coating and there will be many ‘under the hood’ improvements because that’s what happens. There may also be teething troubles and newly introduced problems, because that also happens. However I’d say early buyers run less risk with this third generation A7R than they did with the predecessors, or indeed with the A6500.

But we’ll leave you with the 9 for comparison. Most else that matters is the same, like for example the Memory registers – only two on the A7RII, but three on the A7RIII. It will remember more things, like Setting Effect OFF/ON, and that is just as well because the III puts a DSLR-like feature on its left hand end, a threaded coaxial Prontor-Compur (PC) flash synchronisation terminal (below). Let’s just hope that the circuitry inside is well isolated, as one of my vintage flash units destroyed the Godox X1-T which I use both to get Setting Effect OFF and isolation from high trigger voltages on my A7RII.

Study this left end for a bit. It does have phantom power for the 2.5mm mic jack, but the earphone output has been moved so that two doors must now be opened at once to use both together. And there’s something missing.

The A7RII has a screw socket next to the neatly paired mic/headphone jacks, which allows a custom made tether clamp assembly (supplied with the camera, seen above) to hold HDMI and USB cables with clamped protection looping. You’ll need some extra Tether Tools kit to safeguard the connectors on the MkIII. There is now a USB-C/3 Super Speed connector as well as a USB-Micro Multifunction, and Micro HDMI. But no provided security of a tether clamp.

The back of the camera has much the same screen, but with improvements to resolution and daylight visibility – still no twist and turn, or reversing to face the camera back and protect the LCD. The rear button layout is revised, with movie button located near the viewfinder (well, if Canon does it, it can’t be wrong, can it?) and the switching AF/AE Lock/Toggle/Hold button replaced by an AF-ON and separate AEL, with C3 moved to the left end. Where the movie button used to be you’ll notice a catch for the weathersealed door which covers TWO SD card slots, one UHS-II enabled (more broken bits of card contact septum to lose inside your slot!). Changes to the movie mode using the main shutter release make the use of the red button less essential.

You can assign those cards the usual ways, to make copies on card 2 of card 1 as you shoot, just in case one fails (the most important use for wedding photographers) and also to use sequentially (overflow into card 2, liked by action photographers), or split RAW and JPEG, or still and video.

This is the new lens, 24-105mm f/4, and it will probably be very good. It has 77mm filters so I think I’ll stick with the A6500 for travelling, as the little CZ 16-70mm f/4 which is the direct equivalent of this is tiny by comparison and uses neat 55mm filters. Despite some reports to the contrary, I’ve found it to be a good lens, sharp across the frame at 70mm wide open, though prone to flare.

The top shows that the strictly amateur ‘SCENE’ position of the mode dial has been replaced by S&Q. I look forward to finding out what this means – probably much the same*  *Gary Friedman has provided the answer in Comments – it’s a slo-mo/fast-mo video mode which is of no interest to me personally, but might fascinate messers around with short video clips for YouTube, even if their smartphones do it better. Green auto survives, as not all owners will be experienced photographers, some will just be wealthy camera buyers and this setting will be where they leave it.

The published specs were vague about Bluetooth, used for GPS tagging from a smartphone – I’m told US Sony Store specifications clearly state it does have. The A6500 and A9 both do, and can therefore use the Sony mobile phone function for live geotagging of pictures as you take them, using information read at the moment of capture from your nearby smartphone. We’ve also seen reports saying the A7RIII does not use Apps but that seems very unlikely.

There are also improvements claimed for dynamic range, with the figure of 15 stops mentioned. This would actually need a 16-bit A to D conversion internally followed by compression to a virtual 15-bit range (via a tone curve) saved in the 14-bit uncompressed raw .ARW format. A 14-bit raw format is now offered for all shooting modes including high speed continuous, which on the A7RII means automatic stepdown to 12-bit. The ISO range is extended to 32,000 before Hi expansion up to 104,200 and goes down to 100 native with Lo down to 50. One benefit of an effective 15-stop range will be that ISO 50 should have 14 stops, or as much highlight data as ISO 100 on the MkII.

