Lately it’s been a road of uncertainty for A-mount system users, as Sony remained quiet on specific plans for their DSLR line while making leaps and bounds in the mirrorless world. Today Sony has made their intentions clear by announcing the new Alpha 99 Mark II, a 42.4-megapixel camera with 12 fps continuous shooting, internal UHD 4K video, 399-point autofocus, and 5-axis in-body image stabilization.
With Canon just recently announcing the 5D Mark IV, I believe there was critical timing in this announcement in order to retain the remaining A-mount system users before they gave up and jumped ship for fresher options. Those that did stay loyal to the A-mount seem to be in for quite an update with the new Sony a99 II. Neil Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics, affirmed that a99 II’s “powerful combination of speed and resolution is simply unmatched in today’s market.”
The new A-mount camera features a magnesium alloy body, a redesigned grip, dual SD card slots, and is eight percent smaller than the original Sony a99. Sony defines the camera as being “dust and moisture resistant” by adding sealing around the buttons and dials, a media jack cover, and tongue-and-groove joints for enclosure edges. I really wish they would have made more of a promise in this area to make it an unstoppable outdoors camera and set it apart from the a7 series.
The a99 II uses a back-illuminated full-frame 42.4-megapixel CMOS sensor with a gapless-on-chip design. The ISO range is 100-25,600 with the ability to expand it to 50-102,400. There’s no optical low-pass filter and users now have the option to shoot compressed or uncompressed raw files.
The Sony a99 II features their 4D Focus system, a first in any Sony full-frame camera. It uses a Hybrid Phase Detection autofocus system which combines a 79-point dedicated AF sensor with 399 focal plane phase detection points. According to Sony, the AF system can perform normally in low-light conditions as low as EV-4 if using the central focus point. Like the original Sony a99, there’s the same Translucent Mirror Technology that uses no moving mirror to allow continuous autofocus operation and live image previews in both stills and video shooting.
The new camera can reach speeds of up to 12 frames per second with AF/AE tracking. There’s also continuous live view shooting of speeds up to 8 fps. Sony says that the large buffer of the a99 II allows shots to be reviewed immediately after shooting even if using high-speed 12 fps continuous shooting. This is a common complaint with their mirrorless a7-series cameras, which take a considerable amount of time to clear out the buffer before the user can review anything.
Sony first introduced 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization in their Sony a7 II-series cameras, and now for the first time it will come in an A-mount model. The 5-axis in-body stabilization compensates for movement in all axes and provides a 4.5-step shutter speed advantage.
Another first for an A-series camera is internal 4K video recording with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. The Sony a99 II can record at 100 Mbps in 4K and utilize the whole full-frame sensor. There’s a new “Slow and Quick” mode where frame rates from 1 fps to 120 fps can be selected in 8 steps for up to 60x quick motion and 5x slow motion recording.
The Sony a99 II will ship this November in North America with a price tag of $3,200 USD or $4,000 CA. That's just about exactly the same price as their mirrorless flagship, the Sony a7R II. Pre-ordering will begin on September 21, so current A-mount system users should definitely mark their calendars — the wait is finally over. Sample images can be found in the Sony Photo Gallery.