It's been four years since Sony introduced the a99, its flagship A-mount SLT (single-lens translucent) camera that offers DSLR-style handling and phase-detection AF via Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology. Considering the elapsed time—and the popularity of Sony's E-mount mirrorless camera systems—it wouldn't have been unreasonable to assume that Sony was done developing the SLT series, but today Sony announced the a99 II, "reaffirming Sony's commitment to produce industry leading A-mount cameras," as stated in the press release (below).
Significant advancements in the new model include resolution and continuous shooting speed. Capable of capturing up to 12 frames per second, the a99 II doubles the speed of the a99, which offered 6 fps at full resolution, and nearly doubles the resolution: 42.4MP versus 24.3MP with the a99.
The a99 II can also record 4K video in XAVC S format with stereo sound via a built-in microphone or with select external Sony mics.
Other new features of the a99 II include 5-axis image stabilization in-camera, and a hybrid AF system which combines a 79-point phase detection AF sensor and a 399-point focal-plane phase detection sensor, resulting in a "79 hybrid cross AF point array" which Sony reports will provide "incredibly precise autofocus performance and advanced subject tracking of any high-speed moving objects across the frame."
The a99 II has expected availability in November and will retail for approximately $3,200.
COLOGNE, Germany, Sept. 19, 2016 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced their new flagship A-mount camera, the α99 II.
Reaffirming Sony’s commitment to produce industry leading A-mount cameras, the impressive new camera combines the best of many of their latest digital imaging innovations including a new Hybrid Phase Detection AF system with exclusive Sony A-mount features such as Translucent Mirror Technology™. The result is a supremely specified, professional level camera that will be appealing to a variety of professional and enthusiast photographers.
“We are continuing to innovate with each new camera body, lens and accessory that we bring to market, offering compelling choices to both existing and prospective users of the Sony α system” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “With the α99 II, we’re delivering an industry-leading level of performance to A-mount owners and enthusiasts. Its powerful combination of speed and resolution is simply unmatched in today’s market.”
Redefining Autofocus and Speed
The new α99 II camera is Sony’s first full-frame camera to feature the acclaimed 4D Focus system, bringing a supreme level of AF performance to Sony’s A-mount line-up. The Hybrid Phase Detection AF system is enabled by combining a precision 79-point3 dedicated phase detection AF sensor with 399 focal plane phase detection AF points4– to produce a 79 hybrid cross AF point1 array. This enables incredibly precise autofocus performance and advanced subject tracking of any high-speed moving objects across the frame. In addition Translucent Mirror Technology, with no moving mirror, ensures steady, continuous AF operation and live image preview during both still image and video shooting. The precision AF system also performs exceptionally in low-light conditions, as it will function properly in brightness levels as low as EV-45 and in dark locations where most other cameras struggle.
In addition to its advanced autofocusing, the α99 II has been designed to allow for high resolution, continuous shooting at high frame rates. The camera features a new front-end LSI that works with the image sensor, BIONZ X® image processing engine and a newly designed shutter unit to enable continuous shooting at impressive speeds of up to 12fps2 with AF/AE tracking6. Thanks to a large buffer, these shots can be viewed immediately after shooting, even when in high-speed continuous shooting mode. Additionally, if these high-speed shots are being taken indoors under artificial lighting, the camera can automatically detect flicker and time the shutter accordingly to minimize its effect on the resulting images7.
The new α99 II also has the ability to deliver continuous live shooting at up to 8 fps 8 with AF/AE tracking and minimal display lag thanks to overall improvements in the EVF algorithm. This offers photographers a shooting experience that closely mimics that of an optical viewfinder, while still offering all of the benefits of an electronic viewfinder including a live preview of exposure, white balance and several other camera settings. This 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 42.4MP9 Exmor R CMOS sensor in the new α99 II model features a gapless-on-chip design that allows for fast readout of large volumes of data and maximizes 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 – 102,40010.
The new camera has also been designed without an optical low-pass filter, ensuring that all of the finest natural details and textures can be captured with unprecedented depth and realism. Both compressed and uncompressed RAW files are readily available based on user preferences.
5-axis SteadyShot™ INSIDE Image Stabilization
Sony has designed a new in-body 5 axis image stabilization system for A-mount cameras that debuts for the first time in the α99 II model. Having proven to be incredibly popular in the ɑ7 II series of cameras, this five axis system effectively detects and compensates for movement in all axes including X and Y, pitch and yaw and camera roll, and ensures that all captured content is crisp and blur-free. The new stabilization system provides a shutter speed advantage of 4.5 steps11, ensuring the full potential of the 42.4MP sensor can be realized. Also, with a simple half press of the shutter button, the effect of this the image stabilization can be monitored in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, allowing framing and focus to be accurately checked and continually monitored.
Improved design and operability
Based upon feedback from professional users, the design of new α99 II has noticeably evolved compared to its predecessor. The new model is 8% smaller than the original ɑ99 and features a newly designed grip, magnesium alloy body, dual SD card slots12 and dust and moisture resistance13.
The α99 II also features a new shutter unit that has an estimated life of more than 300,000 operations14, as well as an XGA OLED Tru-finder with a ZEISS® T* Coating that offers a powerful 0.78x magnification and delivers outstanding clarify from corner to corner. The viewfinder also has a fluorine coating on the outer lens to prevent fingerprints, dust, water, oil and dirt from sticking, ensuring a clear view.
The silent Multi Controller introduced in the original ɑ99 has been improved as well, as it now offers a click-stop ON/OFF switch in addition to allowing control of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, AF area, AF mode and other settings. The α99 II also offers location data acquisition via a Bluetooth15 connection to a compatible mobile device and an updated menu structure to deliver a smoother navigational experience.
For the first time in a Sony A-mount camera, the α99 II has the ability to record 4K video internally16 with full pixel readout and no pixel binning17 through usage of the professional friendly XAVC S format. The camera is capable of recording high quality footage at 100Mbps for 4K recording, and utilizing the full width of the large, full-frame image sensor in doing so. It also offers a new ‘Slow and Quick’ mode18 (S&Q) that supports both slow motion and quick motion. In this mode, frame rates from 1 fps to 120 fps can be selected in 8 steps for up to 60x quick motion and 5x slow motion recording19.
A host of other features for professional movie production workflow are also included in the α99 II such as picture profiles, time code and clean HDMI output as well as gamma assist for real time S-Log monitoring and a zebra mode for easier exposure adjustment. S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma are both included as well.
Pricing and Availability
The Sony α99 II full-frame interchangeable lens camera will ship this November to authorized Sony retailers throughout North America and will be sold for about $3,200 US and $4,000 CA.
- 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.
- Continuous shooting mode set to ‘Hi+’
- The number of usable AF points may depend on the lens and shooting mode
- 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
- Central focus point
- 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
- 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.
- Continuous shooting mode set to ‘Hi’
- effective megapixels
- Expanded ISO. Still images only.
- CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw shake only. SAL135F18Z lens. Long exposure NR off.
- One slot can hold an SD card or a Memory Stick.
- Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof
- Electronic first curtain shutter activated
- 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
- 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.
- In Super 35mm recording mode
- Sound cannot be recorded. SDHC/SDXC memory card of Class 10 or higher is required
- In NTSC system