72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
An awesome tool.,
This review is from: SONY A99 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera with Full Frame (24.3MP, CMOS Sensor) (Electronics)
Having owned plenty of DLSR and recently DSLT models from various manufacturers over the years, I was, like many others very keen to see what the unique Sony A99 had to offer upon release. Several months down the line I feel I can now make an accurate judgement of it's capabilities and thought I may take the early opportunity to share my views with anyone looking into buying one.
As I also own a Nikon D800 I am able to make a fair comparison between the two rival models. Both have their merits, so rather than just write a review on the Sony Alpha 99 I will make my own comparison between the A99 and Nikon D800. Many will potentially look at both cameras before purchasing so I hope my experiences may help someone out there. Unfortunately I have not used the Canon 5D Mk3 enough in the field to make an accurate assessment of that model here. I rarely shoot video so will write this review in reference to stills photography only.
If you want the short version, don't read any further just go ahead and buy the A99. It's a great all rounder with some fantastic glass available to use. If you want to read why I believe you should buy it over a D800, then carry on reading.
In my eyes the advantages the D800 has over the A99 are only the high resolution and the optical viewfinder. Of course image quality is great with that amount of detail but I have grown to realise where the D800 lags behind. Firstly, you will notice the huge file sizes from the 36.3mp sensor filling your buffer up, then your memory cards, then your hard drives. This quickly becomes a pain. In the first two weekends of shooting with the D800 I added more than 200GB of images to my archive which shocked me, and also shocked my wallet when I then had to head to Maplin's for more storage. File sizes are usually 50% larger than those from the A99's 24.3 mp sensor and although this represents a huge difference in your drive's capacity, I have not found it to be discernible in image quality. An image from one of the popular 16.1 mp APSC sensors will easily print up to A2 so I believe 36.3 million pixels is complete overkill for the majority of people that will be looking to buy the D800. This extra resolution really does make a difference with camera shake and motion blur meaning you have a very sensitive bit of kit in your hand. I was amazed how visible camera shake is, even using shutter speed/lens combinations that would normally have no issues. I find myself at least doubling the shutter speed just for peace of mind which then means I have to compromise with ISO. The viewfinder is large and bright, but I have issues with the eyepiece fogging over whenever it is near my face. Overall the build quality is of a high standard but I do have a couple of annoyances with the camera.
Focusing has to be the key drawback on the D800. To put it bluntly, it is slow and inaccurate. Whether this is just my copy or not, I do not know. There are issues with the focus points and not just those on the left, as many have complained before. When using ANY focus points that do not sit in the central area, I find the camera hunting in a very jerky fashion which worries me, considering my investment! It does not feel like it should be a final product, not in this respect.
Moving onto the A99, I sometimes shoot at night so I'm sure one could understand the preconceptions around electronic viewfinders here but nothing else compares to this one! I've been told the components are exactly the same as those in the Sony Alpha 77's 2.44 million dot XGA OLED viewfinder but there really are some significant improvements here. This EVF will allow you to shoot in some incredibly low light and using the exposure preview you get a viewfinder almost as bright and punchy as your final image. You have a range of information displayed here and for the more 'particular' amongst us, the digital spirit level is much better on the entire Alpha range. I find the D800's viewfinder spirit level hard to see unless you are repetitively tapping away on the shutter release, and it is far less responsive. I honestly believe anyone can fall in love with electronic viewfinders, you just have to get used to them and break free from the `old school' attitude.. Being able to review images in the viewfinder is a godsend and something you can't appreciate until you have become used to it. I often find myself checking in the D800's viewfinder now which leaves me feeling quite stupid. You also have functions like the amazing 'Peaking Focus' which makes manual focus an absolute dream, especially with lenses that do not have AF such as the 135mm STF.
Working on tripods a lot of the time I have grown to find the A99's flexible screen invaluable when trying to find interesting angles and I'm amazed none of the other manufacturers have used these on high end models. Yes it is more vunerable than a fixed screen but if several Sony SLTs can survive a year of my rugged, often careless use without one screen breaking, then I believe that is a testament to their strength and durability. You can even turn the screen around to prevent damage and also further extend your battery life. Talking of battery life, I notice little difference between the two but of course the A99's digital operating system will not last quite as long. The D800 definitely chews it's way through the ENEL-15 battery power much more than it's little brother, the D7000 does though.
I am a huge fan of battery grips. The Nikon disappointed me greatly here. Firstly, at £350 ish the MB-D12 grip is extortionate. I was offended! Not only that, but you can only get one battery in the grip (retaining one inside the camera body). You could step up and get the ENEL-14 battery which the D4 uses... Altogether, with the charger, you are looking at spending nearly another £500 for this... on top of the grip itself!!! This is just incredible and I refuse to spend that amount of money purely out of principle so I grin and bear it, sticking with the ENEL-15 batteries which just about do the job.
