Proceedings at this year’s Photokina has been sluggish. The recent setback of Samsung announcing that it is moving away from the camera business in Australia is still looming large like grey clouds over the overall camera business. However, there have been quite a few notable silver linings too. The announcement of the Sony a99 II is definitely one of them.
The Sony a99 II replaces the older a99. It is being slated as the new flagship of Sony’s A-mount DSLT line-up. It comes with a 42.4 megapixel EXMOR R CMOS sensor. Sony uses a gap-less on chip design with a back-illuminated structure that is stated to improve the light gathering abilities of the camera. Back-illuminated sensors have a significantly better low light capability. Sony states that the new camera can make useful images at ISO 25600. The ISO level, extends to 50-102400.
BIONZ X Image Processor with Front-end LSI
Image processing is powered by Sony’s legendary BIONZ X image processor with a front-end LSI. These two combine to pump in a considerable amount of processing power that takes the continuous shooting speed and frame rate to another dimension. The outgoing a99 could shoot at only 6 fps. The new a99 II can shoot at double that rate (12 fps) with AF and AE on.
For all those live-view shooters the new camera should be a joy to work with. The a99 II can shoot at a continuous speed of 8 fps in live-view, without ever blacking out the screen. To go with it you have 16-bit image processing and 14-bit of RAW frame capture. Resultantly, you can expect a significantly higher color detail and a better dynamic range than the outgoing model.
The a99 II is capable of recording UHD 4K videos at 30 fps as opposed to only full HD in the outgoing model. Full pixel read out and no pixel binning. Add to that the upgraded frame rate for full HD video recording of 120 fps in XAVC S and 60 fps in AVCHD. Super slow-mo videos are now easier than ever to create. Additionally, you can shoot at a slow frame rate of 1 fps for those ultra-quick time-lapse style sequences. Along with the upgraded video recording feature on the a99 II you also get custom color profiles and S-log3 and S-log2 gamma. You can output clean footages using HDMI. There is also a zebra assist for highlights.
No Optical Low-Pass Filter
The new a99 II does not have an optical low-pass filter. When combined with the 42.4 megapixel sensor the a99 II does seem like a mouthwatering proposition if you are a landscape, food, fashion and real estate photographer. As a matter of fact the camera will come in handy no matter the genre of photography that is your calling.
The a99 II comes with a 5-axis SteadyShot inside image stabilization system. Sony’s image stabilization system is body-based unlike Canon and Nikon. That means any lens you use, even those attached via adapters, are automatically stabilized. The a99 II’s image stabilization is rated to up to 4.5 stops of compensation. That when translated means up to 4.5 stops of slow shutter speed leverage. Image stabilization is triggered by half depressing the shutter button and the preview of the image can be seen on the rear LCD screen.
4D Focusing System
Sony’s 4D Focusing System makes its debut in a full-frame camera in the a99 II. The hybrid auto-focusing system is made up of 79 dedicated phase detection points and a total of 399 focal plane phase detection points.
Rear LCD Screen and Viewfinder
The electronic 0.51” viewfinder has a pixel count of 2,359,296. Specs of the rear LCD screen hasn’t changed. The back of the camera is dominated by the 3” 1.23M-dot LCD screen. It is a tilting screen. The same as the one on the outgoing model. The frame coverage for the screen is 100%.
The a99 II features both built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. These are standard features in an increasingly greater number of cameras these days. It does kind of put things in perspective as a considerable amount of time has passed between the outgoing camera and the new one. None of these two features were there on the older camera.
Overall ergonomics of the a99 II are great. Body size is smaller when compared to the outgoing model. Underlying the plastics and rubberized components the chassis is built with magnesium alloy. Sony engineers have ensured some degree of moisture and dust control on the camera.
Price of the Sony a99 II
At just a shade under $3200, body only, the Sony a99 II isn’t cheap. There are plenty of good options in the traditional DSLR and mirrorless segments at that price. But the a99 II is a complete package. It does deserve a second look after the first glance. With the a99 II Sony has also resurrected the A-mount. There was a considerable amount of talk going around that Sony was probably going to let the A-mount die out. All that has been put to rest with the launch of the a99 II.
At the time of writing this the Sony a99 II’s scheduled shipment date has been slotted to be November 30 on B&H.