Battle of the Sony 24 Mega pixel cameras…. A900 vs A99 vs A7

First off this isn’t going to be a totally technical blog with all the numbers and technical differences between the 3 cameras, yes there will be a bit but there are enough people out there doing stuff like that. I’m more interested in the how it feels, what I see personally as an advantage or disadvantages for my shooting needs.


I own both A mount cameras (A900 and A99) and Roland bought his fresh out of the box A7 (with A mount adapter). The lenses I decided to use are the 4 lenses I use the most: Zeiss 24-70 2.8, Sony 50mm 1.4, Zeiss 85mm 1.4 and Minolta 100mm 2.8 macro. I deliberately chose lenses I use a lot and split the shoot up in to 3 parts east part had a different lighting set up (although each set up was similar ). The first set was shot at f8 the second set at f5.6 and the third at F2.8, I deliberate chose the 3 apertures that I use the most so that the whole shoot was typically in a style I would shoot at a normal shoot and not some thing I’m experimenting with to blog about.

Set one was a large Octobox on a Bowens Gemini 400 ws flash up so close to Melanie that it was almost in my way. All 3 cameras were set to f8 1/125th iso 100 and we simple shot away swamping lenses as required. The first thing that happened was the A7 needed to have its intelligent preview turned off, or else the viewfinder was just black. Second my flash triggers happen to have the old Sony/Minolta mount and not the new ISO hot shoe that you find on the A99 and A7, (unfortunately  the A7 doesn’t ship with a hot-shoe adapter but I have mine from the A99 so that wasn’t a major problem). We actually have ISO hoe shoe triggers in the studio but I wanted to do this test shoot with the equipment I always have in my camera bag, the stuff I always use so if I’m out some where shooting with an A7 I already have an idea what to expect and how my standard kit will react. I know the A900 and A99 knobs and menu system very well and there are a lot of similarities in the workings of the A7 that I had to spends a bit of time finding and getting used to (to be expected).

 Sony A7

All 3 cameras felt good in the hand so I can’t say any one of them in particular better or worse. The first real difference came looking through the view finder, 2 electronic viewfinders and 1 big bright optical. I have listend to both sides of the argument on this one and to be honest it did take a while for me to get used to the electronic viewfinder when I first used and the advantaged it offers. With an electronic viewfinder I get to see my shot straight away in the viewfinder after i have taken it, and can have a few other extra bits of info if I want them, but then there is a delay if a second or 2 until I can see what I’m actually shooting and typically my model has moved in that time. With the optical viewfinder I don’t have the delay after each shot but I have to constantly look at my camera screen to check exposure etc. Another advantage of a digital viewfinder is I can utilise facial tracking features with autofocus, which allows me to concentrate more on my composition. I know digital viewfinders aren’t every ones cup of tea and I was also sceptical at first (especially after have used the big bright A900 for so long) but it dose actually offer a lot of advantages for the studio shooter.


Set up 1

The second set up All 3 cameras were set to f5.6 (or 6.3 for part of the shoot) 1/125th iso 100, the power of the key light was reduced and I placed a 400ws Bowens Gemini with a small honey comb grid and barn doors behind Melanie pointed at the background, this added a bit of separation between her and the background also created a natural vignette (this a easy to to and creates a cool look but one wrong moment from the model and you could have the flash showing in your photo or even worse a flash in bits on the ground). During this part of the shoot we used a few of Roland manual focus Leica lenses on the A7 which is a big plus in favour of all the NEX mount cameras over the Alpha mount cameras, the ability to use almost any lens ever made (you can even Canon AF lenses using an adapter from Metabones).

Sony A99

Around about now the battery in the A7 started to show its weakness: the large full frame sensor, digital view finder and SLT lens adapter suck up a lot of power from a small battery. 270 exposures between us and we weeded to replace it. That’s when I found out the next strange thing about the A7 it doesn’t ship with a battery charger, you charge it via the usb port when its turned off (lucky both had extra NEX batteries there) . Defiantly a point to the A900 here as with an optical view finder and big batteries it can shoot longer then the A99 and A7 on 1 battery.



