Sony Alpha SLT-A99 DSLR Camera: A Closer Look at Features that will Attract Serious Full-Frame Photographers
Clear Image Zoom
High-Dynamic Range (HDR)
Multi-Shot Noise Reduction
- David Busch's Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Guide to Digital Photography
- The Sony SLT-A77: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide
- Sony Alpha SLT-A65/A77 For Dummies
When Sony introduced its new top-of-the-line full-frame DSLR, the Alpha SLT-A99, during September 2012, the company certainly understood the stiff competition it was facing from the two full-frame giants, Canon and Nikon. Within the same year, both manufacturers had released a number of major, new DSLR models. Canon’s 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X and Nikon’s D800 and D4 are full-frame powerhouses. The Canon EOS-6D and Nikon D600 have made full-frame DSLR photography more accessible to more photographers, since these models have smaller bodies, at lower price points. More information about Sony A99 can be found on our website PhotographyTalk.com.
Against this phalanx of new Canon and Nikon cameras, Sony was expecting its single, new entry into the full-frame DSLR market to shoulder quite a load. By late 2012, however, and having only been available for a short time, the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 has already made quite an impression on independent reviewers based on test results. It just may have the stuff to impress full-frame buyers as well, who would otherwise immediately turn their attention to the Canon and Nikon line-ups. This PhotographyTalk article takes a closer look at a few of the features on the Sony A99 that are likely to cause those in the market for a full-frame DSLR to hesitate before automatically shopping only among Canon and Nikon equivalents.
Sony can claim to have influenced other manufacturers’ inclusion of Sweep Panorama in their cameras, since many of them have examined Sony’s technology and mimicked it quite successfully. Sony venerable version of this feature remains arguably the best, primarily because it is so easy to use: press the shutter button and pan the camera, and the technology, in the form of stitching software, does all the heavy lifting. Even with a handheld pan of the camera, the software is so advanced that it is able to compensate and produce virtually flawless merges between images. Your best shooting technique, however, is the use of a tripod, which will result in an even sharper and spectacular image.
The Sweep Panorama feature in the Sony A99 is also quite versatile, as you have the option of two different panorama widths as well as the capability of capturing a panoramic image in portrait orientation. You also have the choice of your pan starting from the right or left side of the frame. This is more than a compositional or operational advantage. The camera’s meter is locked throughout a pan and reads the first frame to set the exposure. This is important because the best panoramic images from the Sony A99 are produced when you start your pan from the darker area of your planned composition. Pan from the brightest area first and the darker portion will be underexposed.
When you purchase the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 full-frame DSLR, you probably won’t have the additional budget to buy an array of lenses. With only one lens, however, you can capture tighter images with the A99 because Sony has given it what the company calls the Clear Image Zoom feature. One of the digital options available to you is “smart teleconverter.” It doesn’t bring the image closer with magnification, but the center of the frame is “enlarged” within the frame, with the use of one or two different crop factors. Clear Image Zoom also offers the more common 2x magnification zoom, but digital rather than optical.
Because there was a 4-year gap between Sony’s previous full-frame DSLR, the A900, and the new A99, this new camera benefits from the many proven features and capabilities that Sony has included in its other new DSLR and NEX series models and the new Cyber-shot DSC-RX100. HDR is one of these features.
Dynamic Range Optimizer, or DSO, is one of the HDR technologies that are found on the DSC-RX100. DSO is able to read and then brighten darker areas of an image to give it a more even contrast. You have the option of using DSO in five manual modes or allowing the camera to control this function with the Auto mode, or disengage DSO altogether.
The multi-shot HDR mode is another well-tested function to mitigate the effect of high-contrast photos. It captures three distinct exposures of the same scene and merges them for balanced brightness. This function also operates in an auto or manual mode, which provide even more precise control. Set it to manual and you can select a range of three images between 1 and 6 stops EV. The HDR technology works so well in the A99 that unless you need the added precision of creating a single image from separate exposures in Photoshop, this camera will produce a highly acceptable HDR image for most photographers.
Another feature that has proven to be very popular among Sony DSLR users that is found on the A99 is multi-shot noise reduction. This feature also combines multiple images, 6 in fact, of the same scene, so it is able to use those with the lowest digital noise levels to create a single image that is much cleaner. Sony has designed this technology to be so versatile that it is also has an interface with the image stabilization system. This means the multi-shot noise reduction function only uses the most stable and sharpest images as part of its combination of all data into the best single image.
With these 4 features and many others, Sony has given serious full-frame DSLR amateurs, semi-professionals and professionals much to consider when shopping for a new camera. More time is required before there are enough sales and anecdotal data to know how well the Alpha SLT-A99 competes with equivalent Canon and Nikon models; however, it appears, at this point, that Sony has produced a highly credible alternative.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A99 DSLR (body only) is available from Amazon for $2,798.00
People who read this PhotographyTalk.com article also liked:
Your feedback is important to thousands of PhotographyTalk.com fans and us. If this article is helpful, then please click the Like and Re-Tweet buttons at the top left of this article.