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Author Topic: Michael Reichmann's Sony Alpha 99 test - some reflections  (Read 6036 times)
ErikKaffehr
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« on: October 07, 2012, 06:49:37 PM »
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Hi,

I was looking forward to Michael Reichmann's test of the Sony Alpha, as I presumed that I could base my decision to buy or not on his impressions.

My take is that Michael has found that there are significant improvements over the Alpha 900 in the noise related department, like high ISO noise and in probability DR. Michael is also right that DxO will in due turn publish the corresponding lab data.

My understanding is that the EVF is the same as on the Alpha 77 SLT. I have very mixed feelings about that EVF, I both love it and hate it.

It can be used i two modes. One mode is showing image effects, like it lightens up and darkens with exposure. In many cases it is a good thing, but in many cases it makes things worse. I really would like a real switch to flip between the two modes.

On the A77 at least Sony adds insult to injury in that that they live view histogram only shows exposure based data in the viewfinder is in image effects mode. Perhaps the Alpha 99 fixed it? I guess I need to play with the camera to find out.

Can histogram be shown simultaneously with electronic level? Not on the A77, have they fixed that on the Alpha 99?

In my view, electronic viewfinders are the future, but they need to improve.

So, am I going to buy the Alpha 900? Well, maybe. At this time I may feel that it would have been smarter to ditch Sony and go for the excellent Nikon D800 (with or without the E), unfortunately I didn't do that. What I'm lacking mostly on the Alpha 900 is live view, my Alpha 77 offers that.

In my view, Michaels review was a good and honest one.

Best regards
Erik

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kirktuck
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2012, 06:55:21 PM »
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I also thought MR's review was quite balanced. I come down in favor of EVFs and have switched over to using Sony a77's and Nex-7 cameras for the vast majority of my non-film work. While I understand the idea of visual clarity with the OVF I'm partial to the ability to "pre-chimp" with the EVF and I've found it very efficient and useful in my work. I think of it as 100% on, real time live view. I do agree with Erik that the information in the finder could stand to be made more configurable by the user.  Although it is a simple matter to switch display modes via the external "display" button.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2012, 07:00:34 PM »
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Hi,

Well, yes, problem is that I really want both functions all the time.

Another issue on the SLT A77 I have is that I really want to have instant review on the LCD but not in the electronic viewfinder.

Best regards
Erik


 Although it is a simple matter to switch display modes via the external "display" button.
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Hulyss
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2012, 09:16:36 AM »
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I absolutely agree with Michael review and insistence on EVF problem. I'm less ... correct with what I judge lousy techno way. Sony with EVF in reflex camera is lousy, big times. EVF is the deepest st I ever seen on a reflex sized camera. EVF kill the mere essence of what is a 24x36 reflex.

EVF is a crime against photography.

Without wrapping my words in honey: SONY ALPHA 99 is a fail, as well as the whole platform now.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 09:39:27 AM by Hulyss » Logged

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thierrylegros396
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2012, 10:56:38 AM »
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I absolutely agree with Michael review and insistence on EVF problem. I'm less ... correct with what I judge lousy techno way. Sony with EVF in reflex camera is lousy, big times. EVF is the deepest st I ever seen on a reflex sized camera. EVF kill the mere essence of what is a 24x36 reflex.

EVF is a crime against photography.

Without wrapping my words in honey: SONY ALPHA 99 is a fail, as well as the whole platform now.

As Erik says, tomorrow will deserve us better EVF.

But they are also positive things with EVF, because it shows you images with limited DR.

OK, too limited in some cases Wink Wink
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2012, 11:12:23 AM »
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Hi,

I shot both my A77 and A900 yesterday. In my humble opinion thee advantages to both. On static subjects I essentially use live view for focusing. The optical viewfinder does not have the precision for accurate focusing. It is not working very well with tilt and shift. The EVF gives you some idea about reproduction while OVF does not.

In my view, it is a mixed bag. EVF is sometimes better and other times OVF is better. EVF causes no vibrations.

