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Sony A850 vs A99

The Sony Alpha A850 and the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2009 and September 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The A850 has a resolution of 24.4 megapixels, whereas the A99 provides 24 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Sony A850   Sony A99
Sony A850 Sony A99
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Sony A mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor 24 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 200-3200 (100-6400) ISO 100-25600
Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (2359k dots)
3.0" LCD, 922k dots 3.0" LCD, 1229k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fully flexible screen (no touchscreen)
3 shutter flaps per second 6 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
880 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g 147 x 111 x 78 mm, 812 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Sony Alpha A850 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.

Body comparison: Sony A850 vs A99

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A850 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Sony A850 vs Sony A99
Compare A850 versus A99 top
Comparison A850 or A99 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A99 is notably smaller (11 percent) than the Sony A850. Moreover, the A99 is markedly lighter (9 percent) than the A850. 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.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850» 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
 
Sony A99« 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99
 
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« » 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 760 Y Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
 
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
 
Sony A77« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
 
Sony A900« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999- i Sony A900
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 29 percent) than the A99, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A850 vs A99

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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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.

Sony A850 and Sony A99 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a slightly higher resolution than the A99 (24MP), but the A850 has marginally smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 5.96μm for the A99). Moreover, the A99 is a much more recent model (by 3 years) than the A850, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Sony Alpha A850 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400. 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.

A850 versus A99 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A99 has a markedly higher DXO score than the A850 (overall score 10 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 1.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850» Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.812.2141579Sony A850
 
Sony A99« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589Sony A99
 
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60i25.414.6328096Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
 
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
 
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178Sony A77
 
Sony A900« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.712.3143179Sony A900

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The A99 indeed provides for movie recording, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the A99 can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A850 vs A99

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A99 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the A850 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 viewfinder in the A99 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.71x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A850 and Sony A99 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850»optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y Sony A850
 
Sony A99«2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y Sony A99
 
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 1/8000s 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/8000s 20.0 n Y Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
 
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Sony A7
 
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A900
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 A850 does not have a selfie-screen.

The A850 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the A99 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A99 only has one slot.

 

Connectivity comparison: Sony A850 vs A99

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 Sony Alpha A850 and Sony Alpha SLT-A99 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850»Y----mini2.0---Sony A850
 
Sony A99«YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Sony A99
 
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
 
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
 
Sony A77« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »Y----mini2.0---Sony A900

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the A850 and the A99 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A99 was replaced by the Sony A99 II, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Sony website.


Review summary: Sony A850 vs A99

So how do things add up? Is the Sony A850 better than the Sony A99 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.71x).
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (880 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (29 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).


Advantages of the Sony Alpha SLT-A99:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 922k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has 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.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x111mm vs 156x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the A850 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A99 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 6 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

A850 06:12 A99

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Sony A850 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A850 or the A99 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews: Sony A850 vs A99

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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850»-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
 
Sony A99«-84/1004.5/5o4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99
 
Nikon D750« »+ +90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »+ +89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »+ +89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7R II« »+ +90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
 
Sony A7 II« »+82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »+ +80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
 
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »+ ++ +4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999- i Sony A900
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Sony A850:
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Sony A99:
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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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Sony A850 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 Specifications
    Camera Model Sony A850 Sony A99
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Sony A mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2009 September 2012
    Launch Price USD 1999 USD 2799
    Sensor Specs Sony A850 Sony A99
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm 35.8 x 23.8 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2 852.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24.4 Megapixels 24 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6048 x 4032 pixels 6000 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.94 μm 5.96 μm
    Pixel Density 2.83 MP/cm2 2.82 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 200-3200 ISO 100-25600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-6400 ISO 50-25600 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ BIONZ X
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 79 89
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.8 25.0
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.2 14.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1415 1555
    Screen Specs Sony A850 Sony A99
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 98% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.74x 0.71x
    Viewfinder Resolution 2359k dots
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 1229k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fully flexible screen
    Shooting Specs Sony A850 Sony A99
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidNo Peaking FeatureFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/8000/s 1/8000/s
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 6 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or MS cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Sony A850 Sony A99
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Geotagging GPS built-in
    Body Specs Sony A850 Sony A99
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NP-FM500H power pack NP-FM500H power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)880 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    147 x 111 x 78 mm
    (5.8 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 895 g (31.6 oz) 812 g (28.6 oz)

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