Sony officially took the wraps off its long awaited new full-frame DSLR, the a99, combining the advantages of a full-frame image sensor with the speed of Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology. Sony also updated its NEX line with the new NEX-6, a camera that puts to rest any complaints about the NEX-7.
The New Full-Frame a99
The flagship a99 model combines a new 24.3 effective megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor with the latest BIONZ image processing engine to deliver a combination of image quality and shooting speed both for still and video shooting. The image sensor uses a separate multi-segment optional low-pass filter for improved resolving power. The BIONZ processor also gives the ?99 model a maximum sensitivity range (in expanded sensitivity mode) as wide as ISO50 to 25600 -- a range of nine F-stops. In addition, the camera is able to shoot a burst of images at up to six frames per second at full resolution or up to 10 fps in a cropped high speed shooting mode.
The new a99 features a unique dual AF system, a first for Sony and for the digital camera industry. The camera's main focusing system -- a 19-point AF system with 11 cross-type sensors -- is complemented by a 102-point focal plane phase-detection AF sensor overlaying the main image sensor. Thanks to Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology, light is passed to both phase-detection AF sensors simultaneously and continually, meaning the a99 should deliver ultra-fast, accurate autofocus that tracks your subject and maintains focus even if a subject temporarily leaves the frame.
The AF-D (depth) continuous autofocus mode utilizes the Dual AF system for wider and more dense coverage of the frame, helping improve AF with fast or erratically moving subjects against complex backgrounds. A new AF range control allows photographers to manually select foreground and background distances to which the AF system will not respond, making it easier to photograph fast moving sports or animals without the lens "racking focus" between macro and infinity.
Of course, no modern DSLR would be complete without a list of impressive video capabilities ... and the a99 is no exception. The new a99 is the first full-frame DSLR to offer Full HD 60p/24p progressive video recording to meet AVCHD Version 2.0 specifications and Full-time Continuous AF Movie mode, allowing smooth, non-stop tracking of moving subjects. Other enhancements include real-time Full HD video output via HDMI, and uninterrupted "dual-card" recording using both of the camera's memory card slots.
The camera's audio features include an audio level display and adjustable audio record levels joined by a headphone jack for monitoring audio on location. Additionally, the multi-interface shoe provides balance audio input for the optional XLR-K1M adaptor kit, which adds a mono shotgun microphone and pro-standard XLR connections for dependable audio acquisition.
The camera's XGA OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage on the viewfinder screen and will also maintain a 100% field of view with DT lenses that are optimized for APS-C sensor cameras, converting the angle of view automatically for image recording and display.
In addition to the EVF, a three-way tiltable 1229k-dot (VGA equivalent) XtraFine LCD display with WhiteMagic technology to boost overall screen brightness.
Lastly, the camera is weather-sealed and all buttons and controls have been ruggedized. A redesigned shutter block, tested to approximately 200,000 releases, further ensures the camera's long-term reliability.
The full-frame imaging capabilities of the a99 camera make it an ideal partner for the new 300mm F2.8 G SSM II (SAL300F28G2) lens. Designed for sports and wildlife applications, this bright super-telephoto offers a new optical design and handling compared with its predecessor. The Sony-developed Nano AR Coating reduces flare and ghosting, producing enhanced contrast. A new LSI drive circuit offers faster, more accurate autofocus with enhanced subject tracking. The new lens is also dust- and moisture-resistant for just about any outdoor shooting assignment.
Pricing and Availability
The a99 full-frame digital system camera will be available this October as body-only for about $2,800.
The SAL300GF28G2 lens will be available this November for about $7,500.
The new camera, lenses and all compatible accessories will be sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.
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