The rumour mill has been grinding since late last year about Sony’s next ‘full frame’ camera and now, just a week out from Photokina, details of the up-coming SLT-A99 have been revealed. In most respects the rumours have been correct: 24-megapixel sensor, SLT viewfinder, sophisticated AF system with 102 cross points and on-sensor phase detection, along with a heap of other desirable functions packed inside a weather sealed body.


      The newSony SLT-A99 shown with the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 16-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens. (Source: Sony.)

      Coincidentally, Carl Zeiss, which has enjoyed a close association with Sony for some time, announced the development of a 55 mm f/1.4 full-format SLR camera lens with manual focus five days ago. Cited as ‘the first model of a new product family designed for demanding users’ this lens seems ideally matched to the SLT-A99. (You can find details at

      Build and Ergonomics
       Photo Review had a sneak peek at the new camera late in August and was struck with its resemblance to the SLT-A77. Although the body lines have been smoothed down a little and the A99 is larger and heavier than the A77, the differences are not as great as we expected, given the differences in the sensor sizes.


      Front views of the SLT-A99 (top) and A77 (below) with no lens showing the difference in sensor sizes. (Source: Sony.)


      Rear views of the SLT-A99 (top) and SLT-A77 (below) with the monitor tilted for low shooting angles.   (Source: Sony.)




      Front view of the Sony SLT-A99 with the SAL50F14 50mm f/1.4 lens. (Source: Sony.)
      The A99 steps into Sony’s line-up as the flagship model, sitting above the A77 in the range of cameras featuring Translucent Mirror Technology. The following list outlines features we noted in our hands-on preview of the new camera (not necessarily in order of priority):

      – The mode dial locks via a button in tits centre, preventing users from accidentally changing the mode when handling the camera.
       – The   monitor is similar to the A850’s 3.0-inch, 921,600-dot,  Xtra Fine LCD on the SLT-A77. Its viewing angle is fully adjustable and it provides 100% frame coverage plus adjustable brightness.

      – Dual SD card slots are provided for image storage, each supporting SD, SDHC and SDXC   cards and offering   UHS compatibility. Users can configure how data is written to each card, with options including using one card as a back-up and writing different file types of each card.

      – The 24.3 effective megapixel Exmor HD CMOS Sensor and enhanced BIONZ processor work together to support full-resolution continuous burst shooting at six frames/second with full-time phase-detection autofocusing. The buffer memory can store up to 20 JPEGs or approximately 13 ARW.RAW files.

      – The A99 can support simultaneous recording to two memory cards and users can choose whether to record stills and movies to different cards or JP-EGs and raw files to different cards or use one card as an overflow when the first card is full or as a back-up to the first card.

      – The shutter mechanism is rated for 150,000 cycles and supports a shutter speed   between 1/8000 second and 30 seconds. Flash sync is at 1/250 second and Bulb exposures are supported.

      – The new autofocusing system can build depth maps of a scene, which can be used to make focusing faster and more accurate with the conventional 102-point ‘all cross type’ array. Users can limit the range over which a lens will focus, enabling faster and more precise focusing, particularly with longer lenses. The camera will display the focusing distance on the viewfinder and/or on the monitor screen.

      – Pressing the Fn (Function) button displays a Quick Navi screen that puts key camera controls within easy reach.
       – The broad sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 is expandable down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 102,400.
       – For video recordings, the A99 provides a built-in stereo microphone with on-board control over audio recording levels. It also has a jack for connecting external microphones. It can also be fitted with an XLR box, which provides connections for pro mics and other accessories, along with full audio controls. This separates the mic from the camera, minimising the risk of picking up camera noises on movie soundtracks.
       – The EVF in the new camera is larger and brighter than those in previous models and has 100% frame coverage plus higher resolution.

      – The SteadyShot Inside sensor-shift image stabilisation system has been improved to provide   between 2.5 and 4.5 EV of shake correction and works with any lens fitted to the camera.
       – A dual-axis level gauge is available to help users correct pitch and roll to ensure level horizons and minimise perspective distortion in shots.
       – In-camera lens correction (vignetting,  lateral chromatic aberration and distortion) is provided.
       – A built-in GPS receiver enables images to be tagged with location data.
       – The A99 is not WiFi enabled.

      – A new vertical grip will be available for the A99, providing two battery compartments. Batteries loaded in the grip can be used as an adjunct to the battery in the camera, extending the photographer’s shooting capacity.