The extra effective bit depth also pays off when using the S-Log3 and Hybrid-Gamma HDR video settings. This brings Sony professional video camera standards into a primarily still camera for the first time (better than the video-targeted A7SII, and the A9).

Sony claim improved skin tones too, though compared to what is a bit of a worry. Many people like Canon skin tones, I think they are like a 1970s USA colour portrait and that Sony’s skin colours have always been more natural. Others disagree and want the pinker, less yellow, face tones.

The A7RIII uses the new larger battery with its 2.7X capacity, introduced in the A9. I rather like the way my current Sony cameras share one rather underpowered battery type, but at least a bagful of batteries covers A56500, A7RII, RX10. There are not many different battery types, as we could find with our Olympus kit (check E-M1, E-M1 MkII, E-M5, E-M5MkII, E-M10, E-M10MkII and E-M10MkIII batteries if you want a nightmare). You can also charge Sony batteries in-camera.

Will I buy it? Probably not. I use the A7RII for relatively static, large image size, low ISO, controlled shooting of landscapes, architecture, products and so on. I have sold my full frame zooms except for the 70-300mm G OSS and now only use primes on the A7RII (10mm, 18mm, 28mm, 50mm macro, 55mm, 85mm). I don’t travel with it. We’ve bought an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII for its Pro Capture (60fps, 18-20fps with pre-shot buffering) and macro auto focus stacking. I’m sticking with the A6500 kit for travel (10-18mm, 16-70mm, 55-210mm) but it’s got to go head to head with the Olympus including the use of the two different smartphone GPS methods.

  • David Kilpatrick

WEX Pre-Order (Affiliate link) UK £3199

MPB (Affiliate link) – buy and sell used Sony equipment UK

B&H (Affiliate link) – order US/World from $3198

Sony A7RII versus Nikon D850 – noise

There’s a lot of noise about the Nikon D850 right now but few direct comparisons. One problem I have with some early reports is that new D850 owners are most likely to be existing D810 or perhaps D750 or D5 owners. Any comparisons are therefore being made with earlier Nikon sensors.

Recently a Nikon ambassador whom I respect greatly placed some .NEF raw files into a Dropbox for fellow professionals to examine. Since this article effectively criticises Nikon, I will not reproduce anything recognisable. I naturally grabbed the files and processed them with my usual care in Adobe Camera Raw. This includes making adjustments to the Sharpness and Noise Reduction settings depending on the ISO used. My standard with Sony, Nikon and most other files is to reduce the radius for sharpening to the minimum (0.5) leaving the basic settings of 25 for sharpness and 25 for detail untouched, with no masking. I also don’t touch the Colour Noise controls at all, and usually only adjust the first Luminance control leaving Luminance Contrast and Luminance Detail at default. This first Luminance control tends to set to zero for ISO 100 (or the minimum for a given camera), 10 to 15 around 400 to 800, 25 at 1000 to 2000, 30 to 35 at 2500 to 4000, 50 at 6400 and never above this level.

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Sony pro service centre opens in London

The first UK walk-in service centre for Sony professional camera users is now officially open at the London, SE11-based Fixation HQ.

Photo: Fixation service experts Jayesh Patel and Pabita Adhikan

Plans for the pioneering Sony PRO Support Service centre were announced in June at a special joint presentation (below) by Yosuke Aoki, Sony Europe Digital Imaging Vice President and David Garratt, CEO at Wex Group (Fixation’s parent company) – with a planned a target opening date of September 1.

Said David Garratt: “We are delighted to announce we have met that deadline pledge. This is a truly groundbreaking partnership with Sony – and a very important development for Fixation. Now the growing numbers of Sony professional camera shooters can simply drop their kit off at Fixation for service and support rather than having to despatch it to the Sony plant in Wales.”