Sony however, used their heads! The VGC99AM grip takes 2x NP-FM500H batteries, whilst retaining one in the body. This combination has not run out of power on me once. Sony seem to be addressing these little issues in a much more consumer centric manner than Nikon here. I also like to have the extra strap loops to attach a hand strap to the grip. This and the dropped position of the grip's shutter release creates ergonomics that effectively glue your hand to the camera. I love it.
Image quality on the A99 can't be faulted. I will happily use it up to ISO 6400, which I also find to be my usable limit on the D800. I see no need to use a higher sensitivity, apart from shooting test frames while developing my composition in very low light. One thing that does stand out to me is the richness in colour and contrast of the ARW files. I often add a hell of a lot of vibrance to raw images from the Nikon, and rarely with the Sony. There is something about the colour and tone with the images from the A99 which has a much more natural appeal. Tonal graduation is a dream and so is the amount of detail. 24.3 million pixels is plenty, do not be fooled. Well, unless you have plans for that billboard over the road but even then it would cope well.
Focusing on the A99 is, in my opinion, much less hit and miss than with the D800. It is very fast, very accurate and can be relied upon with good faith, even during high speed bursts. I love the silent multi controller which I have set to control ISO the majority of the time. I would like to see the 102 focus points spread further throughout the frame but even without these I find autofocus very rapid and reliable.
Not that I often shoot wildlife, but the A99's focus range limiter is another brilliant innovation. This lets you quickly set your focusing parameters in a very intuitive manner and I have used it for some birding photography with excellent, guaranteed pin sharp results.
Well, to be honest I could go on and on but I would still be heading in the same direction. To summarise, I see the Nikon D800 as a great tool, but only to those who really do take their time and work on a tripod. I could never see myself shooting a wedding with it since collecting my A99, hell I don't think I'd even use it hand held anymore!
If you are looking for an awesome all rounder, the Sony Alpha 99 is far more fun and certainly creates some stunning images. I find using the camera a much more enjoyable experience and it also has a wide range of features available to those that want to use them. Anyone that says Sony's lens selection is limited obviously hasn't done much research. Many old Minolta lenses can be used, but Sony's current range offers some fantastic glass. Their 24-70 f2.8 is the sharpest there is and other gems like the 135mm STF and Carl Zeiss 85mm f1.4 really do make even the most experienced photographer drool. Ok Sony do not make PC-E tilt shift lenses but there is only a small percentage of mainly pro photographers that regularly use them.
Although I have not even begun to tear apart the video aspects of either camera, my views are simple. SLT can autofocus at a very good standard. SLR just can't. If you want to use video on the D800 you may as well just shovel a pile of manure onto your client's desk and call it a day.
So if you still need me to summarise, you can't have been reading!... Get the A99!!
Tracked by 4 customers
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Feb 2013 20:28:42 GMT
Thanks for great review!
Posted on 8 Feb 2013 17:20:27 GMT
Thanks for your review. D800's censer is made by Sony and I read this on a photography magazine. Using 36 MP censer would have slow down a99. I use Sony a77 and found it's an extraordinary camera. I have a couple of lenses made by Tamron and also by Sigma and they work fine with my camera.
Most of the reviews in magazines are bias and prejudice. They are not helping to develop the camera technology. I think those writers get free camera use from Nikon and Canon.
I am looking forward to by a99 but my only complain how this camera sells for 1600 pounds in Hong Kong while we have to pay 2300 pounds here.
In reply to an earlier post on 8 Feb 2013 17:22:52 GMT
You can get the A99 for under £1800 at procamerashop, its the cheapest i can find it, much cheaper than amazon anyway
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 16:03:35 GMT
Pay by BACS and you can buy one for £1570.00 at Panamoz
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 16:05:29 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 23 Feb 2013 16:05:55 GMT]
In reply to an earlier post on 23 Feb 2013 19:43:33 GMT
Thanks again you are helpful
Posted on 3 Mar 2013 13:22:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Mar 2013 13:29:43 GMT
G. Peake says:
Well written, spot on comparisson, just what I needed. Thank You. One aspect not covered in your review is the options for RAW file conversion, Sony's IDC is a pretty basic converter I wouldn't dream of using. The one I do use, Capture One, will open ARW files but only has lens corrections for 2 Sony lenses! I do think Sony need to concentrate on this aspect in order to break into the 'Pro.' market.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Mar 2013 16:17:38 GMT
I also had problems with Sony RAW converter and my CS4 version did not open the RAW files. Now I have CS6 and this version is much better and please to work with. You have to down load the lens profiles which I have not done yet.
Posted on 6 May 2013 12:10:06 BDT
Malcolm O. Dell says:
Thanks for your review, really helpful. I'm looking to buy my first DSLR and have come to the conclusion that the really big selling point between Canon, Nikon and Sony is the feel and sound of the shutter release, some like a click/mechanical feel but to me the Sony is just perfect - never held a 99 but hope it carries on the feel of the 65 and 77. Thanks again.
(5 customer reviews)