      Features carried across from the SLT-A77 include Creative Style and Picture Effect settings, Dynamic Range functions (DRO and Auto HDR)

      Sensor and Image Processing
      As mentioned above, the 24-megapixel sensor on the A99 is a brand new chip with a higher fill factor that allows each photosite to capture more light. Although it has the traditional Bayer filter design, it features a new anti-aliasing filter overlaid on the chip, which reduces the incidence of moirø© without compromising the ability to record detail.

      The sensor has an on-chip array of 102 phase-detection AF sensor points that complement the conventional contrast-detection focusing system.   Its 3:2 aspect ratio provides a maximum image size of 6000 x 4000 pixels. The graph below shows typical image sizes for all image size and quality settings.

      Image size


      Aspect ratio

      Approx. File size

      Extra Fine




      6000 x 4000




      6000 x 4000


      L: 16M

      6000 x 4000





      M: 8.4M

      4240 x 2832




      S: 4M

      3008 x 2000




      L: 14M

      6000 x 3376





      M: 7.1M

      4240 x 2400




      S: 3.4M

      3008 x 1688




      Panorama (Standard/ Horizontal)

      8192 x 1856

      4.4:1 (approx.)


      Panorama (Standard / Vertical)

      3872 x 2160

      1.8:1 (approx.)


      Panorama (Wide / Horizontal)

      12,416 x 1856

       6.7:1 (approx.)


      Panorama (Wide/ Vertical)

      5536 x 2160

      2.56:1 (approx.)


      3D Sweep Panorama (Standard)

      4912 x 1080



      1920 x 1080



      3D Sweep Panorama (Wide)

      7152 x 1080



      The BIONZ image processor enables the SLT-A99 to offer sensitivity settings from ISO 100 to ISO 256,000 for still photos to ISO 100-6400   for movies. The Auto setting encompasses ISO 100 to 6400 by default and users can set upper and lower limits.  Manual over-rides provide extensions to ISO 50 and ISO 102,400.

      High ISO noise-reduction processing is applied by default with three settings available: Low, Normal and High. Long-exposure noise-reduction processing is also available and with the Multi-frame Noise Reduction setting, you can specify the ISO sensitivity within a range of ISO 100 to 25,600 and the camera will combine multiple exposures to create a single image with reduced noise levels.

      As well as supporting continuous shooting at up to six frames/second at full resolution, the A99 includes a Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE mode that can record at APS-C   image size at seven frames/second. In the continuous Low speed mode, the capture rate is 2.5 frames/second.

       Full HD Movie shooting is supported at 50/60 fps (PAL/NTSC) frame rates using the AVCHD (Ver. 2.0) format for higher resolutions and MP4 for 1440 x 1080 and VGA.

      The table below shows the resolutions and frame rates available.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode

      Picture size

      Frame Rate

      Bit rate




      1920 x 1080


      28 Mbps



      24 Mbps



      17 Mbps



      24 Mbps



      17 Mbps


      1280 x 720

      30 fps

      not specified

      1440 x 1080

      30/25 fps

      12 Mbps


      640 x 480

      3 Mbps

      A ‘clean’ stream of video data can be output directly from the camera via the HDMI cable. Manual focusing and the P/A/S/M exposure modes are available while shooting video and phase detection ensures accurate focusing. The A-99 provides displays for audio levels, AF tracking duration, auto slow shutter selection, HDMI information and GPS data logging in movie mode.

      Custom Controls
      The A99 is even more customisable than the SLT-A77 and includes the following options:

      ·             Eye start AF can be switched on and off.

      ·             Three grid overlays are available, including a rule of thirds grid.

      ·             The peaking level display colour can be selected from red (the default), yellow and white.

      ·             The AEL button can be re-assigned to provide access to 29 different camera settings, among them a focus magnifier, a ‘Smart Teleconverter’,   depth-of-field preview, image size/quality, Picture Effect and Creative Style settings as well as DRO/Auto HDR adjustments.

      ·             Two AF drive speeds are available: fast and slow.

      ·             Automatic lens compensation is selectable for shading, chromatic aberration and distortion.

      In Summary
       Photographers   who have already committed to Sony’s DSLR cameras and own three or more lenses will welcome the addition of a ‘full frame’ model to the current line-up. Photographers (especially portrait photographers) who have previously shot with 35mm film SLRs and been disappointed with cropped-sensor cameras could find upgrading to the A99 restores the image look they have missed – although they will need lenses designed for the larger sensor.

      It was smart of Sony to stick with the same 24-megapixel resolution as the A77 instead of pursuing ever-higher pixel counts. The larger sensor in the A99 should produce image files with more headroom for editing. Initial evaluations suggest the A99 will compete effectively with rival cameras from Nikon and Canon in terms of image quality and high ISO performance. (These claims will be tested when we receive a review unit).