He added: “Our long experience in this business tells us professionals want choice, advice, convenience and continuity. Our new service promises free estimates, free sensor cleaning opportunities and fast turnaround times on service and repairs, and covers all Sony E-Mount bodies and lenses and all RX-range compacts. Enhanced services will be offered as part of the Sony PRO Support Programme.”

Yosuke Aoki said: “This new centre demonstrates our intent to support professional photographers to the fullest extent. The very latest Sony capture products, including the new A9, mean there are now huge opportunities for professional photographers to create many new and original images.”

He added: “But it’s not just about the sale of the camera, it’s also about providing highly professional support and service.”

Barry Edmonds senior workshop manager at Fixation added:  ‘Sony are upping their game for professional photographers and we’re seeing more and more of our customers realising the benefits of their mirrorless cameras. It’s important for us to be able to offer these users the same level of support that we’ve been renowned for over many years.’

www.fixationuk.com

Alpha A9 promises professional performance

You can order the A9 here – any of these links to order will help photoclubalpha pay our way.

B&H have it listed 

WEX in the UK (also Calumet)

Amazon (co.uk)

The front view below of the Sony Alpha A9 body, introduced today, gives a subtle clue about changes under the hood. For some time we’ve been nagging Sony about the weak, potentially tilting, 4-screw mount on the mirrorless bodies. Now they have at least added two more screws, to match Fujifilm X or the A-mount, even if the distribution is a bit odd with all the extra strength concentrated at the sides not the top and bottom where heavy lenses normally cause most stress.

It’s a clue to a different internal construction, probably stronger all round, to make it possible to support the new 100-400mm G Master  lens, a native E-mount new design which should come as a relief to those struggling with the A-mount 70-400mm varieties on adaptors:

But the lenses still have four-screw mount fitting (as do most A-mount lenses), and fairly weak sacrificial assemblies to prevent damage to the camera if knocked. See this video (it’s a bit long but makes a point): //www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGvlX9BtiTQ

The EVF of the A9 is around twice as bright as the A7RII and also runs at twice the refresh rate, while offering 50% more pixels. Part of this is down to the new stacked-CMOS 24.2 megapixel full frame sensor, which has a readout some twenty times faster than the A7II and previous generation 24 megapixel models. That, of course, is linked to the 6K native live feed from the full frame (used to create very high quality 4K video as well as an excellent live view) which in turn enables a distortion-free purely electronic silent shutter running to 1/32,000s plus 20 frames per second sequence shooting.

AF is claimed to be 25% faster than the A7RII and when the shutter speed is faster than 1/125s there is no visible blackout in the finder when shooting. Personally, a single frame (1/120s or 1/60s) blip would never be unwelcome as it helps tell you when you’ve shot. As for the low-light capability, not too much is being said; it’s in the usual up to 56,200 range with extension of two more stops. (Edit: April 20, we have noticed that at least one ‘reviewer’ – Sony Artisan paid to promote – completely wrongly claims 2,048,000 ISO not the actual 204,800, when comparing the A9 with the Nikon D5’s listed 3,276,800). The high speed sequences, movie frame rate and EVF refresh all tend to limit ultimate low-light clean imaging and we would guess that the A7SII and A7RII will not be made redundant.

That can not be said for the old weeny weedy weaky batteries of the E-mount range. The stripling NP-FW50 used in all the NEX to A7 series models gets kicked aside by a slightly larger variant with 2.2X the capacity. Frankly, it’s overdue but it creates a split system. I’m happy to travel with my A6000, RX10, and A7RII all sharing a pool of batteries even if those do run down alarmingly fast.

If it means carrying a new dual charger too, to get the necessary 2.5 hour recharge time instead of a leisurely overnight in-camera top up, I can only hope the charger (cum mains adaptor with clumsy dummy battery connection) also accepts the older batteries. It’s carrying multiple chargers that increases my travel bag weight not carrying extra batteries.