Best regards
Erik


As Erik says, tomorrow will deserve us better EVF.

But they are also positive things with EVF, because it shows you images with limited DR.

OK, too limited in some cases Wink Wink
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AFairley
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« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2012, 11:19:01 AM »
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But they are also positive things with EVF, because it shows you images with limited DR.

I was about to make this point, but Thierry beat me to it.  That said, the problem that at times what looks good in the OVF will never going to work as a print because you are never going to be able to bring out the shadow detail the OVF shows (without resorting to HDR) is becoming less and less of a problem with the improved DR of newer cameras.
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2012, 12:19:53 PM »
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I've personally got a ton of cash tied up in Sony/Minolta gear and am on the fence for the a99. I was patiently waiting for a Sony FF replacement to get the video, low light and AF features that the a900 lacked.

EVF as it exists right now seems underdeveloped from a resolution perspective. I imagine there will be a day in the not so distant future that we will be looking at EVF's that have 4k resolution with high dynamic range and can be used in any light condition rendering them near visual equal of OVF. But that technology is not here yet and I worry about investing in something that comes up short compared to OVF technology.

I also agree with Michael that at almost $2800 USD the a99 is overpriced. In interviews 3-4 years ago Sony was touting the EVF technology as a way to save on mirror and pentaprism costs and then passing those costs on to the consumer. How they priced the a77 should have been a clue that the a99 was going to be overpriced. I cannot see them selling these a99's at the current price point. Who is the market for this camera? It's not a pro shooter with a catalog of Nikon/Canon stuff. It's not the advanced amateur that already owns Nikon or Canon lenses. It's not someone new to photography. It's not someone looking to get into FF for the first time as that person will choose either the 6D or D600 because the price is the driver to that buyer. The market is the guy that owns an A700 or A900 and wants to go FF EVF and that is a very small market.
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allegretto
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2012, 12:28:31 PM »
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At this time I may feel that it would have been smarter to ditch Sony and go for the excellent Nikon D800 (with or without the E)



Erik,

you've forgotten more about digital photography than I know, so please don't take this wrong

but when considering IQ, DR and versatility of the System, you are right about this observation.

I went with a D4 since in my world it is even better. I take very few pics where the D800e's image would be more desirable and many where the D4 has the upper hand. But Wow, what a camera.

One more observation coming from owning an A77 and Zeiss glass for a year; the Nikon AF system is in another league. Having used Leica M and S as well as the Sony, it was noticeable how many times the intended subject was not the point of focus. That is not the case with the Nikon. Now it approaches certainty that some here are better artists than me, but it is hard to not have perfect focus with the Nikon. WYS is WYG

just $0.02
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2012, 12:38:53 PM »
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Erik,

you've forgotten more about digital photography than I know, so please don't take this wrong

but when considering IQ, DR and versatility of the System, you are right about this observation.


The Sony 24MP cameras can be used very effectively handheld due to no mirror slap, electronic first curtain shutter, and built-in stabilization.

If you like sharp handheld images in addition to tripod work, the Alphas are almost impossible to beat.

If you only shoot on a tripod using MLU, the Nikon D800(E) has some advantages, at a very significant increase in price.
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allegretto
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2012, 12:50:17 PM »
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maybe my hands are more steady than yours... Grin

seriously, my D4 images blow away my A77's. There are of course many possible reasons, but that's what I see on the monitor. Perhaps the A99 has a very improved sensor, but the A77 (as the NEX) are quite grainy and it bothered me

Further, even Michael's review was revealing. Now I would have to see a Nikon image next to it at similar settings/focal length etc. but am I the only one that sees a lot of chroma confusion on that black vertical bar next to the color checker? And for that matter, quite a bit of new noise going from 800 to 1600...
« Last Edit: October 08, 2012, 12:53:07 PM by allegretto » Logged
ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2012, 03:34:08 PM »
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Hi,

The main reason that A77 and NEX is grainy is that they collect fewer photons than the full frame sensors. Also, if you look at the image at actual pixels, the A77 image is a good bit larger than the D4 image. I would say that a correct comparison is to compare the Alpha 77 at 50 ISO with the D4 at 200-400 ISO if you compare at actual pixels.

