Sony Alpha SLT-A99: Lab Test Results & Comments

The new SLT-A99 is Sony’s first full-frame camera with an electronic viewfinder. While former Sony full-format cameras like the A900 or A850 offered a standard SLR system, the new A99 offers an electronic viewfinder with extremely high resolution (2.3 million RGB dots). Due to the SLT system with fixed mirror, which allows use of a classic AF system based on phase detection, the camera is very fast and can even utilize the AF system while recording videos.

The SLT-A99 is Sony’s first camera that uses the SLT system with a fixed and translucent mirror and a full-frame sensor. It offers 24MP resolution, a high-resolution OLED viewfinder, Full HD video capabilities, numerous individual settings, and a massive and robust body.

The camera offers a large LCD screen and a high-resolution OLED viewfinder. The camera automatically switches from monitor to electronic viewfinder when the photographer brings it to his or her eye. The camera offers two setup dials to change image parameters and a small joystick for menu navigation.

The Sony A99 has a large mode dial on the top left-hand side. An illuminated status LCD helps to set up all parameters. The camera doesn’t offer a built-in flash system. For the first time Sony uses a standard hot shoe instead of its own ADI standard for use with external flash systems. The camera is supplied with an adapter which allows photographers to use older Sony flash systems as well.

The camera offers numerous interfaces. These include USB, HDMI, DC-in, X-sync (in addition to the hot shoe for external flash systems), an interface for an optional remote control, a microphone jack, and a jack for earphones (for direct sound control when recording videos).

The sophisticated swivel system allows users to flip and rotate the large LCD screen (3”) in nearly every direction.

The A99 has a massive body, which indicates that Sony is placing the camera in the professional market segment. The body is very handy in terms of user flexibility, however, and in fact is nearly the same size as the Nikon D600.

The A99 sports a very versatile swivel LCD. Its sophisticated swivel joint allows the user to turn the LCD to the front or the back and to rotate the screen in nearly every direction, helpful for stills but especially when recording videos. It records movies in high bit rate AVCHD and offers additional “cinema style” video recording with 24 frames per second (fps).

The A99 is very fast. The AF system proved to be very accurate, fast, and reliable. The A99 is able to shoot up to 10 fps in full resolution, but this high speed is only available in a special image mode that can be selected with the mode dial.

The camera offers numerous custom settings, including user-defined image modes. The camera also has an integrated GPS system which allows users to tag images directly and automatically with geo data information that becomes integrated into the EXIF data of each image.

Image Quality
Color:
The camera showed a very good performance in our color tests. The saturation is nearly perfect (99.28 percent) and color errors are on a very low level. Skin tones are nearly perfect. The automatic white balance system showed a clearly noticeable shift into the green direction when taking images with fluorescent light systems. The differentiation of color nuances is fine, but not perfect. Some areas in the red T-shirt of our model show only minor differentiation.

The camera showed very good performance in our color tests. The saturation is nearly perfect (99.28 percent) and color errors are on a very low level.

Just like the portrait shot, the image of the standard test box is also slightly underexposed. The reproduction of fine details is very good as seen in the structure of the metal sieve in the upper left. No moiré effects are visible.

The skin tones are fine even though the automatic white balance system causes a greenish shift in the background. The camera tends to beautify skin tones with an increased magenta rate. The shot was taken in P mode. The automatic system causes slight underexposure.

Sharpness: Sharpness and resolution test results are only on an average level for a camera with a full-format sensor system. The A99 yields a maximum of 3279 lines of nominal 4000 lines in picture height. This result is based on an intense sharpness filtering which causes some overshot effects and halos on contour lines, like the slanted edge in the test chart. Sharpness in real-life images is very good, but at times we noticed some overshot effects. The 24MP images show no moiré or aliasing effects, while videos often show these effects in fine details like metal structures or tiled roofs.

Noise: The Sony camera offers clean and noise-free images up to ISO 1600. Luminance noise is very level even in higher ISO speed settings like 6400. In images taken with higher ISO speed settings (more than ISO 3200) you will notice color noise artifacts and some anti-noise filtering effects like color clouds in homogeneous-colored areas. But even these effects are on a low level up to ISO 12,800. Only in the highest ISO setting of 25,600 did we notice high color noise levels and noticeable reduction of image details due to the anti-noise filtering.

Scorecard
Pro

+ Very handy swivel LCD which can be flipped up- and downward and rotated to the front of the camera
+ Massive and robust body
+ High resolution of 24MP
+ Full-format sensor for shallow depth of field photography; automatic switch to crop mode when using lenses for the APS-C-sized cameras
+ Full HD video recording with high frame and bit rates; clean HDMI output

Con
- Color moirés/aliasing effects in videos

Lab results and test images by BetterNet, our TIPA-affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A99 has a list price of $2799. For more information, visit www.sony.com.

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COMMENTS
Matteo12's picture

Great article and very well written. I never know further things about this sony camera model. This is so nice to read with, Love the way the writer constructed each paragraph, so easy to read and so easy to understand. Amazing! - Brenda Lee Reed

theaudiodoc's picture

I certainly hope you didn't test this Pro level FF camera with a DT, APS-C kit lens! You couldn't at least find a 50mm f1.4? Also what is the point of testing a high end camera camera like this with jpeg output! Mr. Schaub, in comparison, your hands-on review of the A900 was vastly superior!

I actually own this camera, and I love it! It is my firs DSLR (OK, DSLR-Like) since I purchased the KM 7D in 2006. Great output, great ergonomics -- the perfect camera for my work. Don't give a hoot for video -- haven't used it. I'm sure I will eventually.

One negative for me is the new multi-interface hot shoe. I prefer my Minolta iIso shoe -- having to use an adapter with my Minolta flash and my iIso radio triggers is a pain. Now if Sony ever makes a meaningful accessory for the interface, i.e. WiFi then I suppose I might find it useful. Also, I would have liked a pop-up flash for wireless flash use.

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Richard M. Fairbanks's picture

Sony has gone to great lengths to stress the work that has gone into improving the camera's image quality. The latest 24MP sensor has been designed so that more of each photosite is light-sensitive. The electronics in front of this light sensitive region have been slimmed-down to increase the angle from which each site can receive light. These changes, combined with a design that provides a short and high-capacity path between the sensor output and the image processor, and the addition of 14-bit Raw output, should mean improved still image quality.http://virilityhealth.vitamine-und-mehr.org/maxidus-sofort-potenzmittel....

petersmith's picture

I have bought a Sony Alpha SLT-A99. I like this camera. This really suits me with its sleek design and its high clarity images that it produces. The only suggestion I have is that please provide an extra button for correcting the ISO outside.
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