But… I see that the charger ‘cradle’ can mount four of the new cells, and charge the lot in 480 minutes. This cradle has a dummy battery on a lead, and 1/4″ tripod thread mounting points to add it to a video rig (which this camera is not specially made for, indicating an A9S is on the way with S-Log and direct 4K top quality encoding). The dummy battery then powers the camera for roughly 10X the life of the current A7 series batteries. So what if you have an A7 model? Easy – the outer shell of the battery simply slides off, revealing a SMALLER dummy inside, which fits the entire NEX/A7 mirrorless range or indeed the RX10 series. So your existing Sony mirrorless kit can be powered using this ‘battery bank’.

The top plate reveals that some input has been listen to. As a regular M1-M2-M3 user on my A99, the drop to only two memory registers on the A7RII is unwelcome but survivable. A return to three, plus a a custom button memory recall function, will make the a9 better. Having the drive modes on a physical control is good too. But I’ll leave any verdict on all this until the actual operation is better known – whether, for example, the memory registers now cover more than just the primary camera settings and thus enable one-step tripod setup.

I’ll have to say that after using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII, which offers many of the advantages being claimed by the A9 as major selling points, the non-reversible simple tilt rear screen remains a negative compared to a fully articulated reversible screen. Sony does now offer a real glass protector, but I like the A55 to A99 style screen which can be turned to face the wall permanently if you want (and has never arrived on the E-mount models).

The new joystick controller takes something from the A99/II controls and adds it to the wheel of the A7 series, while the upper thumb button becomes a native back-button AF. In addition to being able to move the focus points faster (it’s a pain with the A7RII design) there is a memory for AF point selection and a horizontal-vertical switch function. Combined with a larger number of AF points covering 93% of the sensor, the action/sports performance of the A9 should be a long way ahead of any earlier mirrorless (though the A6500 is pretty good).

Though not visible here, there are two SDXC (one UHS-II) card slots with the usual recording options similar to the A99/II, and also an Ethernet port which is almost a requirement for some major sports events. You will notice that the Drive control has a Focus control below it, giving direct access to the kind of AF/MF/DMF choices found on the dedicated controller of A-mount bodies – no more need for menu or Function/Custom button operations.

The eyepiece, shown here, may perhaps be a little less prone to detachment and we are promised the least squiffy finder view with new optics.

There is one minor fly in the ointment, a price-tag of £4,500 (UK) body only; the 100-400mm will be £2,500. While the team of assembled ambassadors made much of praising the silent shutter mode and small size of the camera at Sony’s vidcast press conference, none of this is new and pretty much anything the A9 can do is also within the reach of the A7RII and A7SII even if it does it faster and perhaps better. There was some praise for the durability of the system – what? I don’t know about others, but I find the Sony/Zeiss lenses are the worst I’ve ever owned for showing almost immediate signs of wear from the lightest contact with clothing and bags. Silver appears through the molecule-thin black coating instantly and neither the regular lenses nor the bodies have ever struck me as being suitable to knock around in a busy press kit or travel bag. Where old Leicas survived years of abuse elegantly, gradually brassing at the edges, my Sony kit generally just looks a bit scruffy and used despite minimal handling. The A9 looks about the same in this respect as the mark II lesser models.

