Sony SLT Alpha 99 review: New full-frame sensor is Sony’s best yet

By Janice Chen - Friday December 21 2012

Sensor Review
Introduction | Sony Alpha 99 sensor performance | Sony Alpha 99 versus competition | Conclusion

Great dynamic range, but low-light shooting trails competitors

Sony SLT Alpha 99 vs. Nikon D800 vs. Nikon D600


The Alpha 99’s closest competitor in terms of price point is probably the Nikon D800 (which at $2,999 is about $200 over the A99’s price of $2,800), but it sports a higher resolution Sony-made 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor.

The lower-priced Nikon D600 ($2,100) is actually based on a very similar 24.3-megapixel Sony sensor—though not completely identical to that in the A99 (according to Nikon), it’s likely the same technology.

In fact, in good lighting conditions scores are very close among the three cameras, with the A99 less competitive in low-light conditions due to the SLT technology as mentioned above.


And while the Portrait Scores indicate that color-depth performance is very similar across all three cameras, the limitations of the SLT are clearly shown in the A99’s poorer Sports Score at 1555 ISO (vs. 2980 ISO for the D600 and 2853 ISO for the higher-resolution D800).

Sony SLT Alpha 99 vs. Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs. Canon EOS 1D X


Even more impressive is the Sony Alpha 99’s performance compared with the significantly higher-priced Canon EOS 5D Mark III ($3,500) and Canon EOS 1D X ($6,800).

Though it can’t compete with the more-expensive models for low-light sports photography—no surprise, since besides the SLT limitation, the Sony also delivers the highest pixel count vs. the 18.1-megapixel 1D X and the 22.3-megapixel 5D Mark III—its Overall Score of 89 handily beats out the 5D Mark III’s score of 81 and 1D X’s 82.

Again, it’s the dynamic range Landscape Score that gives the A99 its biggest boost. Though the A99’s ISO latitude is more restricted (topping out at ISO 25600 vs. 102400 for the 5D Mark III and 204800 for the 1D X), its lowest setting of ISO 50 again helped it achieve the best dynamic range score by far.