      Also welcomed will be the hybrid AF system, particularly if it improves on the performance of the already fast autofocusing in Sony’s current SLT cameras. AF tracking speed will be a critical criterion for many potential buyers. Continuous shooting capabilities should make the A99 a capable tool for sports photography, particularly if the new camera produces clean, colour-accurate JPEG files.

      However, like its rivals, the SLT-A99 is a large, heavy and expensive camera. It will be more at home in studio locations and situations where photographers can ‘park’ gear temporarily than for bushwalking and location work where you have to carry the gear any distance. There are other SLR models in Sony’s range that meet those requirements very well.

      The SLT-A99 is scheduled for release in early November.   We look forward to producing a full review when a production-quality unit becomes available.


      Image sensor: 36 x 24 mm CMOS   sensor with 24.7 million photosites (24.3 megapixels effective)
      Image processor: BIONZ
      A/D processing: 14-bit
      Lens mount: Sony α lenses, Minolta and Konica Minolta AF lenses
      Focal length crop factor: 1x
      Digital zoom: Approx. 4x (stills & movies), Smart Zoom: M = 1.5x, S = 2.3x
      Image formats: Stills ““ ARW.RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG; Movies ““ AVCHD 2.0, MP4
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ 3:2 aspect ratio – L (24M): 6048 x 4032; M (13M): 4400 x 2936; S (6.1M): 3024 x 2016; 16:9 aspect ratio – L (21M): 6048 x 3408; M (11M): 4400 x 2472; S (5.2M): 3024 x 1704; Movies: 1920 x 1080 at 50p, 50i, 24p; 1280 x 720 at 30 fps, 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480 at 30/25 fps
      Image Stabilisation: SteadyShot image-sensor shift mechanism
      Dust removal: Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter plus image sensor-shift  mechanism
      Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/8000 seconds plus Bulb; flash synch at 1/250 sec. (1/200 sec. with SteadyShot on)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments
      Exposure bracketing: Continuous/Single, with 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 2.0* EV increments, 3 or 5 frames selectable. (*2.0 EV bracketing limited to 3 frames)
      Self-timer: 2   or 10 seconds delay
      Focus system: Hybrid AF system with on-sensor phase detection array; 102 sensor points (all cross type); can build depth map of scene to provide AF assist for conventional array;
      Focus modes: Single-shot AF, Auto AF, Continuous AF, Direct Manual Focus, Manual Focus
      Exposure metering: TTL metering with 40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC; Multi Segment, Centre-weighted, Spot metering patterns
      Shooting modes: Program AE (AUTO/P, with program shift),  Aperture  priority, Shutter priority, Manual
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100-25,600 in 0.3EV increments; expandable to ISO 50   and ISO 102,400
      White balance: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash), Colour Temperature (2500 – 9900k with 19-step Magenta/Green compensation), custom (3 memories)
      Flash: External flash unit; supports ADI/ Pre- flash TTL flash; modes include Auto, Fill flash, Rear Sync, High-speed sync, Slow sync and Wireless with compatible flash  
      Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3EV (0.3/0.5 EV increments)
      Sequence shooting: Max. 6 frames/second at 24MP for approximately 14 Large Extra Fine JPEGs, 13 ARW.RAW frames or 11 RAW+JPEG pairs
      Storage Media: Dual slots for SD/SDHC/SDXC cards; UHS compatible and fully configurable  
      Viewfinder: 1.3 cm XGA (1024 x 768-pixel) OLED Tru-Finder with 2,359,296 dots plus 100% frame coverage
      LCD monitor: Tilting 3.0-inch, 1,228,800-dot,  Xtra Fine LCD with 100% field of view
      Live View features: Evaluative & subject recognition lock-on AF
      Data LCD: 19 x 21mm monochrome display
      Playback functions: Single-frame, Index (4 or 9 frames), Enlarge (7.2x   to 14x),  Slideshow, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Shooting information
      Interface terminals: USO 2.0, HDMI (Type C Mini) supports ‘clean’ video feed-out; Video out (PAL/NTSC selectable); DC-in; remote terminal adaptor; 3.5 mm stereo microphone jack, Bravia Sync with Sony TV sets
      Power supply: NP-FM500H rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 410 shots/charge with viewfinder shooting or 500 shots/charge with live view
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 147 x 111.2 x 78.4 mm
      Weight: Approx. 733 grams

      RRP: Approx. AU$3499 (body only)