Full official press information and specifications can be seen here:

//presscentre.sony.co.uk/pressreleases/sonys-new-a9-camera-revolutionises-the-professional-imaging-market-1923969

And for the lens:

//presscentre.sony.co.uk/pressreleases/sony-expands-flagship-g-master-lens-series-with-new-100-400mm-super-telephoto-e-mount-zoom-1923976

  • David Kilpatrick

 

 

Sony launches A99II at photokina

a99-ii_wsal2470z2_right-web

Sony has today released the details of the updated A99II, using a 42MP sensor and 5-axis stabilisation to match the A7RII. It does not appear to have retained GPS and the paragraph highlighted in red later on indicates a weasel-worded possible get out for this – it may not embed GPS in the image files, but instead store a mobile phone location data track on the camera’s memory card. We may guess that this choice could be partly down to cutting out fees payable to incorporate a GPS module. Not the same, guys, not the same:

From Sony’s site, the ambiguous word is highlighted here:

Use Location Information Link to make the most of your camera anywhere you go together. After the camera has been paired to the PlayMemories Mobile app installed on a compatible mobile phone or tablet device, it can acquire location data from the mobile device and record that data with still images. The acquired location data can also be used to correct the camera’s date/time and location settings. The PlayMemories Home application can then be utilised on a personal computer to organise still images imported into the computer on a map.

Edit: note that Sony’s later announcement for A6500 uses specific wording which says that its GPS Blueooth app embeds location data in the images as they are shot. This wording has not been used for A99II. We have not, though the A9II has now been released and bought by some users, been able to confirm how it works yet.

In the Sony release (used almost complete, slightly edited, to form this post) they appear to imply that dual SD card slots are new, which of course they are not, the original A99 has this already. No UHS-II, no USB 3 Not only that, the dual slots are apparently exactly the same spec as the original unless someone at Sony Towers has forgotten to edit their website:

Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro (M2), SD memory card, SDHC memory card (UHS-I compliant), SDXC memory card (UHS-I compliant), Micro SD memory card, Micro SDHC memory card, Micro SDXC memory card

Some of the hidden, clever features of the A99 remain like the buttons which are coded to touch with concave or convex tops or a small raised dot, making it easy once you have learned their feel to find them by fingertip. In fact the entire interface remains constant (in the way that Canon did throughout the EOS 1D series) meaning you can pick this up and shoot immediately, coming fom the A99. Only the Silent Controller is significantly improved, and the badly placed Movie button remains exactly where it was.

  • Full-frame 4D Focus: Innovative Hybrid Phase Detection AF system with accurate 79 hybrid cross AF points[i] enabled by 79-point dedicated and 399-point focal-plane AF sensors and continuous shooting at up to 12fps[ii]
    There is no AF Illuminator, but please note that -4 EV is quoted with an f/2.8 lens at ISO 100. In the past, AF low limits were always quoted with an f/1.4 lens (although the sensor only works at f/2.8). This is very good.
  • 42.4 effective MP 35mm Full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS sensor so it’s essentially an A7RII
  • Newly developed optical 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system
  • Outstanding operability and reliability in newly designed downsized body
  • Internal 4K movie recording in XAVC-S format[iii] with host of pro-orientated movie features
    IMPORTANT: this appears to be a Super-35 4K mode if you want no pixel binning and the highest overall quality but near-full-frame is offered with the usual partial readout.We would add a few extras – this camera has the much-needed (almost essential) Copyright Info function, minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO, 10/5/2 sec self-timer, Hi+ in addition to Hi, Med and Lo motordrive shooting (not just shifting three settings over a faster range but giving 12, 8, 6 or 4 fps); built-in WiFi wireless including WiFi remote control and NFC (but not, apparently, apps); there are new Highlight and Average metering modes, and for each metering mode, you can calibrate the standard exposure if you prefer your shots slightly lighter or darker than the camera’s default.The A99II can capture 54 uncompressed RAW+JPEG images at 12fps (Hi+) before the buffer is full. There’s no great advantage in capturing RAW only, or JPEG only, and even with Fine JPEG at Hi speed (8fps) the limit is still 71, not ‘until card full’.

