Description image

Is the Sony A99 the Best Full-Frame Camera for Video?

10.9.12 @ 9:15AM Tags : , , , , , , ,

Announced along with a hundred other cameras from Sony (including a full-frame mirrorless camera), the new A99 SLT full-frame camera is an attempt to take the reigns in the small camera race in both still photography and video. The specs are certainly there, with a 24 megapixel sensor and uncompressed HDMI, but as we know, specs don’t always tell the whole story. Johnnie Behiri, a BBC freelance cameraman/editor (among other things), got a chance to test out the camera and has given us some test videos along with his impressions.

Thanks to cinema5D, here is the gear setup for the videos below:

Video configuration in this video:
1080/25p, Creative style-Netural


Lenses used:
Sony 28-75mm f2.8 SAM
Zeiss Sonnar 135mm f1.8
Sony 70-200mm f2.8


More reactions from Johnnie:

Spending a day with the Sony A99 left me with mixed emotions. Sony listened very carefully to some of our need as documentary run&gun shooters but failed short delivering the “ultimate” picture….Why having aliasing and moiré in an advanced generation of HDSLR is beyond my understanding. By having the camera for a day, my aim was to simulate “true to life” short feature assignment. In this short video sample no lights were used, the footage was not color corrected, ambient sound was recorded with the built in camera stereo mics and the interview/voiceover was recorded with Sony’s new XLR adapter the $800 XLR-K1M.

So it’s clear the camera has a little bit of aliasing and moire, but any full-frame camera under $3,000 with these kinds of specs is usually going to have some sort of tradeoff. The softer Canon 5D Mark III is still the only full-frame camera without aliasing and moire, but that camera lacks a clean HDMI — something the less expensive Nikon D800 and this camera both have. The A99 does have quite a few positives, however, like 1080p 60fps, peaking, controlling audio while recording (which the Nikon D800 does not have), and a quality EVF and a moveable LCD (which neither the Mark III nor the D800 have).

We’ve already mentioned the aliasing and moire, but the camera also does not have a histogram or zoom function, and according to Johnnie, the audio meters do not have dB levels, and there is no indication when you’ve clipped audio. Aside from those few flaws, it’s got a lot going for it, but the only thing that has always prevented me from getting behind these Alpha mount cameras from Sony is the lack of compatibility — which, to be fair, is not too disimilar from Canon or Nikon, but there are a lot more relatively inexpensive — but excellent performing — Canon and Nikon lenses floating around. If taking pictures is less of a priority, the new Sony NEX-VG900 will have similar video performance to this camera (since they share the same sensor), and it’s also capable of taking still photos. It’s about $600 more expensive, but it has Sony’s E-mount, instead of the A-mount, so it can be adapted to most lenses out there — not to mention it includes an A-mount adapter with full lens controls, so you get the best of both worlds.

Johnnie also mentions the XLR adapter for the A99:

This kit transforms the audio section of the camera to a more professional machine and is a very welcome aid to the professional shooter. It’s a pity Sony chose to sale this kit for $800. A moderate price would have done justice to this product bringing it within reach of many more people. Functionality wise, I have no clue why Sony decided not to connect the kit directly to the hot shoe and instead designed a wire out of the kit to be connected to the shoe leaving no place for the kit itself to be connected on top of the camera….

Sony still hasn’t introduced a “perfect” low-priced camera, but since they have great video options like the FS100 and FS700 right above (and still below $10,000), it’s not likely that will happen anytime soon. There is definitely a lot of dynamic range in this camera, so if you’re trying to make a film with it, the DR and the clean HDMI should allow you to have a very gradable image.

What do you guys think? If you’re already invested in Sony lenses, will this be your next camera? If you a Nikon or Canon owner, might this sway you to the Sony side?


[via cinema5D]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 24 COMMENTS

  • Question, then a comment: I remember on the last generation of Sony DSLR, the camera either wasn’t able to manual focus or had automatic focus and you couldn’t choose when/how the lens would focus? any update on whether or not that’s the same?

    Other than that, it seems decent enough. I don’t know that it’s going to take any share away from the competition but seems like it could be a viable option to people looking for their first camera? My uncle is a still photographer for fun and uses only Sony since growing up he shot on Konica/Minolta lenses, which apparently all fit on his Sony DSLR.

