In the studio: Sony A99

Sony A99
Over the past few years, Sony has slowly inched into the professional camera market dominated by Canon and Nikon. Last year, the Japanese company launched a few digital single-lens translucent (DSLT) cameras in its Alpha series. Of these the A77 was the best, with a 24.3-megapixel sensor and an electronic viewfinder.

In January 2013, the company launched A99 at Rs 1.8 lakh, its first full-frame DSLT camera. The camera is a successor to the A900, which was launched over four years ago. Since then, Sony has come up with the revolutionary NEX series of cameras that have image quality to rival DSLRs in a very compact and portable body. The A99 marks the company's return to the full-frame camera territory.

Specifications

24-MP full-frame CMOS Sensor

3-inch LCD screen (pull out, tilt, swivel)

OLED electronic viewfinder

ISO range 100-25,600

Can shoot up to 6 frames-per-second with autofocus

Top panel LCD

Microphone and headphone sockets

GPS

14-bit RAW format images

Build and design

The Sony A99 is very sturdy and well-designed. DSLT cameras are generally on the heavier side and anyone upgrading from a compact camera will take quite some time to get used to the weight. The A99 body weighs 730 g, but it felt heavy after attaching the lens that came with the review unit: Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 24-70 mm F2.8. The lens weighs almost 1 kg, taking the total weight of the A99 to 1.7 kg.

When the camera is so heavy, it has to have a set of controls that make shooting easy and the Sony A99 fares very well on that front. On first glance, it may seem like there are too many buttons, but most of them are useful and well-placed.

The top has the shutter button, enclosed by the ring-shaped power switch. Just ahead of that, there is a dial which lets you adjust shutter speed, aperture or ISO (light sensitivity). The placement is excellent and lets you tweak your image quickly before clicking. On the top panel, the A99 also has dedicated buttons to adjust settings like ISO and white balance, along with a dial for switching between various camera modes and an LCD panel that lets you take a quick look at exposure, shutter speed, aperture, etc before clicking. There is a standard flash hotshoe here, which is compatible with most flash accessories in the market.

The back panel has a 3-inch LCD screen that can tilt and swivel, making it useful for composition from low angles. There is another dial at the top-right side of the back panel, just like the one close to the shutter button. Ideally, your thumb will be on this dial and the index finger will be at the one in front. This lets you adjust two settings simultaneously, great for quick shooting. There are lots of standard buttons like menu, function, etc on the back panel. There is a joystick to scroll between options and pictures, which is far better than the scroll buttons in most cameras.

All the ports are on the sides, with the exception of the battery slot at the bottom. The camera has two slots for memory cards. It supports SD, SDHC, SDXC and Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards. It comes with a GPS sensor and supports a headphone and mic (for video recording) and HDMI (to hook it up to TVs or monitors).

The X-factor

Sony's DSLT cameras have an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which cannot be used when the camera is switched off. Many DSLR enthusiasts vouch strongly for an optical viewfinder, but judging by the great performance of the Sony A57 (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/sensory-perception/965553/0), Sony's Alpha series is a serious contender in this field.

In the studio is a column where we record first impressions of review units. The full review will appear in one of the forthcoming editions of Eye magazine (free with your copy of The Sunday Express).

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