The successor to Sony’s flagship α900 DSLR, the α99 features a new 24.3-megapixel full-frame image sensor, a unique dual phase-detect AF system, translucent mirror, and a number of other technologies.
The camera combines the Exmor CMOS sensor with a highly advanced BIONZ image processing engine and a newly-developed separate multi-segment optional low-pass filter. Assisted by an all-new front-end LSI, the BIONZ engine can process massive amounts of image signal data from the sensor at very high speeds, says Sony. Together with a powerful new area-specific noise reduction (NR) algorithm, it allows to the camera to achieve 14-bit RAW output, rich gradation and low noise.
The processor also gives the α99 a maximum sensitivity range (in expanded sensitivity mode) as wide as ISO 50 – 25600, a range of nine stops.
The camera can shoot a burst of images at up to 6 fps at full resolution or up to 10 fps in Tele-zoom high speed shooting mode.
The camera’s main focusing system – a 19-point AF system with 11 cross sensors – is complemented by a 102-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor overlaying the main image sensor. Using translucent mirror technology, light is passed to both phase-detection AF sensors simultaneously and continually, measuring subject distance and position more completely than other cameras, according to Sony. This Dual AF System permits ultra-fast, accurate autofocusing that maintains tracking focus even if a subject temporarily leaves the frame.
The AF-D (depth) continuous autofocus mode utilizes the Dual AF system for wider and more dense coverage of the frame, significantly improving AF performance with fast or erratically moving subjects against complex backgrounds.
During movie shooting, AF Duration control provides reliable depth focusing information and ensures that the camera maintains proper focus on its subject when objects or people cross the focal plane.
A new AF range control allows photographers to manually select foreground and background distance to which the AF system will not respond, especially useful for shooting fast moving sports or animals through a nearby wire mesh or in front of a complex background.
The camera is said to be the first full-frame DSLR to offer Full HD 60p/24p progressive video recording to meet AVCHD Ver 2.0 specifications and Full-time Continuous AF Movie mode, allowing smooth, non-stop tracking of moving subjects. Other enhancements include real-time Full HD video output via HDMI, and uninterrupted ‘dual-card’ recording using both of the camera’s media slots.
While shooting video, a new silent, programmable multi-control dial on the front of the camera body allows silent adjustment of common settings during shooting including exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, aperture and much more.
An audio level display and adjustable audio record levels are joined by a headphone jack for accurate in-the-field monitoring.
Additionally, the multi-interface shoe provides balance audio input for the optional XLR-K1M adaptor kit, which adds a high-quality mono shotgun microphone and pro-standard XLR connections for dependable audio acquisition.
The camera’s XGA OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage on the viewfinder screen with what Sony says is exceptional brightness, contrast, clarity and resolution. The electronic viewfinder will also maintain a 100% field of view with DT lenses optimized for APS-C sensor cameras, converting the angle of view automatically for image recording and display.
A three-way tiltable XtraFine LCD display offers WhiteMagic technology to boost overall screen brightness. It’s especially useful for framing and shooting with the LCD in outdoor, sunny conditions.
The alpha99 is the world’s lightest 35 mm full-frame interchangeable-lens digital camera, Sony claims. Constructed of high-rigidity magnesium alloy panels, it weighs 733g (without lens and battery). Translucent mirror technology, which eliminates the need for a full-frame moving mirror mechanism and heavy glass pentaprism, also contributes to the extremely light design.
The camera is weather-sealed and all buttons and controls have been ruggedized.
A redesigned shutter block has been tested to approximately 200,000 releases.
The camera’s ergonomics include a re-designed grip and differentiated designs of several switches and buttons for intuitive fingertip operation. A new exposure mode dial lock prevents accidental rotation, and a newly-developed Quick Navi Pro interface gives quick, intuitive one-handed access to common shooting parameters and controls.
The new model can also be operated via remote PC connection. Supported functions include switching between still and video shooting plus automatic transfer of still images from camera to PC for an improved studio workflow.
The Sony α99 is expected to be available in October.