Sony launches A99II at photokina
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).
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.
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].
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.
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