Is the Sony A99 the Best Full-Frame Camera for Video?
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
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/50980422
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/50982162
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?
- Sony SLT-A99 Digital Camera (Body Only) -- B&H
- Sony XLR Adapter/Microphone Kit -- B&H
- Johnnie Behiri -- Website
- Johnnie Behiri -- Vimeo