Test Driving the Speedy New Sony A99 II Full Frame Camera at Photokina

Sony announced the long-awaited A99 II DSLR-style camera at photokina 2016 this week and Shutterbug was one of a handful of media outlets to get to shoot with a pre-production version of the camera. What was it like? Well, in a nutshell, it was fast!

One of the key features of the full frame, 42.4-megapixel Sony A99 II ($3,200) is that it can shoot continuous bursts of full resolution images at 12 frames per second (fps) through the viewfinder, and at 8fps during live view shooting on the rear LCD screen.

Check out the video I shot of the A99 II capturing dancers at 8fps in live view mode below.

The new Sony A99 II can deliver continuous live shooting at up to 8 fps with AF/AE tracking and minimal display lag because of improvements in the EVF algorithm, Sony said. Continuous live view shooting on the A99 II can be set in three stages to match different subjects: 8 fps, 6 fps and 4 fps.

As you likely noticed from the clip, the Sony A99 II did a great job focus tracking the dancers at they moved around the stage. I wasn’t allowed to take the images I shot with the A99 II off the SD card to review later because the test cameras were only prototypes. But while zooming in at 100% on the camera’s rear screen, the shots showed good overall sharpness. (I was shooting with the A99 II paired with a Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 A-mount lens.)

The Sony A99 II features a fairly sophisticated autofocus system called Hybrid Phase Detection AF, which combines a 79-point, phase detection AF sensor with 399 focal plan phase detection AF points to create what Sony calls “a 79 hybrid cross AF point array.” (Sony has dubbed the overall system 4D Focus, further adding to the AF jargon.)

Again, because I wasn’t able to review the images later on my computer, I can’t attest to how accurate the Hybrid Phase Detection AF actually was. It certainly seemed impressive during my brief time shooting with the camera, nimbly locking in on several pairs of dancers in both light and dark clothing moving in front of a mottled, gray background.

The A99 II uses Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology, which has no actual moving mirror, so calling this camera a DSLR is actually somewhat inaccurate. (Sony refers to these A-mount SLR-style models as Alpha SLT cameras.)

The A99 II certainly felt like a DSLR, and seemed more robust than directly competing high resolution, full frame models from Canon and Nikon. Whether the A99 II catches on with photographers remains to be seen. Sony’s taken a long time to update its flagship A-mount full frame camera – the A99 was introduced in 2012 – and many industry observers thought that, perhaps, Sony had given up on this whole line of cameras.

For fans of Sony’s A-mount Alphas SLTs – and I count myself as one of them – it was welcome news when Sony announced the A99 II on Monday. And after getting to shoot with the camera for a half an hour or so, I’m even more excited.

Can’t wait to put a full working version of the Sony A99 II to the test when the camera ships in November 2016!