Sony E-Mount Lens Guide Here >>

Sony A99 II – First Impressions and a Few Quick Sample Photos

Sony A99 II and 100-400mm G SSm II Lens

The Sony A99 II has officially showed up to the lab and I did my normal 360 degree turn table recording of all the gear. I held the A99 II for some time and I can honestly say its an amazing camera design! It has everything I want in a camera body. The fully articulating screen on the back is awesome and why can’t this be included on the new Sony A9 I can’t help but wonder?

The build quality of the Sony A99 II is excellent! The port doors are really well designed and they actually soft lock open so they don’t close awkwardly or get in your way when connecting cables and stuff. The battery door automatically locks closed as it should, and the amount of physical buttons on this camera are astounding!

The top of the camera has the LCD screen which illuminates for dark shooting situations and I really like that feature.
In hand the camera feels awesome. Very solid and not near as heavy as I was expecting! It’s actually smaller than I was expecting as well which is worth noting.

The grip feels fantastic with all the little finger groves and the shutter actuator sounds serious!
The autofocus on the A99 II is so insanely fast and accurate it’s almost scary! The AF was set to AF-A mode when I started using it which stands for Auto pretty much. So if the camera sees movement, it will switch to AF-C (continuous) automatically which happened to me while playing around. You can then see the af points jumping around tracking the subject like a fierce predator… I was amazed by this when it happened, and could not help but feel giddy in the moment 🙂
My Sony A99 II Review is Now Up Here >>

Sony A99 II - Mirror Exposed

A99 II frontal minus the sensor… 

After using the camera for a few minutes I noticed that the thumb nob was not responding 100% of the time. I think I read that in a review a while back, and I’m kinda surprised by this. I will play with the camera a lot more, so don’t worry as I will report on this more if it continues to happen.
Overall the camera just feels great in hand. I really can’t help but wonder why I wanted a mirrorless camera so bad, but then I remembered about the size and weight differences once I picked up my Nex-6. That camera feels like a piece of paper compared to the A99 II. Compared to the A9 however, it’s not really that much of a different.
A99 II full frontal

I have the Sony Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM II Lens and Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens to play with on the Sony A99 II, so this really should be a eye opening review cycle for me. I have not reviewed a DSLR in a long time!

A Few Sample Photos

On the way to work today I stopped at the Basha Kill, because the light was pretty darn awesome, and I snapped a few frames. Here is one photo I just processed using the HDR Efex Pro software that google offers for Free here >>
I took 3 frames at 3ev apart using the bracketing feature for reference, and was shooting at 16mm, f/11 with the killer ultra wide angle Sony Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM II Lens

Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens

Basha Kill – HDR and be sure to click this photo for the ~2500px high res version!!

Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ F/11, 16mm

Here is one of Layla I thought looked pretty interesting with the ultra wide angle effect… Man is 16mm on a full frame camera wide!

Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/4, 16mm, 1/100sec
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/4, 16mm, 1/100sec
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/4, 16mm, 1/320sec
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/4, 16mm, 1/320sec

My car was just asking for a portrait!

Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/5.6, 16mm, 1/200sec

The paw print air fresher thru the front windshield of my car came out pretty interesting.

Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 800
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 800

And another in my driveway…. I was amazed at how close I could get to the car and still fit in the peak of the house roof! I was about 2-3 feet from the car bumper I would say.

Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/2.8, 16mm, 1/640sec
Sony A99 II w/ 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens @ f/2.8, 16mm, 1/640sec

I also took a few snaps with the Sony A99 II and Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens

Sony A99 II w/ Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens
Sony A99 II w/ Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II Lens

The moon was out during the day and I just pointed and shot. I cropped this image a bit, because as you can imagine, it was way smaller in the original image. I did not enlarge the image, just cropped in a bit in Lightroom, to be clear.

Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/500sec
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/500sec

Jase with some killer 400mm separation.. I love the way portraits look when using a lens like this! Now imagine under exposing the background by about 1 full stop and then using an off camera flash to brighten up Jase! Now that would just be an incredible frame, and what I used to do in my Pro days all the time… Under exposing the background and illuminating the subject with an off camera flash light source creates the most incredible 3d pop ever!

Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 640
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 640

A layering scene and this lens is absolutely razor sharp!

Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 70mm, 1/160sec, ISO 100
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 200
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 200

A flower on the deck.

Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 1000
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 1000
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 1600
Sony A99 II w/ 70-400 G II OSS Lens @ f/5.6, 400mm, 1/400sec, ISO 1600

Closing Remarks

I know this is just a first impressions type article and all, but clearly you can see the image quality is incredible coming off this camera and lens combos. I really can’t wait to get some more photos of stuff. I feel like a kid with a new toy and I have not felt so excited about a camera in a while! Granted I was definitely excited about the Sony A9, don’t get me wrong, but not like this.

Honestly I feel like the Sony A9 is way to expensive when comparing to the A99 II, and I can’t help but wonder why Sony left out so many features. These must have camera body and design features are all available on the A99 II and it’s $1300 less than the A9? So why does the A9 not have the fully articulating lcd screen on the back? Clearly Sony has the ability to put it on, but they chose not to. The port doors could have been made like the A99 II, but they chose to make them significantly less good for whatever reason. Why? I could see if the camera cost less, but it costs way more!

I really am feeling like I caught up in the mirrorless craze and completely forgot how awesome a DSLR really is. It’s better in almost every way, other than the weight I suppose, but even that is not an issue really anymore. I’m just speaking off the cuff here, so bare with me.
My mirrorless camera craze started with the Nex-C3 and the size to weight ration was insane considering the image quality. Then the ability to attach any lens was just incredible to me. I was hooked!!
Shortly after that I purchased the Nex-6 and I absolutely love the camera and still use it today for all my lab filming footage. It’s an awesome camera, but is missing all those killer DSLR features… Ever since then I basically wanted a DSLR in the size of the Mirrorless Nex-6. Well, that never really happened. Then the full frame mirrorless came out and I ended up getting the A7r, which is awesome, but suffers from all the same short comings as the Nex-6 really. It has very limited physical buttons, horrible battery life, and the Auto Focus is not very good. However, it’s awesome for attaching old school vintage glass and any other type of lens for that matter. The image quality is also stellar on the A7r!

So now after getting the A99 II I’m thinking I have been fooled by the mirrorless phenomenon. If the advantage is size and weight, then why do the camera bodies keep getting larger and heavier? If it’s just for using old school lenses for fun, then I really don’t need all the pro features that a DSLR like the Sony A99 II provides..
So then I go back to the Sony A9 and ask myself did Sony go to far? $4500 for a camera that does have awesome autofocus, great video, and great battery life, but still lacks a ton of physical features when compared to the much cheaper A99 II. The quality E-mount lenses are just as expensive as the A-Mount lenses, so I’m not really saving there either.

Well, I think I’m officially babbling at this point, so I will cut this off for now 😉
That is it for this article and overall my first impressions are the A99 II is an amazing camera and I would totally recommend it over the Sony A9 if you are a Pro Photographer! I know that might sound odd coming from me, but I clearly should have reviewed the A99 II a long time ago… I still have a ton of time with the A99 II, so stay tuned as I put it and the lenses thru the SonyAlphaLab style review process.. I plan on pumping out articles like crazy, similar to the Sony A9 coverage last month..