Set up 2

 The 3rd light set up was a Bowens Gemini 200ws set to a very low power output with a large octo-box  down low and behind the photographer. All 3 cameras were set to f2.8 1/125th ISO 100, this was a good chance to test the 100mm macro. With such a a narrow depth of field the A99’s face tracking function helped a lot (I guess this function is also available on the A7 when you have the correct adapter etc). This beats “the focus and recompose your composition” technique you use with an optical viewfinder due to the fact that recomposing with such a narrow depth of field can cause you to miss your focus point. If you are manually focusing instead of “focus and recompose your composition” then the ability to zoom in on the digital viewfinder means you know exactly where your focus point is. But the digital viewfinder can get noisy in low light situations.

Sony A900

My final hurdles in using the A7 in the studio is it doesn’t seem to offer tethered usb shooting, it dose offer send to computer via wifi (vlan) but I didn’t get to test it so I cant say how fast it is or how much battery it uses. And Lightroom 5.2 doesn’t support the A7 raw files, but Photoshop Camera Raw 8.3 and Lightroom 5.3 do. As LR 5.3 is still only a release candidate I wasn’t that interested in installing it but instead installed the latest Adobe DNG converter, converted the raw files to DNG and then imported them into LR 5.2 ….


Set up 3

My conclusion

The 14 bit RAW files are the same high quality as the A99 (if not better than the A99, if any body wants an an example of 100% crop or a raw file let me know), and if you buy it with a newest SLT A mount adapter its still cheaper then an A99. Due to  the massive amount of lens adapters you can use any lens you want including  auto focus lenses from  Sony/Minolta and Canon (with a metabones adapter). It was fast and responsive and the lay out seemed very logical. My Pixel King triggers work with TTL (tested a few days earlier in the pub) with the Sony hot shoe adapter. I really enjoyed using it and have added it to my Christmas wish list

There are a few things “old school” Sony /Minolta users may have to get used to

  • No in camera image stabilisation
  • The new ISO multi function hot shoe
  • Digital View finder (haters gonna hate)
  • Battery life


Below I have listed all the Technical stuff and features (mostly to get the attention of search engines)

  • Convenience Features

    • Media/Battery Indicator : Yes
    • Still Image Playback Options : Single (with or without shooting information, RGB histogram & highlight/shadow warning), 9/25-frame index view, Enlarged display mode (Maximum magnification L: 23.0x, M: 15.0x, S: 11.5x), Auto Review (10 / 5 / 2 sec, off), Image orientation (Auto / Manual / Off selectable), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Folder selection (Still / Date / MP4 / AVCHD), Forward / Rewind (Movie), Delete, Protect
    • Video Playback Options : Forward / Rewind (Movie)
    • Self Timer : Yes
    • Power Save Mode : Yes
    • Red-Eye Reduction : Yes
    • Erase/Protect : Yes
    • Multiple Language Display : Yes
  • Drive System

    • Continuous Shooting Speed : Continuous shooting: Max. 2.5fps, Speed Priority Continuous shooting: Max. 5.0fps
    • Shutter Speeds : 1/8000 to 30 seconds, bulb
    • Self-timer : 2-sec. or 10-sec. delay,
    • Shutter Type : Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter
    • Drive Mode : Single shooting, Continuous shooting, Speed Priority Continuous shooting, Self-timer (10/2 sec delay selectable), Self-timer (Cont.) (10 sec. delay; 3/5 exposures selectable), Bracketing (Cont., Single, White Balance, DRO)
  • Exposure System

