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Sony A99 versus Sony A7

The Sony Alpha SLT-A99 and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2012 and October 2013. The A99 is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A99 vs Sony A7

The physical size and weight of the Sony A99 and the Sony A7 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A99 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A99 vs Sony A7
Compare A99 versus A7 top
Compare A99 and A7 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is notably smaller (27 percent) than the Sony A99. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (42 percent) than the A99. 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 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 A99 gets 500 shots out of its NP-FM500H battery, while the A7 can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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)
Sony A99» 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i
Sony A7« 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i
Pentax K-3« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 28.2 oz 560 Y Oct 2013 1,299- i
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony A77« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 Y Aug 2011 1,999- i
Sony A850« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i
Sony A900« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 39 percent) than the A99, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A99 vs Sony A7

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. 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 A99 and Sony A7 sensor measures

Even though the A7 has a slightly larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 24 megapixel. This implies that the A7 has a lower pixel density and marginally larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 5.96μm for the A99), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. In addition, the A7 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the A99, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

A99 versus A7 MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A99» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589
Sony A7« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174
Pentax K-3« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.713.4121680
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178
Sony A850« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.812.2141579
Sony A900« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.712.3143179

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A99 vs Sony A7

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the A7 offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the A99 (2400k vs 2359k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A99 and Sony A7 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A99»2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 6.0 n Y
Sony A7«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n
Pentax K-3« »optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 8000 8.3 Y Y
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 8000 12.0 Y Y
Sony A850« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 3.0 n Y
Sony A900« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n Y

Both the A99 and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A99 was replaced by the Sony A99 II, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Sony A99 vs Sony A7

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A99 or the Sony A7 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Sony Alpha SLT-A99:

  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More flexible LCD: Has full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (500 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2012).


Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 147x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 338g or 42 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 1 month) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the match-up finishes in a tie (6 points each). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A99 06:06 A7

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A99 or the A7 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony A99»-84/1004.5/5rev4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i
Sony A7«HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i
Pentax K-3« »-83/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,299- i
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,999- i
Sony A850« »-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i
Sony A900« »HiRecHiRec4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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