Sony today unveiled its new pro-level, full-frame DSLR, but this one uses translucent mirror technology. Can the Sony SLT-A99V compete with the Big Two for the pro photography and videography market?
A full-fledged pro DSLR featuring a 24.3MP 35mm-sized CMOS sensor, the Sony Alpha SLT-A99V, which will be available at Adorama in October, offers the world’s first dual AF system in a DSLR, and the world’s lightest body for a full-frame DSLR, this dust- and moisture-sealed camera replaces the old Alpha A-series A900 and A700 full-frame DSLRs and boasts what Sony calls “dramatically improved image quality, noise reduction and AF performance.”
Along with the Sony Alpha SLT-A99V, Sony is introducing a new flash and lens for full-frame DSLRs.
[Note: Adorama is now taking pre-orders for the Sony Alpha SLT-A99V and its accessories. To order, click on the links on the right side.]
Sony Alpha SLT-A99V: Key Features
▫ Translucent Mirror Technology
▫ New 24.3 MP 35 mm Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ Processor
▫ World’s first Dual AF System (footnote: xxx)
▫ Advanced Movie Shooting Functions
▫ ½” XGA OLED TruFinder Electronic Viewfinder
▫ Fast 6 frames per second continuous shooting
▫ Maximized handling performance
▫ Quick Navi Pro
▫ Dual Slot
▫ Three-way Tilt-able LCD
▫ World’s Lightest Body
▫ Durable shutter mechanism
▫ Dust and Moisture Sealed
▫ New Anti-dust coating
▫ New Expandable System
Let’s take a closer look at the Sony Alpha SLT-A99V, based on technical information provided by Sony.
Viewfinder: Sony has moved away from the traditional optical DSLR pentaprism-type viewfinder to a very high-resolution (2.359 million dots) OLED electronic viewfinder. Resolution and contrast ratio are both claimed to be high and the resulting image rivals that visible in an optical finder. An advantage here over optical is that you can see the results of camera adjustments in real time. Sony’s proprietary Translucent Mirror Technology simultaneously directs light to the image sensor and AF sensor at all times to realize Full-time Continuous AF that is said to keep the subject in sharp focus and even during continuous shooting and movie shooting. It also allows the high-precision electronic viewfinder to accurately display the results of camera setting adjustments in real time.
Sensor and Image Processing: The 24.3MP 35mm full-frame sensor offers an ISO range of 100-32,000, with low noise. However, if that isn’t enough, Sony’s Multi-frame NR mode captures six images in a fraction of a second, then combines them, reducing the noise by what Sony says is the equivalent of two stops.
Video: The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V is the first full-frame Sony DSLR with video. It can record Full 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI® connection in 24p, 60p and 60i frame-rates.
Autofocus: The SLT-A99V debuts the world’s first Dual AF system. It has a 19-point AF system with 11 cross sensors that is complemented by a multi-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor with 102 AF points that overlays the image sensor. This is made possible by Translucent Mirror Technology, which simultaneously directs light to the image sensor and AF sensor at all times. Continuous AF uses all 19 AF points with reliable depth-direction focusing performance to capture subjects; Sony says it is assisted by the 102-point multi-point focal-plane phase-detection AF sensor. It continues to accurately focus on the subject whether the subject is moving in depth or plane direction. Users can set the range of focus distance, an essential feature when shooting sports.
Burst Rate: The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V can shoot at approximately 6 frames per second (fps) with enhanced Tracking Focus, which is said to offer more advanced acquisition and tracking performance. The Tele Zoom High Speed shooting mode shoots up to 8 fps at 10 MP while maintaining continuous auto focus and auto exposure.
LCD monitor: The SLT-A99V may be the first full-frame DSLR with a flip-out monitor. The 921k dot LCD monitor can tilt three ways and is the same monitor used on the SLT-A77.
Exposure is determined via a 1200-zone evaluative metering; the camera reads exposure directly from the main image sensor. You have a choice of multi, center and spot metering. The camera offers built-in HDR, sweep panorama mode, D-range Optimizer, and 13 creative filters (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn leaves, Black & White, Sepia.)
GPS: The camera has built-in GPS.
Construction: The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V is built to meet the heavy demands of prosumers. Main outer body panels and interior chassis are constructed of lightweight, righid magnesium alloy. The camera is also ruggedized: Outer body and moisture countermeasures include the sealing and treatment of major operational buttons/dials and a convex/concave mating structure that tightly interlocks components to protect against dust and moisture. Controls also feature a durable structure that withstands the touch usage of advanced amateurs. The shutter is rated for up to 200,000 releases.
Communication with Accessories: The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V offers Sony’s new Multi-Interface shoe that dramatically expands compatibility with Handycam® accessories, thus raising the potential for photo/movie shooting (The included ADP-MAA shoe adapter maintains compatibility with conventional Alpha accessories as well). One such accessory is the HVL-F60M flash with video light offers high output, Sony’s original Quick Shift Bounce mechanism, a new video light for movie shooting and improved operational interface. Another is the RMT-DSLR2 Remote Commander for movie shooting that includes a dedicated movie record button.
New Lens and Flash
Sony has also announced some serious glass: a Sony 300mm f/2.8 G SSM II telephoto lens , a premium lens designed for nature and sports photography. Features include a built-in AF motor, three ED glass lenses to correct chromatic aberrations, internal focusing, focus hold options, an electronic slider focus range selector, and two direct manual focus modes. Designed to work on both full-frame and APS sensors, the lens offers a 450mm equivalent focal length on small sensor cameras.
Sony also announced a dual flash and LED video light. A high-powered flash with a guide number of 60 (105mm lens at ISO 100), the Sony HVL-F60 tilts up to reveal three bright LED lights that give off 1200 lux at 19 inches. So, the flash’s effective range is 90 feet while the LED will light up scenes up to 6 feet. Recycle time is said to be 3.5 seconds; the flash can be operated as part of a multi-flash wireless flash network, and is dust and moisture resistant.
Conclusion and recommendation
The Sony SLT-A99V represents Sony’s long-awaited return to full-frame DSLRs. By using Translucent Mirror technology, it is able to overcome several key speed bumps that have held back DSLR development. Will the fact that users will be looking at an electronic viewfinder image of the scene reflected by the camera’s fixed-position translucent mirror be a plus or a minus for professional and prosumer photographers? Time will tell, but for those who are most concerned with using an EVF over an optical viewfinder, the quality of the EVF (which is said to be among the most realistic ever) can only help. And at its low price, the Sony SLT-A99V offers a very serious, attractively priced alternative to its main competitors, the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V is expected to be available towards the end of October, but can be pre-ordered now at Adorama.