    • D-Range Optimizer : Off, Dynamic Range Optimizer (Auto / Level (1-5)), Auto High Dynamic Range: Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure Difference Level (1.0-6.0 EV, 1.0 EV step)
    • Auto Exposure Lock : Available with AE lock button. Locked when shutter button is pressed halfway. Can be disabled from the Menu
    • Exposure Compensation : +/-5.0 EV (in 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV steps), with exposure compensation dial: +/-3.0 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
    • Picture Effect(s) : 13 modes: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R, G, B, Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, Illustration
    • Exposure Settings : AUTO (iAUTO, Superior Auto), Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), Scene Selection, Sweep Panorama, Movie
    • Scene Mode(s) : Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, Anti Motion Blur
    • Metering Modes : Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
    • Metering Sensitivity : EV 0 to 20 EV (at ISO100 equivalent, with F2.8 lens attached)
    • Metering : Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
    • ISO : Still images: ISO 100-25600 (ISO numbers up from ISO 50 can be set as expanded ISO range), AUTO (ISO 100-6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit) Movies: ISO 200-25600 equivalent, AUTO (ISO 200-6400 equivalent)
    • Noise Reduction : Long exposure NR: On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec., High ISO NR: Normal / Low / Off selectable
    • Creative Style : Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia (Contrast -3 to +3 steps, Saturation -3 to +3 steps, Sharpness -3 to +3 steps)
    • Color Temperature : 2500 – 9900K with 15-step each Magenta/Green compensation (G7 to M7), Amber/Blue (A7 to B7), Custom
    • White Balance Mode : Auto WB / Daylight / Shade / Cloudy / Incandescent / Fluorescent (Warm White / Cool White / Day White / Daylight) / Flash / Color Temperature (2500 to 9900K) & Color Filter (G7 to M7: 15 steps, A7 to B7: 15 steps) / Custom / Underwater
    • Exposure Bracketing : With 3 frames in 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1.0 EV, 2.0 EV or 3.0 EV increments. With 5 frames in 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV or 2/3 EV increments
  • Flash

    • Flash Bracketing : With optional external flash: 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1, 2, 3 EV steps, 3/5 frames (1.0/2.0/3.0 EV: only 3 frames) selectable
    • Flash Metering System : With optional external flash: Pre-flash TTL
    • Flash Compensation : With optional external flash: ±3.0 EV (switchable between 1/3 and 1/2 EV steps)
    • Flash Modes : With optional external flash: Flash off, Auto flash, Fill-flash, Rear Sync., Slow Sync., Red-eye reduction (On/Off selectable), Hi-speed sync, Wireless
    • Flash Coverage : With optional external flash: 16 mm (focal length printed on lens body)
    • Flash Type : Optional external flash
  • Focus Control

    • Focus Features : Lock-on AF, Eye AF, Predictive control, Focus lock, Eye-start AF (only available with optional LA-EA2 or LA-EA4 attached), AF illuminator (built-in, LED type, range: Approx. 0.30-3m, AF micro adjustment, AF ON
    • Manual Focus Assist : 35mm full frame: 7.2x, 14.4x APS-C: 4.7x, 9.4x
    • AF Illuminator : Yes (with built-in LED type)
    • Focus Sensitivity : EV 0 to 20 EV (at ISO100 equivalent, with F2.8 lens attached)
    • Focus Area : Multi Point (25 points) / Center-weighted / Flexible Spot (S/M/L) / Zone
    • Focus Points : 117 points (phase-detection AF), 25 points (contrast-detection AF)
    • AF Modes : Single-shot AF (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus
    • Focus System : Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF / contrast-detection AF)
  • Imaging Sensor

    • Pixel Gross : 24.7 Megapixels (approx.)
    • Color Filter System : RGB primary color filters
    • Effective Picture Resolution : 24.3 Megapixels (approx.)
    • Anti Dust : Charge protection coating on optical filter and ultrasonic vibration mechanism
    • Imaging Sensor : Exmor CMOS sensor (35.8 x 23.9mm)
    • Processor : BIONZ® X image processor
  • Interface

