Re-visit Sony A99 Mark ii (Part 1)

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The first question is: Why A99ii? Before I make my decision, I have been considering several factors seriously. Although it is not a perfect camera to look for, this new camera should be able to enrich my user experience by enabling me to do my work smoothly and, most importantly, happily.

1.) Positioning
A99ii is a combination of A77ii and A7Rii, the former one has been proved to be excel in action shooting while the later one is renowned for her image quality. The positioning of A99ii is a multi-purpose camera which suits the need of professional as well as prosumer.

Personally I still prefer D500 for action shooting i.e. Bird and sport while I need a second body for daily use. Hopefully that can be quick enough to focus, easy to handle and most importantly produce superb image with high pixel count.

Here it comes the A99 Mark II

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First of all, even A99ii is my choice, I won’t say it is perfect. There are pros and cons of each model however I will rather consider the camera as a part of my photography system. There are a bunch of factors such as function, lens, handling and price etc to be considered.

2.) Lens choice
Considering size and weight: Fast E mount Zoom lens, e.g. Sony GM 24-70 f2.8, shares no advantage in size and weight compared to her DSLR counterparts. Therefore I use to attach prime lens only on my A7RII. Also I feel kinda weird to attach a big lens on a small A7RII body, that makes the combo so bulky (as DSLR) and difficult to handle (balance).

Price is also another hindering factor which you can see the price tag of latest Sony E mount lens is 30% – 50% higher than other lens which share the same spec. It seems this pricing strategy will continue endlessly.

Although Sony E mount family is growing quickly, I expect a few more years to come before the E mount system is mature. On the other hand, the A mount system has been developed more than a decade ago therefore the availability and variety of A mount lens, including Sony Native and third party lens, are superior than E mount. Some of the A mount lens stills performs pretty well with superb image quality, e.g. Sony Zeiss 135mm f1.8, you can find them in second hand market asking for only 50% of the Sony E mount lens with similar spec. However the development of A mount is apparently stopped when Sony has focused on A7 production. Worry is growing whether new A mount lens will be produced, or…

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3.) Live view, flip monitor
The first feature of a99ii comes to my mind is “Flip live view monitor”. What? I use to shoot kids and dogs and low angel shot can help to illustrate the world from their perspective. After years of shooting, I can only say the flip live view simply makes life much easier. Most DSLR like D500 also has flip live view monitor however when shifting to live view mode e.g. in D500, the AF performance is significantly dropped, that is just not capable to freeze a running kid.

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4.) Focus linked spot metering
When shooting a fast moving subject, Soccer game for example, the players will shift their position abruptly. Therefore the tradition mode of metering, e.g. Matix, centre or spot, can sometime fail to give an accurate exposure especially in contrast lighting. The focus linked spot metering can make sure the focus point is properly exposed. This feature has saved many precious pictures of my kid. This focus linked spot metering function has been incorporated in the latest Model Sony A9 but not A7RII.

5.) AF performance
A99ii adopts the Hybrid AF system which combines the design of A77ii (79 dedicated phase detection points) and A7Rii (399 focus plane phase detection point)

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The hybrid design leads to extensive coverage of AF point (especially cross-type), that significantly enhances AF capacity of A99ii. After months of practical usage, I am confident to say that A99ii is generally capable to capture fast moving subject although D500 stills prevails in this area.

The outstanding AF capability is a distinctive feature of A99ii which makes it outperform his elder brother A7RII. Both of them share the same high quality 42MP sensor but A99ii gives you a higher opportunity to capture an action scene. Besides, D500 which is excellent in sport shooting, only processes a 20.9 mega pixel sensor while A99ii gives you more than double of pixel count.  higher pixel count does not necessarily means better image quality but it certain enables your capacity to make large print and post processing.

Unfortunately the hybrid AF system only works on Sony native lens, if you are using third party lens you can only access the 79-points dedicated AF system (same as A77ii) and her AF capacity is halved.

The continuous AF tracking ability also depends on the lens you use. If you want to unleash the full potential of A99ii (12fps tracking), you will need (1)Sony native lens and (2) Set aperture to f/3.5 or lower f value.

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So is it capable to track action scene? I will show you same samples in Part II.

To be continued

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