Gear used for this article:

  1. I am an earlier adopter of the Sony A7r as well. I fell in love with the Sony Nex 7 that I had purchased to use a s a travel camera. When I found that I could not tell a difference between the shots I was getting from my huge, by comparison, Canon 5D, I sold all my Canon stuff and made the move to Sony. I own 2 of the A7r bodies and a couple of the early e-mount lenses, however, while I applaud Sony’s expansion of the E-M lens models, I just can’t justify the prices of the new Sony glass… They are all very tempting in terms of specs, however, I can’t justify $2500 per lens for my hobby. So, I have been making do by buying a bunch of vintage Konica Hexanon and Minota glass. Most of what I use is manual focus Konica Hexanon glass from the 1980s. I have a couple of Minolta zooms that allow me to have auto focus for shots at family events etc. All in all, my system works well for me. My average cost for my glass is well under $300 per lens. I recently bought a 40mm Konica Hexanon lens for $60.00… This lens is reported to be the sharpest lenses ever made for 35mm cameras. Can’t beat this. Thank you Sony for making a great camera body that I can adapt to use these great old vintage lenses on this fantastic body and thank you Jay for your site. I look forward to all your posts. I jump on there immediately when I get your email announcing a new article.

    1. Hi Steve and thank you so much for your awesome comments 🙂 I hear exactly what your saying and can totally relate! The new pro oriented lenses are priced so high, it is just not possible for somebody in my position to afford. That leaves the option that you are doing, which is awesome, or adapting Canon pro lenses which is what I do occasionally. I find using my Nex-6 with the 55-210mm yields results that are good enough for family outings and stuff like that. One huge perk of review gear is I get my hands on the best stuff all the time, and never have to actually purchase it. I am super fortunate to have that ability and I take full advantage getting updated killer frames of the kids and my favorite landscape scenes etc… I kind of have it both ways, where I get to use the Pro gear, but don’t have to pay for it. I only get it for a short period of time though, and have to plan ahead significantly if I want something specific for a specific purpose. Last year for example I got the FDR-AX100 4k camcorder (Review Here), because I wanted to film my daughters dance recital in good quality, so it worked out really well 🙂
      Honestly, now I wanted the A99 II to replace my clearly outdate, but still awesome Canon 5d Mark II… Changing out all the lenses is such a pain in the butt though, I just don’t want to bother.
      Thanks again for all the kind words and please don’t be a stranger! I really appreciate the comments and have a great day 🙂

  2. Jay,
    I just saw your A99II posts, and as a former E-Mount user (NEX-5R) and Micro 4/3 user (Panasonic GH2, then an Olympus EM1), I heartily agree. I just recently moved from the A77II (a sweet camera) to the A99II, and it’s just awesome!! The A99II is the exact same size as the A77II, but is heavier, and can use the battery grip of the A77II (very nice!). I really love the portraits from my A99II, esp with Sony-Zeiss 50mm F1.4

    1. Hi Basil and thank you very much for the comments 🙂 I’m glad Sony decided to make the A99 II a little smaller and as it turns out the same size as the A77 II. Smart move and I totally agree it is an awesome camera! I’m still playing with the A99 II as I try and polish my full written review which is in the works… I would like the try out that 50mm f/1.4 lens for sure, but have not had the pleasure just yet…
      Thanks again,

      1. Hi Jay
        I really appreciate your reviews so I am making it a point to visit your page.
        I opted for the Sigma 24-105mm F4 over the Sony 24-70 F2.8, partly to save funds for primes, and because I love the Sigma Art lenses (I just sold my 18-35 F1.8). On the A99II, it’s a sweet lens. The longer focal length is really handy. OTOH, you are limited in the AF to the 79 point PDAF sensor, not the combined hybrid AF using the 399 (or whatever crazy number) of on-sensor points. It’s not really much of a limitation in practice.
        I have the 50mm F1.4 (got it used for a great price from Crutchfield), and just got a used immaculate copy of the 135mm F1.8 (From Adorama). I’ve just started using it now and OMG, I get it now! What a lens……

  3. Enjoyed reading your post, thanks. I still have a soft spot for A-Mount even though I’ve almost totally moved over to E at this point. I really liked my A99ii when I had it, but my main hang up sticking with the A-Mount system is the lenses – they are outdated and I believe do not technically match the new G Master line.
    How do you feel about the image quality from the A Mount lenses vs what you’ve used on the E Mount Side?
    Sony’s A-Mount cameras are awesome, I really just wish they’d refresh their lens lineup.