    • NFC : Yes (NFC Forum Type 3 Tag compatible, One-touch remote, One-touch sharing)
    • DC IN : Yes via optional AC-PW20AM (sold separately)
    • Memory Card Slot : Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, SD memory card, SDHC memory card (UHS-I compliant), SDXC memory card (UHS-I compliant)
    • HD Output : HDMI® Type D micro connector
    • Accessory Shoe : Yes, via Multi Interface Shoe
    • A/V Remote Terminal : Yes, via Multi Terminal interface
    • PictBridge Compatible : Yes
    • Tripod Mount : Yes, 1/4″ (20 thread count)
    • Remote Commander : Yes, via optional RM-VPR1
    • PhotoTV HD : Yes, with BRAVIA Sync enabled HDTV and HDMI® cable
    • USB Port(s) : USB 2.0 Hi-speed (mass-storage, MTP)
    • BRAVIA® Sync™ : Yes, via HDMI® with compatible BRAVIA HDTV (link menu)8
    • Multi Interface Shoe : Yes
    • Headphone Jack : Yes
    • Microphone Input : Yes
  • Interface

      • Wired : Yes, via optional RM-VPR1
  • LCD Display

    • Peaking : Yes (Level setting: High / Mid / Low / Off, Color: White / Red / Yellow)
    • Real-time image adjustment display : Yes (On / Off)
    • LCD Type : 3.0” (7.5cm) TFT LCD (921,600 dots) with tiltable design
    • Coverage : 100%
    • Histogram : Yes (On / Off)
    • Live View : Continuous Live View
    • Brightness Control : Manual (5 steps between -2 to +2), Sunny Weather mode
    • Grid Display : Graphic Display / Display All Info. / No Disp. Info. / Histogram / Digital Level Gauge / Shooting information for viewfinder mode
    • Customization : Grid, Histogram display, Digital Level Gauge, Grid Line, Magnified display for playback
  • Lens compensation

    • Lens compensation : Peripheral Shading, Chromatic Aberration, Distortion
  • Optics/Lens

    • Direct Manual Focus : Yes
    • Lens Type : Sony E-mount Full Frame
    • Digital Zoom : Yes, approx. 4x
    • Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount Full Frame
    • EV Compensation : +/-5.0 EV (in 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV steps), with exposure compensation dial: +/-3.0 EV (in 1/3 EV step)
    • Exterior Finish : Black
  • Power

    • Battery Type : InfoLITHIUM® NP-FW50 (7.2V)
    • Power Requirements : One rechargeable battery pack (NP-FW50)
    • Number of Still Images : Approx. 340 images with LCD monitor (CIPA standard)7
    • Battery Capacity : 1080 mAh
  • Power

      • External power : Yes via optional AC-PW20AM (sold separately)
    • Compatible standards : Exif Print, Print Image Matching III, DPOF setting
  • Recording

    • Panorama Still Image Size : Horizontal Wide: 12,416 x 1,856 (23M) Horizontal Std.: 8,192 x 1,856 (15M) Vertical Wide: 2,160 x 5,536 (12M) Vertical Std.: 2,160 x 3,872 (8.4M)
    • Video Resolution : AVCHD™: PS – 1920 x 1080/60p@28Mbps FX – 1920 x 1080/60i@24Mbps FH – 1920 x 1080/60i@17Mbps FX – 1920 x 1080/24p@24Mbps FH – 1920 x 1080/24p@17Mbps MP4: HD – 1440 x 1080/30p@12Mbps VGA – 640 x 480/30p@3Mbps
    • Audio Format : Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
    • Video Mode : AVCHD format Ver. 2.0 compliant / MP4
    • Color Space : Still: sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS™ Color Movie: xvYCC standard (x.v.Color™ when connected via HDMI cable) compatible with TRILUMINOS™ color
    • Still Image Size 16:9 : 35mm full frame: L: 6000 x 3376 (20M), M: 3936 x 2216 (8.7M), S: 3008 x 1688 (5.1M) APS-C: L: 3936 x 2216 (8.7M), M: 3008 x 1688 (5.1M), S: 1968 x 1112 (2.2M)
    • Still Image Size 3:2 : 35mm full frame: L: 6000 x 4000 (24M), M: 3936 x 2624 (10M), S: 3008 x 2000 (6.0M) APS-C: L: 3936 x 2624 (10M), M: 3008 x 2000 (6.0M), S: 1968 x 1312 (2.6M)
    • Still Image Mode : RAW, RAW & JPEG, JPEG Extra fine, JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard
    • Media Type : Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, SD memory card, SDHC memory card (UHS-I compliant), SDXC memory card (UHS-I compliant)
    • Still Image Max Effective Resolution : 24.3 Megapixels
    • Video Signal : NTSC color, EIA standards
    • Microphone/Speaker : Built-in stereo microphone or ECM-CG50 / XLR-K1M (sold separately) / Built-in monaural speaker; volume settings in 8 steps between 0 and 7
    • Still Image File Format : JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format)
    • 14bit RAW : Yes
  • Viewfinder