    Omissions include no Multi Shot Noise reduction, no GPS, and the external DC power supply is no longer via a dedicated socket, instead it uses the dummy battery approach. The camera is still not officially recommended for use in temperatures below freezing or over 40°C/104°F, both of which can easily be achieved in Scotland in a single sunny winter day (even without the benefit of your car parcel shelf oven).

a99-ii_rear-web

The upgraded autofocus

The newly developed Phase Detection AF System is capable of ‘full-time AF’ and is the first implementation of 4D FOCUS in the full-frame ɑ series, bringing a supreme new level of AF performance to ɑ99 II users. The Hybrid Phase Detection AF System is enabled by combining a precision 79-point[iv] dedicated phase detection AF sensor with 399 focal plane phase detection AF points to produce a 79 hybrid cross AF point[v] array. These cross points deliver incredibly precise autofocus performance and advanced subject tracking of any moving objects right across the image, at high speed. In addition, as there is no moving mirror, TMT enables continuous AF operation and the finder image remains unaffected during any type of shooting, including live view and movie recording.

Low light conditions present no problem to the ɑ99 II. The precision AF system will function properly down to EV-4[vi] brightness levels where most other cameras struggle. Editor’s note: the A99 is poor in this respect and often can’t focus modest aperture lenses at all in low light.

Data flow through the ɑ99 II has been redesigned to allow for high resolution and continuous shooting at high frame rates. A new front-end LSI works with the image sensor and BIONZ X image processing engine, as well as a newly designed shutter unit, to enable continuous shooting at up to 12fps with AF/AE tracking[vii], all whilst harnessing the sensor’s 42.4MP capabilities. The result is an ultra-fast camera that will deliver incredibly detailed shots, even with fast moving objects in challenging light conditions. Thanks to a large buffer and sophisticated data processing, these shots can be viewed immediately after shooting even when in high speed continuous shooting mode and if shots are being taken indoors under artificial lighting, flicker is automatically detected and the shutter is timed to minimise its effect on the end image[viii].

Improvements to the EVF display algorithm now deliver continuous live-view shooting at up to 8 fps[ix] with AF/AE tracking with minimal display lag so that the viewing experience is essentially no different from that of an optical viewfinder. Exposure, white balance and other camera settings are displayed in real time in the viewfinder and continuous live view shooting can be set in 3 stages to match a variety of subjects: 8 fps, 6 fps and 4 fps.

Pixel Power

The back-illuminated full-frame 42.4MP[x] Exmor R CMOS sensor benefits from a gapless-on-chip design and allows for fast readout of large volumes of data as well as being extremely efficient in its light gathering ability. The net result is very high sensitivity with low noise, wide dynamic range and 42.4MP resolution across an ISO range of 100-25600, expandable to ISO 50 – 102,400[xi]. The ɑ99 II has been designed without an optical low-pass filter to allow the finest natural details and textures to be captured with unprecedented depth and realism and the photographer can select compressed or uncompressed RAW files, as required.

5-axis SteadyShot™ INSIDE Image Stabilisation

Having proved to be incredibly popular in the ɑ7 II series of cameras, Sony has designed a new in-body 5 axis image stabilisation system for A-mount cameras which debuts for the first time in the ɑ99 II. In addition to movement in the pitch and yaw axes that tend to occur at longer focal lengths, this system effectively detects and compensates for shift blur that can occur on the X and Y axes when shooting close-up, and roll blur that is often apparent in still images and movies that are shot at night. Newly implemented precision gyro sensors are capable of precisely detecting even tiny camera movements that can cause blurring, providing a 4.5 step[xii] shutter speed advantage that can help realise the full potential of the 42.4MP sensor, in both stills and movies. The effect of image stabilisation can be monitored in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen during live view when the shutter button is half pressed or the Focus Magnifier functions are used. This allows framing and focus to be accurately checked via live view when shooting at telephoto focal lengths or macro distances.

Improved design and operability

The design of the new ɑ99 II has noticeably evolved compared to its predecessor, based upon feedback from professional users. The new model is 8% smaller than the original ɑ99 and has a newly designed grip, magnesium alloy body, dual SD[xiii] card slot and other upgrades that improve both hold and operation. All major buttons and dials are provided with seals and the media jack cover and enclosure edges feature tongue and groove – the result is a body that is both dust and moisture resistant[xiv] and can be used in the toughest and most challenging shooting conditions.

