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Sony SLT-A99 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £2149
inc VAT

A pleasure to use and packed with innovative features, but there are a few shortcomings too


35.8×23.9mm 24.0-megapixel sensor, N/A zoom (N/A equivalent), 733g

Price above is for the A99 body only, no kits available at present, we tested with a 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, costing £1,449 inc VAT

You wait for ages for a new full-frame SLR and then seven turn up at once. Canon and Nikon refreshed their full-frame ranges in 2012, each releasing three new models priced at around £1,500, £2,500 and £5,000. Sony full-frame cameras have been conspicuously absent since the A900 and A850 were discontinued in 2011, but the A99 marks a bold re-entry.

It’s priced to compete with the Nikon D800 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (£2,400). Sony is making a bold statement by pitching it against such esteemed rivals rather than their cheaper full-frame siblings, but the A99 has the specs to back it up. The substantial magnesium alloy body feels like a premium piece of kit and is covered with buttons and dials. There are dual SDXC card slots, a PC sync socket for external flash triggering, microphone and headphone sockets plus built-in GPS.

Sony SLT-A99
This SLT may differ significantly from other full-frame cameras, but it’s still entering a very competitive market

Then there are the features that distinguish Sony’s SLT cameras from conventional SLRs. The translucent mirror technology means there’s an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than an optical one. SLR purists may baulk but we find it impossible to be downbeat about this particular EVF. With its 1024×768 (2.4 million dot) resolution and a 0.71x magnification, it’s just as big and detailed to our eyes as a full-frame SLR’s optical viewfinder. While an optical viewfinder will give a truer representation of the scene in front of you, an EVF gives a more accurate preview of the photo you’re about to take – complete with exposure and white balance settings and clipped highlights and shadows. It can also display lots of other information including a histogram and digital spirit level, although not at the same time.

SLT technology also means that the main phase-detect autofocus system is available when composing shots using the LCD screen. Sony takes full advantage of this with a pin-sharp 3in screen that pivots at three points to cater for every conceivable viewing angle. It’s the same screen and viewfinder that we saw on the Sony A77, and they’re just as impressive here. In fact, the A99 is the only full-frame camera to include an articulated screen.

Sony SLT-A99
An articulated screen on a full-frame camera is a rarity

There’s one major downside to SLT, though. It means the sensor is constantly active, and in a full-frame camera that takes a heavy toll on battery life. It’s quoted as 410 shots when using the viewfinder, and 500 shots with the LCD screen. Additional batteries are £35 including VAT each.


The controls are very similar to the A77’s, but there are a couple of notable differences. Rather than a focus mode dial below the lens release button, there’s a button and dial that Sony has named the Silent Multi-controller. A quick press of the button brings up autofocus mode options on-screen, which are cycled through with the dial. However, hold the button down and the dial can be reassigned to focus area, focus point, exposure compensation, ISO speed or metering mode.

Sony SLT-A99

Three more options are added when recording video: microphone level, shutter speed and aperture. This is where the silent part comes in. Whereas the other buttons and dials are liable to pepper the soundtrack with audible clicks, the Silent Multi-controller is genuinely silent. It’s extremely useful to be able to adjust the exposure while recording without spoiling the soundtrack. However, exposure adjustments were a little jarring on the eyes. Changes were instantaneous, giving a stepped appearance to the exposure. It’s disappointing considering that exposure adjustments are much smoother when videoing with automatic exposure settings.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 24.0 megapixels
CCD size 35.8×23.9mm
Viewfinder electronic, 2.4 megapixels
Viewfinder magnification, coverage 0.71x, 100%
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 1,228,800 pixels
Articulated screen Yes
Live view Yes
Optical zoom N/A
Zoom 35mm equivalent N/A
Image stabilisation optical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution 6,000×4,000
File formats JPEG, RAW; AVCHD, MPEG-4


Memory slot SDXC, SDXC/Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 410 shots
Connectivity USB, mini HDMI, microphone in, headphone out, DC in, flash sync, wired remote
Body material Magnesium alloy
Lens mount Sony Alpha
Focal length multiplier 1.0x
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB cable, neck strap
Weight 733g
Size 111x147x78mm

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £2,149

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/8,000 seconds
Aperture range N/A
ISO range (at full resolution) 50 to 25600
Exposure compensation +/-5 EV
White balance auto, 9 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kevlin
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, dynamic range optimisation, noise reduction, colour space
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus N/A
Auto-focus modes 19 point
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash N/A
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, HDR, panorama

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Reviews | DSLRs