You could also try to compare the A77 image downscaled by bicubic to 3328x2195  pixels. That would compensate for sensor size.

Best regards
Erik



maybe my hands are more steady than yours... Grin

seriously, my D4 images blow away my A77's. There are of course many possible reasons, but that's what I see on the monitor. Perhaps the A99 has a very improved sensor, but the A77 (as the NEX) are quite grainy and it bothered me

Further, even Michael's review was revealing. Now I would have to see a Nikon image next to it at similar settings/focal length etc. but am I the only one that sees a lot of chroma confusion on that black vertical bar next to the color checker? And for that matter, quite a bit of new noise going from 800 to 1600...
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2012, 04:12:42 PM »
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I agree that the A99 is in a strange in-between space as far as high-end cameras go.  In my opinion, MFT and APS-C will become the preferred sensor formats for mirrorless EVF cameras while full frame will retain the optical viewfinder and large body format.  Nikon and Canon may drag their feet before converting their entry-level APS-C cameras to EVF designs, but they will eventually morph into mirrorless EVFs too.

This is the road we are on...

1) LOW-END--Camera phones make digicams (except for ruggedized cams) obsolete (well underway)
2) MID-RANGE--Mirrorless compact interchangable-lens cameras make traditional entry-level APS-C DSLRs obsolete (just starting)
3) HIGH-END--Full-frame DSLRs with optical viewfinders continue to marginalize large format digital backs for all by very arcane applications (just starting)

I don't see how the A99 fits into this hierarchy.  I expect it will will be an oddity with a short life.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2012, 04:26:47 PM »
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Hi,

I'm pretty sure that we won't see DSLRs in a few years. EVF will evolve. The svinging mirror is an awkward innovation to provide WYSWIG information in the viewfinder. So once we get electronic viewfinders that are good enough I'd suggest that the swinging mirror solutions go away, except perhaps in sports. A electronic viewfinder will always have a lag. The swinging mirror has also a lag, naturally.

Now, viewfinders are not there yet. But I'd expect a rapid development.

Best regards
Erik


I agree that the A99 is in a strange in-between space as far as high-end cameras go.  In my opinion, MFT and APS-C will become the preferred sensor formats for mirrorless EVF cameras while full frame will retain the optical viewfinder and large body format.  Nikon and Canon may drag their feet before converting their entry-level APS-C cameras to EVF designs, but they will eventually morph into mirrorless EVFs too.

This is the road we are on...

1) LOW-END--Camera phones make digicams (except for ruggedized cams) obsolete (well underway)
2) MID-RANGE--Mirrorless compact interchangable-lens cameras make traditional entry-level APS-C DSLRs obsolete (just starting)
3) HIGH-END--Full-frame DSLRs with optical viewfinders continue to marginalize large format digital backs for all by very arcane applications (just starting)

I don't see how the A99 fits into this hierarchy.  I expect it will will be an oddity with a short life.
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alain
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« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2012, 04:55:30 PM »
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Hi,

I'm pretty sure that we won't see DSLRs in a few years. EVF will evolve. The svinging mirror is an awkward innovation to provide WYSWIG information in the viewfinder. So once we get electronic viewfinders that are good enough I'd suggest that the swinging mirror solutions go away, except perhaps in sports. A electronic viewfinder will always have a lag. The swinging mirror has also a lag, naturally.

Now, viewfinders are not there yet. But I'd expect a rapid development.

Best regards
Erik

It's a very big disappointment that EVF has not evolved from the 77.  No sign of a fast evolution, rather a grinding halt.
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« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2012, 05:10:52 PM »
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seriously, my D4 images blow away my A77's. There are of course many possible reasons, but that's what I see on the monitor. Perhaps the A99 has a very improved sensor, but the A77 (as the NEX) are quite grainy and it bothered me

My a850/a900 files have higher IQ ("blow away" is likely too strongly put) than my a77 files.  Michael has implied (and perhaps stated, don't remember) that the IQ of the a99 files is significantly improved over the a77.

