First impressions

'Tis the season for a deluge of full-frame cameras. The Sony Alpha A99 is the flagship SLR from Sony, though it's technically not classified an SLR, as it uses the same translucent mirror technology that has appeared on the company's previous cameras for quite some time.

Alongside the 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor is a 19-point AF system with 11 cross-types. Sony has kitted out the A99 with a new continuous autofocus mode called AF-D, which is designed to provide better performance and depth-focusing information for moving subjects. Anyone who has ever shot with continuous autofocus on an SLR during filming will know just how twitchy and slow the results can be, so any improvement in performance is welcomed. AF-D is supported by six lenses thus far, with other models to get the functionality via a firmware update.

Unlike other high-end SLRs on the market, the A99 comes with an option to attach an XLR box for audio recording. This makes the camera a serious proposition for enthusiast and professional film-makers. Also, the A99 can shoot in full 1080p at 50 frames per second (AVCHD), and comes with headphone monitoring and on-screen audio levels while recording.

At the front of the camera is a silent dial that can change shooting parameters without affecting the audio during filming.

What does set the A99 apart from any other camera in this class is the tilting 1.229-million dot (VGA) screen that can pivot up and display itself in the direction of the lens. While we doubt that this calibre of photographer needs self-portrait capabilities on their camera, it's particularly useful for giving an indication of composition and frame coverage to your subject when shooting video.

Because of the translucent mirror technology, the A99 as well as every other Sony Alpha camera needs to have an electronic viewfinder. Fortunately, on paper it looks great, sporting an XGA resolution and being OLED, offering 100 per cent frame coverage.

A weather-resistant body rounds out the specification sheet, making the asking price of AU$2999 seem almost a bargain for all the features that come packed inside. As always, we'll reserve final judgment for when we get a review sample. Expect the A99 to appear on store shelves at the end of October.