Nikon D780 vs Sony A99
The Nikon D780 and the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2020 and September 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 24.3 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D780 and the Sony Alpha SLT-A99? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D780 and the Sony A99. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A99 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Nikon D780. Moreover, the A99 is slightly lighter (3 percent) than the D780. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
Concerning battery life, the D780 gets 2260 shots out of its EN-EL15b battery, while the A99 can take 500 images on a single charge of its NP-FM500H power pack. The power pack in the D780 can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D780||144 mm||116 mm||76 mm||840 g||2260||Y||Jan 2020||2,299|
|2.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|4.||Canon 6D||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|5.||Nikon D6||160 mm||163 mm||92 mm||1270 g||3580||Y||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|7.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|8.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|9.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|10.||Nikon Df||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|11.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D600||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|13.||Sony A9 II||129 mm||96 mm||76 mm||678 g||690||Y||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|15.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|16.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D780 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 18 percent) than the A99, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A99 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24.3MP, the D780 offers a slightly higher resolution than the A99 (24MP), but the D780 has marginally smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 5.96μm for the A99). However, the D780 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 3 months) than the A99, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The D780 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D780 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200, which can be extended to ISO 50-204800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon D780||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|4.||Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|5.||Nikon D6||Full Frame||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|9.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|10.||Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|11.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|12.||Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|13.||Sony A9 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.0||3434||93|
|14.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|16.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|17.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the D780 provides a higher video resolution than the A99. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A99 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the D780 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the A99 has a higher magnification than the one of the D780 (0.71x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D780 and Sony A99 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
|13.||Sony A9 II||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D780 has a touchscreen, while the A99 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The A99 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D780 does not have a selfie-screen.
The Nikon D780 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D780 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A99 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The D780 supports UHS-II cards (on both slots), while the A99 can use UHS-I cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D780 and Sony Alpha SLT-A99 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|13.||Sony A9 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the D780 offers wifi support, while the A99 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the A99 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
The D780 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the A99 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A99 was succeeded by the Sony A99 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D780 better than the Sony A99 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D780:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1229k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (2260 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (18 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 3 months of technical progress since the A99 launch.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha SLT-A99:
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.70x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2012).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D780 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 7 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D780 and the Sony A99 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D780 and the A99 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D780||5/5||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2020||2,299|
|2.||Sony A99||5/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||4/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|4.||Canon 6D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|5.||Nikon D6||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2020||6,499|
|6.||Nikon Z6 II||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||1,999|
|7.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|8.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|9.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|10.||Nikon Df||4/5||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|11.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D600||4/5||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|13.||Sony A9 II||..||..||90/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|15.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|16.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D780 vs Sony A99
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2020||September 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 2,299||USD 2,799|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||35.8 x 23.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||858.01 mm2||852.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.1 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24.3 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6048 x 4024 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.94 μm||5.96 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.84 MP/cm2||2.82 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 204,800 ISO||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 6||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||89|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||25.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||14.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1555|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2359k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||12 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||Dual UHS-II||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D780||Sony A99|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||2260 shots per charge||500 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||no USB charging|
144 x 116 x 76 mm
(5.7 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
147 x 111 x 78 mm
(5.8 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||840 g (29.6 oz)||812 g (28.6 oz)|
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