    • Dont know where youve gotten that totall BS info. All sony’s can manually focus..theres a switch on the camera to turn af off. And if you do decide to gi af on video, they work very well. There are focus points that illuminate to tell you where the focus is fonna go.

  • as i canon c300 owner, after i watched 3 of them. i can say its a good alternative for sony lenses owner. and also who wants to start that kind of run&gun shooting and looking a buy a camera. But otherwise Sony needs to do much more than this for dslr users.

  • I´ve pre ordered it, I already own the A77 and shot quite some stuff with it – but this was a decision without having to think about it as I already own the stills-only Minolta 7D, the “analog” Dynax 9xi, Dynax 800si and 30 lenses from 3 decades old to brand new…this baby`s gonna kick asses together with an Atomos 2 I`m already planning to get, too!

  • Hey Joe
    I see you mention the clean HDMI out…. I have seen the video by Ron Adair comparing the Nikon D800 internal and Atomos Ninja external recording, I can see the difference between the two, but I think most average people wont notice. So I am wondering if it really is worth the extra cost, both for the recorder and heavier post workflow/storage? and especially considering that your opportunity cost is no or little moire and aliasing on the 5Dmk3…. So I guess my question is, is clean HDMI out really such a big deal?

    • It really depends on what you’re doing, if you’re color grading, clean HDMI is going to be a big deal, because your image will hold together a lot longer before breaking apart. If you’re making films I think it’s definitely worth it, because you can squeeze the most quality possible out of the camera. If you’re doing minimal color grading, or none at all, it may not make too much of a difference.

      So really it’s not a question of people noticing, there isn’t really too much of a visible difference just looking at the uncompressed and compressed files (since the encoders are so good), but once you start pushing and pulling the image, it’s going to make your life easier having that extra color space, not to mention if you’re doing green screen work, you’ll be able to pull a better key.

    • You can’t. Apple doesn’t allow DLNA content with iTunes, you must be using Windows Media Player in Windows. Apple has never been an open socure for media sharing. I have a Mac, but I also have windows vista on bootcamp so windows runs natively on my Mac.

  • I use an FS100 at work if sony came out with an E mount version and an Anti aliase filter I would get it in a heart beat.

  • Still waiting for a extreme low light/high iso test in comparison to the 5D and D800. That would be the deal breaker for me. If the low light performance isn’t at the very least on par with a 5D mark ii then why even bother with aSony full frame? As I’ve said before, the majority of the goodies on this camera are also in a much lower cost A57 (APS-C).

    • Rent both cameras. DIY!

      • Lol, fair enough. But sadly the a99 isn’t avaible to rent yet and I’m really debating to either pick up the A57 now (for a much needed B-Camera) or wait and save for a full frame camera. The cost of renting those 3 cameras a for day or two would equal the amount of money I would pay for an A57.

  • john jeffreys on 10.9.12 @ 2:15PM

    “no lights were used, the footage was not color corrected, ambient sound was recorded with the built in camera stereo mics”

    So pretty much he shot it like a fucking high school student. This is why DSLR’s have a bad stigma, guys.

    • Nathan Carr on 10.9.12 @ 2:37PM

      agree 100%

    • It’s a test so you can see close to what you’d be getting out of the camera.

      In other news, you can shoot great images without lights! Just ask Jeff Cronenweth, Emmanuel Lubezki, or pretty much any other DP that you may respect.

      • this is not close, not by far. I was quite shocked to see how awful it looked compared to an unprocessed shot I did last year just days after I got my A77 which I coincidentally found on my harddrive today, he must`ve done something really awful with the file to get such a “wrong” image.

      • john jeffreys on 10.9.12 @ 5:36PM



        • Are all caps a side effect?

          “you can shoot great images without lights!” – didn’t say they don’t use lights, rather that you can, and I’ll quote it again, “shoot great images without lights!” Besides, if DP’s never had to use lights, I’d be out of luck as I’m a juicer.

    • Joe Marine on 10.9.12 @ 5:27PM

      He was shooting it like a news segment – maybe I forgot to add that part in – but since he’s a BBC shooter, that makes perfect sense.