Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sony's A99 full-frame DSLR is official

According to Digital Photography Review, Sony has officially announced its first full-frame DSLR in four years--the A99. Technically, the A99 isn't a DSLR, because it uses the transparent mirror technology of Sony's other Alpha cameras. Sony claims that its mirror design enables the A99 to be the lightest full-frame DSLR on the market (1.79 lb. including batteries.) Instead of an optical viewfinder, it has a 2.4 Megapixel OLED viewfinder. It's also got a 1.23 Megapixel LCD display with hinges that allow it to be tilted, swiveled and reversed (it also makes great julienne fries.) As with all Alpha cameras, it's got a Sony A lens mount. The A99 has a 24MP sensor with dual phase detection auto-focus systems. It can output 14-bit RAW images with an ISO range of 100-25,600. The A99 can shoot up to 6 frames per second in burst mode, and has a built-in GPS. Storage options are Memory Stick PRO Duo and PRO-HG Duo, and SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

On the video side, the A99 fully implements AVCHD 2.0, with frame rates up to 1080p60 at 28Mbps and 1080i60 at 24 Mbps. It also outputs uncompressed video over its HDMI interface to an external recorder or monitor. The A99 has microphone inputs and a headphone output, and an optional stereo XLR adapter connects to the camera's intelligent hot shoe. A "silent control dial" next to the lens allows a variety of settings to be changed without bumping the camera during recording.

The A99 will be available in October at approximately $2,800 for body only; the XLR adapter will priced at $800 and will also be available in October. I can certainly understand Sony's decision not to burden the design of the A99 with XLR inputs for customers who only plan to use it for still photography, but $800 for the XLR adapter seems steep to me--that's almost a third of the price of the camera itself.

If you already own an A900 and are looking for a replacement, or you've got a collection of A-mount lenses and want to upgrade to full-frame, the A99 will be your obvious choice. For other buyers, however, side-by-side testing against comparable models from Canon and Nikon over the next few weeks and months will reveal the A99's strengths and weaknesses.
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