In addition to being designed for faster response, the new shutter unit is also more durable and has passed endurance tests in excess of 300,000 shutter operations[xv].

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The XGA OLED Tru-finder has a ZEISS® T* Coating and has a 4 element lens group that includes a double sided aspherical element whilst offering a powerful 0.78x magnification, delivering outstanding clarity from corner to corner. It also has a fluorine coating on the outer lens to prevent fingerprints, dust, water, oil and dirt from sticking, thus ensuring a clear view. Editor’s note: the ocular of the original A99 is a weak point, and in the A7RII Sony finally produced a really good non-squiffy eyepiece optical train which shows a clear view with some leeway to move your eye. So this is a major upgrade as much of the experience of using the SLT models comes down to finder quality.

The silent Multi Controller introduced in the original ɑ99 has been improved so that in addition to allowing control of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, AF area, AF mode and other settings, it now features a click-stop ON/OFF switch. When ON, the preferred setting for still image shooting, the control clicks, providing a tactile indication of the length of rotation. When OFF, the control turns smoothly and quietly, ideal for movie shooting. Location data acquisition has also been made possible via Bluetooth[xvi] connection to a compatible mobile device and it is now possible to select whether the storage location should just be on a tethered computer or also on camera for easy review without leaving the shooting position. Based upon feedback from a number of ɑ users, the menu structure of the ɑ99 II has also been updated to deliver a smoother navigational experience.

Internal 4K movie at 100 Mpbs

The ɑ99 II enables internal 4K movie recording[xvii] featuring full pixel readout, without pixel binning[xviii], for ultimate high resolution video in the pro friendly XAVC S format. It is capable of recording high quality footage at 100Mbps for 4K recording. A new ‘Slow and Quick’ mode[xix] (S&Q) supports both slow motion and quick motion. Frame rates from 1 fps to 120 fps (100 fps) can be selected in 8 steps for up to 60x (50x) quick motion and 5x (4x) slow motion recording.[xx] A number of features designed for a professional movie production workflow are included such as picture profiles, time code and HDMI clear output and the new ɑ99 II now also offers gamma assist for real time S-Log monitoring and a zebra mode for easier exposure adjustment. S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma are now included, making wide dynamic range shooting possible with(out) – our edit, the press release says with! blown highlights or blocked shadows making the ɑ99 II easily integratable into a fully professional movie production workflow.

Editor’s note: there’s a problem with the A99II for movies, which also applies to the LA-EA4 and SSM/SAM or other A-mount lenses on the E-mount bodies – the lenses really don’t work well at all. Sony had pictures of this camera with the 24mm f/2 SSM, still a current lens. I sold mine because it could not handle the same AF and exposure control functions as the 25mm f/2 Batis or the 28mm f/2 Sony (which I use) during video shooting. The A-mount was never built for movies, the E-mount has been from the start. However, both are fine using purely manual focus, manual aperture ciné lenses which many professionals prefer.

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The new ɑ99 II will start shipping in November, priced at approximately €3600 and full technical details can be seen here.

Editing: David Kilpatrick

Further information can be found on the Sony Camera Channel: www.youtube.com/c/ImagingbySony/ and the

Sony Photo Gallery: www.sony.net/Product/di_photo_gallery/

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[i]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

[ii]Continuous shooting mode set to ‘Hi+’

[iii] 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

[iv]The number of usable AF points may depend on the lens and shooting mode

[v]Hybrid Phase Detection AF active. The dedicated phase detection AF sensor or focal-plane phase detection AF sensor may be used independently in certain photographic situations.

