Sony's full-frame A99 has been a long time coming, but has the wait been worth it? The What Digital Camera Sony A99 review finds out
Sony A99 Review
Value and Verdict
Sony A99 review – Value
A comparison with its two most immediate rivals, Nikon’s D800 and Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III models, shows it to be currently priced a little higher than the latter and significantly higher than the former, although this is largely due to how long each has spent on the market. Purely from the perspective of specification, the D800 offers a higher pixel count as well as a faster start-up time, although it cannot match the A99’s burst rate, nor can it equal the LCD’s handy articulation. The EOS 5D Mark III, meanwhile, has a similar pixel count and burst rate (at least in its standard burst setting), but a marginally larger (fixed) LCD and an AF pattern with a wider spread.
Sony A99 review – Verdict
The A99 is a decidedly different proposition for the professional user than what we’ve seen previously. It clearly feels like a camera which has evolved from models beneath it in its range, rather than one designed specifically to satisfy a professional audience. Regardless of whether the SLT system is as relevant here as it is on cheaper Alpha models, it’s strange to find a full complement of professional options awkwardly blended with a range of semi-manual and novelty features; much of the camera’s functionality simply appears to be misplaced.
The limited spread of the focusing system will perhaps discourage a few, while the numerous delays which plague the camera’s operation are unlikely to please those who, at this end of the market, rightly expect negligible start-up time and minimal overall delays.
Still, certain factors which separate the A99 from the herd work very much to its advantage. The Silent Multi Controller and AF Range controls are clever and well-implemented additions, while the benefits of having an electronic viewfinder in darker environments shouldn’t be underestimated (the inclusion of which also translates to a reduction in overall weight). Video quality is also excellent, as is the implementation of the video functionality as a whole.
All of these issues mean the A99 ends up being a camera likely to be as embraced as it is disliked. Should the camera’s operational speed be remedied by a firmware update it will no doubt hold more appeal. As it is, it stands as a camera which delivers in some areas with aplomb, but falls down elsewhere where it matters.