Comparing the D4 files to the a77's, and extrapolating from there to the a99's, is an exercise that returns no data, and leads to unreliable conclusions.  Imho.
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allegretto
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« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2012, 05:22:10 PM »
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Hi,

The main reason that A77 and NEX is grainy is that they collect fewer photons than the full frame sensors. Also, if you look at the image at actual pixels, the A77 image is a good bit larger than the D4 image. I would say that a correct comparison is to compare the Alpha 77 at 50 ISO with the D4 at 200-400 ISO if you compare at actual pixels.

You could also try to compare the A77 image downscaled by bicubic to 3328x2195  pixels. That would compensate for sensor size.

Best regards
Erik





I'm sure you are correct Erik, on the bench. But that's not how it works in the real world when you are actually taking pictures. Scene for scene, at matched low ISO's the Nikon looks better. And over ASA 400 the differences are so profound as to make you shut down the trial. I've done this. I kept my A77 when the D4 first arrived. After a few hours of side-by-side clicking it was really no contest. The only category where the A77 wasn't heavily overmatched was at very low ISO. And since you were thinking D800, I think the Nikon (800) would beat it badly at ASA 100...
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2012, 05:41:16 PM »
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I'm sure you are correct Erik, on the bench. But that's not how it works in the real world when you are actually taking pictures. Scene for scene, at matched low ISO's the Nikon looks better. And over ASA 400 the differences are so profound as to make you shut down the trial. I've done this. I kept my A77 when the D4 first arrived. After a few hours of side-by-side clicking it was really no contest. The only category where the A77 wasn't heavily overmatched was at very low ISO. And since you were thinking D800, I think the Nikon (800) would beat it badly at ASA 100...

The Alpha 77 can be used at much lower ISOs when handheld than the D4/D800 for images that require sharpness throughout the frame.  More DOF at a given FOV/SS, built in anti-shake, no mirror slap, and electronic first curtain shutter.
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allegretto
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« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2012, 06:22:35 PM »
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The Alpha 77 can be used at much lower ISOs when handheld than the D4/D800 for images that require sharpness throughout the frame.  More DOF at a given FOV/SS, built in anti-shake, no mirror slap, and electronic first curtain shutter.

Well, I get it about all your considerations

But having used the D4 and the A77 side by side, for my purposes it's no contest. Truth is that low ISO is no problem with most cameras. Can't speak for your use, but for me the lower ISO's often eventuate in my gasping for SS. Sure, built in stabilization. But that's no problem when you're in bright light at low ASA anyway. Nikon's VR lenses are quite good BTW.

Yes, flash is an option, but unless it's very controlled, it's very unnatural light and can blow out highlights of even the highest DR cameras.

Imagine. all those fools paying all that money for those Nikons and Canons when they would really be better off with an A77... who knew?Huh
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« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2012, 09:28:46 PM »
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Interesting that there should even be a debate about the relative merits of a $1050 2011 APS camera and a $5500 flagship FF camera.

And just in the interests of disclosure I bought my first SLR a Minolta SR-T 101 in 1971 and have had other Minoltas, a number of Nikons ,and also Olympus, Canon and a couple of Contax. I have owned a number of Nikon DX cameras in the past but the Sony A77 is my only current small sensor DSLR and is likely to be my last as I have bought a Nex . During the 1990's I did decide to go Nikon and reduced my Minolta kit accordingly until Minolta introduced the Dynax 7. I do have a small secondary Nikon kit based on a D700 but my main cameras are the Sony A850 (tripod), the A77 (hand help mainly local sports and events)and the Nex 7.

I think I will wait out the 2012 releases and see what 2014 brings. Not to say that I'm not in the market for any new lenses that really, really appeal to me.
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