[vi]Central focus point

[vii]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

[viii]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

[ix]Continuous shooting mode set to ‘Hi’

[x] Approximate effective megapixels

[xi]Still images only

[xii]CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw shake only. SAL135F18Z lens. Long exposure NR off.

[xiii]One slot can hold an SD card or a Memory Stick.

[xiv]Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof

[xv]Electronic front curtain shutter activated

[xvi]Requires pairing with compatible mobile devices running the PlayMemories Mobile app. Supported devices are Android smartphones running Android 5.0 or later and compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 or later. iPhone/iPad: iPhone 4S or later/iPad 3rd generation or later

[xvii]SDHC/SDXC memory card of Class 10 or higher is required for movie recording in XAVC S format. UHS-I (U3) SDHC/SDXC card is required for 100Mbps recording

[xviii] In Super 35mm recording mode

[xix]Sound cannot be recorded. SDHC/SDXC memory card of Class 10 or higher is required

[xx]In NTSC (PAL) system

Sony new RF wireless flash system

Sony today announced the availability of a new radio-controlled lighting system to meet the growing demands of professional and advanced amateur Sony photographers.Designed for compatibility with Sony’s α interchangeable lens cameras[i] and external flash units[ii], the new lighting system will include the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander as well as the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver.

(Editor’s comment – this is a press release text, we realise that absolutely no-one calls RF wireless flash ‘radio controlled’ but there you are…)

The flexibility of the system means that it can be a totally portable solution, benefitting people like wedding photographers who are often working at locations where it is cumbersome to transport studio lighting but the results need to be perfect first time.

With a maximum range of 30m (approx. 98.4 feet), the new radio controlled system will allow for an extremely adaptable wireless flash shooting experience with exceptional performance in all types of shooting conditions using TTL, Manual or Group modes. In total, the system can control a maximum of 15 separate flash units[iii] in up to 5 groups of flashes which gives the photographer a huge amount of creative freedom to experiment with different settings to accurately capture their vision for the project.

Whilst using the system, shooting mode, flash ratio and exposure compensation on remotely located flashes can be controlled via the local commander which is equipped with a large, easy-to-see control panel on which the communication status with each receiver can be confirmed, thus making it convenient for one-man or small-crew shooting. The system also offers the added benefit of enabling remote release of multiple cameras[iv] which is particularly useful for sports and wildlife photographers as the system can work at up to 30 metres, enabling them to capture a wide range of views at the crucial moment.

The new lighting control system will be capable of flash sync speeds of up to 1/250th[v] of a second with high speed sync (HSS) available as well. Flash level can be controlled over 25 steps (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128, 1/256) in 1/3 EV step increments.[vi]

The new system is designed for photographers who are creating specific set-ups necessitating multiple light sources, controllable at each flash station for dynamic lighting effects. By delivering a fully radio controlled system, the user does not have to worry about the limitations of IR triggering where strong sunlight or physical barriers may cause problems. It is dust and moisture resistant for use in a variety of conditions.[vii]

The new system will start to ship in September 2016 with the Remote Commander priced at approximately €420 and the Remote Receiver priced at approximately €240.

[i]α7 II / α7R II / α7S II via planned software update. Software updates currently scheduled to start in August 2016, as of press release timing

[ii]Multi Interface Shoe Flashes: HVL-F60M/F43M/F32M. Auto-lock Accessory Shoe Flashes HVL-F58AM / HVL-F43AM / HVL-F42AM in Manual mode only. Optional shoe adaptor ADP-MAA is required.

[iii]Max 5 groups in GROUP mode, 3 groups in TTL or MANUAL mode

[iv]Multi Terminal Connecting Cable is required. Sold separately

[v]Depending on camera specification

[vi]When using HVL-F32M, up to 1/128flash level is selectable. When shooting in High Speed Sync., flash level of a group including HVL-F32M must be set to 1/16 or higher

[vii]Although the design is dust and moisture resistant, absolute protection is not guaranteed in adverse weather conditions

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