    • Display : Disp. Basic Info, Histogram
    • Brightness Control : Auto / Manual (3 steps between -1 and +1)
    • Type : 1/2-inch (1.30 cm) XGA OLED color electronic viewfinder
    • Field of View : 100%
    • Magnification : Approx. 0.71x with 50 mm lens at infinity, -1m-1 (diopter)
    • Diopter Adjustment : -4.0 m-1 ~ +3.0m-1 (diopter)
  • Weights and Measurements

    • Weight(Approx) (Main unit only) : Approx. 14.7 oz. (416 g)
    • Dimensions (Approx.) : Approx. 5 × 3-3/4 × 1-15/16” (126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2 mm) (W/H/D) excluding protrusions
    • Weight (Approx.) : With battery and Memory Stick PRO Duo Approx. 1 lb. 0.7 oz. (474 g)
  • Wi-Fi

    • PlayMemories Camera Apps : Yes
    • View on TV : Yes
    • Send to Computer : Yes
    • View on Smartphone : Yes

16 Responses to 'Battle of the Sony 24 Mega pixel cameras…. A900 vs A99 vs A7'

  1. Dirk De Cubber says:

    Thanks for sharing your findings!

  2. Augustaur says:

    Thank you so much for doing this. I seemed to see A99 presented the best pictures. Is it just me? Or you felt the same way aswell?

  3. Thanks for testing. I actually wanted to sell my a900 and buy an a7r but found that I would gain less than expected after seeing some photos from the a7r. I would also miss the perfect ergonomics of the a900 and loose a lot of money. So I decided to keep my a900 and save for a used a99 or wait for the next generation.

  4. Scott Lewis says:

    Update Windows version of Remote Camera Control Ver.3.2

    Improvements from the previous version
    Remote Camera Control Ver.3.2 supports ILCE-7/ILCE-7R.
    Windows 8.1 is added for the supported OS.

  5. Rich says:

    what camera out of the three do you recommend the most?

    • Scott Lewis says:

      what do you want from a camera? i think the A7 wins out ahead of the a99 simply because of the price and versatility

  6. Rich says:

    I like to do HDR and portraits with off camera flash/strobing.

    • Scott Lewis says:

      Do you have a lot of Sony /Minolta lenses at the moment?

      either the 99 or 7 would fit your needs but IMHO the 7 is the way of the future and is a lot more versatile due to all the lens adapters. There just isn’t the range of lenses available yet for the E mount that there is for A mount …. but that is changing

  7. Rich says:

    I don’t have any sony lenses.

  8. Thanks interesting article, but so many spelling mistakes, makes it hard to want to keep reading.

  9. Thanks for this review. At last someone has reviewed the A7 in a studio setting and answered my biggest question about the OLED – switch off Intelligent Preview so that it isn’t black!

    Do you know if one can do the same on the new A6000? I’m seriously considering switching to Sony from Canon (5D MK II) using an A7R as primary and an A6000 as backup. Nearly half my work is in the studio so a black viewfinder is just not an option for me 🙂

  10. Thanks to your review I went and checked out the A6000. It turns out that you can disable intelligent preview in that model as well; although the option is buried in the menus and called something rather non-obvious.

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