    1. Hi Chuck and Great points! What I have noticed so far is that the A-Mount lenses do need to be updated for sure, but the optical quality is astounding! GM level I’m talking about. Another thing I noticed is the distortion control in particular is amazing on the A-Mount 16-35mm lens which I did not expect and would not expect from an E-Mount lens. The E-Mount lenses tend to have more distortion than I would like in general. The 70-400mm lens is absolutely killer optically, but it really needs to have OSS in my opinion. It just doesn’t seam realistic these days to only rely on the sensor stabilization with a lens like that. The build quality is phenomenal on these A-Mount lenses as well, and I would say better than the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens that I recently reviewed Here >>
      The New GM lenses are optically amazing, but they are built with light weight in mind, so they tend to have more plastic in the build. I love the lower weight, but I don’t like the plastic when it comes to how much money the lenses cost, and how good the build quality feels. Metal just feels more durable and ridged, where the plastic although good, does not have that same rock solid feel. I noticed this immediately when I held both A-Mount lenses. They felt like bricks compared to wood or something for a relative “feel” comparison. I know that sounds weird, but I can’t think of another way to describe it. At the end of the day, the optical quality is the most important thing though, and both the E-Mount and A-Mount lenses do offer that. The cost of the GM lenses is really high though, and makes it seam like they should be built with more metal, but the cost of extra weight is just not worth it. So then, perhaps they should be a bit cheaper? And again, to your point, the killer A-Mount lenses need to be updated for sure!
      I really appreciate the comments Chuck and I totally agree with your sediments 😉

      1. I still have the 70-200 G2 and that 70-400 G2, sold off the 24-70 and 16-35. Completely agree on the build quality, still love those A Mount Lenses.
        The selling point of the G Master line was that they were designed with extremely high resolution in mind, like that of the 42MP A7RII. The A99ii uses the same sensor – You don’t notice any degradation in image sharpness or overall quality with the A Mount lenses paired with that 42MP sensor in the A99ii ?
        Appreciate the discussion…

        1. Hi Again Chuck and good points about the resolution. With the two lenses I have now, no I don’t see any loss of detail due to resolution. In fact I see insane sharpness and detail like that of the 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens paired with the A7r II for example. I notice more corner softness on the E-Mount lenses in general, but I have tested a lot more e-mount lenses than the A-Mount lenses. It’s really hard to say conclusively, because I’m using two of the the best A-Mount lenses. Another A-Mount lens I reviewed was the 135mm f/1.8 lens which I reviewed Here >>, and it has draw dropping awesome image quality, but again outdated by todays standards.. The other lens I used was the Sony A-Mount 70-300mm which I reviewed here >> And that lens was more average quality compared to the lenses I have now. That lens was supposedly updated, but the Tamron version is noticeable sharper. I did use that lens with a lens adapter and A7II however, so it’s not exactly the same as it being mounted to an A-Mount camera, although it is close.
          So in general it seams like the Pro A-Mount lenses are top quality optics, but are in need of OSS, updated lens coatings, and focus motors, etc… The E-Mount lenses are similar in that the GM lenses are Pro optical quality, but are also state of the art with OSS and silent focus motors etc.. More optimized for video and so fourth. The G lenses are really good, but a noticeable fall off from the GM lenses in my opinion.
          Sony has it’s work cut out for them if they plan on updating all the A-Mount lenses, that is for sure! I think they will eventually come up with a camera that can support both A and E mount lenses via a sliding sensor assembly unit of some sort. This seams crazy, but once the mirrorless on sensor af is a s good as the A99 II, it makes sense…
          Interesting times for sure and the serious CanoNikon competition is finally starting to catch up with Sony in a number of areas.
          All the best and I also appreciate the discussion, so thanks again!!

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