updated 03:23 pm EDT, Wed September 12, 2012
We go hands on with some of Sony's new full-frame cameras, including the A99
Electronista attended Sony's Toronto event that marked the debut of several key upcoming products. Chief among them were three new cameras the company wanted to focus on, as all featured Sony's 35mm, 24.3-megapixel full-frame Exmor sensor. The long-rumored and much-awaited Alpha 99 was on-hand, which is the new flagship of the Alpha-branded pseudo-DSLR range that also includes the A57, A65, and A77.
Also sharing the in-house developed, full-frame CMOS image sensor will be the new NEX-VG900 flagship camcorder and recently-leaked DSC-RX1 compact. While both were at the event, the latter was tucked away safely behind glass, so we didn't get our mitts on it. The specs were made official, however, along with prices and an approximate release dates.
The sensor measures approximately 36x24mm and is about 2.3 times larger than an APS-C-sized sensor. The sensor allows shooting 1080p video at 60 or 24fps in AVCHD 2.0 formats, though MP4 format can also be selected from within the menu. Outputting full-res video is possible thanks to the HDMI output, allowing simultaneous playback on the big and small screens.
That screen tilts and rotates away from the body thanks to a three-way mechanism. It measures in at three inches and sports Sony's WhiteMagic and TruBlack color technologies. The electronic viewfinder is shared with the A77, NEX-6, and NEX-7. A proximity sensor will turn off the large display and show mostly the same review image and data on the EVF when a user is peeking through it.
A unique feature is the dual AF system that combines the 19-point, phase-detection AF sensor with 11 cross points and the 102-point focal plane phase detection AF sensor.
It also has a redesigned Bionz image processing engine paired with a front-end LSI chip that work together to – for the first time – handle the 14 bits of RAW data from the full-frame sensor. The ISO settings range from 100 to 25,600.
There are dual memory card slots onboard, with users getting full control of either copying folders from one to another, recording to both simultaneously or in series. The main slot can accommodate either an SD card or Memory Stick Pro Duo card while slot 2 can take only a UHS-1-compliant SD card only.
The Alpha 99 uses a magnesium alloy body that is touted to be the world's lightest, at 733 grams. It compares favorably with the A900's 850g mass, the EOS 5D Mark II's 860g weight and the D800's 900g body, Sony said. It also features dust and moisture protection, while the shutter is tested to 200,000 cycles.
The camera is large, though the large lenses attached to the preproduction test units were big and heavy. There is no pop-up flash and the lack of a pentaprism makes for a low profile up top, ahead of the Multi Interface Shoe. Other connections are generous and include a mini USB port, the HDMI output, GPS, headphone and microphone jacks, PC Sync socket, power in, and a remote control jack. Sony will sell an XLR accessory that mounts on the hotshoe, the XLR-K1M, for studio-like sound recording. The add-on may be priced at around $800.
Shooting some test images revealed a very fast camera and a very capable burst mode, though it's officially rated at "just" 6fps. The auto-focusing system is also very capable, with the came surprising us with how quickly it locked onto a subject in an unevenly-lit room, whether in photo or video mode. Some sample photos are embedded below.
Look for our impressions on the other new hardware in another post, due up soon.
The compact RX1 is due to hit Canadian store shelves in December, priced at $3,000 CAD (a price tag of $2,800 was announced for the US, with the same release window).
The NEX-6 that also debuted on Wednesday was at the event. Our hands-on impressions are coming soon and will be available here. It has an APS-C, 16.1-megapixel sensor, however.