Sony Alpha a99 review

Sony gets back in the full-frame game

TODO alt text

Sony has given the Alpha a99 a magnesium alloy shell to make it light yet durable, and put seals around the control points and joints to keep out dust and moisture so the camera can withstand some exposure to inclement weather.

It feels well constructed and the deep fingergrip is comfortable in the hand, giving a secure hold.

There are lots of direct controls scattered across the camera's body, which speeds up making settings changes. However, there are one or two oddities.

Sony Alpha a99 review

You might also like...
Adobe Photoshop CS6 review
Adobe Photoshop CS6 review

A button on the back, for example, gives access to the Smart Teleconverter - a type of digital zoom. This seems a very strange use for a button on a camera that is designed for use by serious photographers. Fortunately it is customisable, so we used it to magnify a section of the screen when focusing manually.

There's also a rather unusual button and dial Silent multi-controller on the front of the camera beneath the lens release. This can be customised to access different features when shooting video and still photos, and it is specifically designed to enable you to make near silent camera adjustments during video recording. It delivers on this promise.

The multi-controller on the back of the camera will seem familiar to Sony PlayStation owners. It and the buttons covering the camera have a slightly squidgy feel with no distinct click, but they appear to be well made, and the camera responds promptly to their use.

Sony Alpha a99 review

In addition to the lengthy standard menu, there's a Function menu that is accessed by pressing the Fn button on the back of the camera. This provides access to 14 features including aspects such as drive mode, focus mode, white balance, sensitivity and picture effect.

Image format is an annoying omission, because features such as picture effect and auto portrait framing can't be used when shooting raw files.

Although an error message explains this if either of the options are selected when shooting raw images, you have to delve into the main menu to change to JPEG only shooting. Surely it should be possible to have the option to change the file format via the error message?

Sony Alpha a99 review

It's also a little disappointing that Sony hasn't given the Sony Alpha a99 a 'my menu' screen to assign your favourite or most commonly used features to.

It seems odd that the Function menu isn't customisable like it is on the Sony NEX-6. However, there are lots of customisation options available for the buttons.

When the LCD screen's brightness is turned up, or it's set to its Sunny Weather setting, it provides a clear view even in direct (UK November) sunlight.

Sony Alpha a99 review

The viewfinder is also very detailed, but it could do with a better eye-cup in bright weather to shield you from glare from the sun. It also has the tendency to make the scene look warmer and more contrasty than the captured image - even when that image is viewed in the finder.

A sensor next to the EVF detects when the camera is held to the eye and automatically turns it on while switching off the LCD screen.

With the Eye-Start AF option enabled via the menu, the camera also starts to focus the lens as soon as the camera is held to the eye, which we find useful in most situations.

Sony Alpha a99 review

In another first for a full-frame camera, the Sony Alpha a99's 3-inch 1,228,000-dot LCD screen is mounted on a tilting/articulating hinge to make it easier to see from a range of angles.

It's useful, but the hinge is an odd one, and while it works well when shooting horizontal images, it can take a while to get it in a convenient position for upright images.

At first it may seem that the camera is slow to power up, but we found that although the top LCD takes a couple of seconds to come to life, the EVF starts up smartly and the camera is ready for use pretty quickly.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLT Camera Body Only
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution24.3 Megapixel
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
Image StabilizationOptical
Brand NameSony
DurabilityDust Resistant, Moisture Resistant
FeaturesSelf-timer, Live View, Continuous Shooting Mode, Orientation Sensor, Noise Reduction, External Flash Shoe
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsAVCHD, MP4, MPEG-4, MPEG-4 AVC
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)733 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityErP, REACH, WEEE
Image Sensor Size35.80 mm x 23.90 mm
Maximum Image Resolution6000 x 4000
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height111.2 mm
Width147 mm
Depth78.4 mm
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashOptional
Focus ModesManual, Auto
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelSLT-A99V
Product NameA99 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
Exposure Control
  • Program
  • Shutter Priority
  • Aperture Priority
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberSLTA99VCE
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

It's enough to please the toughest of photo editors, with results in every frame. A full-frame sensor with Translucent Mirror technology is more of everything, the kind of detail, colour and tone you need for demanding tasks. It goes far beyond the limits of your DSLR camera.

Package Contents
  • A99 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
  • NP-FM500H InfoLITHIUM Battery
Limited Warranty1 Year