Noise and JPEG processing

The A99 has excellent JPEG processing and noise reduction, at least up through ISO 1600. Photos are extremely clean through ISO 400, and you can start to see some slight edge artifacts appearing at ISO 800. There's a noticeable jump in noise suppression between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, regardless of how bright the scene is.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

High ISO sensitivity JPEGs

Although Sony treats it as a native ISO sensitivity, ISO 25,600 looks like what other cameras would classify as an expanded range.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Bright, saturated reds

The camera seems to handle saturated reds well, although I couldn't find a test shot situation in perpetually cloudy NYC to produce intense highlight areas.

(1/100 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, multisegment metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 70mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 80 JPEG

At low and medium ISO sensitivities (and with a good lens), the A99 produces well-resolved detail and smooth tonality even into out-of-focus areas.

(1/100 sec, f4.5, ISO 80, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 70mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 100 JPEG

Just an example of the low-ISO sensitivity quality.

(1/60 sec, f4.5, ISO 100, multisegment metering, AWB, 135mm STF lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 200 JPEG

Like most neutral camera profiles, Sony pulls back the in-camera sharpening as well as the saturation and contrast.

(1/100 sec, f5.6, ISO 200, multisegment metering, Cloudy WB, 135mm STF lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 400 JPEG

Images still look clean at ISO 400, as you'd expect from a full-frame camera.

(1/100 sec, f5.6, ISO 400, multisegment metering, AWB, 135mm STF lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 800 JPEG

This shot usually starts to show some softness on the edges, but the A99 acquits itself well.

(1/50 sec, f2.8, ISO 800, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 70mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 1600 JPEG

You can see some noise-reduction artifacts in dark areas starting at ISO 1600, but bright areas still look pretty good.

(1/50 sec, f3.2, ISO 1600, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 45mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 1600, no noise reduction

While the color noise at ISO 1600 isn't bad it's a little more prevalent than in images from the D800. It's about the same as the 5D Mark III.

(1/40 sec, f2.8, ISO 1600, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 55mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 1600, raw vs. JPEG

Sony's JPEG processing is very good; I couldn't obtain less noisy results by processing the raw.

(1/40 sec, f2.8, ISO 1600, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 50mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 3200, raw vs. JPEG

At ISO 3200 you can start trading off grain for mushiness by processing the raw files rather than shooting JPEG.

(1/80 sec, f2.8, ISO 3200, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 35mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 12800 JPEG

I wouldn't shoot ISO 12,800 for print or full-size display, but it's fine for scaled-down sizes.

(1/50 sec, f8, ISO 12800, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 24mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Color

Shooting with the Neutral Creative Style (these shots) yields pretty accurate color; the default is Standard, though.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Creative Styles

The Standard (default) Color Style increases contrast and saturation to a point where hues shift a little, though I didn't see a notable loss of shadow detail.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Highlight and shadow recovery

The A99 does a very good job of preserving detail in raw files of blown-out highlight areas. Underexposed or deep shadow areas can't seem to be recovered without introducing more color noise than competing cameras, though.

(1/250 sec, f2.8, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, 24-70mm lens at 70mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:
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