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Sony A99 II: Mirrorless that Looks Like a DSLR

Get Sony A99 II at B&H Photo.

I’m not keen on the too-small body which squeezes out a Nikon-grade or Canon-grade button and control arrangement (smaller is not a feature when it compromises controls), but the about $3200 Sony A99 II hits the nails on the head that Nikon and Canon are not hammering, namely an EVF and in-body image stabilization. Do Canon and Nikon still think that no DSLR owner never wants an EVF option? Well, presumably the EVF in the Canon M5 will make its way to full frame...some day.

What struck me in looking at the Sony A99 II is that it looks like a DSLR but it is a mirrorless camera—sort of—it still has some DSLR aspects such as conventional AF through a pellicle mirror. So it’s not a real mirrorless camera, but still a hybrid.

Taking the Nikon D810: why isn’t there a Nikon M810 with 42MP or higher-res sensor that dumps the mirror box and other anachronism, and focuses squarely on the promise of mirrorless while remaining compatible with Nikon F-mount lenses. For example, one feature worth its weight in gold is Eye AF, something any wedding or portrait photographer can use to raise the hit rate drastically over a DSLR. I’d bet that a large fraction of Canon and Nikon buyers would surely consider a “Nikon M810” or “Canon EOS 5E”, if only as a powerful complement to the mirror-box DSLRs available today.

It seems likely that there will be a future Sony “A9” E-mount mirrorless that in essence blends the features of the Sony A7R II and the Sony A99 into one new camera that feels more like a DSLR. Heck, Sony could in essence take the A99 II and change the lens mount and be done with it.

Steve K writes:

So glad I kept my A mount Lenses, Now I can order the Nikon Milvus primes and easily convert them using Leitax mounts and will have a real Nikon D810 alternative with a nice EVF…
Good times for A mount folks who could never quite get the big hands around the A7 small body which always bothered me.

DIGLLOYD: LOL—no market for an EVF for Nikon users, eh? Steve K is even willing to modify lenses to get there. It’s insane that CaNikon sit on their hands like this. For that matter the Sigma sd Quattro would be 10X more compelling if offered with Nikon F mount instead of Sigma SA mount.

Stuart H writes:

I read your post and for one minute, I honestly thought that Sony had done the obvious and created a mirrorless camera with a legacy mount and EVF. Then I re-read the press release and realized that it wasn't mirrorless at all, just another camera with their dead-end "SLT" technology. Great, I would really want to shell out on a full frame camera to get APS-C sensor performance. Why didn't they just remove the stupid pellicle mirror - it's a solution to a problem from another age.

DIGLLOYD: fooled me too. It’s still a hybrid camera, albeit one with EVF and IBIS.

Mark V writes:

Regarding your post about the Sony A99 II, and why it retains the SLT design, I’m guessing that it has to do with the superior AF performance Sony can get using the dual, or hybrid, AF system. Mirrorless cameras continue to have issues with AF in lower light, particularly with slower lenses, when compared to more “traditional” AF systems in DSLRs. Additionally, tracking performance in mirrorless cameras is not up to DSLR standards, at least with respect to higher end DSLR AF performance (e.g., Canon and Nikon). While all I know about the A99II is what I have read, including Sony’s claims for the camera, the new AF system in the A99II is said to offer the best of both worlds - on sensor PDAF and more traditional systems with a separate AF sensor array. I would expect lenses like Sony’s 70-400, 500/4, and other A-mount slower, longer telephoto lenses to perform far better on the A99II than they do on the A7RII with either adapter.

I also would expect the rumored A9 camera not to have such a hybrid AF system, but hopefully will be a larger camera than the current A7 series, so Sony can incorporate a dedicated control for manually selecting AF sensors, a larger battery (perhaps the same as the DSLT cameras), dual card slots and other ergonomic improvements or features that a larger camera can provide over the A7 sized cameras.

Like you, I am not a fan of the smaller cameras primarily for ergonomic reasons. There is a fairly significant imbalance when shooting with bigger telephoto lenses (which I have). As a current A99 user the A99II is the camera I was generally waiting for, though I do remain interested in what the A9 might be if/when it gets announced. It may very well be an A99II in E-mount, though obviously the body will need to get much thinner.😊 However, I suspect that Sony might want to create something that has a greater differentiation from the A7RII than just the larger body and some ergonomic “enhancements." What that might be I have no clue other than the next generation in on-sensor AF technology (and higher MP, or lower MP but improved high ISO performance and speed?).

DIGLLOYD: I’m not sure tracking performance will remain inferior to DSLRs much longer, given the dual-pixel sensor design of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, which has both phase and contrast detect AF, and is not a DSLR—I think I have that right.

I agree on size: make it as small as possible but not too small. The A7R II is too small in that the buttons are compromised because the body size won’t allow for better ones.

What I want to see in a theoretical Sony “A9R” is ultra high image quality of at least 50 megapixels, extreme dynamic range (all sorts of possibilities for how that could be done), Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift option. Fast AF for tracking is all well and good... and I don’t care much at all about it. I would accept 36 to 50 megapixels so long as the pixels were true RGB pixels, because the Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift results set the standard for extreme pixel quality.

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